Spitfire buyers guide - Bodywork
The Spitfire's sheet metal is basically well built and designed, but any steel-bodied car is prone to rust, particularly in regions with extreme winter weather. The Spitfire also has a separate chassis so as well as the sill's and the body tub being structural the chassis also must be checked to ensure it is sound.
The main areas to look out for are:-
- The one piece bonnet includes the inner wings and the outer wings. The bonnet can be replaced easily with a new Heritage bonnet or a fiberglass bonnet. The price of a new bonnet sounds quite expensive at about £900 but it does include the wings etc (MGB wings alone cost about £250 each). It is therefore very important to check the bonnet carefully unless you want to spend the money on a new one and this can be reflected in the price. Areas to check are the wheel arches, along the bottom of the wing and the inner wings as these areas are in the direct line of fire of road muck and salt. Areas behind the lights behind the headlight cowls can rot out (d panels) as again these fill up with dirt and rot out as do the 1/4 panels just below the bumper as originally these were steel but a double skin meant they rot from the inside out. Fibre glass replacements are available and are probably a good idea in this high corrosion area. All the panels are available to rebuild your own bonnet so if you just have one rusty or damaged lower wing then this can be replaced although the job is quite tricky to avoid distortion.
- Sills on the Spitfire are structural (unlike the Herald that the Spitfire is based on) so these must be in good condition. The Spitfire sill comprises of 3 sections an outer a membrane and an inner sill. When checking the sills look along the bottom to make sure that the flange where it meets the floor is sound and also lift the carpets beside the seats and check the inner sill is attached the the floor correctly.
- Check the lower edges of the doors from underneath for rust or filler, usually a blocked drain hole in the door can fill the door with water with the only way out being to rust out. Look for varying gaps around the doors as poor alignment means badly renewed sills. Check for corners touching, large gaps or doors standing proud of the bodywork as this could indicate that the sills are shot and the car is starting to sag in the middle.
- Check the rear wheel arch lip for corrosion and body filler, new rear wings are very good and are quite cheap but again can be tricky to replace. At the same time check the inner wings as there are mountings for the seat belts and the board behind the drivers seat is where the rear tie bars attach, if this goes then you will have some interesting steering problems as the back wheels will move about under power.
- The rear valance and boot floor can also rot from water getting through the boot seals, the rear valance is also prone to accident damage from people reversing into things below the level of the bumper.
- The boot lid itself can corrode especially round the edges and crack can appear, it is quite and expensive item to buy new although there should be plenty of second hand boots available from specialists.
- The front scuttle and rear deck can be difficult panels to repair so check for any signs of corrosion or filler in these areas. At the same time check the windscreen surround.
- The bumpers are very expensive for a Spitfire (over £300 each) so make sure that they are not pitted and look good although most Spitfires that have been restored will have inferior bumpers compared to the bodywork due to the shear cost of changing them..