Body restoration and Painting of an Aluminium bodied Bentley Continental S1 James Young.

Coming from an arts and design background I have always been more influenced by a car’s look rather then its heritage and performance. Cars like the De Tomaso Mangusta, Talbot Lago, Jaguar XJ6 coupe, E-type low drag coupe, BMW E9, VW type 34, 62 Corvette Stingray Coupe, Alfa Romeo Montreal to name but a few, rank highly in my list of most beautiful cars.

Bentley was a Marque whose aesthetic I never found greatly appealed to me, as they always seemed to bulky and pompous but that was before I really got to know one. Yes the James Young Series 1 is a more streamlined, lower, reduced weight version of the conventional Bentely bodied S1, but even with that taken in to account it has remarkable elegance and sophistication in the design -an elegance that I can now see and appreciate in other models Bentley and similar Marques have produced. Anyway enough waxing lyrical about how this car has changed my perception and converted me, let me tell you about some of the work we did to her.

 

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Upon arrival with us

This James Young Bentley Series 1 Continental is one of a production run of only 7 cars. Re-bodied in aluminium from new  this version of the S1 had its aerodynamic properties tweaked and tuned in the wind tunnel and calculated so it could cruise with 4 passengers at 100mph happily all day.

Our services were employed to sympathetically bring the body back to a beautiful finish retaining as much of the original car as possible. ready for refitting. The Owner of the Bentley had already stripped the parts and started removing the 25kg of paint by hand, due to the possible risks associated with media blasting, including soda on aluminium the client proffered the body hand stripped. So our first job was to remove the last layers of paint and filers. Natural we did not use any Aluminium oxide products for this procedure.

Bemtley after cleaning. Note the sill cover shape running along the bottom of the door

Bentley Continental after last paint removal. Note the sill cover shape running along the bottom of the door

The metal showed signs of heavy gouging where the body had been attacked with a surfacing disc at some point in its past. Also it uncovered a few less then desirable old repairs, and overly corroded areas of aluminium. We new that the old style aluminium composition probably would not take to any of our stock Alu Tig welding rods,so we first needed to identify what metal and welding materials needed to join any of the panels we needed to make. Luckily a friend of ours is an expert Tig welder (produces F1 exhausts and other parts). So we passed him the fuel filler cover so he could identify what grade Aluminium and rods would be required. Ns4 was identified as the metal to use, but none of his stock of welding rods would take to the old filler cover. Now we had to wait for his supplier’s rep to visit and recommend a suitable rod. After a while we got the news, Mr tigs supplier had found a compatible rod. Whilst waiting for those results we set about making the replacement panels in NS4 grade Aluminium. Whilst mentally Bentleys appear to be rather boxy they truly don’t have a flat panel on them – everything is curves upon curves like a refinement of the streamliner designs. This made the part panels (remember this is a sympathetic resto) some of the most challenging I have ever had to recreate to date.

 

A selection of the panel work . Top – rear damage and new panel section. Middle – sill covers and rear wing leading section. Bottom – opposite sill installed and looking far straighter.

A selection of the panel work . Top – rear damage and new panel section. Middle – sill covers and rear wing leading section. Bottom – opposite sill installed and looking far straighter.

The front of both rear wings needed to be replaced, but the shape on the James Young was completely different to the standard Bentley. The standard Bentley formed a half tear drop shape for the rear wheel arch curving nearly 180° back to the start of the arch echoing the remains of its running board and wheel guards predecessors. The James young followed a vertical path that joined in to the sill panel chasing towards the front of the car. Unfortunately we did not have any visual reference for comparison, only the owners description, and what we could make out from the old riveted-on repaired metal from that area. We also made new sill covers, sill joining panels, upper rear wing sections and a very complex multiple compound curve rear wing repair section.

With the welding completed and obvious dents rectified we set about aligning the doors. Both sides of the James Young Bentley had very interesting door gaps. 1mm against front and back wings, with a central gap between front and rear doors of 8mm. With no means of manufacturer adjustment, a series of shims combined with shaving the hinges was the only method available to align the doors to a suitable standard. Once we were happy with the doors we started the cleaning the aluminium; Acid washing, neutralising and drying each panel individually so we could apply a coat of epoxy primer whilst minimizing the period of time the old aluminium was exposed to the air reducing corrosion risks. We feel epoxy is a great choice for restoration due to its non porous attributes, toughness and adhesion properties it also has plenty of build too.

stages of paintng a car body

Various preparation stages with lots of sanding between each coat. Clean alloy substrate, Black Epoxy primer, Epoxy primer rubbed down (light non-porous filler skim in localised areas), 2K high build primer.

Check, sand, and check and sand again is the only way to feel confident that the bodies shape is moving in the right direction. But the only way to tell for sure, especially on hand made panels, is to get some colour on to the body.

processes of painting a car

Left; attempt 1 showed some areas that still needed attention. Middle; more sanding removing high areas exposing the primer helps to iron out those waves in the reflection. Right; after another coat of colour there was still a couple of areas that where not quite right.

With the colour laid and the panel shapes looking good, we finally went for a full coat. We had already coloured the door jambs and internal areas meaning that we could paint the body with the off panels mounted helping to maintain a uniform lay of the metallic paint.

With the colour on and sanded (yes more sanding) we removed the off panels and concentrated on Clear coating (Lacquer) the body. This allows the clear coat to flow right around the door jambs eliminating any paint edges which is better for longevity and finish quality. We did use a new high level clear coat on this James Young S1 Continental and we were extremely impressed by it.

The Client wanted a dark British Racing Green metallic, and the one he selected looked to be ideal in the light of the booth. However once the paint had dried we took her outside and the sun was shining bright which revealed an unanticipated effect. In bright, direct sun light the colour changed to a vibrant heavy metallic green for the highlight with blue in place of the black in the shadows (not helped by the pure blue sky that day). I needed to call the client and get him to check that he was happy with the colour in the same lighting conditions, and that it was not too modern- looking. Now was the time to change the colour if required.

Bristish racing dark green metallic

With all the flowing curves across the Bentley body, the colour really worked well and had great depth and lustre. Luckily the client felt the same, and then explained that the original colour the first owner specified from new was a fish scale pearlescent paint, so the paint effect was not a concern.

With this news, we knew that it was now all down to the paint finishing process… yes just three more complete sanding processes to go. But before we did one the boys noticed a tiny shadow in the metallic, only very subtle and only visible in direct, heavy sun. With this we visually scrutinised the car at the brightest times of days to find any other similar areas and sure enough they were there. We new that the colour was low-covering but even under the spraybooth lights this problem was invisible. So another light all over sanding then we proceeded to repaint the body again. We were naturally very pleased that this problem was identified before we commenced with the colour sanding.

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Panels looking really good, great clear and crisp reflections.

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Any white specs are dust – this level of finish shows dust very quickly especially on a dark colour

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Not all the door bolts where in place at this point so the door alignment is slightly out ion this photo

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A brave day; hand painting the grey coachlines on the body and wheel trims. The line may not be perfect like you would get with tape but it did need to be hand painted.

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Some times it feels great to finish a day and say to yourself – Today I reshaped a rare classic Bentley radiator surround.

Once the body was colour sanded and repolished to a fantastic lustre all that was left was to hand coach line the body and wheel trims and remove some dents from the radiator surround before being sent for chroming.

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Wheel trims on and final dust off before collection

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2 thoughts on “Body restoration and Painting of an Aluminium bodied Bentley Continental S1 James Young.

  1. From a client perspective…..this job is truly brilliant and the effort that Gavin and the team have put in has been truly fantastic.

    Well done and thank you team.

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