Slow Car Fast
January 17, 2010 - The new fender flares have arrived.
They're going to be much, much easier to work with than the originals. It's interesting to see just how similar the shapes are front and rear though.
entry 254 - tags: fenders, body
October 31, 2010 - I was doing some testing on bumpstop length, and decided it would be a good idea to mark how much fender cutting will be required.
A piece of string with a loop at each end, a bolt to act as a center pivot and a silver Sharpie and voila! Here's the cut line. The inside of the fender actually has a lot more room, as I'm using the factory MG bumpstop and smaller diameter tires. But I pushed them outboard, of course.
entry 416 - tags: body, fenders
October 31, 2010 - Here's the cut line for the front fender.
This one's a bit more complex because the wheel has to move, but I'll cut this much first and then play with wheel angles.
entry 417 - tags: body, fenders
November 3, 2010 - Time to make some room in the fenders!
For some reason, this cut filled me with a certain amount of trepidation. It's not like I'm dealing with a pristine automobile here, it's undergone massive reconstructive surgery. But this is the first cut that's visible from outside.
Sure didn't take long. Both front fenders are cut now.
entry 421 - tags: fenders, body
November 3, 2010 - Here's a peek at the front wheel at full compression.
I have clearance for full lock and full bump, so that's good. It looks pretty cool like this. In fact, it almost looks as if I could have just stretched the fenders slightly. Not really, but it looks that way.
entry 422 - tags: body, fenders
November 7, 2010 - With the brakes all plumbed in, it's time to bleed them.
Unfortunately, I still have a mismatch of front brake pads (1994 Miata), brake rotors (1994 Miata) and caliper brackets (1990 Miata, which uses smaller brakes). I have a set of the later brackets on the way, but with Janel available to help me bleed I wanted to do something. Well, the Seven was just sitting there with an engine problem awaiting my attentions, and it uses the 1990 size brakes. So I grabbed the rotors and pads from that car and voila! Front brakes.
I've also cut the rear arches away to clear the tires on full bump. There's a double skin to the body here so some black duct tape was used to seal it up until I weld in an insert to join the gap. It was gratifying to see how clean the metal inside that cut section is. That's a rust spot for the cars, and mine was pristine inside. Was.
Time to bleed the brakes! All the suspension pivots have been torqued up and the springs are in place. Does it seem as if I'm working towards something here? Perhaps.
entry 427 - tags: brakes, suspension, body, fenders
December 1, 2010 - After the paint was removed from the fender area, the Rabbit part was tack-welded on.
I then reinstalled the wheel, dropped the car back down and double-checked placement.
Just look at how that fender fits the MG body. It's perfect.
entry 492 - tags: fender, body
December 1, 2010 - There's one problem with the flares, though.
They sit high enough on the body that they cross over the line where the stainless steel strakes run. This leaves a gap at the top of the flare where the body steps inwards. These fenders have a little curve where they meet up with the body, so before installing them I used a body hammer to remove the curve and flatten the profile of the flare in this area.
I am mounting these flares higher on the body than I've seen on another car - the only other car I've seen with the Rabbit flares. It could be that my ride height is lower, but aesthetically I'm happy with the placement.
entry 493 - tags: body, fender
December 1, 2010 - With the fender properly placed, I welded it on.
Lots of small spot welds to keep the heat under control. I'm really happy with how this turned out.
entry 494 - tags: fenders, flares, body
December 1, 2010 - The solution to the gap was a patch panel.
It's shown here on the other side, because that's where I managed to get a better picture! I used card stock to work out the shape, cut a carefully shaped patch out of the leftover patch panel sheetmetal and welded it in. A bit more attention with the flapper wheel on the grinder and a bit of prep work and it'll look nice and smooth. It also makes the fender flares look much bigger than before!
entry 495 - tags: fender, flares, body
December 1, 2010 - The new flares have a fairly big lip on the inside edge, typical for production cars.
Unfortunately, it means that my tires hit at full compression. So this lip has to go.
entry 496 - tags: body, flares, fenders
December 1, 2010 - The solution?
A fender roller. Now, I often get accused of having access to special tools due to the fact that I work at Flyin' Miata. And I have to admit that this is one of those situations. Not that a fender roller is all that exotic, but it's easy to just grab the one off the shelf at work instead of having to borrow it from someone.
The low-tech way to do this would involve a baseball bat or jack handle, of course. I've done that in the past, so I think I've paid my dues!
entry 497 - tags: fenders, flares, body, fender roller
December 1, 2010 - The roller is a pretty nice tool.
It allows you to slowly and carefully shape the fender, rolling that flat flange upwards so it gives more room without any visible changes. It's easier on an unpainted panel like this, of course, but I've made some fairly spectacular alterations to a couple of Miatas. In extreme cases, you can stretch the fender outwards for more space. I didn't have to do that here.
It might seem a little odd to build a custom fender and them immediately modify it like this, but it's part of getting the best fit.
So how's it look? Pictures will be forthcoming once I get the car out of the garage. Basically, the car's gone from looking pretty cool to just plain badass.
entry 498 - tags: fender roller, flares, fenders, body
December 2, 2010 - The final result!
I'll hit it with some black primer to protect the metal and make the shape blend into the body, but I'm really happy with the result.
entry 499 - tags: fenders, flares, body
December 2, 2010 - Another view from the front quarter.
Sorry about the exposure, the Colorado sun is pretty harsh for photography. I'll get some better ones later.
After some playing around yesterday, I decided that rear Rabbit flares (as seen on the rear of the MG) fit the front of the MG better than front Rabbit flares. Of course, I have a pair of junkyard front flares but no more rears. No worries, shipped me another set of patch panels yesterday and I should have them within a week. As a bonus, they're nice clean new metal like these instead of junkyard parts.
entry 500 - tags: body, fenders, flares
December 16, 2010 - I've been out of town for over a week, so the MG hasn't seen much action.
But the whole time I was gone, I was thinking about the fact that my new front fenders should be arriving. Less than 24 hours after getting home, I had the new fenders cut up and was doing test fitting.
And here's where I ran into a problem. Cars taper. They tend to be wider in the middle than the ends. Both the Rabbit and the MGB are like this. So the flares are slightly tapered to match. In the rear, I used the rear fenders on their intended sides and so the taper worked out well. But in the front, I had to flip the fender pieces - from a rear Rabbit fender - to the other side if I wanted the taper to work with me. Unfortunately, no matter how I played with them, I just couldn't get them to sit well on the original wheel cutout.
By flipping them back again - left fender on the left side - I was able to get the shape I wanted with a delicious little curl where the flare melts into the body of the car. That's a great detail on the original Rabbit that you can see with the bumpers pulled. But it meant that the flare was tapered the wrong way. The front of the wheel is left more exposed and there's a bit more flare on the trailing edge. Still, I thought it worked pretty well, so that's what I've done. We'll see what I think when it's all painted up and finished.
I did do a lot more trimming on the metal to deal with this and to mold the flares to the body. I usually find tin snips to be terribly frustrating devices but this turned out to be their destined use. A nice change from noisy power tools that are always trying to fling incandescent metal into my eyeballs.
entry 505 - tags: fenders, flares, body
December 16, 2010 - Just as in the rear, I had to add a filler piece to mate the flare to the body.
However, unlike the rear, it was trying to mate up to a fairly heavily curved fender. It looks a bit weird in the picture, but I think it'll look good when it's all painted.
I hope so anyhow.
entry 506 - tags: fenders, flares, body
December 17, 2010 - With both fenders welded up, I hit them with some black primer and brought the car out into the sun to see how it looked.
The answer: Pretty darn good. Obviously they're not finished yet, I only knocked down the high points on the welds so they wouldn't be too distracting.
The two front fenders came out slightly different, mostly in how the extra patch blends in. On the driver's side here, it's a straight line to the fender. On the passenger's side, there's a change in angle. I like the former, so I'll probably go back to the other side and add a bit more steel - I should be able make it work nicely.
The car looks pretty good now! Much less redneck.
entry 507 - tags: body, fenders, flares
December 17, 2010 - A view of the passenger's side.
You can't really see the difference in the front flares here. I think the car looks good - my concerns about the taper of the flares were a bit premature, as the final result blends in nicely. The rears still work a bit better in my opinion, but I'm pretty happy. There are so many ways this could have gone wrong.
Check out the strip down the side - it's just foil tape cut to width and stuck on to get a feel for how it will look. After the bodywork is finished and the car is painted, I'll cut down a set of stock stainless steel strips and make them fit.
entry 508 - tags: body, fenders, flares
December 17, 2010 - The best angle.
I want to spend a bit more time walking around the car and getting a feel for how it looks (and learning to photograph it well!), but I'm happy with this. It almost looks as if it should have come from the factory this way, which was my goal. I can see a few things I'd change if I did it again on the fronts (especially now that I've learned a few things about fitting the metal) but that's just my reaction after spending a few days working on them. It's like the stripes on the Targa Miata - I'm not happy with how they flow on one corner or around the rear taillights, but nobody else has ever noticed.
To celebrate, we used the car for a bit of running around town including some grocery shopping. Naturally, my freshly-adjusted latch on the tailgate decided to get ornery and refused to open, so we had to load all the groceries in through the front doors. The car's still fairly loud, but I think I managed to solve the major vibration problem. We'll see when I get it on the interstate. Still have to fix that bit of stiction in the steering though...
entry 509 - tags: fenders, flares, body
December 20, 2010 - I was asked for a side shot of the flares, showing how they fit over the wheels.
And here it is.
The Lucas bullet connector between the new wiring and the fuel pump has been replaced. The culprit? I don't know. I also discovered that I never tightened down some of the connections on the main power bus, so it's possible that could be a culprit.
entry 511 - tags: body, fender, flares
January 18, 2011 - The flares look pretty good, but there's one line that bothers me.
The trailing edge of the front fenders doesn't blend into the body as well as I'd like. It's not something you'd notice unless you spend hours looking at the car and working on small areas of it, but they don't look factory.
I do have a couple of stubs that were cut off the leading edge of these flares as I was building them. They have a better shape.
entry 534 - tags: body, fender, flares
January 18, 2011 - Much better!
The flares now blend into the body perfectly, even following a curve at the bottom of the fender when viewed from the side. I'm really happy with how this turned out, they're even better in person.
It's unlikely anyone would have noticed unless I'd pointed it out, but now I'm satisfied.
entry 535 - tags: body, fender, flares
February 6, 2011 - So, how hard would it be to reshape that front fender flare?
Well, here's what the patch would look like. Can I meld that in smoothly? I don't know. I'll give it a shot. But first, I need to buy some more steel!
entry 554 - tags: body, flares, fender