Restoration of my Visa GTi

In the Beginning

When I bought my car, it was in reasonably poor condition. One of the electric windows didn't work, there was a dent in the rear offside door, the offside wing mirror was unadjustable, the paintwork was dull and patchy, and covered in chips, whilst the body kit had been waxed badly, and the wax had dried to a horrible whitish powdery finish. On top of that, the front bumper was split, and the alloy wheels were losing their laquer, and had gone dull and powdery. Doesn't sound all that pleasant does it? Well, it still went, which at the time was the main thing, but recently I've been working on it, and here's how it's been going.

A lot of T-Cut

Restorations began in the form of T-Cutting the whole body work. The problem was that the whole thing had been waxed, and not rubbed down properly, leaving a smeary pinkish finish on the bodywork. Not really believing that T-Cut would solve the problem, I began working, and was amazed that I got the paintwork almost up to the same finish as the paintwork that had been hidden underneath the rear spoiler (which, incidentally, had falled off a few months previously when I had leant on it!!). I was pretty impressed with the job that I'd done, and it took me a full 9 hours of really hard work to finish it.

During the time that I spent T-Cutting, I decided that I ought really to sort out all the paint chips, some of which had gone right through to the metal, and allowed rust to start taking hold. I also made a spontaneous decision to remove the GTi sticker from the front bonnet, and design my own logo to put on there.

Paint? What Paint?

Naturally, purchasing touch-up paint for the colour of my car turned out to be impossible. I solved the solutiong by buying a VW Mars Red, and a Citroën Venetian Red, and mixing them together. I achieved quite a close match, but not exact. I figured that if I used some colour wax to blend it in with the rest of the paintwork, then it would be fine. Before I did that, though, I conducted numerous painting tests on hidden parts of the body, in order to be sure that I could get it right when it came to it. Since this all took time, what with allowing the paint to bond well, I was able to get on with some other things whilst this was going on.

Unspoiling the spoiler

It appears that the Visa GTi's spoiler is stuck on with some kind of plastic glue. Behind the spoiler there are five clips, which the spoiler screws onto, and these clips actually glue, rather than clip, onto the body work. It seems as though someone had repaired it once before, because the clips were covered in silicone paste, which had finally worked itself free. I figured the best way to put the spoiler back on was to strip away all the silicone paste, and reattach the clips with Araldite instead. It seems to have worked a treat, and now I have a spoiler again.

Brake Dust

My alloys were in a state. The front ones especially, as the laquer was peeling, and they were just generally dull and powdery. Ordinary wheel cleaner failed to bring up any result, so I bought on the drill powered wire brush. Although this did cut the wheels back to a shiny finish, it also left graining and scratches evident on the surface, so I decided not to go the whole hog and do all of the wheels. After much consideration, I figured that I'd just buy some new alloys.

Power Tools!

Whilst using the wire brush on my wheels, I'd noticed that the wire brush would also remove all of the wax powder from the body kit. Removing one of the parts of the kit that goes up around the side of the front headlights, I set to with the wire brush. Although it did remove all of the wax, it also unfortunately removed the surface of the plastic in far too haphazard a fashion for me to want to do the whole body kit with it.

Thinking along the power tools line, I tried doing some more of the same piece of plastic with a power sander. Although this rendered better results, it was still not perfect. I figured that I'd try painting it up anyway, and seeing how the end result was.

Out to the Cosmos

I bought lots of plastic primer, and laquer, and settled on a Ford Cosmos Metallic Blue for the colour of my bumpers. I primed up and painted the piece of plastic that I'd rubbed down, and was fairly unimpressed with the results, due to the scratching in the plastic. I decided not to bother laquering it, in the hope that maybe I could cut all of the paint off, and see if I could do anything about the problem at a later date.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine suggested that maybe petrol was a good enough solvent to remove the wax from the kit.

Petrol fumes make you high

Removing the other plastic trim that went around the side of the headlights, I set to rubbing it down with medium texture wire wool soaked in petrol. And believe it or not, it really did the job. I won't say that it was easy work, though, because it took me half an hour or so to completely clean a bit of plastic two inches wide by eight inches long. It still looked a little strange, because the wire wool had scratched lightly to surface of the plastic, leaving it looking almost as white as it had before. I hoped that this wouldn't be a problem, and started painting it.

By the time I'd primed, painted, and laquered this section of trim, I was extremely happy. The results were fantastic, and the scratching caused the wire wool couldn't even be detected by close inspection. I had now formulated my strategy for repainting the whole body kit.

Why do flies like paint?

The next part to be done was the trim that runs across the front of the bonnet. I unbolted it and masked it up, and rubbed it down. This whole process took two evenings, I think. Then when it came to painting it, I'd almost finished the last layer of Cosmos Blue, when I noticed that one of the many flies that seemed to have been attracted by the paint fumes had embedded itself in my paintwork. A vague attempt to remove it without damaging the paint was attempted, and failed, and I ended up ruining about 1 square inch of the paint.

In an attempt to salvage the damage, I T-Cut the offending area right back to the plastic underneath, and dabbed plastic primer on with a cloth. Building up a couple of layers of that, I allowed it to dry, and then attempted to smooth the area into the rest of the paint with long sweeping passes with the spray can. I was reasonably lucky, actually, that the wind had died down a little, as I was spraying outside, and I was able to patch up the hole so that you can only see the mark when you look at the trim from certain angles. If I ever decide to make the whole thing perfect, then I know that the trim is still available, so I can buy some more, and paint it properly.

Undressing in the driveway

My biggest task was undoubtedly removing, stripping, and repainting the body kit, on my car. First things first, get it off. This involved removing both the front wheels, and putting it up in axle stands, so that I could sit in the wheel arch and undo the screws that held the front wheel arches in place. The I could go along the bottom of the car, and unbolt each section. Having done that I discovered that I needed some more clips to hold the sill on, so I went to my local citroën garage to order some.

Rust in Peace

Unfortunately, following the removal of the whole body kit, I discovered some rear wheel arch rust, and a little bit on the lip of the bonnet. Deciding that I ought really to sort it out before doing anything else, I hacked away all the loose rust with a screw driver, and then coated it all in Jenolite (Military grade rust remover - turns rust back to metal, vicious stuff, don't get it in your eyes, kids). After a few goes, and with the use of a stiff wire brush, I bought all the holes up to quite a good finish. Then all I had to do was to back the holes with fibre glass matting, and fill it with P40, and finish it off with P38. I say all I had to do, but what I mean is that I spent an entire day on it, and ended up with a reasonable finish (I wasn't worried about a perfect finish, because all of it was going under the body kit anyway), and one very ruined pair of rubber gauntlets.


The next job, and the most labour intensive had to be the complete stripping down and respraying of the body kit (and this was excluding the bumpers). I had three substances that were making my job more difficult also. The first, and most annoying was the dried car wax that covered most of the kit. The second was the paint that had been used on the back sections of the body kit, which had obviously been replaced at some point, and painted almost the same red, but not quite, as the rest of the car. The third, and most easy to deal with was the tar that adorned the undersides of all the sills and arches.

I figured that the easiest bit would be to strip down the painted sections first, and get the respraying on the way, before putting a lot of elbow grease into removing the wax from the rest of the kit. Using some heavy duty paint stripper, that said on the side "protect all plastics", I was able to strip down the rear wheel arches in just two evenings, without damaging the plastic, but only by monitoring the process very carefully. I was then able to prime, paint and laquer the rear arches whilst wax removal begun on the other parts.

Using petrol and wire wool, I found it was slightly easier than I'd anticipated to remove the wax from the matt plastic. I stripped down the first front wheel arch, and used the same tactic on the tar that ran around the inside. At that point, I made the decision to paint the insides of the arches black, so that in future, tar covering didn't show up too much, and also so that the respray job was less tacky looking. So I sprayed up the part, but left it unlaquered, so that I could go at the insides with the black once I'd masked the rest of it up.

Once the Blue had dried, I covered all the relevant parts of the arch with masking tape and newspaper, and whacked on two thick layers of Citroën black. Thinking that this looked quite good, I did the same with the other wheel arch, and then decided that I would also do the underside of the sills black as well. This is partly because by this time, Halford had all but run out of supplies of the Cosmos Blue that I was using, and were having to order it in specially! But it was also so that tar deposits from the road didn't show up so much.

Work is still ongoing on my car, and I will update this page as often as I can, to let you know what's going on. It might be, though, that with the winter coming up, there won't be a lot on the renovations front for a while.

Current estimate of hours spent on renovations: 60 hours 15 minutes.