(Pic heavy) Rusty MX5 hairdresser driftcar MOT restoration

  1. Championship White Member

    MK1 MX5's are cheap as chips, it'd be far cheaper and easier to get a new shell and re-shell the car or just break this one for parts and get a different one. But then if you enjoy welding and fixing things this looks like a worthwhile project :D

    I love my MK1 MX5.
  2. ibrooks Member

    UK Lancashire
    Sounds easy when you say it fast and I did see a "mint" shell for sale at one of the specialists whilst I was welding mine for less than I had paid for the sills and quarter repair panels. But..... it's a hell of a lot of work transferring EVERYTHING from one shell to another. Certainly my car would still have been in about a thousand little bits. You also need to consider that you end up with essentially two cars taking up space for most of the time it takes to do the job - realistically more like three as you've got two shells and all the parts sat next to them as you can rarely simply take bits off one car and put them straight onto another.

    Factor in all the bolts that will inevitably snap and plastic clips that will break and can't be bought new any more so you need to find someone breaking a car and hope that theirs aren't also brittle with age.

    You can do a LOT of welding to a car for that sort of financial and time outlay.

  3. Agreed, unfortunately I just don't really have the space to do a complete swap without making a lot of mess. The neighbours will not be happy! Plenty of garage space admittedly but it is all occupied by other cars for now.

    I have been looking at this in terms of being a good project to further my skills on a car that is not really needed for getting to work etc! I do love fixing up cars and even though I am new to welding I think I can see a way through, most of this shell is still pretty solid.

    So far my conclusion is that whoever did the previous sill repairs did A LOT more harm than good. I am still mystified as to how this passed its last MOT although the skirts probably helped! It is however nowhere near beyond repair. If tackled in stages there is no reason why I can't take this thing drifting later this month even, I will just have to stick with the transporter option for now and try to pick dry days haha! Original timeframe is still looking plausible. If I could get this through an MOT by March I would be over the moon.

    Several other factors are also in my way like weeping rad hose/knackered backbox/lack of cat/brakes binding/many tyres available but not one that's legal etc but I have the space and the time to get it all done.

    LOTS of stuff still left to do prep-wise, didn't get as much done over xmas as previously hoped, went to visit gf's folks hundreds of miles away, airport runs etc blah blah but I am back on it now.

    Not really much more to show. Father xmas blessed me with a new grinder and tons of new disks. Did some gentle grinding on the driver's side earlier today, just going in layer by layer. Actually not looking quite as bad as I thought, plenty of solid metal there; once I get rid of all the rotten crud at the back of the sill and figure out how to tackle the front end of the sill I reckon this thing could have a good chance of getting back on the road. That said the passenger's side is also going to need some work although it is nowhere near as bad.
  4. Back on it once again! Bit of a delay caused mostly by lack of time but also lack of worthwhile heating in the garage!

    Quite a bit has been done since the last pics. As suspected there is a lot more rot than there looked to be at first. I now have a slight quandary as I don't have my own welder and have cut out as much as I dare without causing the chassis to flex whilst on stands. Basically before I cut any more out I want to brace up the door aperture. I have some offcuts of box section and bits of 2mm plate which should be ideal but I need the use of a welder for a few hours first off just to get braced up. After that I will feel a bit more confident about drilling out the outer sill and attacking what is underneath. Obviously there will be a fairly long interim period whilst I finish prepping after bracing but hiring a welder for a day is actually 1/3 of the cost for a whole week. May go door to door as some of the neighbours are quite crafty old fellas so perhaps someone has one I can pilfer for a few hours lying around even if it's just a little gasless thing, although I don't want to be buying flux cored wire if I can help it.

    GOOD news is rot is pretty much entirely confined to the sills/arch and I have yet to find any more in other places so the rest of the shell is fairly solid

    BAD news is that as predicted this has gone from a fairly quick job to a fairly major one as the entire inner sill front to back and substantial sections of the rear arch and sill reinforcement on the driver's side need to go. I also need to undo a lot of crappy welding (I can tell the difference now thanks to my C&G!) but thankfully a lot of it is in the areas I am already working; in fact I would say it is the main cause of most of the problems!

    Probably a similar story on the passenger side but it is less obvious and might pass the MOT for now with a cheeky patch or two just to get back on the road until I have the funds to sort it properly with a matching replacement outer sill.

    The bodgers have also been patching the box section either side but as far as I am aware these aren't very structural on MX5s so should hopefully be OK MOTwise.

    I have been amassing various tools, PPE and sundries in preparation, also got a nice big sheet of 1.5 zintec which I have been busy drawing shapes on to. Only thing I don't have is extraction, however I have a spraybooth with an unnecessarily powerful motor which could be modified if I reverse the polarity so that it sucks through the pipe instead of blowing.

    The next stage now is a self-taught crash course in panel beating, which I am sure will please the neighbours greatly :D

    I feel like I should apologise for the lack of progress here but I am taking it steady and am in no particular rush.

    I will upload some more pics if I remember to take some whilst it's light to give you folks an idea of the extent of it. Must have been water sloshing around in there for a while. Loving this so far. Wondering about getting an s14 shell to tackle for the next project but one thing at a time haha.
  5. Angusdog

    Angusdog Well-meaning amateur

    Wellington, NZ
    Sounds like you'll have learnt quite a bit by the end of this project - if other people can do it, so can you. In particular the Cortina Estate thread on here is very impressive.

    My only question would be the 1.5mm sheet. Most of your panels are going to be 0.8mm - 1.0mm I would have thought, which is going to be considerably easier to shape.
  6. Aha I think you may be right to raise that question. I am fairly new to this as you may have gathered and as such am still absolutely crap at judging thicknesses!

    From what I had gleaned from various sources the NA MX5 uses 1.5mm on the sills, however on reflection I think this might apply only to the outer sill for which I have a pre-shaped replacement panel anyway!

    Perhaps someone else who has chopped up an MX5 could confirm what thickness the inner sills should be? Mine have rotted quite badly making it difficult for me to tell but I think the strengthening sections inside may well be thinner than 1.5.

    As I have the zintec now and will no doubt end up doing something similar on the other side anyway, I will probably use what I already have. For some reason I always seem to choose to learn the hard way.

    The Cortina thread is legendary and has been a real inspiration. When I saw the state of those panels suddenly mine didn't seem so bad. I hadn't really considered the virtues of bashing metal before but even the hard way has been really rewarding so far.
  7. ibrooks Member

    UK Lancashire
    Both the inner and outer sills on mine were 1.5mm but beware the terminology as there are a good few layers of metal along there and just what's called inner and outer can vary from source to source.

  8. I hear that loud and clear! I was quite surprised by the complexity of the overlapping structures at the rear of the sill when I opened it up. I shall add material piece by piece and try not to injure myself too much (already been to eye casualty last week...erm...lesson learned hopefully!).

    Booked a welder and gas again for a week from tomorrow, gonna go pick up wire and bits after work this afternoon. I have tomorrow and Thursday booked off work to hopefully get a decent start. Aiming to try to get as much done as possible in a week; depending how much time I waste sleeping I think there is a chance I will get done but progress is slow!

    As yet no fires
  9. Alright, well to cut a long story short I acquired my own welder in the end rather than hiring; this has afforded me a much more considered approach. Having scratched my head a lot and tried to systematically remove rotted sections whilst retaining datum points I feel a lot more certain about each piece I am going to need to fabricate.


    Doing it this way allows me to keep track of all the different overlapping sections that weave together from front to back to get good measurments until I have enough sections made up to begin on the innermost sections.

    Just been having a few beers with the car tonight before bed and doing sketches with some measurements to work from. Also added at least 5 extra Hp tonight in the style of that Mighty Car Mods show by adding some awesome Wreck Em stickers that came from Australia. I like stickers.

    Next problem is going to be getting to the ecu as the car is full of tires [​IMG]. After I remove it I can begin welding proper.

    For now I have just been practising on scrap to get a feel for butt joints and plug welds but I am beginning to feel a bit more precise now which is nice once the wire speed is right. I think there are a few inner strengthener box sections I can make up on the bench. Most of the panels I need will just be folded sections of zintec with the exception of the arch sections which will need more bashing to find the shape.


    A few more pics of what is left at the moment-
    The back of the drivers side sill had been bashed against the floor so hard at some point that the flange and the corner by the arch were badly squashed. This then rusted and got patched up rather badly. More rust happened. Someone decided to hide the evidence with filler and some fancy Bomex skirts.


    Strengthener underneath the front end of the sill. I have basically just chopped out nearly the entire inner sill front to rear but retained the bottom end of the strengether even though they are badly rusted as datum points.


    There are a couple of nasty patches on the inside floor section that need to be addressed before I can start on the inner sill.


    Getting choppy.


    Fresh problem is that a massive Jag is to arrive in the garage at some point this week meaning working space will be a bit tighter.
  10. mahesket Member

    Good luck with this pal, you have definately got your work cut out there.

    I chopped into mine last week and i'm getting back in the garage to next couple of nights to clean it up some more before attempting to fab up some new panels.

    Quick picture of what mine looks like at present, well its further than this as i have chopped out all thin steel and FILLER!!! (always find filler dont you) and treated with hydrate80, just need to clean up round the back before i can get a new piece on.

    Glad you are learning and working on a mx5 feel like I have someone to share the experience with lol.

    Good luck

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  11. :D Another Matt with an NA MX5 resto haha :clapping:

    The filler has been a bit of a problem for me as it was actually applied rather well before the arch so subsequently I have had to resort to using the grinder a few times where I couldn't chip it off. Nasty vapours and flaming bubbling plastic abound.

    Regardless of how long this has taken me so far, I actually don't think this would be a massive job for someone with more experience. This isn't the worst one I have ever seen, but having said that it is probably worse than cars 5 years older that I have seen which still look immaculate. I have already overshot my original deadline but I want to try to do this as correctly as possible. I am planning on keeping this car for a while and I want to be as sure as I can that I am not just inviting more rust in whilst restoring.

    Nice of you to include a picture of what the inside of my sill rear is supposed to look like! This thing was bashed around on the bumpstops, scraping around sideways through the lanes of Devon before I acquired it and has all the halmarks of enthusiastic late night troublemaking.

    I have the complete replacement outer sill skin which looks like it should fit nicely with a bit of persuasion once all the junk is removed. The only slight cause for concern is whether to continue trying to remove the whole of the old outer sill (what's left of it, inner is already pretty much already removed along the entire length) which would mean cutting in to perfectly good metal but would allow access for weldthough primering at the back and suchlike, then seaming up back over the top edge then plug welding; OR whether to leave the straight, rust free and (for now) perfectly fitting metal around the door aperture and under the bottom door hinge at the top edge of the sill front and just chop sections out of the new panel to seam weld in there instead, refilling the plug welds I have drilled already out (probably inviting afformentioned rust back in). The front end of the old panel is proving more challenging than I thought to remove as the spotwelds penetrate through 3 panels at the top of the sill panel where the door hinge lives and don't seem to be being persuaded to break. Around the door aperture also looks so perfectly straight at the moment that I am loathed to remove it and am now thinking it might be easier to leave that area alone too.

    Measuring, measuring, chopping, bashing; Eventually maybe even some welding!

    I have learned a lot so far anyhow to say the least! Good luck sill buddy! Let us know how you get on.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2013
  12. mahesket Member

    Cheers mate, got up to the garage last night to crack on with more rust/filler removal. I also welded my first patch in but forgot to take photos. I think I was probably a bit ambitious and should have taken more time making the patch a better fit.

    I was also welding through weld through primer which was definately harder than clean fresh steel.

    But by far the biggest problem I have is space in which to move around the car. I have the front end on ramps and have the rear supported on axle stands as high as I could get it but it is still very cramped trying to manoeuvre the tourch below the sill. Will get there in the end but as with you it's not going to be a s fast as i would have liked.

    Really hope i can get it done in time for some summer top down fun though!!
  13. Update

    Was planning on posting some updated pics of this but I was up welding til 2am then had to rush myself to work for 8 and forgot my phone which contains the pics! Verbal description of the progress to date will have to do for now. Basically I have been working of the section at the front end of the inner sill which is now all reconstructed from new metal and is already strong enough to use as a foothold!

    Little bit sleepy this morning but beginning to feel as though this project is going to be achievable and I can now see the endgame starting to develop. I have seamed up the inner sill skin at the front end and added a flange to it separately. This method worked better for me with the limited shaping tools I have as my attempts bending up a profiled patch with flange was taking too long. Working now on rebuilding the strengtheners down the centre. I have not described this particularly well but the inner sill from the front up to the A pillar is nearly finished. Just need to skin over the front to continue the outer skin from the wheelarch.

    After the smoke cleared (there have been 'whoops..' moments) I offered up the prebought outer sill panel and I am happy and slightly amazed to say it looks like it will marry up quite nicely! :clapping:

    Quite chuffed, although progress has been slow I want the prep to be good enough. Next step is to make up a nice big main length for the the inner sill panel which overlaps the front section I just attached. Need another trip to BOC. Welded until the shielding gas ran out and nearly out of cutting disks again :welder:

    I wanted to say a massive thank-you for all the suggestions and encouragement from you folks on here. What was previously feeling like a slightly insurmountable mountain of a task has become just another pottering DIY job in my head now. Just need more TIME from somewhere and stick at it.

    The missus is back home at some point later on having been away for a few days so hoping I can get away with one more long stint on it after I finish work today before she starts to get jealous of the attention being lavished on the car!
  14. Wallace

    Wallace Member

    Staines, Middlesex, England.

    There's never enough of that and when you start to suffer a lack of space you end up in the space-time continuum! :D
  15. Admittedly the welding is not pretty but it will definitely be strong enough! :whistle: Beginning to feel like I am getting somewhere with the inner sills now...

    Got bored of making car bits whilst making a flange section for the front, so began trying to fashion some crude weapons. When the zombie apocalypse happens I plan to be ready...

    This happens often...

    With a little persuasion I think the outer sill is going to marry up quite nicely...
    A few Tyskies and several barely averted paint/underseal fires later and it's probably time to call it a day...Will need to move some of the junk out of the car before I do any more or I will have tyre fires to contend with next time.

    Not quite sure how I managed this...any ideas?

    Yet another trip to the welding shop tomorrow for more gas shrouds. That is all for now.
  16. May need to speak to a physicist about my space/time quandaries. Massive jag is back in the garage so I am officially out of luck with both as I have no more gas shrouds and Monday morning is looming...
  17. Managed to make some fairly good progress yesterday. Just about finished the inner sill floor/flange from front to back, hoping to get some time later on today to work on replacing the internal strengtheners then I can think about attaching the outer sill!

    Attaching the sill floor to the paper-thin inner floor of the car has been interesting. If I were doing the process again I would cut the floor sections out and replace rather than trying to attach to borderline metal that is already weakened by rust removal. Getting quite good at the black art of building back up into and around holes which have blown through. Not sure I would recommend this technique and I won't win any prizes for neatness, but everything is very securely stuck together!

    Sorry about the lack of pics but I am currently at work, trying to keep the excitement level constant until I get home! Finally beginning to feel like this resto is drawing to a close.

    Pics to follow
  18. octo0072000

    octo0072000 Member

    south yorks
    Bottle stood up ??

    Don't make the mistake of leaving your bottle stood up if it falls over the regulator will get damaged as in your pictures
    make sure it's fixed to something to stop it falling over don't think it won't happen to me

    that's why people make a welding trolley so the bottle is safe
    not getting at you seen it happen to many times
    keep up the good work as said when you first started on the repairs
    that there would be a lot more than you think and so you have found out but that's welding
    you get it so many times how much to repair this but it's only needs a little patch ???
  19. Haha too true. I think it's safe to say that I THOUGHT I knew how bad this car was after I had cut some of the sill out, having no idea that I would literally be re-doing one side from front to back! This has taken absolutely ages compared to my presumed time frame.

    I wish I had built the trolley first! I have so many bits and bobs lying around that it would go together so quickly and easily and yet still I keep thinking that the gas is better spent on doing the car, whilst constantly lugging the machine around and like you say knocking bottles over.

    I have a little confession actually- that last gas bottle that I was accusing BOC of half filling only appeared to be half full because my gauge face was bent so that the needle stuck at 100 bar; this was obviously as a result of knocking the bottle over!

    Did a little more this afternoon after rushing home between my split shift. Back at work now but I can't stop thinking about the strenghtener section I have been trying to bash contours into (decided to attempt something a bit more elegant instead of just flat bits glued together!)

    Will try to do a bit more tomorrow as the missus is flying south again. Pics to follow if I manage some welds that aren't embarrassingly wonkylike.
  20. The filthy odyssey continues! Managed a good 6 hours today on my day off; made up for the fact that I got nothing done over the bank holiday. My side job is gardening and I have taken on a little more than I can be bothered to do this year if i'm honest! Took me nearly all bloomin day on Monday to get one looking half shipshape, but anyhow, PICS-


    Most of the strengtheners are back in place now over the flange created by the new inner sill. Begun tackling the back wheelarch too but only what is needed to reattach the sill for now. Once the outer panel is on I can worry about the top of the wheelarch then hopefully making a half decent section of quarterpanel to cover up the bit I chopped off!

    My very minimal fabrication skills have been tested to the absolute limit on this project. If this were more of a classic or even just a daily driver, I should have liked to have spent a LOT more time on the shaping and bending. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I have learned a great deal so far. I am fairly confident about the areas I have added back in though; There is some serious rigidity starting to be in evidence now. By the time the outer panel goes on the whole sill should very sound structurally. Probably won't be winning any prizes for neatness though!


    Notice all that nasty buildup of weird looking welds on the inside corner? This is what happens when you don't chop enough out. I dread to think what lurks on the other side of the rear box section, but the whole area is closed off. Whatever it is there makes a nasty fizzing sound and has a tendency to explode tiny holes, showering me with molten metal every so often. Having removed all of the rust the area was a little thin to say the least. The buildup of weld is where I blew a hole and then had to gradually 'horseshoe' it up from the sound new metal, almost cutting through the crappy metal until I reached more sound (original) metal. I definitely do not recommend this method but having cut so much out already and the drift season ticking merrily by, I was quite keen not to cut any more out where possible. In an ideal world I would have gone all the way back to the floorpan. With enough primer, dinitrol and tarry splod injected into the right areas I think it will be good enough for a good many years hopefully. I have lengthened the service life of this car significantly by replacing the whole inner sill front to back which is a good feeling.

    The last bit I managed to do today (again no prizes for neatness!)-


    It looks...er..well lets be honest, it looks terrible! :o Not overly concerned so long as it's rigid as this is the final internal strengthener section and as such will not be seen after the next phase. Still need to finish spotting this section around the seams (hopefully tomorrow) but already everything feels extremely solid! Still not really made any drainage holes so that will probably be the next thing with reference to the outer sill panel I bought which has recessed areas in the original locations. Just need to cut a channel in this panel over the area where the drain hole will be. At the back of that last pic can be seen the little Xcalibur Eurostar 150. Having lived with this machine and done a fair amount of different jobs with it, I can honestly say I am extremely happy with this machine as it has been very reliable and predictable thusfar!

    Done for the day now. Need to get clean and try to get dinner on the table before the missus gets back! I completely missed my calling as a houseywife. :whistle: