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3/16/17 12:12 p.m.

I'm new here and was surprised by the number of Fiat projects. My father and I built a Fiat 128 sl for SCCA racing between 1975- 1978. After 40 years, I'm rebuilding it for Historic racing. I grew up around sports car racing in the 60's & 70's going to races on the east coast. Lime Rock was our "home track" although we spent a lot of time at Bryar, Thompson, Sebring and Road Atlanta for the run offs. My dads business was aerospace welding and machining and he owned a company in Manchester Connecticut. (He sold it in 1978, but LM Gil welding is still in operation) My dad, Ralph Gilman decided to build a Fiat 128 sl into a C sedan in 1975 because Fiat didn't support racing here in the US and he liked a challenge. The reason for the "Fiat 128 ski" is he was Polish and thought it was funny he would pick an Italian car. (How the whole Poles verses Italians got started I do not know) But he was a very early member of the PRDA (Polish Racing Drivers of America) as Oscar Koveleski is a long time friend of the family. (If you don't know the history of the PRDA, you should look it up, it's pretty funny) The car was very advanced for the time and it was a shame he died of cancer before he really got to race it. He had help from a number of well seasoned professionals in the New England area and I'm chronicling the car and it's restoration on my blog. I though I would post some elements here, but to avoid "too much information" I thought I would leave the more detailed information on the blog, which can be found here: http://diligentdwarves.blogspot.com/

Here is a shot of the Fiat at a Drivers school at Lime Rock in 1977.

Some of the modifications are quite extreme, but where within the rules of SCCA at the time. Now of course you can do all sorts of things to GT-Lites cars, that where not allowed in 1977. Dad helped guys like Roger Penske, Group 44, Bob Sharp with things over the years, so when it came time to build his car he understood a lot about car set up and how to read between the rules and take advantage of things in between the regulations. Something Rodger Penske and Mark Donahue where experts at. The car has 180 feet TIG welded of "roll cage" / chassis, with all of the suspension mounting points having been moved up 3". The engine was lowered 2", giving the car a very low cg. All of the rubber was removed from the suspension and replace with spherical bearings and rod ends. The McPherson coil overs where modified to have adjustable spring seats and Koni made one of a kind strut inserts, since at the time no one made competition inserts for these cars. ACCEL made a one off electronic custom distributor for it as well. Other things include a titanium flywheel, Teflon coated pistons and intake manifold. Dry sump oil, Afla Romero valve train, Girling AR brake calipers on 11" discs (In 13" wheels), custom stainless headers and exhaust, Drive shafts with flame sprayed ceramic seal surfaces so the rubber boots wouldn't wear grooves on the drive shaft and allow oil to escape. Aircraft fasteners where used though out the car. Again, many of these things are not unusual now, but in the 1970's even the top teams like Penske didn't do. Here are a couple of shots of the car as it is today. Media blasted and getting readied for paint.

This is the front suspension. It was industrial chromed and after 40 years of not ideal storage, it needs some love.

The plan is to have it completed by this summer and it will be at the 60th anniversary Lime Rock Historic event in September, the first track this car saw, 40 years ago.

RossD UltimaDork
3/16/17 12:56 p.m.

Welcome! Nice car and story.

Smoke New Reader
3/16/17 1:06 p.m.

Great post. Anymore pics of it from back in the day?

Joseph New Reader
3/16/17 3:50 p.m.

Awesome. I have one of the 128 sedan build threads and am also located in CT. I'll be up at Lime Rock Historics (spectating) and hope to see you there. If you ever need a hand in the meantime please let me know.....I'd love to take a closer look at a proper race prepped Fiat.

XLR99 Dork
3/16/17 4:39 p.m.

I went to a lot of LimeRock races in the 70s/80s with my dad; I forwarded the pic of the car to him. He used to own a 128SL, so it's pretty likely he took pics of it if we were watching a race your dad ran.

Dusterbd13 PowerDork
3/16/17 5:31 p.m.

Do not be afraid of information overload here. We are sponges for E36 M3 like this.

Hell, copy and paste the whole blog. Well enjoy it and discuss until you are sick of talking about it. Then we'll talk to each other about it some more.

Especially the bleeding edge 70s race car tech. Most of which someone will be inspired by for a challenge car (like me).

Pushrod New Reader
3/16/17 7:17 p.m.

Burrito should be making a special guest appearance in 3, 2, 1...

JThw8 UltimaDork
3/16/17 7:26 p.m.

128 SL was my first Fiat, I loved that little car, loads of fun!

adam525i New Reader
3/16/17 8:19 p.m.

Just read your blog posts, really neat to see all of the work you and your Dad put into this.


LMGill New Reader
3/16/17 9:14 p.m.
adam525i wrote: Just read your blog posts, really neat to see all of the work you and your Dad put into this. Adam


LMGill New Reader
3/16/17 9:15 p.m.
XLR99 wrote: I went to a lot of LimeRock races in the 70s/80s with my dad; I forwarded the pic of the car to him. He used to own a 128SL, so it's pretty likely he took pics of it if we were watching a race your dad ran.

That's great. Ask him if he knew Ralph or Peg Gilman

LMGill New Reader
3/16/17 9:17 p.m.
Joseph wrote: Awesome. I have one of the 128 sedan build threads and am also located in CT. I'll be up at Lime Rock Historics (spectating) and hope to see you there. If you ever need a hand in the meantime please let me know.....I'd love to take a closer look at a proper race prepped Fiat.

Fantastic. I'm no longer in CT., but if you find your self in LA CA, let me know. I look forward to giving you a tour of the car in September.

3/17/17 5:37 p.m.

Looking forward to this build. I spent a lot of time at those tracks from 1979 to 1984. Being a poor college kid at the time I autocrossed a Fiat 124 Spider with 1600cc engine, but traveled with B+B Racing which ran a Fiat 128SL all over the east coast. They owned a garage in Mt. Tabor, NJ and in between normal auto repair they also specialized in building Fiat race engines. That was back when Kim Baker was running X 1/9's before he moved up to Corvettes. Lots of other north Jersey folks ran X 1/9's at the time. Later on B +B moved up to a 124 Spider in the 1990's I'm confused about the C class designation. My memory might be fuzzy but I was pretty sure we ran the car in G class with a 1158cc engine, which was at the lower end of the class, that allowed up to 1300cc,. Is CS a current class?

LMGill New Reader
3/17/17 7:56 p.m.

In reply to FalconChas:

I do not know the year it changed, but in 1960's to sometime after 1978, C Sedan was 1300cc D sedan was 1100 cc which was the lowest. C sedan became GT5 now GT lites.

LMGill New Reader
3/20/17 6:37 p.m.
Smoke wrote: Great post. Anymore pics of it from back in the day?

I think this is either Bryar or the end of No name straight at Lime Rock Here's the old man waiting for tech inspection at Lime Rock 1977 or 78.

Here's the motors bottom end with it's 5/16" girdle plate and o-ring seal.

Smoke New Reader
3/20/17 10:19 p.m.

That is a good lookin car. I think I may have to switch from Datsun to Fiat.

Mezzanine Dork
3/21/17 1:03 p.m.

Good lord. This is one amazing 128.

The vintage photos are especially excellent - don't hold back any of those!

Can you share any more details on the engine?

LMGill New Reader
3/21/17 7:53 p.m.

Well the car is off to paint, so I have a little break, be careful what you wish for....

BTW, the reason for this being known as the Fiat 128ski, is my dad was Polish and one of the machinists at his shop, modified the car emblem for him.

The engine is a stock block, but has been machined on a Jig Bore to 4 decimal places, with custom made bearing blocks and a heat treated girdle plate. O-ring seal channels where machined into the girdle plate as well as the bottom of the block. The pistons are competition pistons, but I do not know the source. They have been Teflon coated and use Toyota competition rods, since Fiat rods of sufficient quality where not readily available at the time. The cams are Isky, custom made, with Alfa sodium filled valves. I know there was extensive work done to the head but I do not remember the details. All of the pulleys are custom, again, nothing was available at the time. New engine mounts, all aircraft hardware through out where applicable. Even the pipe from the water pump was custom made from stainless. Bottom & upper engine mounts. Custom aluminum oil pan.

As I said earlier, ACCEL made a custom electronic distributor. The SCCA rules stated any distributor, including electronic, could be used, as long as there was no modification to the engine block and drive. Well in 1976 pointless ignitions where fairly new, and the only 4 cylinder one available was for a VW bug. So ACCEL took one for a Chrysler dragster, made a custom 4 cylinder shutter plate and machined the body to fit the block, along with matching the drive shaft to the stock Fiat distributor. We also added a dry sump oil pump I believe sourced from a Formula Ford.

Along with a custom made anodized aluminum oil tank. The radiator overflow tank is from my Volvo 144.

Feeding the engine where two 40mm Webers originally (I think left over from the old man's Alfa), but at some point in development 45mm DeLortos where substituted. These side drafts necessitated a custom balance box/ filter and new manifold. The aluminum manifold was polished, then Teflon coated. Bendix aircraft fuel pumps and fuel filter, made sure fuel was picked up from either corner of the ATL fuel cel. ATL was started in 1970 and the bladder in this car is from 73'.

The exhaust system was another case of nothing readily available, so dad made one from stainless. Along with a titanium heat shield. The power was transferred to the Colotti 5 Speed Straight gear, box via a Formula Ford clutch and a titanium flywheel. My father was concerned about wear on the titanium flywheel, so he had the contact surface for the clutch flame sprayed with tungsten carbide. The drive shafts are again, custom made in 4130 and the areas the transaxel boot rubs on has been flame sprayed with ceramic. This was done because Al Cosintino said the reason the transaxel on his cars would blow oil, was, over time, the seal wore a slight grove in the driveshafts. The idea of oil running down the underside of the car did not please the old man, so a ceramic surface would end that type of leak. The CV joints where originally Fiat, but Italian steel was notorious for being soft, but try as we might, no performance CV joints could be sourced and making these was within my dads shops capabilities, but they would be very expensive to make. So the stock Fiat hubs would do. That is until they failed at the end of "No name straight" at Lime Rock, leaving my dad with no brakes at the right hander. We think, the Girling AR brakes had so much stopping power, that the hubs couldn't handle the load and twisted, one and a half splines, causing the discs to wobble and blow all the brake fluid out of the calipers. So this was now a serious problem, since other solutions had turned up dead ends. But one day, helping my oldest brother with his 914, dad noticed the rear CV joints on the Porsche, where nearly identical, just larger in diameter, and high quality German steel. So with some modifications, we had a solution with the Porsche CV joints.

During the cars last test at Bryar in 1978, Tommy Ciccone was test driving. (Tommy has raced a number of cars over the years and at one time was Paul Newman's teammate with a IMSA Ford Escort) At some point there was a clutch issue, which made it difficult to get in or out of gear. This is an issue I think my father figured out, but the cars notebook and log book are lost among my brothers things. Hopefully he will find them soon. Strapping Tommy in.

Me waiting for Tommy and Dad to figure out why the car is having gearbox/ clutch issues.

Most of these components posted are as they where from years of storage. Most of them I have rebuilt or at least cleaned up. The carburetors have been rebuilt, the engine has very few hours on it and looks very clean, since it was stored with oil, so I think once it's flushed, it is good to go. I have to decide if I want to keep the clutch / pressure plate and flywheel as they are. I may upgrade these with a unit from Midwest / Bayless to minimize potential issues, just in case my dad had not completely solved the issue that plagued us at Bryar. My middle brother ran this in the mid 80's up in Alaska and didn't have any issue getting it in or out of gear, but he destroyed the clutch. So I have to think on this.

Well I guess that's enough for now, thanks for looking,


jr02518 Reader
3/21/17 8:44 p.m.

As an additional resource you could try John Edwards at Costa Mesa R&D Automotive Machine Shop. John speaks Fiat.

BrokenYugo MegaDork
3/21/17 9:06 p.m.

Carbide faced titanium flywheel, wow, talk about no expense spared.

LMGill New Reader
3/24/17 8:06 p.m.

Well, it was not quite that, given he owned a aerospace welding machine shop. Many of the things he did, he could do because that was his normal day to day job. Your ordering titanium for a job, you get a little extra. The flame spray guys get a big job from you, "Sure, we'll do that extra piece for your race car."

Question for the hive mind: I need rebuild kits for Girling AR1 calipers and perhaps same for a Cosworth SA0071 sump pump. As well as a plumbing diagram of the inlets outlets on the pump. Google turned up nothing. (My brother took this apart and I'm not sure what hose goes where to what.)

Here's how you stuff 11" brakes into 13" wheels.

I Pressed out the front bearings and I forgot that along with Porsche 914 CV joints, he used 914 hubs and bearings. I had forgotten that, but of course it makes sense. All the suspension components are off to the hard chrome guys to be rechromed in a satin finish. I had to make sure he understood, it's not a low rider and I don't want the parts polished and reflective.

Here is a shot of the motors bottom end main caps.

This is what I started with, after 15 years of neglect.

Here is what I sent to the paint shop. (The trunk was a bit more finished)

Mezzanine Dork
3/26/17 1:40 p.m.

This car is so incredible. I can't get enough of the photos! Have any more detail shots of the cage and body before it went to the shop?

LMGill New Reader
3/26/17 6:20 p.m.
Mezzanine wrote: This car is so incredible. I can't get enough of the photos! Have any more detail shots of the cage and body before it went to the shop?

Here are a few more Interior, drivers side. The cage runs along the entire sil area and has a piece of sheet metal welded between the frame and the unibody sil all the way around the cabin. It's also tied in at the "A" posts.

This is from the driver side wheel arch, showing the radius arm mounts, which is a custom sub-assembly, welded into the frame. The 4 Allen screws hold in aircraft spherical bearing. Most of the factory spot welded areas have been fully TIGed.

Looking the other way, the control arms mount into their own custom sub-assembly, which is a box section construction with a diagonal brace inside, then there are two frame tubed that extend through the floor and are welded to the tube frame that surrounds the passenger compartment.

Looking towards the firewall, engine mount in the foreground left, duel master cylinder mount on the far side, which is mounted to the front sway bar mounting tube. Just to the left of this, is the new rear engine mount, also welded to the sway bar tube. The mount has been lowered about 2" from the original mount, seen "caped off" just above. The shock towers are I think 1/8 steel with a 3/16" top plate. All of this was built in-place, since the rules did not allow a separate frame to be made with body panels added after.

A more straight on veiw of the engine compartment, where you can see the extra sheet metal installed above the control arm sub assembly, to tie everything into the stock unibody. On the far right, welded to the uprights, are mounting tabs and studs for the oil tank.

The rear suspension was also raised into the car and had reinforcing tubes added to the rear swing arm mounts, as well as tube to tie the entire assembly into the "cage".

Thanks for being interested in this project. There were many racing people in the day who took a keen interest in this car and what my father was doing. I'm a bit sad he didn't get the chance to enjoy the work he put in to it.

I was just up at Willow Springs today and saw some of the new Trans Am cars, and Wow, it is incredible what is being done now, really beautiful work.

It would be so easy (easier, in fact) to add new components to this car, but I'm trying very hard to restore this just as we built it 40 years ago. If my driving skills are adequate, I hope to see if the times this car can do are competitive with other C-Sedans.

Well off to do some more work on the engine.


fiataccompli New Reader
3/27/17 8:11 a.m.

love it! looking forward to reading more as it comes together. Great project on so many levels.

kmead None
3/27/17 6:27 p.m.

Great rebuild with an excellent provenance. Looking forward to seeing more as you move through the restoration.

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