6/2/2006: Rechroming Parts

I’ve been researching chrome for some time, knowing that eventually I’d have to spend some serious money on making my car’s shiny bits shine again.

I’ve also been collecting as many parts as I could, to try to find the best originals that I could. My latest road trip yielded the last few parts I was looking for, including some good bumpers.

So, on Thursday I finally dropped off a large batch of parts to be chromed at Allied Metal Finishing, a nearby shop which was recommended.

Many of these parts are “pot metal”, which is a soft casting material that is particularly prone to corrosion and pitting. These pits need to be laboriously cleaned out and filled (with solder, usually), which makes repairing these parts expensive.

Here are some of the items I sent out:

And the complete list (for reference):

2 tail light body
1 rear view mirror bezel
1 "FIAT 1500" badge
1 ashtray body
1 ashtray "shelf"
1 trunk latch
2 bumper spacers (long)
2 bumper spacers (short)
1 nose (above grille) trim piece
1 air vent
1 trunk lock body
1 trunk lock cylinder
1 door lock button (solid)
1 door lock button (hollow)
2 interior door handle 
2 license plate light covers
2 wiper escutcheon
2 wiper nut
1 gas lock body
1 gas lock cylinder, cover, pin
2 license plate holder mount
2 exterior door handles
2 front signal light body 
2 trunk trim "spear" + 4 screws
1 handbrake lever
1 handbrake rod
2 front bumper horn
2 rear bumper horn
1 front bumper
1 rear bumper

The total bill for this is pretty shocking. It’s labor intensive and environmentally nasty work, so I guess that’s to be expected.

Hopefully the results will be worth the expense.. We’ll find out in late july. I do have a few more things that will need to get chromed eventually (windshield frame, for instance), but I think this is more than enough for now.

5/19/2006: Locks and Keys

I know, long time no post.. Well, I have no real excuse. I haven’t been doing much on the car other than researching and buying parts. But now that the weather is nice again, I’m hoping to get some work done. Today’s topic is locks and keys.

My car only came with an ignition key. As far as I can remember, my dad never had the key to the door and trunk, and the lock for the fuel door was missing altogether.

Some time ago I spent some time researching the key blanks I’d need, and put together a page with a summary of my findings.

I decided that now was a good time to get my locks sorted out and disassembled so that I can have them rechromed. Fiat made these locks and door handles out of pot metal, which is brittle, prone to cracking, and corrodes, pitting very badly with age. So it hasn’t been easy to find ones which look like they can be repaired.

I’ve been collecting locks from various parts cars over the past few years. At this point I have three door locks, two trunk locks, three for the fuel door (one presentable) and one glovebox lock.

After soaking them in penetrating oil for a few weeks, I dropped all of these off at a local locksmith to see if they could make up keys (and get them all to use the same key).

They were able to get the door and fuel door locks on the same key, but wouldn’t open the glovebox and trunk locks because they have back covers that are crimped on and have to be cut off. That’s fair, I don’t blame them for not wanting to be blamed if the fragile old pot metal body was broken in the process.

So, I took the two trunk locks and tried to figure out how to disassemble them myself. One of them was already damaged, so I used it to figure out how to take apart the “good one”. This wasn’t easy, so i’m going to post the details here in case anyone else needs to do this on their car.

Here are the parts that make up a trunk lock assembly:

Here’s the process for taking it apart:

  1. Use a zip tie around the lock body to hold the latch in. This will cause the rod to stick out the other side of the lock body, and allow a little opening around the latch.
  2. Using a dremel tool with cutting wheel, remove a bit of the ridge around the cover on the back of the lock, carefully.
  3. Using a small screwdriver, pry at the rear cover through the opening around the latch until it pops off. Trim more with the dremel as needed until it falls out. When I reassemble the lock, i’ll probably glue or solder the cover back on.
  4. Spray the area where the rod screws into the latch piece with penetrating oil and let it soak.
  5. Using a fine tipped torch (I used a butane torch), heat the latch slightly, and use vice grips on the exposed portion of the rod to get it to unscrew. Note that if you heat it too much, the spring will be ruined. Not a big deal though, it can be replaced.
  6. If the rod won’t unscrew, it can be cut off. I did this with the first lock i took apart, before I was sure whether it was threaded or pressed in. If you do cut it, you’ll need to cut it flush to the lock body, then use a die grinder with a carbide burr to trim it even further, before the latch piece will come out.
  7. Unscrew the screw that’s now exposed. This screw holds the sloped brass slider to the lock cylinder. Remove the brass slider.
    Trunk Lock Cylinder Components
  8. Push the lock cylinder (button) out the front of the lock body. I had to use a brass drift and some gentle tapping to do this, as it was somewhat stuck.

I then disassembled the cylinder (held with one screw, the same process as with the door lock) and rearranged the tumblers until they worked with the key I had. A great explanation of how to re-key a lock can be found here.

The next challenge will be the glovebox lock. It really doesn’t look like it can be taken apart without destroying it, and I only have one. I’m actually wondering if it might be easier to find a replacement, since it seems to be a fairly generic part and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was used on other cars.

Anyone recognize this? If so, please contact me! I believe the key blank is one frequently used on british cars, so the whole lock may be the same as on some british car.

11/24/2005: Comment Spam

Up until about a month ago, I never had a problem with spammers putting junk in the comments on this site, mainly because I use blosxom, which isn’t a very popular blogging program among non-technical folks, and so the spammers weren’t targetting it.

Well, they’ve figured it out, so there were a number of spam comments advertising various drugs in there, annoying me.

I’ve cleaned out all the bogus comments and have enabled a javascript-based anti-spam measure. This change should be invisible to any normal users, as long as you have javascript enabled in your browser. Please email me if you have any problems posting a comment.

Hopefully this change will suffice for now. I’d hate to have to have folks register to be able to post comments, as some sites do.

Anyway, we’ll have to wait and see. Unfortunately the spammers are engaging in a bit of an arms race, so the rest of us have to cope with this kind of annoyance from time to time.

Just another reminder- please consider subscribing to the site to be notified when I make new postings.

Also- I’ve updated the Other Car Restoration Websites and Parts Vendors pages with some new links.

10/19/2005: Metalwork 8: Now It’s Serious.

Sorry for the delay in posting this update.. I’ve actually been doing quite a bit on the car lately, but haven’t gotten around to writing about it. Also, my camera has been acting up, and finally died, so for the moment I’m relying upon my camera phone, so the quality is not so hot. I’ll get a new camera soon, if I can’t coax my old one into working again.

The rear panel of my car had several large dents, but since there’s no way to get to the back of this panel, i couldn’t really fix them very easily. A few months ago, I was able to get the back foot or so cut off of a rusted out parts car, and it included a “decent” version of this panel. I decided to cut the panel off my car and replace it with the other.

When the car was built, the rear panel actually extended forward around the trunklid, all one piece.

It’s not practical to remove this in one piece, just to repair a dent in one section of it. Therefore I decided to cut vertically about an inch in from the tail light on each side, then diagonally into the seam.

First, I welded a piece of angle iron across the opening, just to keep things lined up in case it got floppy once the rear panel was removed. Then I drilled out all the spot welds along the bottom of the panel carefully, then sliced up the sides and across the top. After that was done, I ground away the remaining top section of the panel, leaving the inner reinforcement intact.

Cut off the back of the car.

I was happy to find that there’s almost no rust on the inner reinforcement panel. Before I put things back together, i’ll just hit it with a coat of POR-15 to keep it that way.

Rough fitting of repair section

This panel was originally quite dented. I removed these dents some time ago, but the bottom few inches of the panel were also rather rusty. My original plan was to fabricate a patch panel, and in fact I did make one (You can see it laying across the back of the car in the pictures above, in fact).

However, once I removed the original rear panel from my car, it came off so intact that I decided to use the bottom few inches of it instead of my patch. So I measured carefully and cut both panels, then tacked them together:

Spliced together

This was done very slowly, working from the center out. I used 4 or 5 clamps and made sure the alignment was perfect after each tack before continuing.

Then I went back across and connected the dots, using either continuous stitches or a series of tacks to fill the gaps. (I was having some trouble with burn-through, so I switched to the tacks part way through the job. They’re a lot easier and less likely to burn through).

Finish Weld

I still need to adjust the panel a little bit (hammer and dolly, shrinking disc) to deal with some distortion that was introduced by the welding. I may also go back and fix a few areas where the weld didn’t penetrate as well as I’d like.

Then I can finish trimming it to fit the opening and weld it back into place. Before I do this though, I want to re-fit the trunk lid, so make sure that the gaps are even.

I’m quite happy with how this repair is turning out. It will certainly require some filler to hide this weld, but not much, and I think the final result will be very seamless from both the inside and outside of the car.

This whole process is not a quick one. I’ve been putting in a few hours each night for the last 4 or 5 days, and there’s still more work to do. I certainly could have just slapped filler on the old panel, or flanged it and lap welded the repair section, but for this repair I really wanted to try the butt weld technique some more. It’s hard work, but good practice. I’m definitely learning more each time I do this stuff.

9/11/2005: Metalwork 7: Welding a patch.

Another important psychological barrier crossed.. This time not only did I cut a nice hole in a very visible part of my car, but I welded a patch in! I was worried about whether or not I could do this properly. I’d done a lot of reading and some practicing, but still, it’s scary stuff! Finally I couldn’t put it off any longer.

I started by cutting out the bad section of this front fender. The section I cut out is sitting on it to the right. As you may be able to see, the reason that I could not repair this any other way is that someone drilled multiple holes and used a slide hammer on this area, right on the body line. Filling the holes and getting it all straight wasn’t really practical. So instead, I cut out the affected area so that I could graft in a piece from the other front clip.

Here i’m starting to cut out the patch from the other car. To make things interesting, since there was some rust pitting on the area I wanted to take a patch from, I actually took the patch from the opposite side of the car, then flipped it around and tweaked it a little to fit.

On both cars, I layed out a tape line a certain distance from the front of the fender. This reference line let me make sure that the patch was lined up appropriately.

I held the patch underneath the fender, then used a scribe to scratch a line right along the opening. I trimmed the patch right to that line carefully and fit it. I used a combination of a long-reach vise-grip welding clamp and a magnet on the underside to hold the patch in place. I think i would have had a better result if i’d had a few more of those long-reach clamps though. I couldn’t find anyone locally that sold them though, so i had to make do with the one I had on hand.

I’m welding using J.W. Harris Twenty Gauge 0.030” MIG wire. This stuff is supposedly a lot nicer to work with on thin panels than normal mig wire, despite being 0.030 instead of 0.023” thick. But since smarter people than I seem to like using the heavier wire, even on thin sheetmetal, who am I to argue with them?

I began by tacking every inch or so around the patch. After each tack, I ground it flat using the edge of a cut-off wheel, then used a slapper and dolly to work the welds as necessary to keep the patch flat and even.

Then I “stitch welded”, connecting the spot welds with inch-long weld beads. This is definitely the harder way to do a patch, but it gives a nice result. This is only practical when you have good access to the back of the patch though. After welding each inch, the metal will shrink somewhat, so you need to work the heat affected (blue) zone) on dolly to get it back into shape. If this isn’t practical, it’s probably safer to skip around doing only tack welds, overlapping them until the whole seam is filled. This minimizes heat as much as possible.

So again, grind down the weld with the edge of the cut-off wheel and work with slapper and dolly. A hardened dolly is necessary here, since the weld is relatively hard stuff.

And I continued around the whole patch, making sure to work each welded section thoroughly before I moved on. This takes a long time to do right.

The final result is pretty good, but I did make some mistakes. The initial fit of the patch really wasn’t quite perfect, so it’s got a bit of a low spot on the outboard side of the crease. I’ll try to fix that as much as I can with hammer and dolly, but if that fails it’ll be fixed with filler or lead later. It’s close though, a lot closer than i could have gotten without doing this patch.

I’ll post a photo once I finish tweaking this and spray it with primer, we’ll see just how invisible it ends up.

As far as this special MIG wire goes… It seemed to work well, but since I lack a good reference for comparison, I can’t really give a wholehearted recommendation for it. But it worked fine, and other people like it a lot, so i’ll continue using it in the future.

9/1/2005: Another Road Trip

Last week I drove down to Long Island to pick up a trunklid I’d purchased on ebay. The seller has a nice original european-spec ‘66 1500, but was looking to get rid of a parts car and a lot of accumulated parts which came with it which he didn’t need at the moment.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Although the parts car was pretty thoroughly in the “parts car” category (and due to having been converted to a 124 twincam and non-original interior bits, it was missing most of the things I’d be interested in), some of the other extra parts were excellent.

I took home the trunk lid and hood (from some other car, apparently). Not only are they the same color as my car (grin) but the hood in particular is in very good shape, with only a little surface rust where the paint had been scratched.

I also got a bunch of tail and parking light assemblies, miscellaneous nuts and bolts, headlight brackets, etc. I was very happy to find another front grille, but this one had the proper chrome piece for the round fiat badge:

Although it’s rusty, I think it can be saved, and it’s better than the alternative, which is the incorrect, but similar, piece from an early 124 spider.

Perhaps the most interesting part part of this haul was 3 bumpers, one front and two rear. One of the rears was totally rusted out, and is basically scrap. The other, though, is in remarkable shape. It looks as though it may be a NOS replacement (for the dead one) and may never have been on a car. The chrome is worn and will need to be redone, but there’s essentially no rust on the back of it, which is really remarkable. The front one has very light rust and some denting, but it looks fixable, and may be a little better than my other “good” front bumper.

Also included was the front chrome piece that goes across the nose of the car, above the grille. This too looks almost perfect, as though it’s never spent any time on a car. Really remarkable.

It was a long trip, but really well worth it, since some of these parts are such high profile cosmetic items.. the better the originals I can find, the better they’ll look when refurbished.

8/18/2005: Metalwork 6..

I’ve been working on the dents in the nose panel. I always planned on replacing this panel altogether, but i’m surprising myself with how much of the damage I can undo on the existing one.

Still a work-in-progress.. but here’s how it’s going. The tricky part with this panel is getting to the back of it through the limited access holes available. For the most part, I’ve been prying and pushing out the dents, then shrinking them back down with the disc.



Now i’m at the hard part.. What’s left now are some creases and some shallow dents which can only be corrected by stretching an area back out, which requires getting a dolly behind the area so that it can be worked on-dolly to thin the metal down (stretching it to add area so that the dent rises).

Also there is one rust pitted area and a bunch of really deep scratches (i think someone took a grinder to this panel when it was first bondo’d up) which I can’t do anything about.

8/14/2005: Metalwork 5..

I picked up a cheap ($8) slide hammer and used it to tweak the left tail light opening- the inside edge was slightly pushed in, so the tail light didn’t seat completely flush. It’s amazing how having the right tool for the job can make a huge difference. Smack smack smack and the gap is gone.

No gap!

I declared the taillight area basically done and sprayed a little spraycan primer on there for now. This helps the picture somewhat. It’s really quite smooth now, with no filler. Just a few minor low spots, and a little more work required on the corner where the bumper will be.

Also, an update on the opposite side of the car, where I was straightening out a twist where the bumper bolt went through. I got it pretty smooth, so I plug welded the backing plate back on. It came out pretty well, although as expected the heat from welding did cause some shrinking of the metal, which translated into a low spot. I’ve corrected it somewhat, but even if I can’t get it perfect, this area is behind the bumper anyway, so I have to keep a little perspective here.

You may also be able to see that there’s still work to be done o the underside of this panel. Down at the bottom there’s more denting to be smoothed. I didn’t have a good dolly for this high-crown corner though, so I’ll have to get back to that later.

Last night, on a whim, I decided to see how much better I could make the nose panel of the car in-place. I still expect to replace it, but still, it’s educational, so why not see what I can do with it?

So far, I’m pretty impressed with what some crude prying and lots of quality time with the shrinking disc has managed. I’ll post an update on that next time with a before/after.

8/8/2005: Metalwork 4..

So I’m working on the patch panel for the area I cut out of the right side of the car in the last entry. That’s actually going quite well. I’d say that I’ve got the patch looking almost as good as the piece of metal I cut out. Um. Hm. Well, there’s a little more work to go ;-)

The patch was shaped by using a plastic teardrop bossing mallet and a beater bag to stretch the metal in the right areas (obviously there’s only a little stretch/curvature on the right, but a bunch in the flared section on the left. Then I used a chisel-ish post dolly to fine tune the crease line, and a pair of pliers wrapped in duct tape to tip the edge over where it goes into the wheel opening. This was then tucked a bit (using a tucking fork) and flattened.

I’ll describe this process in more detail when I do the next patch. I was still figuring it all out myself, so I didn’t take pictures or anything.

Anyway, there’s still a lot more work to go there to get it perfect, so I decided to do something else instead for a while.

I moved back to working on the left tail light area. This is an area I’ve been working on (on and off) for months. I finally have gotten it about as good as I think I will be able to. After I got the outside surface pretty smooth, I tweaked the light housing mounting surface quite a bit to get it reasonably flat. I think I’m pretty happy with it now, but I’ll probably tweak it a little more after the center rear panel has been fixed.


OK, well, the difference is impossible to see in these pictures.. trust me though, there should be very little filler this time around.

I’m using the same metalfinishing techniques here as usual. I use a sharpie and a piece of 220 grit sandpaper on a flat board to highlight the low spots, and then use a slapper and dolly to work them up. Then the shrinking disc is used to tighten out anything I overstretch in the process. Much of the art of this is just selecting the right dolly to match the surface you’re working and figuring out how hard to hit it to move the metal without stretching it too much.

I made a lot of mistakes here, but the nice thing about these techniques is that pretty much any mistake can be undone. With enough time and good access to the back of a panel, it can be perfect again no matter what you do to it :)

The next area I tackled was the on the right lower corner of the back of the car, where the bumper attaches. When this car was hit originally and the back of it was damaged, the bumper was pushed in somewhat, and it twisted this mounting point, which made a nice dent.

There was a reinforcing plate behind the panel which I had to remove first before I could straighten the panel. It’s held on with 4 spot welds, which I drilled out.

I didn’t take a “before” photo of this area, but here’s how it looks after being roughed into shape. I basically just pushed out the dent by smacking it from behind with a dolly. Now I have to fine tune it and planish out all the little dents that will remain.

7/17/2005: More metalwork

Here’s the final result for that nose panel I was working on in the last entry. As you can see, the damaged area is pretty hard to see from a distance (you can see it if you zoom in though). I’m happy with the result.

However, what I haven’t photographed is the back of that panel. It’s pretty heavily rust-pitted, so it could be a little thin in places. I’m not positive yet whether or not I want to use it.

I’m actually reporting things a bit out of order. This area of the car was the first one I attempted to fix. I stopped working on it for a bit because I realized how extensive the damage really was.

As you can see in this photograph, there was a crease across the edge of the door and the quarter panel behind it, all the way to the wheel well. In fact, there was also a second crease a few inches above it that is hard to see in this photo.

I used a combination of tools, including a stud welder, hammers, dollies, and the shrinking disc on this area, trying to figure how how to use them. In fact I made many mistakes, including leaving quite a few marks on the metal that I will have to fill later. Still, for the most part, I was able to flatten out the overall surface, at least in the middle.

There’s still a pronounced low spot near the door edge in this photo, and one near the top, and the area near the wheel well (which you can’t really see) is very badly out of shape because I can’t get good access to the back of it.

This may help to visualize what’s going on here. The two yellow lines represent the original, obvious creases in the metal. The red areas indicate the low areas that were created as a side-effect, and which still remain at the time this photo was taken. You can see how the creases must have pulled these other areas inwards and stretched them out of shape.

After doing my best with the rest of the panel (it’s not perfect, but i think a very thin layer of filler will get it there), I finally decided to just bite the bullet and make a big hole in the car for that least damaged area. I couldn’t see any other way to avoid having more than 1/8” of filler in that area to get that sharp edge on the fender flare right. And while I have no objection at all to a think coat of modern filler on my car, a big glob of it would still be shoddy workmanship, and i don’t want it on my car.


So now I’ve crossed some sort of line in this project, I’ve cut a big hole in the car. Now let’s see if I can fill it back in :)

This is going to be a tricky patch to make and to weld in, but it should be a great learning exercise. Once I figure out a few things, I’ll document the process here.

I’m also working on a few other parts of the car at the moment, so I may jump around a bit as I figure out what to do in each case.

7/8/2005: Nose Job

I’ve been working on removing dents and prior damage from several parts of the car. For the most part though, it’s not a very photogenic process. It takes forever, and improvement is very slow. But it really is an interesting process, and i’m slowly getting better at it. I figured i’d share the basics by doing a writeup on one part of the car, the upper nose panel.

It seems that these cars often get smacked in the nose at some point in their lives.. It seems like all the parts cars I see are in similar condition. However, while my car has damage spread across most of the nose, the parts car’s damage is more localized and was previously repaired reasonably well.

nose of my car
nose of the parts car

To get a better look at it, I cut the nose section out of my parts car and drilled and ground out all of the spot welds to remove the outer skin from the inner structure.

This skin is indeed somewhat dented in one area, but overall it’s definitely in better shape than the one that is on the car. So i decided to go ahead and try to straighten out the dents.

I’m not yet sure if i’ll actually use this panel as a patch for my car, but I think that if i can get it straightened out, i may use it to replace the more extensively dented piece that’s on my car. Unfortunately this panel is a little rusty on the back side, so i will have to see how thin it ends up being when this rust is fully cleaned out.

I used a large, low crown dolly and a slapper to raise the larger overall low area of the dented area, then used the shrinking disc to level it a bit (more on this later).

After repeating this process several times, the surface started to resemble the right curve, but there are a bunch of small dimples left over from the prior repair that was done on this car.

cover with sharpie ink
sand with 220 grit on flat board
highs and lows are highlighted

To smooth these out, i need some way to planish the panel. Planishing is basically just smoothing a panel by using repeated small hammer blows (or something like an english wheel, but I don’t have one)

Since I don’t have an air-powered planishing hammer or english wheel, I’ll use the low-cost manual alternative, a post dolly:

A post dolly is really just a hard smooth die that’s clamped in place (on a post, or whatever). You hold the panel over this and tap out the imperfections in the panel by hitting the die with a smooth hammer or slapper.

The same basic principles apply as when using a regular hand-held hammer dolly. When you work the metal “on-dolly”, the steel effectively being smashed between two hard surfaces, and so it stretches.

If you work the metal “off-dolly”, (that is, the dolly is under the low spot and you only hit the high spots with the hammer), this stretching effect is minimized, because the low spot is pushed up, in effect shrinking the trapped metal somewhat by forcing it together as it’s rearranged.

The die i’m using (clamped in a vise) is actually one of the ends from this hammer kit. I don’t find this hammer all that useful, but the ends are pretty good for this use.

I ground the sharp edges off the hammer end (you never want a sharp edge on a hammer- one false move and it will dig into the metal and leave a mark) and clamped it in the vise. I then mounted a cheap laser pointer to my ceiling above the vise and wired in a remote switch so that i can easily turn it on and off. (ideally, i’d have this hooked to a foot pedal, but i didn’t have one to use, so for now it’s just a microswitch i can nudge with a hand or knee.)

To allow for adjustment, I screwed a piece of metal to my ceiling, and mounted the laser pointer to a magnet. This works really well, actually.

laser above vise
align the laser
highlight the low spot
slap it lightly
mostly gone

So, to raise small low areas in the panel, i point the laser at the center of the crown of the dolly, then put the panel in place and line up the laser dot with the low spot. Then when i hit the panel with a hammer or slapper, i know that it’s centered on the low spot, so that’s what will be planished out.

If I hit too hard, it stretches the metal a bit, making a larger high spot in place of the small low spot. This is in fact what happened, but it’s not a problem to fix.

Once I’ve raised most of the low spots, i then reapply the sharpie and sand to get a look at things. As you can see, the low spots are reduced, but there’s one big high area now.

To shrink this stretched metal down and lower this high area, I use the shrinking disc. This selectively heats up the high spots. When it’s cooled off back to room temperature (you can use water or compressed air to speed this cooling), the metal shrinks slightly beyond its initial shape.

Here’s the result of that:

As you can see, it’s starting to level out now. There are some low spots remaining near the edges of the panel.

Basically, by repeating the steps above over and over, i can refine the surface until all the dents are essentially gone. There are still going to be some rust pits and scrapes on the surface which I can’t eliminate, but those can always be filled later if I do decide to use this panel.

For more information on the techniques I am using, see metalmeet.com, and in particular this tutorial.

Some of the tools I am using, and where I got them:

  • Shrinking Disc - Wray Schelin
    These are available from several other sources. It’s just a flat stanless steel disc with a lip on the edge and a dimple in the middle, so several folks make them. Espect to spend about $50 on them. A very inexpensive 9” grinder is available from Harbor Freight that works fine with these discs. I use a 7” rubber backing plate from home depot or similar and a 9” phenolic backing bad behind the plate to provide support.
  • 7 pc. Hammer/Dolly Set - Martin Tools
    I really like this set of hammers and dollies. They are *MUCH* harder and better polished than the cheapie chinese sets you can find at harbor freight (and everywhere else). I found that sears’s web store had a good price on this set (here).
  • Slapper
    A slapper can be used like a broad hammer to spread out a blow over a larger area. This works great for raising small dents, because you’re effectively hitting simultaneously all the way around the outside of the dent when you hit it with a slapper. Slappers can be made from a car’s leaf spring, bent into proper shape and polished. Since I don’t have a torch (or a leaf spring), i instead bought one from autobodystore. A light slapper also comes with the martin tool set, which is good for fine work, but not really heavy enough for a lot of the stuff i’m doing.
  • 3M Roloc Discs
    I use the 2” discs on an angle die grinder for general cleanup of metal parts, stripping paint and rust, etc. I also use the roloc bristle brush and sandpaper for some tasks.
  • Random-Orbit or D/A Sander
    Ideally i’d use an air-driven D/A sander for final metal surface preparation and light paint removal, but I find that my little compressor can’t put out enough air to drive one. So for now i’m using a dewalt electric sander for this kind of thing.
  • Markers/Flat Sanding Block
    I’m just using a bit of relatively-flat plywood with a piece of 220 grit “stickit” style sandpaper on it. I’m just copying what Wray Schelin uses, and it seems to work well for me. As he said in a metalmeet post:
    I have tried Dykem, and many other highlighters. The best by far is a Magnum Magic marker. These are monster sized markers.

    When I wrote that original article about taking dents out at that time I used a file to skate across the metal to highlight the highs and lows. I no longer use a file. I use stickit 220 or 150 sandpaper on a 6 inch round by3/8” thick disc of baltic birch plywood. For large low crown panels I use a 2.5” wide x 16” piece of 3/8” aluminum with a boardfile 150 or 220 stickit paper.

7/5/2005: Subscribe to the Site!

If you would like to subscribe to automatically be notified when a new entry is posted on this site, you have several options.

Since this site publishes an RSS Feed, you can subscribe to it using any RSS Aggregator or blog reader.

Some RSS readers you can install on your PC include

You can also use a web-based RSS aggregator like Bloglines (this is my favorite, since i don’t have to install any new software to use it)

In addition, i’ve just greated a Yahoo Group (mailing list) that you can subscribe to to get an announcement whenever I post a new entry. I also welcome any general questions or discussion on that list. You can subscribe to it here:

6/28/2005: Half-a-Car Comes Home

As I’ve mentioned before, many years ago my father got a parts car and stored it in our barn. The deal included a number of new or rebuilt parts, many of which I will be using in this restoration.

However, the requirement was that we also take the car itself, which had basically rusted itself in half over the years of being left outside, unprotected. In order to haul it home, my dad cut it the rest of the way in half, and so it has been stored in two halves in the barn ever since.

I decided to bring the front half of the car to my house so that I could get a better look at it and see if it could contribute any sheetmetal to the repair of the front of my car.

My mom and I loaded it into the back of my truck. It barely fit, but i couldn’t close the tailgate behind it, so folks driving behind me would have seen the dashboard and steering wheel apparently hanging off the back of a pickup. I imagine that was a fairly surprising sight :)

After getting it home and not dropping it on I-84, I decided that I needed some sort of a dolly to load it on, so that I could easily move it around my garage without assistance and without scraping up my garage floor.

I screwed together a few 2x4s and some scrap wood I had laying around and bought 4 caster wheels and bolted them on. The result worked out to be almost the same height as the back of my truck (by luck more than design), and I was able to slide the car off the back of the truck and onto this dolly by myself. I figured “Hey, what’s the worst that can happen? I drop it on the driveway? So what?”

It worked out great! After bolting the body down to it so it won’t slide off, I can easily roll the thing around with one hand, in and out of the garage.

Here’s what by garage now looks like. I’ve christened serial number 40912 Eric the Half-a-Car :)

Even if it wasn’t half a car, it would still be beyond saving. The rust throughout the inner structural parts is amazing, once you look closely. The wiring is terrifying, having been spliced and hacked on for years.

But it’s still useful to me, for reference, for a number of little parts, and to confirm what’s “normal” for a fiat 1500 cabriolet tipo 118K.

Unfortunately the front sheetmetal isn’t perfect.. It looked pretty good until I stripped off some paint- there’s some prior damage and a fair amount of filler in the nose area and under the headlight on one side. But some areas are definitely in better shape than on my car, so it may still provide some pieces, or at least templates.

6/4/2005: Bodywork Plans

You know, it annoys me when people don’t post any updates to their sites for months at a time, and here I go doing it myself! I have no real excuse, either..

The main reason I haven’t put any posts together is that i haven’t done anything particularly photogenic in a while.

I have mostly been doing research and planning (and buying parts). Let me review where things stand now:

  • The car has been disassembled, and I believe i’ve identified all the major areas work that will need to be done.
  • Rocker panels (structural and outer) replaced.
  • The replacement front subframe is ready to be assembled, and will then be stored until the body work is complete.
  • All of the engine ancillaries have either been rebuilt or will be replaced.
  • I’ve been buying new and used parts from a variety of sources as they turn up.. I’ve got parts from all over the country and all over the world. In some cases i have 2 or more of a given part, and will choose the best ones when I get to that part of the car.

Although there are some more mechanical parts i can finish up work on (such as completing the suspension reassembly and restoring a few more engine bits), i’ve decided to switch focus for a while to the bodywork. Getting the body shell into shape will get me closer to being able to start putting pieces back onto the car, which I think will a real relief.

There is quite a bit of body repair that will be needed on this car. At this point, the rust is not widespread. There are a few small spots that will need to be patched, but mainly the rust is only in the floor.

Before I worry about the rust though, i would like to fix the larger dents. This car was in an accident (or two) back before my father got it, probably in the 70s or early 80s. The worst damage is to the front of the car:

These panels are badly damaged enough that they will need to be replaced. I have access to a few parts cars, or can attempt to fabricate new panels if necessary.

The back of the car also has some damage, and will require replacement of the rear panel between the bumper and trunk lip to meet my standards.

My goal is to metalfinish the car to the point where a less than 1/16 inch of filler is required to get everything smooth. While it is possible, given enough time and skill, to get the car to the point of needing little or no filler, i’ve decided that a small amount of filler is going to be acceptable to me. When these cars were originally made, pininfarina used a lot lead and some filler in them, so i don’t need to knock myself out trying to get it better than original.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year or so researching welding, panel forming, and dent repair. One of the best resources has been the forum at metalmeet.com. It’s full of tutorials and expert advice, and i read it daily now.

I also attended a 3-day class tought by Wray Schelin and Dutch Comstock, two of the main personalities on the site. This was really really helpful in helping me to really understand how to make metal move the way it needed to move, and foremost in helping me to not be afraid to bang on a piece of sheetmetal. It’s remarkably forgiving, if you know how. Anything you can do can be reversed using the right techniques.

I’ll be covering my first attempts at dent repair on the car in the a future article.

1/16/2005: A New Year, a Little Progress

I’m sorry I haven’t posted an update in a while.

Cold temperatures, family obligations, and various other real-life distractions have kept me occupied. And inertia is also a big factor.

I find it’s really important for me to make myself go down there and do _something_ every day, even if it’s just straightening up.

Here’s a short list of things I’ve done recently..

  • painted disc brake shields, wheel hubs
  • cleaned, wire brushed, and painted the oil condenser
  • Took off the turn signal assembly
  • started to clean the wiring harness. relabeled and checked everything against the wiring diagrams.
  • painted the water pump pulley and clutch with rust encapsulator and under-hood black
  • had the pulley pressed onto the NOS water pump I bought on ebay (from portugal!).
  • Reassembled the fan clutch, with a new brush, replated hardware, etc.

At the moment I’m cleaning up the fan, so I can assemble the water pump completely and set it aside. I’m also going to assemble the front suspension, now that everything’s painted, so I can store that as well.

1/16/2005: Water Pump Finished

As I mentioned a while back, I am replacing the water pump on my car with a NOS one I purchased on ebay. The pump came “bare” and needed to have the pulley from one of my other pumps pressed onto it.

Here’s the result:

I’m pretty happy with how it came out. It took me a few tries to get the fan to look good. I ended up sanding it with 320, 400, 600, 1000, and 2000 grit sandpaper to take out the scratches. At each level, I would sand (wet) in straight lines, in both directions.

Then I buffed it very lightly with a string wheel and plastic polish on my bench grinder. Pushing too hard on this soft plastic can very easily melt it, and I did have to redo a few spots until I got the right feel for it.

My overall goal wasn’t to make this fan translucent or extremely shiny, just to remove the deep scratches and make it look clean. I think it came out well.

The metal parts were re-plated, and came out pretty looking decent. The plater left a protective coating on the parts that gave them a slightly powdery appearance. On large parts like these rings, I found that a very light application of metal polish takes that off and shines them up. (Hopefully without taking any of the cadmium off)

You can see some pitting on the outer ring.. I probably could have prepared that part better before plating, but it’s fine.

When I originally disassembled these water pumps I used an air chisel with a blunt tip to losen the large nut on the end of the pulley. While this works fine, it does damage the nut slightly. For reassembling it, I decided to try to make a wrench to fit it.

I got this idea from Kerry Chesbro’s site. It appears that ferrari used an identical nut to hold on the steering wheel hub. Kerry ground down a regular socket to make something that would fit:

I liked the idea, so I made my own. I used a cut-off wheel on my grinder and my dremel. It took a bit of trial and error, but what I found worked best was to use the original points on the 6-point socket as centering marks for the 6 tabs that needed to be left. So here’s my final socket.. it worked great.

If anyone would like to borrow it, just drop me an email and i’ll send it to you.

The next projects on my agenda are to finish up cleaning the wiring harness and reassembling the new front suspension.

12/18/2004: Reference Info

I’ve added a new page to the reference section of this site, a collection of Informational Articles on Other Sites. This is a list of reference articles I’ve found elsewhere on the internet, broken down by topic.

This list should be a good complement to my existing list of Restoration Projects on Other Sites.

Both lists are updated ocntinuously as I find new stuff. Right now it’s just a list of links, imported over from my bookmarks. I will be working on the organization and adding descriptions to the links in the future.

12/08/2004: Steering wheel

Bought a steering wheel puller and took off the steering wheel hub today.


I got nothing meaningful accomplished today, but I took two photographs that lined up so well that I couldn’t resist.

12/05/2004: Painted Brake Rotor

As I mentioned last time, I’ve got one good brake rotor and two good hubs (with new bearings).

I painted the brake rotor and one hub in satin black with VHT high-temperature paint, being careful to mask off all the machined sufaces.

I cured the paint in the oven, and it looks good. (well, as good as an old rusty rotor can be expected to look ;-)

All reassembed (with anti-seize so I can get it apart again in the future!). Now I just need to find another one for the other side of the car..

12/02/2004: Suspension, Brakes

Over the last month or so, i’ve been reassembling the new subframe for my car.

Some time ago, I put together a page of photos and diagrams of the front suspension for reference. This has been quite useful in determining what colors to paint things and how to reassemble all the parts. Here’s a link for the curious.

These cars use an unusual suspension arrangement involving the use of ‘Spider Trunnions’ instead of modern ball joints. There are two trunnions on each side of the car, at the ends of the upper and lower control arms. Shafts on the steering knuckle (essentially a kingpin) slot into the trunnions. The trunnions have greased bushings that allow the steering knuckles to turn up left and right, and have threads that allow them to swivel in the other direction, so the suspension can move up and down. The picture at the right shows the top trunnion on an assembled suspension, for reference.

Here’s what the trunnion looks like disassembled:

Each end cap is threaded on the inside and the outside. The outer thread screws into threaded openings in the control arms. These are tightened down and do not move. the inner thread engages the threaded shafts on the trunnion, and are lubricated so that the trunnion can rotate along that axis. The two rubber boots are just to help keep the threads greased and keep the dirt off them. Note that although there is a grease fitting on only one side, there’s an internal passage all the way through to the other side, with an opening to the center bushing to lubricate the steering knuckle shaft.

Installing these things is a trick, since you’re simultaneously engaging two sets of threads. In one case (the top one on the right side), I think perhaps the control arm was slightly bent, such that the two sets of threads weren’t in sync completely. It was very hard to get the thing together, but eventually I did get it on. In general, you want to get one side tightened until it just starts to engage, then start the other side, then tighten both a little at a time. I added some loctite on the outer threads to try to keep them from loosening up.

Bottom Trunnion
Top Trunnion

Once tightened down, the rubber boots get pinched against the trunnion bodies, and everything seems quite tight. I think once the car is on the road though, things will break in and start to move more easily.

Note that the trunnion end caps were silver cad plated and the control arms and other suspension is painted with POR-15.

I also test-fit one of the steering knuckles:

I can’t finish putting it together until I get some replacement rubber parts. The old ones I had, while unused, had dried out and gotten hard. While I wait for those to come in from europe, I started to work on the brake rotors.

I have a total of 6 rotors. 2 on the car now, the 2 blue ones that were originally on this subframe, and 2 other old rusty ones. I wanted to get two of them turned down to remove some of the rust pitting and go with those, but before I could do that, state law here requires that they not be turned below the minimum thickness as defined by the manufacturer. Normally, this is stamped into the rotor itself, but FIAT didn’t do that, which made things complicated. It also turns out that no minimum thickness was documented in either of the service manuals I had (the 118H and the 118K one), or anywhere else I could find.

I asked about this on the fiatcabrios list, and nobody knew for sure either. Ron Horowitz had a sedan rotor though, and measured it at .375”, and felt that the cabrio ones were probably the same. The (probably conservative) spec from fiat is that they can be turned .020” under, which means I should shoot for .350”.

I took my two thickest ones to a local shop and had them turned. One of them cleaned up pretty well and came in right at .350”. The one on the right is really no good though- as you can see, it would be necessary to take even more material off to clean it up, and it’s already thinner than I want.

All the others I have are thinner than .350”, so I am currently looking for another decent used rotor. Unfortunately new ones are VERY hard to come from, and the rotors appear to be unique to the 1500 cabriolet, which means it’s unlikely that they’re being widely reproduced.

If necessary, Chris Obert can supply them as a special order item, but they don’t come cheap. So i’m hoping to find a used one in comparable condition that I can work with. I’m not willing to put an unsafe brake rotor on my car, that’s for sure. It’s not worth risking your life to save a few bucks!

I’ve done some googling around, and so far i haven’t found any sources for this rotor (or even one close enough to it to adapt), but i’m sure it can be done if I get really desperate. Unfortunately, FIAT used a different size center hole on these cars than on any of the later cars (which almost all use identical rotors)

The blue discs, while too thin to use, had brand new bearings and races in them, so i’ve separated the hubs from the discs and will be mixing and matching the best of each. I probably should have done this before I had the rotors turned, but oh well..

Separating the rotor from the hub is pretty hard.. What worked best for me was to first clean up any rust and buildup around where the hub comes through the face of the rotor with a 3M surface conditioning disc. Then I screwed in 4 lug bolts and placed the bottom of the rotor surface on a pair of 2x4s to support it. I hammered on the 4 bolts (going corner to corner) until it started to move, then switched to hammering against a wood block placed on the center section until it came apart. I separated 3 of the 4 ones I had (which weren’t on the car) this way. On the last one (the rough one pictured above), the bolt that holds the rotor to the hub was starting to round off, so I decided to just leave it.

I removed the bearing seals from all the hubs and cleaned the bearings in paint thinner. I’ll repack ones from the blue hubs (which appear to be brand new) and install them once the hub and rotor are painted and reassembled.

For paint, i’m planning to use a high-temperature matte black paint. I think originally, these would have been bare (rusty) metal, but I think black will probably look better. I’ll do the calipers in a cast iron colored paint later.