The ongoing saga of my 1972 Fiat Spider restoration project.
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Journey's End

After 7 years owning the Fiat, I put it on the market this past spring. A while back, I realized I had grown tired of working on it. I had met a few of the goals I had with the car but really never got it where I wanted it to be. Bye Bye Fiat In those 7 years, I've also picked up a few new items...a house, motorcycles, side-businesses, a wife, photography, etc. Time, energy and funds for the Fiat have all but dried up.

The car sold this summer to a nice guy in Phoenix named Dale, who is going to restore it the way I never could. Can't wait to see how it goes. The sale came at a good time because I had just been laid off and the money helped fund an amazing 9 week trip across the US on my motorcycle and the best summer of my life.

Classic cars still make my heart beat faster and the Fiat Spider is a favorite...maybe I'll own another one day, not sure. I have a long list of old cars I want to own and have already told the wife to be prepared for the day another clunker rolls up in the driveway.

As I reflect back on moments I had with my 1972 Fiat Spider, few of them are what I had imagined...oily rags, skint knuckles, sludge you can't imagine, frustrating parts installs, hot oil in my face and stalling out in the middle of the road a dozen times. That car taught me how to mechanic and not to be scared to jump in head first on a daunting project. Of all the goals I had with the car, the biggest one was 'learn to restore an old car' and I accomplished it squarely.

Things I've learned
  • There's a certain calm to being a stranded motorist...the rest of the world gives you a break for classic car problems. Enjoy the zen while it lasts because tomorrow you have to get out the wrench and wallet.
  • Carbs aren't that scary. You can master them with time and patience. If you don't have time and patience, get a carb guy or go EFI.
  • Underneath all that oily sludge is just more oily sludge.
  • Driving an old convertible on the highway for the first time in years really requires goggles...all the dusty crap will blow right in your eyes.
  • Women do not appreciate the smell of old cars like men do. I'm just sayin.
  • Even if you break the bank and fully restore a classic sports car, realize it's still a restored OLD car. The day it rolled off the lot it was slower than a modern minivan.
  • Don't mess with the transmission. Just get a good one from the start.
  • If you're going to pick an old car to restore, drive one that is fixed up you'll know what's moderately possible to achieve.
  • Unless you own a restoration shop, you *will* lose money fixing up an old car. Accept that fact and it's a lot easier to buy those $1200 carburetors .
  • Owning a classic car is a ticket to cool events...everybody should own one once in their lives.
  • It's always a bigger project than you first think.
  • I can do it. Even if I don't know how.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

More Suspension Work

new fiat suspension
Today I did more suspension work. Work on the passenger side was vastly faster and easier with the experience gained from the driver side. At one point I realized a mistake I had made on the driver side suspension (bad install on the shocks) so I quickly re-did that. My one folly of the day was to completely strip the living s**t out of a bolt that attached the brake caliper bracket to the wheel hub assembly. Dammit. Not real sure how to get that off. I could probably spend all day on it tomorrow and not get it off. It's on there good, so it may be enough to hold. But knowing it's stripped will put fear in my mind that it's a failed part and it will bug me. I'll have to find a way to drill it out or something.

On to the front brakes tomorrow.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Working with Lou and Ray

So, again, I haven't updated lately. But summer plans have not been as ideal as I'd like. Lots of family visiting. Vacations. More family. Monterey (no Fiat, sniff). House stuff. The Fiat has definatly taken a back seat to the rest of it. Unfortunately for the Fiat.

But we've had a couple cool club meetings. Check out the new club website for pics and news. Brimming with Mambo goodness.

Anyway. Last big action I did was to remove the front suspension in preparation for installing new shocks/springs/pads/rotors etc. And then it sat for months. But this last week I've finally had time to get back on it and get it going. I got stuck on Tuesday. The 22mm nuts that hold the a-arm ball joints to the wheel hub assembly would NOT come off. No matter what I tried. Almost broke my back, arm and hand trying to get it off...with no luck. I sent out a message to the club asking for help. Apparently they are nylon (dammit) locking nuts and require more power than hand tools deliver.

So today I got up early and met Ray down at Louis's house. After eating a burrito and talking about cars and family for a bit, we went out and used the air tools on my problem. Done in 15 minutes with minimal fuss. Man, I gotta get some of those air tools.

Hoping to use the holiday weekend to get all the new parts installed and back on the road. We'll see, I am hopeful. Gotta return parts to Autozone and Eric, both of which let me borrow them a few months back. ;)

Friday, June 10, 2005

New parts

New parts on the way! Basicly, it's koni yellow shocks, performance springs, drilled & slotted rotors up front, stock new in back, ferrodo pads all round, new brake hoses and caliper rebuild kits. Also a console cap for the lower console. My car should handle real well and stop great.

1 FIAT SPI ALL & X-1/9 79-87 FT CAL KIT

Haven't posted much lately. I"ve actually been working on the car a ton. Nearly every day during April & May, not so much in June yet. Let me give a re-cap of what's happened in the last months.

  1. Everything back together.
  2. Carbs mounted & working
  3. Engine started & ran
  4. Test drive around neighborhood
  5. Panasport install
  6. carbs tuned
  7. Ran out of gas in an intersection while driving around neighborhood, messed with carbs
  8. Restored trunk and painted hood cowls

And I'm back to square one on the carbs. The parts come monday. I will spend this weekend getting the motor running good again. I hope to have it running to drive it to our next meeting. And to the Bella Italia event with the Ferarri and Alfa club of SD. And then to Monterey this August! Yeehaw!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Heater core restoration

Tonight, since I am still lacking the 4th bolt for the water pump, I went to work on the heater core. I pulled it out last night and today/tonight, I cleaned out the vanes, flushed it out, sanded down the outside and gave it a light coat of rust-o-leum. Looks pretty nice. Re-installed and waiting for 2 gaskets I ordered today. Those should get here Friday, I hope.

Also cleaned and re-installed the crankcase breather. Not a hard job but it took me a while to figure out I could re-use some of the old rubber hose from the cooling system and get it done. Apparently the hose that connects the breather to the crankcase is hard to find or something.

Hopefully tomorrow I will have time to hit up Marshalls and get that bolt. I really want to get the cooling system going this weekend. That is the big hold up at this point. Getting all the hoses and parts back together. Once that's done I think I'll be able to try to start it. W00t!

Quick brain dump of things left to do:

  • Get water pump bolt
  • Get lengths of coolant hose from NAPA (small and large)
  • put V-belt back on and tighten
  • install radiator
  • install new overflow tank (probably need more hose for it too)
  • buy lots of coolant
  • buy new battery
  • put dash back together properly
  • drain fuel tank + re-fill with good gas
  • test electrical system
  • get out fire extinguisher, turn ignition key

Monday, April 04, 2005

Heater Valve Replacement

Tonight, I spent the night pulling out the old heater valve for replacement. After I got into it, I discovered a stuck heater control. So, looking into that I removed the heater box. And decided for good measure, to remove the heater core and examine/flush it out. And I got a little suprize. In addition to a lot of green coolant that I managed to collect in a tin can, I got a huge pile of leaves, twigs, bugs and trash. Probably about 3 inches of it. Glad I cleaned that sucker. Guess there is no filter between the outside vents and the heater. Maybe I should put one on there. Even a screen seems like a good idea after all the junk I pulled out.

Man, getting that heater valve out was a chore. Tiny space for the wrench and I had to work sideways and upside down to get under there. Plus coolant leaking out with every turn. Yeesh. Glad that's not something that goes bad often. Or at least I hope.

The pic in the top right is the 'short tube' and the 'long tube', revealed for the first time here, exclusively! ;) A half hour of polish made the tubes look great, as you can see before and after in the pics. Probably not worth it, but kind of fun when I didn't have anything else to do. Tomorrow I'll attempt to put it all back together, or at least what I can without all the right gaskets.

I also discovered something else. I ordered 2 'long heater hoses' from IAP. They're about a 2 feet long with an "S" curve in the end. I have no idea where these should go. Mine only requires the 2 shorter hoses. And these don't even fit. I'm kind of bummed at IAP for selling them to me. But I should have known exactly what to order in the first place. Dangit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Water Pump

Got those screws on last night. But they're not tight yet. I need much smaller hands. And tools.

More work tonight. Installed a new water pump. Pulled out a screw that I thought I'd have to drill. Yes, there is a great use for locking pliers. Check the pics of my success here.

Now I need to get replacement bolts, more 8mm washers and a few hoses. Also need to do the messy replacement of the heater valve.

Yay for me, working on cars 3 nights in a row!

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