Project Elva: Fiberglass Repairs Are Messy but Not Terribly Difficult

Our starting point: a badly battered mess of a much-modified and poorly repaired original Elva Mk6 body. We shuddered deeply, then got to work.

Our Elva Mk6's body was badly damaged. We figured we'd better make some repairs before we got too far along on this project. If we didn't, there was a chance the body might completely break in half during the fitting process.

Fiberglass repair (learn more about fiberglass work here, here and here) is straightforward and kind of fun—if you can manage the itchy dust. Spreading talcum powder across your skin is one method of protection, as is wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants. 

Fiberglass work is best done in summer, as the resin “kicks” (cures) much more easily in hot weather.

The tools are simple, and the supplies are cheap. You'll need some fiberglass resin, some hardener, some cheap brushes and some measuring cups. You can repair an entire car for just a few hundred dollars in materials.

The first step: Figure out where to begin the repairs. Resin is best mixed in 4- to 6-ounce batches, which is enough for four or five small- to medium-sized repairs at a time.

After studying our media-blasted Elva body, we realized that these aluminum patches found in the rear wheel wells were crude attempts to widen the wheel arches. This work took place after the car left the factory. We needed to remove these patches and return the body to its original configuration.

To repair a damaged area, you first must fabricate a splint of some sort. We cut thin strips of aluminum and attach them with self-tapping screws. 

The nose was a total mess, having been hit, badly repaired, and then hit again many times in this poor car’s life. To assemble the puzzle, we first stitched the nose together with metal splints. 

Then we feathered the edges surrounding the repair area.

Properly tapering the repair area will provide enough room for the replacement fiberglass. The center of the repair will require more matte than the edges, so feathering the original glass will allow everything to fit together without causing any lumps in the final finish.

Next, we cut ever-larger swatches of fiberglass matte to fill the repair. Different kinds of matte are available: There's an actual cloth and then there are woven fibers that better match the fiberglass built using chopper guns back in the early days of English sports cars. 

Something else we've learned about fiberglass: It’s much easier to use thin, ¾-ounce matte and then build it up in layers.

Making progress: Our new matte has been cut and lightly placed in the repair area.

Now it’s time to brush the resin onto the matte and repair the damage. Don’t worry, the matte will stick to the repair and stay in place. Dab the resin to remove any air pockets. 

We then tamped resin into the matte patches. A cheap paintbrush works fine. We covered the metal splints with resin; later, we’ll remove them and fill in the remaining holes.

To build up the repair to the original thickness of the part, just continue adding layers of fiberglass matte and resin. 

Now we have a solid initial repair. We still have more detail work to do, but this will help us square the body. (The remaining holes are for the taillights.)

Our bodywork included damage from racing incidents as well as storage mishaps. Repairing the body enough so we could move it around and test-fit it to the chassis took just a few days. We'll fill in smaller repairs and blemishes later.

Now the entire body is starting to resemble a car again.

A few days in shop has turned a mess into a solid Elva body.

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View comments on the CMS forums

Looks good with the headlights covers out! 

Mr_Asa Dork
5/18/20 12:06 p.m.

This is relevant to my interests.

Cooter UberDork
5/18/20 12:09 p.m.

At least the aluminum patches are a bit easier to reverse than if they glassed the area in correctly.

wspohn Dork
5/18/20 12:21 p.m.

Just looking at that makes me itch. When I cut the body off the frame on my TVR Grantura (they bonded them together) I itched for a week!

noddaz UltraDork
5/18/20 5:31 p.m.

I tried to do fiberglass repair on my mothers 1970 Maverick in 1975 or so.  It did not turn out nice.  And I itched for a week.


Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
5/19/20 8:58 a.m.

In reply to wspohn :

I did a TVR Griffith back in the late eighties. It has a very similar body to a Grantura.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
5/19/20 8:59 a.m.

In reply to noddaz :

Some people itch more than others. I am lucky I don't itch as bad as others. Maybe becuase I have been working with this stuff for nearly 50 years.

noddaz UltraDork
5/19/20 12:44 p.m.
Tim Suddard said:

In reply to noddaz :

*SNIP* Maybe becuase I have been working with this stuff for nearly 50 years.

You do make it look easy!



wspohn Dork
5/20/20 11:50 a.m.
Tim Suddard said:

In reply to wspohn :

I did a TVR Griffith back in the late eighties. It has a very similar body to a Grantura.

Was it a Griffith 200? IIRC the old Grantura body style ended when they started calling them the 400.

I raced my Grantura (MGB engine, crossflow head, Webers) back in the 80s, but always had a nagging fear of the rear stub axles breaking even though I had tested them. There were multiple instances of that happening in a hard corner, at which point the rear wheel exits stage left  (or right, as the case may be) along with the rear brake drum, and if you don't have a racing balance bar set up you would also have no brakes.

The adhesion coming out of the corners was great - pretty much on par with my LSD equipped MGA race car, but with an open diff.  Got that car under 1800 lbs wet.  It is now racing in Europe. 

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