Lead loading and bondo

Anybody done any lead loading during their restoration work? I’ve been doing some around the tailgate of my FHC. If you’ve never tried it before it’s somewhere between very difficult and impossible. You need to be wearing protective footwear as molton lead is hot on the feet :slight_smile:

I’ve found it almost impossible to get the thickness of the lead the same over the whole panel so I’ve ended up with some low spots and having spent a day filing it all back i know that if I try to fill them it will all end up in a puddle on the garage floor!

So I’m considering a skim of filler (bondo) over the whole panel. I’m thinking that if the filler is only a couple of mm thick it should be okay when I shut the tailgate? In an ideal world I wouldn’t need any filler and it would all fit perfectly but that isn’t going to happen any time soon!!

This is the area I’m working on…

Here are some closeups of the low bits…

I 'd be interested to learn what others have done.


It truly is an art form.
How they made money when new only Lyons would know.

Did the same with Tweety: if the surface upon which you put your light skim of bondo has good “tooth,” nothing wrong with that at all.

Looks like good work!

Oh yea: dont sit cross-legged, on a low seat, while lead loading the rockers.

Don’t ask…:face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

Paul, what is your method, oxy or propane/butane torch?
For small fills the concentrated jet of a oxy torch is best,
not to fierce of course.
Peter B.

Hats off to you for working with lead - something far beyond my skills. As mentioned - do be careful with that stuff whether molten, dust or whatever.

I realize we all use ‘Bondo’ as a generic term as there are many other products suited to this work.

The shop that painted mine stripped it to bare metal, naturally revealing lead at the seams:

Those areas were covered with something black that they claimed was a superior product (possibly said it was flexible):

Whatever it was it set-up to a grey color:

Looks fine to me, and I do believe modern polyester fillers are quite durable as a skim coat.

I’ve never played with lead. It would seem that the challenge is adding a fill coat without at the same time melting your initial and already shaped coat. Can body leads be purchased with slightly different melting points so that subsequent layers can be added with risk of melting through the original layer?

I used lead on both my MGB GT and my 70 2+2. An ‘old’ body and fender man would be a good teacher most young ones don’t use it.
It does take time to learn. I used a ‘rose tip’ on a acetylene bottle. Do a small area at a time and don’t hurry (a problem I have).

Regards, Joel.

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Did you end up with “lead in your pencil”

Or possibly a graphite release baring?

Kudos to you for learning the art of leading during your restoration. Lead does seem to work/last better in areas that need more than a skim coat. Modern polyester fillers are in widespread use even in the high end restoration shops. Normally shops divide the responsibilities so that even if the metal man is leading in seams, he is not doing finish body work: and as a good metal man gets it close to finished, then the body man brings it to perfection.

Working with lead is difficult. What I have seen is that it is put on thick and then finished down - make sure to use a proper mask or breathing apparatus. If you have ever watched old film of cars on a production line having lead filled in seams, keep in mind that man did that all day long for many years.

The only tip I can give is you need to have the base material hot enough it starts to shine but the filler bar of lead needs to be hot also, so its the consistency of plasticine and push it into the low areas while warming it with a soft propane torch, What paint are you going to finish it with, cellulose or twopack?

Thanks all for the replies/suggestions. To answer some of the questions…

I’ve been using a propane/butane hand held torch. It’s great and the gas lasts hours. However, I don’t want to risk trying to fill those low spots by heating up the surrounding lead and trying to melt more into the hole. The difference between having workable lead and a run is literally a second of the blow lamp.

I intend to paint the car with 2-pack and I’ve been using a 2-pack disposable mask whilst working the lead at all stages.

I got the metal shiny and clean with a strip it disc and then tinned it so I know the lead is stuck to the metal and isn’t coming off in my lifetime.

I think I’m going to skim it with filler and even though it feels like a bit of a bodge there’s no way I’m going to get it spot on with just lead. I have visions of having a rear end crash and having a garage fix it in the future and them asking me which ‘cowboy’ did the previous repairs hahaha

It will literally be a couple of mm thick and my reasoning for using the lead was because of the vibrations and shock of closing the tailgate and the fear of cracking.

My plans are to finish the lead/filler work and get it as close as I can and then spray epoxy primer over the surface, followed by either 2-pack high build or polyester spray filler.

It’s difficult to learn lead loading as there isn’t that much to do really!

I must admit I’m struggling with the tailgate as it doesn’t seem to fit the hole very well. The tailgate I have is not original to the car and from what I hear the tailgates of FHC seem to sit on the hole rather than in it?

I understand the workers were paid by the piece, not by the hour. From there it’s simply a matter of making sure the cost of all the piecework leaves room for overhead and a profit.

If your using 2 pack it doesn’t matter how much filler you use, its only cellulose that’s fussy about what it sits on

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Lead loading is ok if you look at it from a point of originality. However, if you look at it from a technological evolution point of view, Today’s body filler have superior properties to lead and therefore as good if not better.
FYI, I lead loaded a couple of places on my S3, which was a big talking point in the body shop, when the car was in for paint.
Good on you for taking the challenge, once you get it right, it’s quite rewarding.
Cheers … Ole


I always use lead on my restorations, I found it easier to use a heat gun when it comes to the last finish.

I was in a specialty Fibreglass shop yesterday and was astounded at the range of products.

My son need a special UV cured 2 part epoxy resin that is used on certain expensive surfboards

talking to the proprietor, these products are greatly superior in strength, flexibility and water resistance than polyester resin/filler

more than twice as expensive

Aaand hope you dont develop sensitivity to epoxy resins: when I was doing fiberglass fabbing, I steered clear of it.

I suspect that if polyester filler had been available in the early 60s William Lyons would have bought it by the lorry load hahaha Time is money and all that :slight_smile:

I’m not so sure about that, old school techniques come easy to old timers, I watched a short film once, cannot think where, showing lead being shaped around the contoured 1960s S type headlamps, virtually wiped on in seconds,