Fred's Spitfire Hangar

Personal and Auto Photos

In 2003 I finally finished restoring a '74 Spitfire 1500. For about 8 years my garage has looked like this:

The bonnet for the work-in-progress 1500 is standing in the upper left corner. The newly painted chassis was hanging from the rafters, (well, it is in a hangar isn't it?) until recently. And in the upper right is the undercoated body tub - which for the past 3 years hung from the ceiling.
In the lower right is the driveable 1971 MK IV, next to a badly rusted 1974 1500.

Now that the tub has been 'un-hangared' and mounted on a dolly, it is almost ready to roll! I wish. Now that looks more like a 'rolling chassis'.
Now we're getting somewhere. Again the body was hung from the ceiling and the chassis rolled under it. Final adjustment of the body mounting rubbers.
And now here it is in its Pageant Blue glory, next to big brother, Wendy's 1965 Series 2a Land Rover (my current restoration project!).

This is a more flattering pic of my roadworthy 1971 MK IV,"Out standing in its field".

While searching for Spitfire bodies, I came across a junk yard in California with quite a selection.
Actually, to let you in on a secret, it was Arts Wrecking in Stockton, CA. I don't even know if it is still there.
Don't they look like they need to be taken home and looked after?

After choosing a couple of the least beaten-up, I loaded them on a U-Haul and headed north for Canada.
By declaring them with Canadian Customs as car bodies with commission numbers, I could restore and register them on Canadian roads.

From the Archives

What are the differences and similarities in these two pictures?

Give up?
Well, the differences are: Left a '62 Spitfire 4, in 1964. Right a '74 Spitfire 1500, in 1989.
Similarities? Same guy, same job 25 years later!

On checking the interiors of the tail light assemblies, I found a common problem with the reflectors.
It seems the stop/tail lamp bulb overheats and melts the plastic insert. The reflective silver paint is also burnt off.
So I decided to make a spun aluminum insert to repair the reflective surface and prevent future 'meltdown'.
When the melted plastic is smoothed down and filed out, the insert can be glued inside the plastic reflector.
This back view shows the hole in the plastic enlarged and the aluminum insert in the left reflector. The right reflector is standard undamaged.
The finished tail light assembly with the repaired reflector on the left, the standard one on the right.

I have also built a new dash. Here is the old delaminated dash, the sawn Baltic birch plywood pieces and the cardboard template for the new one. The template is upsidedown because it will be traced on the back of the plywood.
And here is the newly veneered and varnished replacement. Cost of plywood was about $10 and veneer less than $30. So far there are 12 coats of Spar varnish on it.

These templates for a '73 Spitfire 1500 dash lay-out are available full size on white cardstock for $10.00 a set. (That's $10US if you're in the states, or $10CAN if you're in Canada.) Unfortunately the cost of postage has risen dramatically in the past few years. Size and shape is the same for '71 MK IV up to '80 1500's. Only a few switches change size, shape and placement.

Here is a point-by-point Dash Building Instruction.

Creating a Replica Spitfire Dash


-carbon paper-pencil-craft knife -sharp!
-ruler/straightedge-calipers-scribe/pricking tool
-stiff card-drill bits-burrs (milling bits)
-sanding drum-countersink bit-C-clamp & pads
-small nails-hammer-wet/dry sand paper
-bandsaw/scrollsaw/jigsaw-drill press-fine quality paint brush
-Dremel tool & router attachment - plus a modification of a pin projecting down to act as a pivot point


-Baltic Maple plywood, 3/8" thick-paint
-hardwood veneer of your choice-paint thinner
-Spar Varnish-matt or gloss-contact cement or waterproof carpenter's glue


  1. Pattern making

    -trace the old unit, with the wrong side up, onto the card
    -measure and transfer the diameters and depth of recesses to the card
    -note radiuses of corners, particularly inside corners of switch holes
    -trace these drawings on the reverse side of the plywood. Use carbon paper where necessary.
    -direction of the grain is not too important. For originality it is lengthwise of the dash.
    -prick the centre of each drill hole and screw hole.

  2. Cutting & Milling

    -cut out the dash boards with a bandsaw or jigsaw. If using a jigsaw work on the back
    -cut just outside the pencil mark for safety.
    -drum and (or belt sand) the edges to exact size. Sanding along rather than across the edge gives the best finish without chances of splintering the edge.

    For Round Holes

    - drill a pilot hole the size of the guide pin of the Dremel router through the wood for the centre of the guage hole.

    Recess Groove

    - set the Dremel router tool to the correct radius (or a bit under) and depth (again a bit under) for the recesses on the front of the dash.
    - remember to add the thickness of the veneer to the final depth calculation.
    - route the recess groove, working counter-clockwise to cause the burr to want to travel towards the waste plug.
    - check depth and diameter with calipers.
    - reset router in small increments to get exact sizes.
    - re-route the groove, this time working clockwise to keep the burr from 'climbing' the work.

    Instrument Hole

    - reset the router to the correct size for the hole.
    - set the depth to just less than 1/2 the thickness of the plywood to leave a thin web of plywood.
    - route both sides, again working counter-clockwise
    -reset the router as necessary to get the correct diameter hole. Allow for thickness of paint and varnish inside the hole.

    - flip the plywood over
    - route hole, as above
    - for the last cut, nail the centre plug to the workbench in 2 places with small nails.
    - clamp the dash board to the bench also
    - reset the router depth to remove the last web of wood. The waste plug nailed to the bench holds the router on centre.

    Freehand Shapes

    - for heater control levers the hole can be cut completely with a scroll saw or jigsaw or
    - drill the corners at the correct radius and saw between the holes, or
    - clamp the wood to a milling table and freehand control the table
    - if milling, increase the depth and the size in small amounts
    - drum sand the inside of the hole to smooth and straighten the lines and create the correct fit

    Bevel the Back

    - use a countersink cutter in the drill press and a fence
    - adjust the depth and distance then run the dashboard along the fence
    - adjust depth and distance until the correct bevel is attained

  3. Veneering

    - trace the dashboard pieces onto the back of the veneer.
    - align the pieces to keep the grain pattern constant between pieces
    - clamp the pieces to the veneer if necessary
    - cut the veneer just oversize with a very sharp craft knife - taking care to cut with the grain to avoid splitting

    a. Contact Cement
    - spread cement thinly and evenly right to the edges on dashboard and veneer
    - apply a second coat if it has soaked in too much
    - align the dashboad and veneer along the longest edge
    - lay them together carefully - use paper or dowel between to keep separate until ready to stick
    - roll or pound the two pieces together

    b. Waterproof Glue
    - use only waterproof carpenter's glue - humidity can cause other glues to separate
    - apply thoroughly to one piece, right to the edges.
    - do not apply so thick that it will seep through the veneer
    - make sure the glue does spread right to the edges
    - wipe off excess at the edges
    - clamp the two pieces between heavy boards to dry.
    - keep the pieces aligned - watch out for slippage under pressure

    - trim the excess glue and veneer close to the edge with a sharp craft knife
    - drum sand the eges on a drill press - work veneer side down on paper
    - cut out instrument and switch holes with a sharp knife
    - drum sand the edges - veneer side down
    - test instruments, switches and controls for fit

  4. Finishing

    - sand with 400 grit, blow off dust and smooth edges
    - paint the back, edges and inside holes with brown paint, 2 to 3 coats to prevent warping
    - varnish the front with spar varnish, 2 to 3 coats
    - sand with 400 grit
    - apply 10 to 12 more coats, sanding as necessary
    - allow to dry thoroughly between coats, under a box lid or plastic cover

    Fit mounting lugs, switches etc and install

    I had been experimenting making new External Door Handle Push Rods as an experiment. It worked very sucessfully.
    At the top is the original nylon piece. It is slightly shorter because the end is broken off where the roll pin fits through. Below is the new door push rod made of Lexan .
    The new push rod is round cross-section while the original is a "+" shape.
    These are the parts inside the Spitfire MK IV and 1500 external door handle. They are also the same as the late GT6. At the top is the replacement push rod, then the return spring, next the old broken push rod and the main mechanism.
    Note that the old push rod is held in place by a circlip, while the new one is held by a split (cotter) pin.

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    F. Griffiths

    Last updated September 5, 2018

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