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Hey, all - I'm new to these forums and also new to classic-ish car ownership. Would appreciate some advice or just general thoughts about this subject. :) Around this time last year I bought one of my dream cars, an '02 1.8L MG TF, in the exact colour and spec I had hoped for. It had only 34,000 miles, a full service history, "upgraded" head gasket and had clearly been well looked after to an extent.

However, I guess due to my inexperience in buying older cars, I didn't take into account (or perhaps, didn't actually notice) the numerous rust issues the car has. These issues have only gotten worse over the past year, and the car now has very noticeable bubbling on both wings, the beam on which the windshield is mounted, and the wheel arches are showing some nasty rust as well. After cleaning the car last week, I've also just noticed some very small rust spots developing on the boot and drivers' door.

Earlier this year I got a quote from my local garage for new wings and a rust fix on the beam - about £1100. At this garage I would estimate de-rusting the entire car exterior would be £2000-£2500. I would assume, (but I don't know for sure) if the exterior is in that sort of shape, then the guts of the car are probably similarly rusted and may need work too. I can afford it but it just sounds like such an insane amount of money to spend on something like this!

I guess my question is - is it really worth it to fix this car up and keep it going? When people keep classic cars, is it normal to repair a car in this state, or are these the examples that are resigned to the scrapyard?

Is battling against rust just par for the course of old car ownership? Is a similar sized repair bill to be expected on a regular basis?

In an ideal world I'd love to keep this car as long as I can, and learn how to maintain it properly. I think the MG brand is cool as hell, and I love how simple the car is, without all the computerised complications of modern cars.

I don't think I regret buying the car as I love driving it so much, and I really don't want to get rid of it, but the current situation is kind of freaking me out a bit.

Any thoughts or advice would be very much appreciated - I'm only 23, don't personally know anyone who can help and inexperienced in owning old cars, so please fire over any advice at all you my have :)

Cheers
-Dom
 

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Welcome to the world of cars, classic or otherwise-that rust due to little or no treatment in design from the factory. It goes without saying that most cars that are no longer on the road have failed due to structural fatigue, call it what you like-rust!
Cars from the 50's. 560's. 70's. 80's would still be on the road if it was not for rust-trust me, Ive had them from this period. Imagine the motor industry if cars didn't ROT?

There is NO easy solution to it other than hard graft replacing rusted metal, welding in new and treating with WAXOIL or similar. Ive got a few cars and 2 of them are 'old' and rusty-the MGTF I undersealed, after wire-brushing the sub-frames as best as possible and treating the rusted surface with a stabiliser. All METAL will corrode if not protected, it's just a case of how long it takes.The MOT man complained about the undersea. Tough-he's a youngster and knows little about old cars.

My 21 year old CLK Cabriolet is very rusty yet appears not be be, as it was resprayed and treated 4 years ago at great expense to its previous owner-my younger brother (accountant)! . Ive noticed this year wheel arches and cills has the sign of paint lifting. As retirement is upon me, I doubt Ill have the money, although Ill have the time-to deal with it-Plus I have 4 cars and 3 bikes all road worthy, taxed etc-so some trimming down is going to be necessary and my own kids are not the slightest interested in Dads old collection.

I cant give any tips other than comments above that I allude to whats necessary to stem the passage of time. If you want to, you can do so-subframes and cills are the biggest challenge. Just realise that untreated/coated metal is the death-knoll to cars.
 
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Hi Dom

Yes, you can spend a huge amount of time and money on eliminating rust on the bodywork but superficial body rust will not prevent you from enjoying the driving of these fun cars. What will stop you enjoying these cars is the critical rust and rot that occurs in the structural areas. Get underneath and check the subframe, subframe mounts, suspension and suspension components and mounts, sills, etc. You may find that a lot of the rust is surface rust and can be dealt with very quickly and effectively with a wire brush, rust converter and waxoil/underseal. All within the capability of a novice with some basic tools. Always make sure that you secure the car on axle stands when working under the car. Like any car of the period, you will need to put some time and effort into maintaining them, the more you can do yourself, the more cost effective it will be and the sense of satisfaction goes without saying.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Great thank you for your responses, guys - I think that's really got me encouraged and feeling more positive :) I'll order in the gear and see what's going on underneath.
 

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My TF lives outside - I have no garage - so the battle against tinworm is never ending. I had my bodywork sorted four years ago and until last Autumn it was still pretty good, but with the awful wet winter its now time to get the bodywork sorted out again as rust spots are appearing on the sills, arches and wings, just small patches, but everywhere. My local bodyshop has quoted me £650 for touching up vitually every panel and the boot edge where they are also prone to go. If it lasts another 4 or 5 years then its money well spent. If you have signs of rot, check your subrame mounts as these are usually the first things that go. If you do the wings, pay attention to the inside as they are also places where rust can develop. Treat and underseal, or change to GRP ones.
Sundance
 

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Hello Dom,
I don’t want to dampen your fire of enthusiasm, but I think it’s worth considering that it’s an almost impossible task to eliminate rust - as in Sundance’s experiences - even using professional body shops.
If this were mine, I would be giving this a good coat of thinking about, and asking myself - do I have the equipment, facilities and experience to make a good job of this? If not, stop, since things have to look much worse before they start to look better, and it’s that finishing experience is the all important part. If you do, do you really want to spend your time working on the car, as opposed to driving it when you are able?
The alternative would be to part with this one and spend time and look for one in better bodywork condition, and enjoy it. Yes, I know finding the combination of good bodywork and mechanics may be a relatively tall order, but mechanical attention is generally a one off course of action, whereas dealing with rust is an ongoing commitment.
Just some thoughts.
Kind regards,
Austin.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for your replies Sundance & Austin ?

I think what all of these responses have highlighted for me is that rust will be an ongoing issue for any old car that I own. I can't see my interest in cars going away anytime soon - I guess rusting is a reality that I will have to accept and learn how to deal with if I want to own cool old cars.

I really appreciate your words, Austin - I gather that body panel rust removal is a whole different story to repairing/replacing parts so that is something I would always leave to professionals. I am right now a novice in terms of knowledge about looking after cars, but I really would like to learn, or at least try. If it's not my deal then fair enough, but I honestly think I would regret it if I didn't give it a shot.

I did start the thought process of looking for a different one, but I think I'd just be waiting and waiting endlessly for the "perfect" car to come up. Here in Scotland there aren't anywhere near as many TFs that go for sale as down south, (on autotrader right now there is a grand total of zero) and I actually did look for over a year until I saw the one I have now, which i had to travel like 100 miles to check out.

I will get a look under the car and report back. If it's a complete horror story I may end up selling this one on, or perhaps just own this one until it isn't feasible anymore. I'd definitely be pretty bummed to go back to gutless hatchbacks after owning one of my favourite cars! ?

If anyone has any more thoughts I'm all ears! Big thanks to all who have responded - this has been really insightful and helpful! ?

Cheers
-Dom
 

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Apologies for boring with this Dom, but I note your experience level with things mechanical is such that you prefer to leave such things to the professionals. That’s fine, but I would certainly not underestimate the skills (in caps) necessary to carry out bodywork repairs to an acceptable level. In danger of potentially offending anyone on here, I would prefer to take my chances of having an experience bodywork chap retrained to be a mechanic, than the other way around - if you see what I mean regarding turning out an acceptable bodywork repair. OK, start somewhere, and it’s fair to argue that a rusty TF of comparatively low value is as good a car as any"
to hone some skills on.
Re alternative cars and Autotrader? I would be tempted to view adverts in more specialist publications such as Classic Car Mart, Classic Car Weekly, Classic Car Buyer etc. Even try a Wanted ad. in some of them.
Anyway, good luck with whatever you decide to do.
Kind regards,
Austin.
 

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Hi Dom,maybe run it for the remainder of the MOT and see how it gets on come MOT time,would be annoying to spend money tidying up the bodywork only to find it needs a large amount of money spending on unseen issues to get through MOT.If it passes without too much trouble then you know it's worth sorting.

Just my thoughts on it :)
 

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I support the DIY view in this thread. I’m not clear whether welding is required, you could post some pictures of the bad areas? If welding is not required, bodywork and rust proofing is perfectly possible to DIY and is a good fine weather project. Here’s some repair and preventative work I did to my R25 last summer...

 

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Discussion Starter #11
Hey, cheers for your responses. Not at all Austin, I appreciate your input. In that case maybe best to stay away from home body panel repairs then? ?
That's probably a good idea Andy - the MOT will be due in about 5 weeks or so, and my local fave garage is reopening at the end of the month. Might be worth holding off on doing anything drastic until then?

That's some really cool work you did gnu, very clean! - would it be appropriate for a beginner to have a shot at?

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I've attached a few photos of the offending areas. Both wings have rusting like that, the windshield frame has a few additional spots similar to the one pictured. There is a wee bit coming through on the boot and doors, but it's not to the extent as these other parts. I don't own a jack yet, so please forgive the nature of the last couple of photos. ? I know it's not the best view but does it tell some sort of story?

I don't really know what i'm looking at here - I can see that the rear exhaust assembly looks pretty horrible in contrast to gnu's R25.

I took the car to a specialist body place last year, who mentioned the exhaust and said I'd be better off getting new wings and respraying lots of stuff. These guys were really legit tho, not only do they repair "ordinary" cars, but they also do up 100 year old rolls royces and things for international clients and film studios. So would make sense if they are being very thorough about it - perhaps overly so? ?
 

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The exhaust is a bolt on part, so don't worry about it, just replace it when it blows.

At the end of the day, it depends how much you want to spend. Yes new body panels professionally sprayed is a better solution, but it is likely to cost more than £1,000 compared to less than £100 you buy some products and DIY. I note that your under-body corrosion is worse than the R25 was before treatment; it would take more cleaning up. The paint bubbling is about the same. If you do get under the car, do remember to use axle stands/ ramps and not rely on a jack.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks gnu,

I'll take it to the garage and speak to them about the underside rusting during the MOT :)
 

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Mr. [ATTACH type="full" alt="134985 said:
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Omikron, post: 8783576, member: 257851"]
Thanks gnu,

I'll take it to the garage and speak to them about the underside rusting during the MOT :)
My advice regarding the condition of your car underneath is to get some paint onto it. Wire-brush any of the subframe areas and paint it with Hammerite smooth back. If you jack the car from the bracket where the two tie-bars meet, dead center-then you can raise it sufficiently to pop 2 axle stands in and support the car safely and get in underneath it with goggles or glasses if you are a wearer like me! You will be amazed and please with the result and it only takes a tin on Tetra-seal to do the floor-pan from front to back. The front subframe is more fiddly and theres never an easy way to raise and prop-so I recommend you treat each side separately-they are only small cars and it doesn't take that long to do-2 days max. It will make such a difference to have the springs, linkages . Tie rods etc back and shiny again.
The MOT Testers are looking for suff thats unsafe and badly maintained-you really do yourself a favour by showing them that you maintain you car well-you can also paint the solid brake-lines to discourage further rust. This is preventing or slowing what will naturally occur when bare metal is exposed to water .
The two photos Ive uploaded are to show how high the car can get if you jack and prop as Ive suggested- and although this task wasnt to do with painting (I was replacing the rear brake callipers) you can see the subframe is painted- and that was some years back. My car looks nice and clean underneath- because I go some way to ensure it doesnt rust through neglect.
 

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Hi Dom,

With respect to the front wings, if they are in bad condition, someone like MGFnTFBITZ might have good used wings in the same colour as you F, or good used wings that could be repainted. The wings easily bolt on/off.

For me, buying wings from the UK and having them shipped to Canada was out of the question, so I took them off, had the rust spots media blasted and then took them to the painter, which in all turned out to be reasonably priced.

I agree with Pat and others that fixing small rut spots is certainly within the reach of anyone. The tools needed are cheap and there are lots of videos to watch and learn.

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Cheers - that all sounds very encouraging! I will do some more reading and definitely give it a go on the underside of the car! Looking forward to it ?
Thank you for that link, Mark. Will also keep an eye on that website.

I guess I have a few last questions regarding the subframes for now - would it be correct to think that some areas of the subframes are out of reach, and some areas may be inaccessible unless the whole thing is removed? In that instance what is usually done - sounds like it would be a very complicated process.

Gnu said that the underside of my TF is worse than his car was, and obviously it needs work, but would guys say it is in bad shape? It won't stop me from getting under the car, but I guess I would just be interested in knowing! ? Is a better photograph needed?

Cheers
-Dom
 

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Id draw the line at removing a subframe- unless I was really enthusiastic- theres a few 'how to's' on here about it. id really wire brush and paint before Id get too worried! The fronts seem to suffer the most and in both case, you need space to drop it or risk injury. Especially the rear. The photos you attached cant be viewed beyond thumbnails, but from what i saw- it looked like mine did when I bought it 5 years back. Mines no show-stopper but mines a reliably daily runner. Well, was daily untill this lockdown. I charged it and ran it yesterday- it does what it always does!
 
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Great, that's just what I wanted to hear - my TF is my only car and I use it for everything when I'm home from University. So whilst I want it to run well and look ?, I'm definitely not trying to turn it into a museum piece. Will get cracking then! ?
That's one of the benefits of being a key worker is that I can enjoy driving my car to and from work in this lovely weather?
 

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If you are buying replacement second-hand panels, given from what you have posted your car is a silver TF be aware that early (02) TF’s came in two silvers. Platinum silver (MNX) is effectively an F colour and the newer Starlight silver (can’t remember the paint code off hand) the colours are quite different.
 
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