"optically pleasing" to start with, at least by my standards, and now I know why!
The pic above shows us almost down to Ground Zero. All of the old paint is removed by hand and then the sensitive perimeter edges carefully scraped and sanded clean.
The hood is made by hand of aluminum. The skin is hand formed, the edges rolled and hammered flat, and then it is interval-welded to a hand made aluminum frame. It's all very quaint! Despite its being made completely by hand, it is surprisingly the truest panel on the entire car, not littered with tons of hammer and file marks like all of the steel panels, and requiring filler only on the up-turned rear lip. Makes me think Scaglietti should have gone totally traditional and made the rest of the body of alloy while they were at it. Any time they may have saved having most of the panels
Robin Masters may have been elusive, but he certainly had good taste. Of course he'd want his Ferrari refurbished at
I say, Magnum,
do you think they've begun work on the Ferrari?
Oh for Heaven's
sake Higgins, this is ridiculous. Let's just go in and find out!
Yeh, I know... here's a departure from the REDLINE norm. Well... Porsches are only my personal addiction, and REDLINE is about helping everyone who's addicted, regardless of their drug of choice!
So, what's it in for, and why is it torn apart? No, I'm not starting up a chop shop. As is often the case, the pictures don't tell the whole story. This 1977 308GTB is in for a complete refinishing. Let me take a moment to fill in the blanks that the pictures can't.
In this day and age, we are so used to production perfection that we have largely lost sight of how things used to be. Even though this doesn't seem that old a car, and Ferrari not that small a company, this car does indeed harken back to a bygone era. Even though Ferrari did build slightly over 12,000 of these cars from 1975-85, they were largely built the old way... by hand.
Modern production methods only went so far at Carrozzeria Scaglietti, the vendor that Ferrari used for body construction. This is a common steel variety 308, with aluminum front bonnet and glas front spoiler and rear lower end cap. The steel panels were stamped sheetmetal, however, not necessarily in one piece or to what we would consider today a high standard.
The astronomical cost of high production stamping hardware, and the traditions of Italian coachwork combined - or perhaps collided - to make this Ferrari's first high production car... sort of. Even though the majority of panels are stamped steel, the quality of those stampings required much hand work to finish. Many of the more complex panels - ones that we are used to being stamped as one piece - are actually made of two or more sections that are welded together. While some of these seams are actually quite well rendered and hard to detect, they still require far more handwork than what we are used to in today's cookie-cutter world.
The rear bonnet is a good example. All the lines and swirls you see are grinder and file marks. The sail panels literally seem to have been hand filed from solid steel! The line you see running from the engine vent openning to the corner of the gate is a panel seam. I haven't been able to detect all of the other seams yet, but suffice it to say that this is an extremely intricate assembly of pieces. Judged by modern standards, it is all very crude and quaint. However, considering the skill involved in crafting items like this, it is at the same time rather intriguing.
As near as I can figure, the door skins are one piece, the fenders are made of 3 pieces, the gate of at least 4, but I'm sure of the nose, and I still can't figure out the quarter panels! None of this is germain to refinishing the car, of course, but it's about the journey, you know?
So, the body is an amalgam of steel, fiberglas, and aluminum. Seams and grinder/file/hammer marks - the clear evidence of hand rendering - are everywhere. How did they smooth it all out for painting? FILLER!
Most of the panels are edged in good old fashioned lead. This was used in varying degrees around the perimiter of the panels to provide a means of filling larger descrepancies and/or where flexure may be a problem. Unlike Bondo - which many neophytes will use in its place - lead is relatively pliable and inert. Its adhesion is outstanding, and it will move with steel and yet not crack, so it's ideal for exposed stress points or seams.
Leading is an art unto itself, and is actually quite a bit of fun. Of course, modern production designers have simply done away with exposed seams, but on old beauties like this, lead is a savior!
stamped from steel was eaten up in final surfacing labor!
After stripping, and a lacquer thinner wash, the surface is sanded, and all the nooks & crannnies painstakingly scratched clean. The pic at right shows a classic weakspot for these cars. Not only is the c-pillar-to-quarter seam hard to clean of paint, it is also very prone to rusting.
The car is then washed with a weak phosphoric acid solution to etch the metal. I will indeed use polyester filler ("bondo") to refill the deeper imperfections, but will then use a modern catalyzed urethane high build sanding primer to handle the rest of the surfacing chores. This is a fantastic product that wasn't available when this car was built, and will provide a much tougher substrate than the soft polyester sprayable filler.
However, just like the Scaglietti boys, I'll be hand blocking that primer to perfect the surface and remove all the waves. It's a tremendously tedious, laborious, physical process, but it is the only way to achieve the waveless look desired. Modern
The stripping process is quite tedious. The original lacquer paint pretty much liquifies and runs off, as you can see. The yellow material is not so cooperative. It is a sprayed on polyester filler - essentially bondo - that covers the entire surface. This is how they smoothed out the rough spots. It's upwards of 3/32" thick in spots!
The upshot of all this is that there was simply too much material on the car, and as a result, the relatively brittle lacquer finish was deeply cracked virtually everywhere, even under the taillamps and inside the hood and trunk chanels!
If you can imagine spreading bondo over a whole car, and then sanding it smooth, you can get an idea of the amount of work it took to build these cars... and the amount of work it will take to recreate. This all came as a surpise to this non-Ferrai guy. The car was not that
I am a great believer in sweat equity. People pay me good money to work on their cars, and I feel it is very helpful that the more interested and involved owner get a true sense of exactly what their money is being spent on. This tends to dissabuse them of the feeling that they may not be getting their money's worth! Here, the owner is enrolled in Block Sanding 101. Nothing like burning a few calories and wiping out the shoulder muscles to convince them it aint all that easy!
Because of the high cost of owning one of these beauties, this owner is learning to be hands-on. I encouraged him to handle anything he thought he could on his own, and indeed he delivered the car minus all the assemblies you see missing in the before photos. He's learned to do a lot on his own, but also quickly learned that bodywork is not something that comes to one logically. It is an intuitive avocation that requires a lot of study, feel, and interpretation.
The front fender pictured at right gives many clues as to the surface character described above. The stand-alone filler spot on top was a small ding, but the rest of it is filling surface waves and imperfections. The fender is made of two main pieces, the seam running front-to-back about two inches below the top edge. You can see by the filler left that it took quite a bit of work to level out this hand-made seam properly.
Your host sands while Ferrari Red paint burns!
techniques have advanced the art of restoration immensely, but some things still require the old paths to perfection!
Yet another example at left of the many places that were very difficult to clean completely. This tail panel is pretty complex, and had just as much lead and polyester spayable filler as any other area. A lot of wire brushing was necessary to get it cleaned up.
You can see the amount of fresh filler remaining in the rear quarter lip after sanding. This is in addition to the lead that was already there. Some of that soft lead was taken out by the wire brush and sand paper, and had to be replaced.
Vents in cars - wanting to look like "real" racers - have become a fashion item. Here they are functional, feeding the oil coolers with fresh air. In fact, scoops in mid-engined cars are almost always there for a real reason!
They are an interesting piece, showing evidence of a lot of mechanical manipulation in their manufacture. I have not quite figured out how they were added to the panel. My best guess is that the openning in the quarter panel is also the edge of the scoop, and that they are welded in at that point. In any event, the form a signature exotic assembly that truthfully looks out of place on many cars, but not a Ferrari!
To the untrained eye, In these early stages progress often seems to be measured in many different stages of ugliness! That is quite true. Nothing looks more forlorn than a car stripped of its shiny paint, almost no matter how bad that paint was.
Here we have two stages. The yellow is an acid wash primer stage to promote topcoat adhesion. The red is the first coat of color tinted filling primer. It is tinted to reduce the amount of paint needed for coverage. Between now and paint comes dozens of hours of laborious hand wet sanding.
Here we see the first go at block sanding
PRIME TIME !
by much larger primer areas left behind, and less well defined, more sparse high areas.
The evidence is all there... if you know
what you are looking at!
The tools of the trade are seen resting on the door at right. The short block for tight spots,
the long block for the larger areas, and the round piece of whatever is handy for the rounded air ducts. Just in case you were wondering, the round sanding tool is actually a piece of roll bar padding. Hey... this is a 100% hard core joint
all the way, Dudes!
the primer. Remember, the block exerts more pressure on the high spots, removing the material from them, and by default filling the lower areas that see less pressure. The high density of high spots-per-square-inch tells the story; not a very optically smooth surface. A smoother surface would be evidenced
Slight change in plans at left. I decided that some areas would not "plain out" using just the urethane primer. I decided to go back to the Scaglietti Method and apply a selective layer of MODERN sprayable polyester primer, which is essentially very thin bondo. This was only applied to the areas deemed most needy of extra depth surfacing. In reality, many of those areas I chose did not necessarily need it, as it was mostly sanded right off. However, a few spots did benefit, most notably the fender tops and minor spots on the doors.
Now we get down to it! You can clearly see the color change layer after sanding. The gray is the sprayable polyester,
and the maroon is the same red primer with a little black added. The highest spots are bare metal, next is the red, followed by the maroon, then the gray polyester. This is where you clearly start to see the low areas gradually filling in. If the car were mine, I'd do TWO more sanding coats, but I'm not sure THIS budget can stand it!
The photo above is somewhat disingenuous in that the front & rear edges of the doors were primed red before the gray polyester was sprayed. The maroon primer was then sprayed on the center of the door only. This accounts for the lack of maroon at the front or back of the door. Still, you can clearly see the effectiveness of using multiple colors to highlight what is going on with the surface.
The photo at left is most illustrative of what is being accomplished. You now of course recognize the bare metal as the highest spots, red next, followed by the low spots in gray. Further, the fender edge clearly shows areas of crispness, and softness. The points where the underlying steel is very sharp and accurate are clearly defined. The areas where the edge is less crisp look fuzzier, still have some amount of gray primer on them, and appear to waver side-to-side compared to the sharp edge dilineated in red. In reality, the primer is doing its job. When the side of the fender is sanded, a corresponding area of gray primer will be left below, like a mirror image, and the subsequent coat of primer will reveal a crisp edge!
Here we are at the final fill sanding stage. The use of black is for two reasons. 1) is that I was trying not to use up the red I had left. 2) it also provides the color change contrast that helps you see what you've got surface-wise.
As these pictures illustrate, the surface is getting very level. How do we know that? Because it actually gets much harder to break through the top surface of primer. That results from the surface pressure exerted on the primer being very eavenly spread out by the flatter surface. Because there are no longer too many high spots - with their attending higher surface
pressure - itching to get their tops knocked off, sanding this layer out becomes much slower. You also are not looking to "go through" the layer much this time, but keep it more intact.
So, the only thing remaining is to sand the incidental parts, and finish surfacing the pesky fiberglas Euro air dam. I hoped to save some time by simply priming it to fill the stone chips and painting it without much fuss. Pfffff!
It had some unknown paint on it that did not strike up a particularly friendly relationship with the Sikkens Colorbuild surfacing primer. I wasted a heavy coat of it and and a lot of sanding before I knew that I had to back up and strip the thing bare. Thanks to special fiberglas stripper, and fresh coat of Colorbuild, It's coming back to form right now.
The final step before painting is to finish prime with the red primer to unify the base color and then 600 wet sand the entire car. This is the time when you hunt for any little places you've missed, and decide what gets an 11th hour reprieve and what gets passed over.
Any tiny places you missed will emerge as humongous flaws when the shiny stuff goes on, but . . . the budget always looms!
To help everyone with slower connections, I've moved the rest of the story to a new page. Please click the icon below to continue Project 308 !