1963 Jaguar E-Type OTS
The story of a ground up restoration of a classic "XKE" Jaguar roadster

Molasses rust removal (25 June - 3 July 2006)

c h r o n o l o g i c a l
g u i d e

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fetching & dismantling
sandblasting & evil rust
right "b" pillar
fixing right inner sill
basic body repair, por-15
frame removed, footwell repair
hole fixed, car flipped, etc.
sill stiffeners, rear bulkhead, etc.
various small parts
left sill, added stiffener, etc.
   - lousy weather
trunk floor (reprise)
right floor, left sill, etc.
left floor, wheel well, etc.
right upper wishbone
floor done, car righted
rack, front frame, evil rust
left door cleaned & fitted
right door, right suspension
bonnet, part 1
bonnet, part 2
bonnet, part 3
bonnet, part 4
bonnet, part 5, etc.
bonnet, part 6
bonnet, outer sill, etc.
lots of stuff
left side, bonnet internals
frame, bonnet attached
engine stand, oil pan removal
pistons removed, sanding
sanding, final filling
color, frames, primer
brushed primer test
2nd coat primer
holiday greetings!
finish prep, detail on dent fix
spraying primer
winter chores
  1. undercoat, plating prep
  2. plating, spraying color
bonnet, plate prep, cylinder head
cylinder head paint, bushes
plating saga
front frame, suspension, part 1
front suspension, part 2
front suspension, part 3
priming and painting
bonnet, part 7
painting color!
boot lid, steering wheel
gas tank
winter chores
  1. firewall sundry
  2. front suspension
  3. steering setup
  4. master cylinders/pedals
  5. the rest
data plate screed
winter to spring
  1. irs rebuild
  2. trunk floor, harness
  3. data plate (again)
data plate, door, headlights
dash vinyl, crosshatch aluminum
windshield, right door
interior, "widget"
chrome parts!
door handle details
rolling chassis
molasses rust removal
electrical, part 1
bores, thrust washers
new engine!
head differences
block differences
compression ratio
engine in place!
catchup & photos
it runs!
setback and brakes
darned close & engine diffs
top and seats
driving and little stuff

Molasses rust removal

I read an article in Auto Restorer that claimed that molasses was a cheap but slow rust remover. I decided to give it a go, since I'll have some rust to remove soon, and I do have some miscellaneous items that could bear a bit of a spruce-up and even some replating. The test piece was a bit of metal that attached the exhaust resonators to the bracket. It was mostly a makeshift piece, but I did want to retrieve a GKN bolt from the assembly. The rest was just plain rusted and not destined for much other than the waste bin.

The article said that any molasses would do, but that the kitchen variety is a bit expensive. The virtues of this method is the lack of expense and the fact that you use materials that are not hazardous. If I go into this in a bigger way with other parts, I'll probably use livestock feed grade molasses. I checked with our feed supplier (Wallace at Triangle Farm and Home down the road), but he doesn't stock molasses, he said. I expect that the bigger farm supply north of us in Roxboro would have it. The recipe is simple. Dilute with between four-to-ten parts water for every part of molasses.

I used the Brer Rabbit brand we had on hand in the fridge, and diluted it to maybe about 6:1 water to molasses. I used dishsoap and water to remove what little oil and grease might have been on the parts (the top photograph was taken after the cleanup), and then I threw the parts into the molasses-water mix. That was on 25 June. I checked the parts midway through the week, and the rust had just begun to give way. I used a scrubbie pad to brush off the loose rust and popped the pieces back into the mixture. I did notice that the mixture had a foamy head, and I thought that perhaps the brew was beginning to ferment. It didn't smell yeasty, though. Whenever I ran out to the garage, I gave the container a shake. By the weekend, the froth had faded, and it consisted of lines of tiny bubbles aligned, I assumed, above the parts. I suspect that whatever chemical reaction was taking place on the parts gave off a slight amount of gas.

On Saturday, 1 July, I used a wire brush on the parts, and it was clear that the molasses had done a job on the rust. Most of surface of the parts were rust free, and when I rinsed them and dried them, flash rust appeared alomst immediately. I left them in the mix until Monday, for a total of eight days of steeping.

The rust was almost entirely gone. I retrieved the GKN bolt with ease and put it aside.

I'll be doing rust removal on the exhaust manifolds prior to getting them coated with whatever I finally decide, and I'll use the molasses treatment. I went ahead and threw some rusty parts into the mix immediately after retrieving the test pieces. This process seems much safer for the environment (it's said you can dispose of exhausted molasses mix on the yard!), and it is far less aggressive than other methods. The molasses mix should work for a while, but I don't have enough experience with it to see whether the mixture just ages or whether the molasses mix simply gives out after treating a certain amount of rust.

Since rust removal is a constant concern of car restorers, I thought I'd pass this information on, devoid as it is of Jaguar E-Type specifics.