An M.G. Locost Build
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July 14, 2013
Gray Primer

Happy Bastille Day. We got a lot of painting done on the Locost this weekend, and it's all very encouraging, although as usual we expect to have many opportunities over the next couple of weeks to ruin everything. Despite our ongoing skepticism, getting primer on the body panels is a major accomplishment. For one thing, all the panels are the same color. Not a great color, but still an improvement. If for some reason we had to throw the body on the car right away, it wouldn't look totally incomplete. Just unpainted.

  Locost body panels quietly drying in the sun
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We spent most of last week prepping the eight aluminum and three fiberglass body panels. Surprisingly, when we first cut out the aluminum panels and clecoed them to the frame, we didn't do a lot of finish work on the edges. Or maybe not surprisingly. In any case we had to file the edges smooth on just about every panel, and then scuff them up with a 3M finishing pad, and finally take them out on the lawn to etch them with alodine, a chemical that we hope doesn't kill grass. So far so good.

Paint booth built with quality paper tarps  
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We built another paint booth in the garage, a little smaller this time since we didn't have to fit a complete car in it, just a couple of panels at a time. We bought only one quart of 2K urethane, but we still managed to get two coats on all eleven body panels, and three on the nose cone, although the coats might've been a little on the thin side. I'm not sure if we mentioned this, but we have the world's cheapest paint gun. Fortunately, after three years of occasional use it still works better than a spray can. Although not a lot better.

  Shooting primer with semi-professional paint gun
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The best thing about getting all the panels primed is that we're now just one step away from getting them painted. We just have to wet sand the panels down to 400 grit, and then do some Bondo work on the lower part of the forward body panels, which suffered a few errant hammer blows and also several non-errant ones during the fitting process. So maybe we're two steps away. But it's all very encouraging, and we plan to shoot the panels with Rustoleum Dark Hunter Green thinned with 20% acetone, which we're told works well even with the world's cheapest paint gun.

Almost as nice as real chrome  
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As a preview of what we expect our Locost to look like soon, we painted the headlights with a spray can in the same Dark Hunter Green. A lot of Locost builders fork out the extra dough for chrome headlight housings, but we think color coordinated is the way to go. Plus we're cheap. The chrome ring that secures the bulb to the housing will have to suffice. Once the paint on the housings dries we can assemble the headlights for the final time, wire them up, and then try to get them aimed in approximately the right direction.

  Almost big enough to fit your hand inside
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Even though the focus this week has been on paint, we haven't exactly been slacking in other areas if the build. For instance, we added a pocket to the driver's side interior panel. This is almost a requirement in a car that has no storage area and a glove box that lets things fall out the back. The pocket can only be 7/8" deep, but that's enough for a pair of sunglasses or a cell phone. Though possibly not both at the same time. Still, it's better than nothing, and it turned out good enough that we're thinking about adding one to the passenger side.

In the meantime we have more things to do while we wait for paint to dry, like for instance trying to get the horns to work. When we ordered replacement horns from Moss Motors, we had a choice between two different versions. Choosing the correct version was easy, because one horn was $30, and the other was $17. The main difference between the two, besides quality of materials and workmanship, is that the $30 horns have two terminals, and the $17 horns only have one. Which means the body of the $17 horn is grounded. Which is not ideal.

Fancy one-terminal horns for later model cars  
click to enlarge

In M.G.s up to some year beyond the model year of our donor, power is supplied to the horns full time, and the steering wheel button sounds the horn by grounding the circuit. For later model years, the engineers at Abingdon managed to come up with the technology to get the horn button to work on the power side. But in our car, if we use a horn with the body already grounded, the steering wheel button is superfluous, and the horns will sound whenever the battery is hooked up. Which is the main reason why our $17 horns are less than ideal.

To get our horns to operate only when we want them to, we need to isolate the ground circuit. We think we can do this with a relay, which has isolated grounds on both the switch and the coil. If we hook up the horn power wire to both the coil and switch, then wire the other side of the coil to the horn button, and the other side of the switch to the horn, we think the horn will sound only when we push the horn button. Of course this all in theory, but we think it's worth springing $5 for a relay to see if it actually works.

After the horns and the headlights, we'll finish up the heat shield and the interior. After that, the painted panels get riveted back onto the frame, once we paint them of course, and we'll be about 95% done with the whole project. Pretty amazing. Still too early to call it a done deal, though. We'll see how it goes from here.


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