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Painting the Rear Grill

on Sun, 23/03/2008 - 17:00

Rear Grill
The rear grill on the Elise has been getting rustier and rustier over the last 12 months and I decided it was time to do something about it. The grill consists of two steel sections either side of the number plate, each with a hole to allow one of the twin exhausts pipes to exit. I’ve always thought it odd that the rest of the cars exterior (and quite a lot of it’s structure) were made from rust proof materials and it was just this one aesthetic part that let it down.

Like so many things you would probably only notice the rust if you were looking for it but I’d been wanting to do some introductory work on my car and this seemed ideal. It was a small job that I shouldn’t be able to make too much of a mess of and critically it wouldn’t affect the cars ability to go. It struck me that I had three options available: 1) remove the old grills and replace them with new ones, 2) remove the grills, sandblast them, repaint and replace them, 3) wire brush the grills in place and repaint the visible area.

Since I have never removed the Elise’s rear diffuser or under tray and I didn’t want to damage any screws that would put the car out of action for any period of time, I decided to paint the grill in place. If I had more time and experience, or the car had lived outside where rain and damp would act as a catalyst for the rust, I would probably have gone for one of the other two options. However, for now, I gave option 3 a go.

Rear Grill
After washing, cleaning and leaving the area to dry, I placed masking tape all around the edges of the exposed metal and bodywork that I didn’t want to get paint on. This turned out to be easier than I was expecting and didn’t take too much time at all. The next step was to use a small wire brush and rub down the old rusty paintwork. This started out being really fiddly but then hours were shaved off when someone gave me a small wire suede shoe brush. This allowed me to get into all the small areas and really give the metal a good rub down. Following this I cleaned the whole area again to remove all the dust that had been created.

I decided to remain faithful to the original look so opted to use Smooth Black Hammerite. Thankfully the Hammerite could be painted onto partially rusted surfaces and didn’t require a primer coat. The intricate metalwork meant it took a while to get the first coat on. I left it the required 4 hours to dry and then applied a second coat to give it a high quality finish and make sure it had the best chance possible of staying on.

Rear Grill
Obviously the big disadvantage of this approach is that the paint only reached one side of the grill, and the likelihood is that the rust will work its way back. However, for the meantime, I think the paint has made a real difference to the back of the car. For very little cost and not a lot of time I have restored an area of the car that was letting it down.

UPDATE: The paint only lasted about 12 months before signs of rust started to reappear. I think this job needs to be done properly by taking the rear grills off. I'll chalk this one up to experience and report back when I do it properly.