11/25/2008: Gas Tank Sealed

Several weeks ago, I sent a gas tank off to Gas Tank Renu’s Albany Location. It arrived back today.. It wasn’t cheap, and it’s not exactly pretty, but it’s guaranteed for life to never fail. And together with the stainless fuel line that I had bent up (along with the brake lines) by Classic Tube, there’s just nothing that can rust and crud up my carburetor in the future.

The Renu process involves cutting holes in the tank to access all of its nooks and crannies, sandblasting it inside and out to remove all rust, and then sealing it, inside and out, with a brushed on PVC coating, which is baked on. This sandwiches the metal in a thick plastic coating, which has a lumpy and bumpy appearance.

In the case of this tank, the guy at the renu shop told me that something like 5 holes had to be cut out to get at all its sections. While he was in there, he also knocked out a number of dents, restoring the tank to its original shape. He also replaced a fuel sender stud that i’d snapped off and freed up the drain plug, which someone had soldered shut at some point in the past.

I am sure that this tank will last forever now, though I do wish it were smoother looking. Oh well- it’s a good trade-off.

While I’m thinking about it, I decided to work out a few other related parts, like the fuel sender, gasket, and hoses. I actually have several fuel tank senders, and need to pick one out..

From left to right..

  • my original sender. It’s pretty much rusted out.
  • Another used sender from one of my gas tanks. It’s identical to the original one, but has a plastic float instead of cork.
  • A NOS replacement. Cork float as original, but the electrical connections are spade instead of bullet connectors.
  • Current replacement. Not exactly as original, outlet comes out at a different angle and the float is flipped around.

I think I will use the cool NOS one, but I do need to do some research on how the shellac on cork floats hold up with modern gas formulations.

I’m also getting new hoses for the fuel filler and vent lines. For the vent line, I am using 5/8” (16.0 mm) SAE30R7 fuel line (Gates part# 27008).

The filler hose is more challenging. It’s 50mm, which is between 1 7/8 and 2 inches. 2 inch hose is kind of loose, so I’m trying to find the right metric stuff.

6/1/2008: Leaf Springs

As I mentioned in the previous post, I needed to have the bushings pressed out of the leaf spring brackets to mount the rotisserie there, so I decided to go ahead and have the bushings pressed out of the leaf springs as well.

I opened the phone book and found a local shop that specializes in springs, Super Spring & Brake Co., Inc. They pushed out all the bushings in a few minutes for me. It pays to find the experts. These sorts of specialty shops can be hard to find.. they’re rarely on the internet, and often only have cryptic phone book listings, relying a lot on word of mouth. But they’re worth looking for!

The old rear bushings came out clean enough to read the original part number:

U 497a / RIV - Made In Italy

The front ones are harder to make out, but I think I could probably do it.

I asked for the shop’s opinion of the springs. They said that since there was no real rust putting where the leaves overlap or on the sides, that it wasn’t necessary to disassemble them for complete inspection at this time. So i’ll just clean and paint them, and if the car rides too low, we’ll deal with it then.

Also once the car was on its side, I was able to get the rear shocks and swaybar loose. The swaybar was particularly tricky, since it uses steel bolts through aluminum brackets, into blind captured nuts buried in a box section of the car. If you snap those off, it’s a real pain in the neck to repair them.

Two of the four bolts came out easy.. the other two were extremely corroded in place. With a lot of coaxing, heat, and penetrating oil, I got one of them out. The other one snapped off (at the bolt end, not where it goes into the body.

Fortunately, once the other 3 bolts were out, I was able to turn the whole bracket around 360 degrees and unthread it from the body. Then I took the bracket to a vise and drove out the jammed bolt remains. Victory! These bolts will all be replaced anyway- the main thing was to not damage the hidden captured nuts they thread into.

6/1/2008: Mounting the Body to the Rotisserie

I’ve always known that I’d like to get the car on a rotisserie so that the underside can be thoroughly cleaned and painted and to make repairs easier.

I’ve been looking for a good deal on one, and last summer I came across one for sale locally on craigslist. It’s a heavy duty model 4000 pound model from Accessible Systems. It’s made of thick steel, and the only thing wrong with it when I got it was surface rust. I sanded it down and painted it in rustoleum at that time. I also cleaned up the hydraulic ram cylinders (which were rusty and pitted from being left outside) at that time. They still work fine, and can be replaced easily if they start leaking.

So for the last year this thing has been taking up a big section of my garage. After I found that the floor repair was dragging on because I was dreading working under the car, I finally decided to get moving with getting the car mounted on the rotiserie.

Some time back, a fellow member of the fiatcabrios mailing list, David Nicholson, had posted these pictures of how his car was mounted to a rotisserie.

I copied his basic design for my car, since it looked perfect.

The first step was to remove the front and rear suspension from my car, so that it was just a bare body shell. Several weeks ago, I went around loosening, oiling, and re-tightening all the subframe and rear suspension bolts, so I knew there would be no major problems when the time came.

So it was a simple task to remove them when I went to drop out the front subframe for real.

First step was to remove disconnect the tie rods and center steering arm. Pickle fork plus BFH.

Then I jacked the car as high as I could, and supported the body on jackstands placed under the body, rather than the subframe. I loosened all the bolts, leaving a few in the back until I could get the front 4 bolts completely loose.

Two of them were stuck in their sleeves where they pass through the subframe in the front corner of the car. I hammered on them a little with no luck, so I decided to just cut off that end of the subframe with a sawzall. It was no good anyway. After doing this, i removed the remaining bolts and lowered the subframe out of the car and onto a furniture dolly. I was able to slide it out sideways with no problems.

I think it’s obvious why this subframe is being replaced!

Once the subframe was out, I had no problem getting those remaining two bolts (and bit of subframe) off the car with a little assistence from an air chisel.

The next step was to remove the rear end. I first disconnected the shocks and sway bar from the axle (leaving them connected to the body, since they’d be easier to remove later)

I unbolted all the nuts and bolts on the front and rear leaf spring brackets, and planned to just lower the axle down on a jack. Well, no luck. It easily came down in the rear, but it turns out that the front brackets are not only bolted to the body with 4 bolts, but also welded, for some reason. I don’t know why the bolts are even there.

So, change of plans. I had to remove the large bolts (through the spring eyes and these brackets instead. One came out pretty simply with the impact wrench. The other.. did not. It was seized to the inner steel sleeve of the bushing, and once the rubber tore, it would just spin all day, but never move. I had no choice but to break out the sawzall again and cut the bolt off.

Once that was done, the rear end came out easily:

Here are the brackets I made to hang the car. The front brackets are 3/16” wall thickness 2x2 tubing, welded to 1/4” plates with bolt holes. These bolt around a larger piece of 3x3x1/8” tubing, with 3/16” plates on both ends, drilled to match the subframe bolt pattern. (I used my new subframe as a template, so this was easy to prepare in advance).

I had them welded by a local welding shop (Standard Welding) because I didn’t trust my 110v MIG welder on such thick metal. (with good reason.. even with flux core wire, it has a lot of trouble penetrating more than 1/8”)

The rear brackets go under the rear valance of the car and connect to the leaf spring shackle mounts. I had the bushings pressed out of these mounts and then bought some 1 inch steel sleeves at a local hardware store, and cut them to size. I used 2x2x1/8” tubing to make a simple right angle piece. Since this material was thinner, I welded it myself. So far the car hasn’t fallen off the rotisserie, so I guess it penetrated ok.

Rear Bracket
Rear Brackets on Car

As everyone always warns you, it’s critical to brace the door openings on a convertible. My door braces are thick angle iron welded to plates that fit the original mounting holes for the upper hinge and striker plate. I didn’t bother reinforcing from one side of the car to the other, the way David did. I didn’t happen to have a long enough piece of steel around, and I felt that it was strong enough without it. Maybe I was wrong :)

Here’s the car on the rotisserie:

Normally, you should try to balance the car so that it will stay in any position it’s left in without being locked in place.

I couldn’t completely balance because of the relative height of the rear brackets (which go underneath the valance) and the front ones (which are at grille height). The rotisserie lets you adjust the center rotation relative to the mounting point, but still I was at its limit in both directions and the car still isn’t balanced enough to stay where it’s positioned if you let go of it.

I suppose next time I’d make the rear brackets with two more pieces so that they go back up before connecting to the rotisserie, but I think that’s more complexity than I need.

I was able to get it balanced well enough that it’s not particularly unstable, and since due to my low ceilinged garage, I also can’t rotate the car completely over anyway, it’s perfectly fine.

I opted to rotate it as far as I can, and then use a safety chain so there’s no way it can fall, regardless.

5/31/2008: Floor Repair, Part 3

The rear corner of the driveshaft tunnel was pretty rusty, and once I started looking closer, I found it was paper-thin and perforated by rust in spots. I decided to patch it, which required pretty extensive surgery. Here’s the sequence of events (done very slowly over the last few months, mostly because working on my back on the floor really is no fun.. more on that in the next post.)


I’m very happy with the results. It should be stronger and certainly looks pretty good (not that anyone will ever see it once the floors are in!)

1/6/2008: Metalwork 10: A new year, and still more rust repair..

This entry will focus on the repair of the rust spot at the bottom. I actually did this work gradually, during the period from August to early January, but decided to save it for one post.

Looks minor, but once I started looking, I found that there was a larger area where rust was developing, and a large dent. I kept cutting until the metal was nice and solid.

There is an inner and an outer layer to this area of the car. This inner layer patch was made in two pieces, and as you can see, both have to have complex twists. It was very challenging to make, and took me about 3 attempts to get right.

Once I got it to fit, it was tacked and butt-welded into place:

This panel was shaped on my english wheel, using a the “go cart slick” technique to form the curve from top to bottom. This works by using a rubber wheel to press the metal down against the curved lower anvil, imparting that curve to the panel. This is different from the normal usage of an english wheel, where your goal is to sandwich the panel between two hard metal wheels and squeeze it to thin and stretch the metal, which adds shape.

Using the soft upper wheel causes the panel to bend (in arrangement), rather than being squeezed and changing the surface area (shape) of the panel.

The result is somewhat like a slip roll, but you can put a side-to-side bend into a panel of any length, as long as you can move the panel back and forth in parallel straight lines.

The curved lip for the edge was formed using the tipping wheel i’ve described before, and then fine adjusted the curviture by tweaking that lip with my shrinker-stretcher.

The lip at the bottom was bent on a small benchtop sheet metal brake.

It took many hours to fine tune the patch and the opening in the car, to get a perfect fit and butt-weld it into place:

The inner and outer layers don’t contact each other completely, so a small patch was needed to fill the gap:

Just a little more grinding to do, and a small hole that needs to be filled, and then I can finally call this patch “done”.

1/6/2008: Floor Repair, Part 2

In preparation for the new floor panel, I had to repair a rusty area of the crossmember the floor attaches to:

I cut out the bottom few inches, and then flanged the edge with a flanging tool.

I punched holes in the new patch I made, then clamped it in place.

I then tacked and then both plug welded and welded the seam, to make sure this thing is good and strong.

Well, to be honest, I did it twice. The first time I welded this on, I screwed up and it ended up crooked, and the plug welds weren’t as strong as I wanted. I cut it off and re-did the welds, with larger holes and a hotter welder setting. Worked a lot better this time- you can see that the plug welds got good penetration through the panel underneath:

I ground down the welds, and it’s pretty invisible now. Not that it matters much, since this is all covered by both a rubber mat and the front seat.

I’ll re-drill the hole for the seat adjuster once I have the seat rails in place, for positioning reference.

I also need to seam seal and paint the inside of the cross member before closing it up with the new floor panel.

12/12/2007: New Brake Lines

The brake lines on this car are not exactly an off the shelf item, and they aren’t very easy to duplicate. A mixture of double-flare and bubble flare, metric and SAE threads are found throughout the car, since the braking system is made of a combination of fiat and girling pieces.

About a month ago, I sent all of the brake and fuel lines from my car to Classic Tube to be duplicated in stainless steel.

They arrived recently, and look great. I’ve laid them out next to the originals to double-check the bends, and so far everything looks great. I’ll post pictures once I start to install them on the subframe and the car.

12/5/2007: Exhaust Manifold Done

I had broken off two studs on the exhaust manifold when I originally took it off the car. A few months ago, it was sent out to a machinist to have those drilled out and the gasket surfaces levelled.

I then brought it to a local company, Central Connectict Coatings, for ceramic coating in a “cast iron gray” color. It looks pretty nice now!

Nothing can be done about the rust pitting, of course, but at least now it should stay this color instead of rusting again. And this type of coating also helps control under-hood heat.

For reference, the new studs I matched up with the originals I had were Dorman part 675-332.. 40 mm long: “A” thread 21mm long, “B” thread 10mm long, shoulder length 9mm. Anything in this general ballpark should work.

I also had them powder coat the front exhaust pipe (a NOS ANSA part I’d bought on ebay a while back) in a satin silver color. This isn’t the same sort of ceramic coating, but still it should last longer than paint.

I also bought the rest of the exhaust system from Theo, and the rubber hangers and bushings from other vendors.

At this point, I have the whole exhaust system basically ready to install, once the car is ready for it. Until then, it’s living in a spare bedroom in my house!

I am still looking for a few parts, but I don’t expect them to be that hard to come up with. Specifically, part 4130153 (the clamp that goes between the front pipe and the bracket on the transmission) and 9 of 4112294, a little washer sort of thing that goes on the rubber exhaust mounts. If anyone reading this has any of these around, let me know.

12/5/2007: Driveshaft Done

Picking up the story of the driveshaft, which I removed 4 years ago!

I cleaned it up by wire brushing and cleaning with naval jelly. I painted the pices in Eastwood’s “rust encapsulator” and “extreme chassic black”. This new ‘extreme’ paint formulation is supposed to be more durable than their regular chassis paint, but it is very important to spray thin coats, 24 hours apart. If you put too much paint on at once, it will take at least a week to fully dry. I found that one out the hard way..

I installed a new carrier bearing and holder. These are the same as used on a 124, so widely available from any supplier. I got mine up the street at Fun Imported.

Then I went to change out the u-joints and made a mistake. I pressed one of the u-joints too far, and it popped through. I tried to push it back the other way, and managed to put a deep groove into the yoke. Real deep. Like, “ruined driveshaft” deep..

So, after cutting out the u-joint to hide my shame, I took it and my only spare driveshaft to a real driveshaft shop (Overland Driveshaft Service) and asked them to clean up my mess.

The simplest fix was to take the back shaft from my other driveshaft and replace its u-joints, then balance it as an assembly with my original front shaft, since I’d already put the new carrier bearing on it.

I then re-painted the other driveshaft half, and it almost looks like I didn’t screw up:

As you can see, I also replaced the flex disc (“Giubo”) with a new old stock pirelli part, exactly like the one that came in the car. It seems to be of much higher quality than an aftermarket one I had bought from a european supplier some time ago. I decided to not use that one because it had some fine cracks and just looked cheaply made.

I also found a proper set of bolts (3 long ones for the transmission side, and 3 shorter ones for the driveshaft side) on one of my spare transmissions. I cleaned them up and had them, along with the other driveshaft bolts, re-plated in zinc.

Here’s the new carrier bearing, replated bolts, and new u-joint:

7/29/2007: Battery Box 2

I had originally planned on repairing the existing battery box, making a new bottom for it and patching the side that was most rusted.

However, a while back I came across a brand new replacement box in a batch of parts I purchased. So I decided to just use that instead.

To remove the old one, I bent up the edges and used a drill and air chisel to cut the spot welds:

Here’s the old and new box side by side:

You can see that there are some slight differences, but it’s close enough to be well worth using.

I had to fabricate a small patch to replace one rusted area that the box attached to:

I’ll weld the new box in after I finish a few other things on the car.

7/24/2007: Floor Repair, Part 1

I’ve known for a while that I would need to replace some portions of the floor of my car. Most of the rust damage was under the seats, and was rust from the top down. Undercoating protected the bottom quite well, but standing water from a leaky top must have slowly done a job on the top surface of the floor.

I cut out the piece I wanted to replace in several stages over about a week:

Seat Rails Removed
A hole!

Here you can see why I had to cut across the fronts of the seat rails, rather than drilling out the spot welds attaching them to the crossmmeber:

Strangely enough, they spot welded these rails on the inside, so they can’t be easily cut off without taking much more of the car apart.

In my case, the seat rails were in need of repair anyway, so I plan on just making new ones later. I took lots of measurements before I cut the old ones out.

You can also see that the bottom of that cross member is pretty rusty and thin- I’ll need to patch that.

At this point you may wonder why I cut that section out- it doesn’t really look that bad! Well, if you look closer, you may be able to see how thin the metal was through much of this section:

Since this is expected to keep my butt off the road, I’d rather make sure it’s solid now!

Making a perfect replacement for this panel is a beyond what I can do with the tools I have. Therefore, I have sent the original panel out to a shop that will hopefully do this for me. I’ll probably have both sides made, since they are mirror images.

I’ll post more later, once I hear back from them. If this works out, the same shop will be able to make more of this panel for anyone who needs one.

4/1/2007: Metalwork 9: Progress

So just to recap..

The back of my car had a large, but difficult to photograph, dent.

got a rear clip from a parts car
but the bottom was full of bondo and fiberglass
so I spliced together the bottom of my original panel with the top of the other..
initial fitting

So, in April, I finished welding in the large panel on the back of the car:

Painted inner panel
Clamping it in Place
Seams tacked every inch or so
Welds Finished and Ground

I found that the flexible-edge 2” sanding discs available through mcmaster carr do a very nice job on grinding these welds.

I also finished this patch on the side of the car. I’d been working off and on on this one for quite a while.

I decided to do this patch because there was a crease that went along the side of the car, through this area near the wheel. I couldn’t adequately straighten it, because it was impossible to get good access behind it.

cut out damaged area
hand-formed patch

The patch was first shaped on a beater bag with a plastic mallet. I then fine-tuned the shape and put the crease in by hammering on a post dolly in a vise. I used the post dolly and a slapper to planish out all the low spots and get the thing pretty smooth.

I got to a certain point with it where it was very close, but not quite perfect. The patch was sitting a little too flat on the car at the wheel edge, and the crease was slightly off center on the bottom, not matching up with the body line as well as I would like.

I put the patch aside for several months, and then took another stab at it. Before starting over, I decided to see if I could fix the patch I’d formed initially. I used a new tool, a bead roller equipped with a tipping wheel attachment. The bead roller is a harbor freight unit I reinforced for strength, and the tipping wheel attachment came from Hoosier Pattern. (they sell them on ebay).

A Tipping Wheel
A tipping wheel is designed for putting a curved bend into a panel. It’s basically a steel wheel with a somewhat sharp edge, kind of like a large pizza cutter, that is pressed into a plastic lower wheel with a groove in it. As the top wheel pushes the metal into the groove, it forms a “V”. You can steer the panel as you go through the roller to make this line curve.

By running this over the body line on the patch a few times, and working it some more on the post dolly, it was able to straighten the line into perfection.

The other problem, the patch being too flat in the vertical dimension, was solved by using a shrinker-stretcher to fine tune the flange that wraps into the wheel well. Once this was done, the patch fit perfect and I welded it in:

Hard to see now, huh?

1/28/2007: E-Brake Assembly

OK, yes, I know i’m posting this in August.. But still, I did do this in January, so i’m fudging the date a bit ;-)

After I put together the rear view mirror, I decided to reassemble the parking brake. The lever itself was rechromed last year, and everything else just needed to be painted.

Here’s a diagram of the assembly:

I had three of these to look at for reference, and all had black bodies and at least traces of a olive green color on the cover piece.

I could not find any standard color of spraypaint that was even close to that color though. I also looked at having automotive paint mixed up, but again, it’s very pricey.

I decided instead to go the cheap route. I took the original part to a local Sherwin Williams store and had them mix up some regular oil based paint in a matching color. This was then thinned and sprayed on:

I made a new gasket out of 3/32” sheet rubber from McMaster-Carr, part number 8610K83 (Weather-Resistant EPDM Rubber Sheet Plain Back, 3/32” Thk, 12” X 12”, 60A Durometer). This is a good match for the original thickness.

If anyone wants to have this paint made, here is the formula:

I had it mixed in a satin base, and I think that looked fine. You could probably also go with a semi-gloss.

12/29/2006: Reassembling The Lights

Over the last few days I’ve been assembling the front and rear lights. This turned out to be more of an ordeal than I expected.

In order to fill the pits in the original pieces, the chromers built up quite a bit of material (copper and chrome) on the pieces, which caused some things to not fit.

I had to re-tap many of the threads and very carefully hand file the areas where the bulb sockets fit onto the lights to get things to fit together. This took quite a while and was pretty nerve wracking, but it came out fine in the end.

I was able to reuse the chrome screws and some of the gaskets by picking through my collection of spare lights and finding presentable ones. The front light lens gaskets are new replacements.

The front lenses are presumably reproductions, but they have the original Carello markings (Some I’ve seen are missing these marks). I found these from an ebay seller in Italy.

I enlarged the screw holes slightly (drilled out to 1/8”) so that the screws slip through, rather than threading into the plastic. I’ve seen old ones snap here when you try to remove one of these screws, so I felt this was a good precaution to take. I don’t mind if it means the screws won’t stay in place when I take the lens off the car!

The rear lenses are reproductions I bought on ebay (from germany). They also have all the original markings, but are missing a piece of aluminum that was molded into the plastic of original ones. This metal piece seprated the top and bottom halves of the light, sealing the light from the bottom bulb from bleeding over to the top. This piece is missing from the reproduction, although a groove is present. I could cut some pieces of thin aluminum out and fit them into these grooves, but I think i’ll wait until the car is together and I can see whether the lights look acceptable without it first. I’d hate to crack the lens by mistake over something like this.

The rear reflectors are NOS fiat parts I found from a fiat parts supplier in the US. These are a nice find, because otherwise it is hard to find two that are the same color, due to fading over time.

I also found some reproduction taillight-to-body gaskets at Elvezio Esposito in Italy. They’re flat, unlike the original style, which completely enclosed the back of the light, but from the outside of the car they’ll look the same, and certainly better than a ratty old one would!

It’s really nice to see some shiny stuff come together like this. Now I’ll pack these away somewhere safe until the car is ready for them.

12/26/2006: Restoring the Rear-View Mirror

Back in June, while rear view mirror’s chrome frame was out to be restored, I went ahead and disassembled the rest of the mirror for cleaning and restoration. Over the last few months I’ve taken care of the various parts of it:

Aluminum Base

This piece had some oxidation on it, so I sanded it lightly with several grits of sandpaper. I then used a buffing wheel on my bench grinder with tripoli and white rouge to give it some shine. I may go back and polish it a little better at a later date to a better finish. I doubt these were ever particularly shiny from the factory though.

Outer shell

The black portion of the mirror shell really didn’t look that bad, but after cleaning it, I found little spots of rust starting to show through the paint. I considered trying to just topcoat it with some satin black spraypaint to cover them up, but ultimately decided to repaint it instead.

The original finish is a black “wrinkle paint”, so I did a little research into which brand was best. This type of paint is made by most paint manufacturers, including VHT, Krylon, Plasti-Kote, and Eastwood. I found plenty of recommendations for one or the other, and ultimately concluded that all the brands were probably good enough for this mirror, since it’s a small area so any unevenness in the finish wouldn’t be noticible. I decided to buy the first one I found, which turned out to be Krylon 3370 (Black Wrinkle Finish), available at my local NAPA.

I used regular “aircraft stripper” to remove the paint, then a wire wheel to remove the trace rust that was underneath it. I then used the dremel tool and polishing compound to shine up the brass rivets. I masked them with circles I punched out of masking tape and wrapped the swivel in tape, then painted the rest with wrinkle paint, following the directions closely. I also preheated the part in a 150 degree oven for a few minutes prior to the first coat, then cured the paint in the oven after the third coat. This causes the wrinkles to appear.

The result is not too bad. I got a a bit of a run in one area, but I don’t think it will show. Also, the texture is rougher than the original paint was. I don’t think it will be noticible to most people though, unless I give them a side by side picture like this:


The original mirror coating was flaking off, so I had two choices. I could have it resilvered, or I could have a replacement cut. Having a new mirror cut seemed like the most straightforward thing to do.

However, much like Tom, I found that the thin glass used in these older mirrors is hard to find. Several glass shops I visited said that they could no longer get it from their suppliers.

Finally though, someone at a local shop (J. A. White Glass Co.) suggested that I try a craft store. Sure enough, Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts carried 10 inch circles of glass in exactly the right thickness, for something like $6. White Glass then cut and beveled the edge of the mirror to match my original perfectly, for another $10 or so.


Everything fit back together fine. I used a little lithium grease on the moving parts.

Here’s the finished result!

9/3/2006: Bumper Assembly

Several weeks back, I received my chrome back from the platers.

For the most part I’m happy with the results- the bumpers look great, as do all of the steel parts.

The more heavily pitted pot metal parts had more mixed results. In some cases, too much detail was lost when they ground the parts down. In others, too much chrome/copper buildup made them difficult to reassemble.

But on the whole, I’m happy with the results. I can work with what I have, or can try again with those parts that did not come out acceptably.

I’ve started to put some of the chomed parts together, so that I can set the complete assemblies aside somewhere safe until the car is ready for them.

The first task was to put the front and rear bumpers together. Each is composed of three parts, a main bumper and two overriders.

The back sides of these parts were only lightly cleaned up before plating, so they are quite pitted and even a little rusty. I felt it was wise to paint them to prevent this rust from returning.

I wanted to use a rust preventative paint, and a silver topcoat. I initially thought about using silver POR-15 paint, but I ultimately chose to use Eastwood’s Rust Encapsulator instead. Like POR, it claims to work well on rough or surface-rusted surfaces and seal them completely. Unlike POR, it comes in spraycan form, doesn’t stink horribly, and is not sensitive to UV light. (POR-15 has to be top-coated or it will turn chalky if exposed to sunlight).

After a few coats of the Rust Encapsulator black paint, I topcoated with Reflective Aluminum spraypaint, also from Eastwood.

The results are obviously not chrome-like (the interior surfaces weren’t smooth or polished) but they’re at least silver and should be relatively well protected.

Assembling the overriders to the main bumpers was pretty straightforward. The only real challlenge was finding a replacement for the plastic edging between the two pieces.

The original material (on the left below) was a hard (but flexible) plastic. It turns out to be almost identical to plastic door edging, such as the “reduced size black” edging, available from Protekto.

I opted to switch to rubber instead. I figured it would be easier to fit and trim, and would look fine. I can always switch this later if it doesn’t work out. The rubber edging I ended up using came from McMaster-Carr. The part number was 8507K36 (neoprene rubber edge trim, 1/16” opening, 11/64” inside depth).

While I was at McMaster’s website, I also purchased a 6 inch length of rubber tubing, which I can cut into slices to make new bushings to fit between the bumpers and the body.

Here it is side by side with the original:

As you can see, the center hole is smaller, but it’s still larger than the bolt, so I may not have to enlarge it at all. We’ll see when it comes time to put the bumpers on the car.

The part number for this tubing was 8637K181 (neoprene spring rubber tubing, 1-3/8” OD, 3/8” ID, 75A durometer)

Chrome is hard to photograph, so I don’t have any pictures of the finished bumpers at the moment. It’s not that exciting anyway- they look like shiny bumpers.

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.

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.