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Setting Gaps


Active Member
Continuing with my previous question regarding painting body on/off chassis, I am trying to "dry-fit" to get the gaps as good as I can. Now, this is a Triumph Spitfire - they were not known for their attention to detail and quality so I don't expect the gaps to be perfect, but I'm pulling my hair out because I've never done it before and lack the experience in knowing "if I move this, it will move over there". Can anyone offer a good website or YouTube video that gives tips for getting this stuff set properly. The doors will probably eventually come around, but the bonnet (like a Jag E-Type) is just crazy - large piece of metal not well supported so it flexes like crazy. I think I have it right, then make one final adjustment, thinking it's unrelated to the area I just got right, only to find out I was wrong.
Venting a bit, so I apologize. This is my first attempt at doing any of this stuff so any help would be greatly appreciated.
Oh, and if how many scratches I've put in the primer is any indication, I'm beyond happy that I decided to do this before I did final paint!!

Thanks, everyone!


Camaro Nut
I can not offer suggestions for that car, but I can offer a tip on how to minimize edge damage, especially when doing this work by yourself.
Being most gaps are greater than 1/6", I recommend to place these garden hose washers in strategic locations to prevent panel edge contact, especially when fitting a hood or trunk lid. I stand them up and use the edge thickness which is 1/8".
Use tape or whatever to hold them on. For larger edges I use a piece of slip-on windshield rubber (used when shipping new windshields) that I got from a windshield installation shop. I bought several feet for a few dollars and it is worth every cent.

Sorry, but sometimes laughing helps. Are you english or have you just picked up using their name for a hood?

Steck makes a door alignment tool that basically just is a piece of steel that gives you some room between the latch and the post, (I dont know what you call those things). These gaps is why some places actually attach extra material so they can grind away without splitting the doors apart.


Active Member
Thanks, Mike. I have some of those washers...good call. I'll see if I can come up with some other edge protection...clear rubber tubing, like aquarium tubing?

Oh, I've laughed a lot... No, not British, but I'm trying to keep the car Gods happy so I only use proper terms when I talk about "her".

I'm fair from an expert, but the few things that have helped me is always work from the back of the door forward, and then adjust from there. Sometimes you get the back of the door lined up perfectly and then the fender wont even come close so you have to split the difference. It can be a real compromise sometimes, especially if it wasnt good to begin with.

I have some spots I tried to fix on my truck, I'm still not thrilled with them, but if I look at what I started with it's a vast improvement.
I think the general rule is to start with door to quarter panel and work forward, however that is not set in stone. This car started out with very good gaps in the area shown here.

But the door is too tight at the rear to the quarter panel. It doesn't make sense to mess with the gaps shown in the picture to make the door rear gap fit a little better, that would just make them all less than perfect. So the edge on the back side of the door gets ground down to the proper gap and welded up, then all those gaps are perfect. Its normal to have to grind material away, or add material to make the gaps acceptable.

You need to assemble the panels as good as possible, then decide what you need to do to get an acceptable gap all over. The factory recommended 1/16-3/16 gap for 57 chevy, and the car will tell you which gap will be the easiest to get to.

I go with 3/16 (.187) in bare metal, and plan on about 5/32 (.155) after paint. Zoro has a rubber strip that is very slippery to make it easy to remove after you get the gaps set, especially important after the car is painted. It comes in one 2" wide 36" long strip so you can cut off pieces as long as you need.


Trying to be the best me, I can be
Chev beat me to it but yes generally you want to start at the door to 1/4 panel. Especially if you have completely disassembled something and are starting to put it back together. Get that gap set, then the fenders to the doors. Once you have that fitting then your hood and trunk lid would be next. Bumpers are usually save for last. In order to get everything gapped out you may need to get creative. Pay attention to what the gaps tell you. Example tight on the bottom of a fender to door and wider at the top means that the front end is low. (Maybe not applicable in your situation but off the top of my head.....) You can add material to a door or hood edge. 1/16 bare tig rod works nicely for that. Try to avoid slotting holes and hinges unless you absolutely have to. If they are that far off it is indicative of a bigger issue.
Main thing is slow down, start with one panel and work until you get it fitting how you want. Then do the opposite side-same panel. You'll need patience too because it is trial and error. You may have to readjust many times. You can tweak the fit by bending that's what anotheridiot was mentioning. The tool he was talking about is this:

It works well for bending a door slightly up or down to get it to fit the striker. Sometimes on small cars such as yours just some muscle will move the door where it needs to be. Some of this is easier to show you than write about so if you have questions or problems while you are doing it keep asking questions.
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Along with what Chris and Chevman said don't do the gaps while it is on car stands it is best to do it with either the wheels on sitting on the ground or atleast with it sitting on stands with the suspension loaded like the wheels were on sitting on the ground. If you do it while on stands or a floor jack, car lift etc you could be unknowingly twisting bending the car and that could give you problems.

An example of that would be I have a 2014 F-150 on the frame machine with the Chief Laser-Loc measuring system attached on it's tires it measures (X) when I lifted it into the stands it measured just over 10mm deflection from the frame flexing under it's own weight.

So it is always best to gap the panels with the suspension loaded like it would be with the tires on sitting on the ground.


Active Member
I've had lots of brit cars. The convertibles all have lots of twist and cowl shake, door and fender gaps need to be larger to compensate or you'll be banging edges everywhere. Keep paint film thinner on edges. If the body hasn't been off the frame and it's not coming off, then start with door to qtr gaps by loosening and adjusting at the hinges. If the body has been off or you're going to take it off and use new cushions then you'll need to align the body on the frame with shims first. I've had a couple spitfires but I can't remember how the bonnet front pivots mount up, but prob like an xke which bolts to the car with two pivot bolts, but the pivot mounts are bolted to the bonnet with bolts and shims for adjustment. It can get hairy but it aint rocket science. If you're inclined, beer helps... :) Oh yea, check frame to floor measurements to see if any twist has settled in first, that'll drive you crazy aligning panels. And you don't want to look like it has sciatica going down the road.


Active Member
Wow. You guys rock. I messed around today and got better success, so not quite as frustrated. I don't think Triumph did gaps like the picture that chevman posted (factory called for 5mm and I think that was pushing it). The car is not on the ground but on those roller things (tires on and suspension done and all that). All of it is new, though, so it's very hard to load since there's no interior or windscreen or anything of significant weight. The body has been on and off the frame a few times, but I've taken pains to keep it from twisting (no rotisserie).

Thanks, everyone. I know this wasn't necessarily paint related, but there's just too much experience here not to have gone for it. I appreciate you helping out a rookie. Still having fun, so I guess that's good. I'll come back with more if I need to.

Your welcome. While this is a paint related forum questions don't need to be solely paint related. The members here are some of the best at what they do and everyone here has "MAD" experience and are highly skilled and will not mislead you in any way. We all want to see the project, no matter what it is, to turn out great and last for years.

Just remember that everyone has their own technique and style but at the end of the day the members end up with a job that they can be proud of. We all make mistakes and bad moves, even the seniors here, so don't feel bad or embarrassed because of it, hell I just had one happen that was beyond my control, it happens (We just don't show them cause were perfect, LOL).


Active Member
Chris, a project thread here would be cool if you had the time. It's been a few years since I had a spit, they're really fun cars. I had pulled the motor on one and had mazda rotary mounted in when two guys came along and made offers I couldn't refuse, I sold them both. Still have a Tr6 and an XKE, both waiting in line...


Active Member
Chris, it's a 67 FHC. Dad bought it in '72, had it painted metalflake orange with a silver and blue hood bulge! Flake as in dune buggy or bass boat. It was actually gorgeous in that color. I won quite a few street drag races in it. Been sitting in the shop building many years now. 45k miles...
It's on the docket after the vette, the XJC, the TR6, and a T120 Bonnie.


Active Member
I think an E-type is like a 911 when it comes to color...they all look damn good. I haven't seen too many E-types (my uncle had one, but I was very young and just barely remember it) in my time and they've all been a "standard" color. But my brother's friend had a purple 911 (and I mean purple!) and I saw a robin's egg blue one once. All of it looked great. My grandfather, and then my sister, had a VW Type 3 Fastback that was robin's egg blue and that looked nice, too (wish I had that car back!). Not an ugly E-type out there...not possible!
I don't think Triumph did gaps like the picture that chevman posted (factory called for 5mm and I think that was pushing it).

Those gaps are original, the only thing I did was adjust, and they averaged (.187) plus or minus (.010) Your goal of 5 mm is (.197), and I presume that is 5mm after paint, so the rubber strips in the link would work good for you if you want something like that.