Tailgate Fitting

Well this is scary! Door fitting begins and there is no idea what the hinges should look like let alone do. Add to this its a hatch back door and it will need glazing, heating and gas struts it all seems a little daunting. So lets take it one step at a time and see just how much of a mess we can make of it.

First problem. Some other loon has already had a hack at the door and so repair work is required. But as the door does not even fit to a datum yet how the hell is anyone suppose to know what is right and wrong. So lets work logically and fix the past errors once the situation is under control. The datum will be chosen as the hinge fixings. So once the hinge locations are correct aligned and the depths set the top of the door can then be honed into place. From here the top curves and the vertical axis can be fixed. Fixed being the operative word because on one side things look good but on the other there is a complete botch job. So onwards with the hinge and top alignment.

Meanwhile it’s time to find a glass manufacturer that can produce E mark car glass. This is going to be needed all around the car so it’s important to find one that can make custom size glass for MG BGT and Ford Capri. Yep you can get replacement glass for these cars, but that does not have to be E marked. In the case of IVA requirements, which this car will have to pass, E marking is essential. So add £70-£80 for each pane just to get an E2, E4, etc. Mark on the glass. Actually know one could and would ever know if the pane meets the standard, because unless your willing to head butt it and count the face cuts, there is now possible check that can prove the marking. You just have to believe the traceable paper chain and pay for the privilege of have an etched piece of glass. Not that there seems to be any difference between a BS Kite Mark and an E Mark in the formal specifications. But someone some place was able to convince a bureaucrat that there was money to be made from this regulation.

But before any of this the tailgate is in need of a lot of TLC. It looks as if many people had had many attempts at doing strange things with this. None of which had been successful!

Tailgate repairs

OK so some of the repairs may be due to  the number of times the car has been transported around the country to its various owners. Ancient packing tape, rope makes and cracks adorn the surface along with splits in the laminations. Twenty years of dirt and grime don’t help things either.

Tailgate Bodywork

The bodywork had been cut very badly. The actual lines were anything but straight and anything but a consistent width. I can’t really understand how anyone expected to get sealing rubbers around 90 degree corners or how someone had over shot the corner by 2 inches. But there are the problems, along with the standard damage and dirt issues. Firstly the top line was cut straight and repaired and cleaned ready for the hinges (which will need to be manufactured). This was then matched with the top line of the tailgate door. Once the door is repaired the hinge measurements can be taken ready for manufacture. The bodywork area has been prepared and corners now have a nice radius, so that the area can be weather proofed.

Origami Template

Shaping the Bracket

Rounding the Edges

Testing the Base Plate

Starting with a paper template to map out the hinge well, the base plate measurements can be taken. Using 14mm alloy plate as the base plate, the hinge blank is drilled whilst square so that the spring pin hole and the base plate mounting holes can be positioned. Once this is completed the shape is milled out and then the edges are rounded, also on the mill. The hinge  slot is then milled  into position

ready for the door part of the hinge. Then it’s time to test the base plate part of the hinge into the bodywork well. Now the door part of the hinge can be measured and manufactured.

Hinge Open

Hinge Closed

Completed Hinge check

The door part of the hinge needs an odd 18 degree angle on it so that it fits the hinge moulding on the tailgate. So this involves angling the milling head over at 18 degrees and then figuring out how to put the counter sink into the hinge. Odd sort of set up!

Tailgate Hinge Moulding

The hinge moulding will be filled with an aluminium block, milled to size and locked into place with fibreglass and resin. The hinge will then be bolted into this block though the GRP moulding. This block and moulding will then form the hinge point for the tailgate. The actual lifting will completed by hydraulic lifters and stays.

At this point we also discover the 1990’s level of moulding and GRP/Gel coat work. It’s not so good! So much reconstruction of these hinge points is required to get the tailgate seated correctly.  

Tailgate Door Mounting Block Installed

Once correctly shaped the Tailgate door hinge blocks are installed into the door. These are bolted into the door space from both sides and will be then bolted to the actual hinge on the body. Once all is well with alignment the door space will be filled with GRP and smoothed and painted. The bolting block will then form a strong lifting point for the rear door. Although the gas struts will also aid in supporting the door.  

Hinge Internal Mounting Block

Inside the car a mounting block has been manufactured to match the hinge bolt pattern. This block spreads the load and forces of the tailgate across a large area so as to prevent the GRP flexing and cracking. This block also acts as a security measure as all the bolts will be thread locked and punched to make them securely tamper proof. Again this will only be implemented once the tailgate is

fully aligned and tested with its gas struts working correctly. Also the door will need to be painted and glazed before hand.  

Hinges Polished, Fitted And Fully Functional

Hinges Functioning With Gas Strut Lifters.

The gas strut lifters are fitted to the bodywork via a bracket that sits below the door flange, low enough to to interfere with the door closure. In the tailgate itself two M8 nuts are imbedded into the door edges. These nuts are sealed in with GRP and resin so they become captive and integral to the door itself. The top of the gas strut is then screwed into the two nuts making strong fixing point.

As with all things internal and external the IVA regulations have been taken into consideration. Each part of the hinge has had the correct radius machined into the design. There is not a sharp edge or corner on any part of the hinge, mounting plates or blocks. All the bolts are countersunk below surface level and the hinges themselves fit into the bodywork recesses below roof level. The rear wing (Whale Tale) has also had radiuses applied to all exposed edges and corners. There is still some preparation work to completed before the tailgate can be painted and glazed. So onward with some bog standard car building work......

Bodywork around the hinge mounts, door and window seals pre-sprayed.

All areas around the tailgate hinges, gas strut mounts and places where the door seals will fit are pre-sprayed. These areas will be inaccessible once the tailgate is mounted properly. Pre-spraying will save having to strip down the entire assembly when the full bodywork spaying is undertaken. Also these areas will not need a perfect finish, as they will be mostly hidden by fixtures, fittings and trim, so a pre-spayed colour match without flattening or polishing will suffice. One thing this has proved is the choice of colour is very popular with everyone, so that’s one issue resolved.

Work on the tailgate door carries on but it is slow going as the door finish is poor in both construction and Gel Coat. But very soon now the rear door will be ready of spaying and then glazing.

When the car becomes a work surface it’s a sure sign things are getting busy and space is at a premium. But it actually works out nicely as it puts the tailgate a great height for spraying. And for a change it’s not the work benches suffering from over spray mess. Good news all around then!

With the modified VAX and Goblin vacuum cleaners sucking the air from the workshop to the outside world and the compressor running flat out the spray painting begins in earnest.

With the tailgate refitted the gas strut pressure could be set, but only once the glass had been temporarily fitted. This process identified a problem with the strut operation. The edge that the base mount is positioned on on the frame of the body can flex and will eventually crack and fail. To prevent this 3mm x 20mm of flat aluminium was bolted to the underside of the flange. Then the base bracket was replaced by a machined block, shaped to fit between body and the closed door. This also strengthened the strut operation and helped to prevent strut twisting the body work.

Reinforced Part Of The Flange.

Detailed Mounting Base.

Having achieved the correct gas pressure in the struts the final fitments of the tailgate can be completed. Glass, tailgate catch and remote solenoid plus catch striker. Along with this the tailgate will need a final coat of paint so that the glass, window seal and trim can be fitted permanently.

Tailgate Weighted down.

Hinges Looking good.

With the struts fitted without a working catch the tailgate now needs a weight to hold it closed. This is making life a little tricky so the struts have been disconnected until the catch is working. On the other hand the polished ally hinges are looking extremely good and blend perfectly with the coach work colour.

This tailgate is becoming a bit of an epic tail. After all the work so far you would have thought that fitting the rear glass would have been simples.... NO!

The hole has been cut incorrectly and so there is no way to fit the glass using standard screen rubber seals of either type. Only discovering this after receiving the nice new shinny E marked rear screen was a complete nightmare. Maybe if this fact had been known before hand the glass could have been ordered undersize.

Standard Rubber Seal Fitted.

The glass requires the window hole to be cut with 5mm clearance all around for a standard rubber seal to fit. After cutting the skin to shreds on the backs of hands, it’s discovered the hole only allows 3mm clearance. And as can be seen from the above pictures, even if the panel was trimmed the actual rubber would not fit on the flange. It fits perfectly as is, but would not fit with 5mm of clearance.

Using a rubber seal that allows oversize glass to hole mounting would not work either as the glass is already undersize. The nice new shinny glass is no longer shinny or new now that many attempts at fitting with glues and sealer etc. have been applied. So a solution to this discovery is now required or lose the back window... Maybe not.

The Solution Is An Aluminium Flange.

The answer to this conundrum is to  build and aluminium flange that fits inside the existing hole. With a 10mm flange built from 3mm thick alloy and then fixing this in place with M4 counter sunk bolts a new mounting flange can be created that will allow the glass to be fitted using oversize glass rubber seals. The two seal profiles are shown above.

Once the glass is fitted a simple rubber trim will be fitted to hide the mounting screws. Inside suitable finishing trims will be used to cover the bolt heads and and extra width of aluminium. This is yet another taste of taking on a project that has been half started, your never quite sure how good the first few builders were. In this case :-

A+ for shaping skills, perfectly matches the glass shape.

F   for measurement skills!

Standard Seal.

Over Size Seal.

After fitting the rubber seal to the rear screen glass it is tested to check that the new aluminium frame is the correct size, with no aluminium on show around the the window everything looks good and ready for the next stage.

Once the rubber seal is fitted to the new frame, using a draw string to pull it from the outside inward and starting from the bottom. Once fitted the mounting screws that hold the frame to the rear door can be seen. This was expected and a further rubber trim has been prepared.

With the last piece of the window seal and trim installed the rear screen is finally completed. The expensive E marked glass and time consuming sealing and trimming has finally come together to form a very nice tailgate.

The Finished Rear Screen

Inside The Rear Screen Trim

Inside the car the rear screen frame has been trimmed around the outer edge and the frame has been painted black. Each of the bolt heads has has a plastic nut cap fitted and the glass rubber seal has been had a silicon sealant to the aluminium frame. A very sporting and aggressive image has been achieved.

The final detail of the tailgate is the bear claw catch and it’s striker. These have been mounted on T-Slot aluminium extrusion so that they can be easily aligned to get a perfect close every time.

Bear Claw Catch

Catch Striker

The final task is to fit the solenoid for boot opening. This device will double as the lock as there will be no manual way to open the boot. So once fitted the boot will be secure and automatic all in one.