1 2 3 4
LMGill New Reader
4/14/17 1:14 a.m.

New work. So, as I worked on the "refreshing the engine, things where going pretty well.

The body is being painted and Enrique, the painter, is invested in the project, and seems like a true "Craftsman" who wants to do his best. So even though I worked on the body, to a level I thought was acceptable, he worked over it some more. Now, all that is needed is to color sand it, and it comes home to be assembled! So back to prepping parts for assembly.

The original MiniLite wheels got stripped, and we found a Burgundy that matches the original wheel color. So they where powder coated in this, then I set them in my lathe and cleaned off the rim, then they would get cleared, giving them a shiny aluminum rim against the burgundy center.

Turns out my powder coat guy had not a clue. He didn't preheat the rim to off-gas them, so they bubbled. Then tried to BS me about not being able to clear coat them because there where finger prints on the burgundy centers. Had no clue of chemistry or how to clean the surface, then the clear came out blistered. I finally said, just give them to me, and I'll fix them.

Girling AR 1 Brake Calipers: These little buggers are expensive now. At least all 4 of mine seem in serviceable shape, and after some cleaning and disassembly, they seem fine. Master cylinders were not so lucky. I had purchased new rebuild kits for them, but upon disassembly, they where very corroded. I think they where in a bucket that got filled with water....oops.

Well, that was easy, Pegasus Motorsports has brand new, original Girling master cylinders. Well, you can always use the rebuild kits at some point,...right?

Thought it wise to buy new fuel pumps. The old Bendix ones could be OK, but while at the track, I'd hate find out I was wrong. I can find Facet pumps. Bendix must have sold the design to Facet, because it's nearly the identical pump. But, I figured, they should at least look like the Bendix ones. So, a little time on Corel- Draw, and I made new Bendix labels. Strip off the Fact label, add a little blue paint t the top of the pump, and Bam, Bendix fuel pumps.

After all the trouble with the gearbox, I need to do some simple less stressful work on the car. I know, I'll clean the stainless trim pieces for the exterior. When my brother was originally going to have the car media blasted, he chose to tape over the trim, instead of removing it. Well, now, I have 12 year old masking tape "welded" to the trim pieces. Turns out, if you soak old, crusty, fossilized, paper masking tape in "Purple Power" cleaner for 2 days, it falls right off. ("Goo off" didn't do either, goo or off)

Hmm, what else can I prep? I know the wink mirror needs to be checked. There is a new one in the box, lets see if it needs anything. "Oh, no, this won't work." The old mirror is 31" long and the new one is 36". The mounting brackets are welded into the car. The freshly painted car..... Well, no problem, I'll search the internet and find the correct one.

Turns out, there are none like this. I couldn't even find a picture of one like this! First, they all are different lengths and have square ends, so each of the five mirrors are the same. Mine is 31" long, and the two end mirrors are tapered. But, after looking at the way it was made, the original mirror was 2 nested thermo-formed pieces of ABS plastic. I can do that. So a few hours at my shop, I made an MDF wood pattern, put it on my thermo-form machine (Vacuum former) and made a new mirror. A few pieces of glass mirror later (Quite a few and some swearing) I had a new, exact copy of the original "Wink Mirror".

Now, next week, I travel to Phoenix and learn how to drive cars faster!

LMGill New Reader
4/27/17 12:34 a.m.

Well, I graduated from my class at Bondurant. I highly recommend the school for anyone who wants to improve their driving skills. When I returned, the Fiat was color sanded and ready for reassembly. Here is the progress over the last 4 days.

Here is a Link to the latest blog post on the car.

Also, anyone with a 128 transmission, I'm looking to buy one.

ssswitch Dork
4/27/17 8:25 a.m.

Looks gorgeous. I love the homemade Wink mirror as welll.

TED_fiestaHP Reader
4/27/17 11:10 a.m.

128 transmission; Post on the Xweb forum, E-bay, and maybe call Bayless Midwest.

I found 2 on E-bay. But I am sure there some out there.

Burrito Dork
4/27/17 11:49 a.m.

I have a good used 4 speed out of our '74 sedan that could use a new home. Located in Vancouver, WA. Shoot me a PM if you are interested and we can discuss price and shipping options.

LMGill New Reader
5/30/17 12:18 a.m.

Car is coming together. Testing should be only a couple of weeks away. I received an official acceptance letter from the Lime Rock Historics and my entry is confirmed. So baring any unforeseen circumstances, the Fiat 128ski will make it's debut at Lime Rock in September.

Left front

However, progress has been slow the last few weeks. I did manage to check off a number of things, like machining the new swing arm pins and rebuilding the Girling brakes. But... The company who was plating the suspension, made everything bright chrome, not satin chrome as they had said they would. When asked how this could be rectified, he said he could nickle plate it, brush it then lacquer it so it wouldn't tarnish. I told him no, this is for corrosion protection and I need satin or matte chrome, I don't want lacquer chipping off and the nickle tarnishing. A few days later, he showed me a sample of a brushed finish in his dimly lit office and I said OK. Once I got the pieces home, and next to the original parts that have been waiting for shocks, in order to get plated, I realized he did what I asked him not to do. He nickle plated them and added a lacquer. By the time I discovered this, pieces had already been assembled. In order to correct this, all the pieces would need to be stripped and replated and I can't wait another 3 weeks for this to get done.

Right rear

When I got the dampeners back I had asked the shop not to assemble them into the strut housings, as I had to plate them. But they did anyway, so I needed to take them apart. I wanted to bring the struts right to the plating shop, however my custom spanner wrench was at home. "Well, I guess tomorrow will be OK." Turns out, the home made spanner is inadequate to remove the glam nuts. So I ordered a proper spanner wrench and now I'm delayed two days in getting the last of my suppression parts to the plater. Once I did get them apart, I picked up the strut tubes to put them in a box, and a spacer fell out of the strut. Did these guys cut the shocks down? I thought I told them to nix that idea and leave them the original length? Turns out, the new dampener seals are 1.125" shorter than the originals. I had wanted to shorten the housings in the beginning by 1.250" and decided against it. So, instead of calling me, and letting me know they shortened my shocks, by nearly the amount I had originally asked for, they just made spacers and screwed them together. Since I really don't need, or want spacers below the dampeners, I need to shorten the strut tubes. Using my cold saw, I cut out most of the spacers my dad had welded in when the dampeners originally came from Koni, too long, and TIG welded the strut tubes back together. This will give me more space for shock travel and I may at some point change the top mountings and return them to my dad's original design. But I really need to get it together and test things before I run out of time. After I cut and re-welded the housings I ran them over to the plater Thursday last. The plater says, next week, so I gave him the whole week. Friday afternoon I go in, he says they will be done by 3:30-4. OK. I come back at 4:30 and...."Oh, my machine broke....my guys left early..." BULL E36 M3! Not only has this guy not done the work he promised, but he has been late every time I go to pick up. I had planned on using this 3 day weekend to do final assembly on the suspension.

My mother has been friends with one of the co-inventors of the HANS device, and I got a surprise phone call from Jim Downing, asking how big my neck was. I figured out pretty quickly my mom was behind this and Jim assured me "It is a gift from your mother". I have to thank Jim as well, since I'm pretty sure he sent this to me at no charge to my mom.

I did ask him to sign it, normally I don't ask for autographs at least not since I was a kid. Especially in my work, it's considered bad form to ask movie professionals for their autograph, but, how often to you get such a device, right from the inventor. I tested it in the car and I think I'll need to loose the original head pad my dad had made for the car. I will consider a new one of the same design, but much thinner.

New fuel cell arrived from ATL. I had planned to keep the cell exactly as it was originally, since this was a very early ATL fuel cell, from 1973, only 3 years from when the company was founded. But, the stock modern cell was about $480 and they quoted me $1600 for a custom one to match the original. So, the 128ski get s a modern "Saver-Cell". The cell is 3/4" taller, but a tube spacer was all that was needed and it dropped into the original metal box.

I ordered Tires from Tirerack, because they offer a heat cycling service. I was going to go with SASCO sports for tires, but without the heat cycling service this would totally wreck my first test day. These should be here next week so if all goes well, I may have the car on it wheels by next weekend.

I did source a spare, stock 128 transmission, many thanks to Burrito, as the racing gears won't be done for some time. This will allow me to test the car and I should be able to run it in this configuration if the racing gears are delayed beyond my Lime Rock event. For this temporary solution, I need a stock pressure plate, since the racing flywheel is getting plasma sprayed and also won't be back for a couple of weeks. If I'm lucky, I can assemble the gearbox and engine and put that in as well this weekend.

Then all that is left is the intake manifold repair, windshield install, leaf spring from a 128 wagon and a couple of trim pieces for the drivers side and door panels.

I was going to leave it till the car was fired up, but since I am running out of things I can work on till other parts arrive, I installed the original Fiat Emblem in the hood. It's supposed to be chrome, but so was the suspensions, plus, the car and I are both heading for our golden years.....

LMGill New Reader
7/6/17 8:52 p.m.

Progress has been a little slower than I'd hoped, but things are moving along. Still on schedule for Lime Rock on Labor Day. I Welded up the broken manifold, re machined it and got it re coated with Teflon. It looks good as new. Carbs installed on Saturday last with plans to fire it up.

I was planning to test this Friday at Willow springs, but, in trying to start the car on Saturday, I had trouble with the ignition. The custom, one-off Accel system is not sending a signal to the coil. So, I've sourced a stand in Bosch unit from Matt at Midwest Bayless and will install it this weekend. If all goes well, I'll be at Willow Springs next Friday. You can see the "giant" Accel "Chrysler dragster" distributor in the lower right of the above photo. If anyone knows of a place who could restore the original Accel ignition system, I would love to refit the original system at some point.

My brother is still trying to find the cars original log book, but he did turn up some pictures of the car in the original build progress at LM Gill welding. I'm guessing sometime around 1975 or 76.

By to look of the car, I think this was close to the time it was sent to Charlie Rainville for flares and paint. Originally I remembered the car was purchased in 75' or 76', but we also found the bill of sale and the car was bought in November of 73'. So the car was only a year or so old when the old man bought it.

coexist New Reader
7/7/17 7:16 p.m.

This has got to be one of the most unique builds here. One of a kind vintage high end race car gear along with unusual modern fabrication, very impressive. It's great you have the vision to bring it back.

LMGill New Reader
7/7/17 8:20 p.m.

In reply to coexist:

Thanks, but if I understand correctly what you mean by "Modern", as in today/ 21st century, there is no modern fabrication. All that is being restored is being restored to the same manner and as close to the original spec. in which the car was originally built in the 1970's.

coexist New Reader
7/8/17 12:30 a.m.

Well, maybe your right, vacuum forming your own Wink mirror is not actually "modern" :)

LMGill New Reader
7/8/17 8:40 a.m.
coexist wrote: Well, maybe your right, vacuum forming your own Wink mirror is not actually "modern" :)

Correct. In looking at the commercially produced original, (circa 1974) this is how it had been made. Two vacuum formed profiles, one glued into the other. Original material was also ABS.

Slippery SuperDork
7/8/17 9:44 a.m.

What an amazing thread, not sure how I missed it.

I skimmed through most of it but will go back and read it throughly as well as check your blog. Excellent work and I love how you are trying to keep it as close to period correct as possible.

LMGill New Reader
7/9/17 11:36 p.m.

Thanks. I'm bummed the original Accel distributor is not working. I have managed to rebuild, restore, repair just about everything else. Did some more tuning to the car today and it runs up to 8000 pretty nice. Once the titanium flywheel is back in, I'm sure it will be revving a bit quicker. The other bummer is the Kelsey-Hays brake bias valve is leaking. As a result, brakes are well...not brakes. More like "slows". I rebuilt it, but apparently not correctly. I have ordered a modern replacement from Summit, but it would be so much better to have the original in place. I can't believe they are getting $400 - $600 for these originals on eBay.

TED_fiestaHP Reader
7/10/17 6:32 a.m.

Your using the rear leaf spring? I know your attempting to keep it as it was originally, but you could run coils on the rear and eliminate the rear leaf spring. Do you know the spring rate for the front springs? Also what are you doing for a sway bar... Being front drive, you only want a sway bar at the rear.

TED_fiestaHP Reader
7/10/17 6:41 a.m.

Looking forward to seeing your 128 at Lime Rock, progress on mine has become really slow. Few other distractions. Check the schedule, I think just after the Lime Rock event there is a vintage event at Watkins Glen. The Glen would be a great track to run this car, I just got back from running my Honda CRX there. I am not looking to enter the Lime Rock event, but I am going to try and drive the Maserati to the event. Of course right now it won't start, but I think that will be a easy fix.

Joseph New Reader
7/10/17 2:04 p.m.
LMGill wrote: Still on schedule for Lime Rock on Labor Day.

Can't wait to see it in person.

LMGill New Reader
7/11/17 9:04 p.m.

In reply to TED_fiestaHP:

The car still has the leaf spring, since SCCA rules at the time did not allow for the coil over in the rear. I did source a leaf from a 128 wagon, which has 3 leaves and is stiffer than the stock SL spring. Back in 75' my dad had the stock 128sl spring flattened and a 3rd leaf added, then had them all Teflon coated. But, in flattening out the spring, I think it severely changed the rate because of less curve, and even with the third leaf, the spring was way too weak. So my dad fitted the stock 128 spring and added extensions onto the end mounts to keep the cars ride height correct. The car didn't handle poorly, but it never had any serious development time, so this is all new territory for this car. The frame is really stiff, so as I understand, spring rate could be considerably less than on a car with more chassis flex.

The front springs originally were 174 lb/ inch and nearly stock. These were adjusted all the way up, so as with the rear, I think they were too weak. I have changed them to 300 lb/ inch, since anything more would be a huge change and I was concerned about front / rear balance without a much stiffer spring in the rear. The "no front sway bar on a front wheel drive car" is new to me. As you can see in the photos there are sway bars running through the steel tube frame/ chassis front and rear. These are custom made from 4130 steel, with 12 point splined ends. The arms have 3 adjustment points. As I said earlier, this car never had a comprehensive development program, as just about the time my dad solved some of the technical issues, he developed cancer and never got the car back on the track. I plan to go up to Willow Springs this Friday and test the car. I'm not sure what I'll get accomplished, as I'm going to be there by myself, as my helpers are not available Friday. But, I hope to at least get in some laps and make sure the car is drivable, even if not optimized.

coexist New Reader
7/11/17 9:56 p.m.

The idea for no sway bar on the front comes from the desire to let the front inside (drive) wheel stay on the ground in a turn. The inside rear wheel can come off the ground since it's so unweighted it's not doing much anyway. So the front stiffness is controlled by the springs only, and the rear can be a mixture of springs and sway bar.

Your 67 Alfa came without a rear sway bar, for the same reason: let the rear inside (drive) wheel stay on the ground, while the inside front can come off.

TED_fiestaHP Reader
7/12/17 10:16 a.m.

Correct the goal is to keep the driven wheels on the ground. You can also contact Bob Clark at Pegasus, he also has one of these. On mine I will have something similar to what I used to run on the Fiesta, front springs in the 400 pound range and rear in the 200 pound range. No front sway bar, but will have a rear sway bar. Since I am building a vintage racer I may have to rethink the rear coil spring idea, if the rules back then didn't allow rear coil conversion. Also the 400 pound springs were being used with slicks in production class, vintage type tires might be better off with something a tad softer. One nice thing about the idea of converting to the rear coils at least I would know the spring rate. With the leaf who know what the rate is... I think Bob's car has rear coil springs? I think one method of lowering the rear was to add a spacer block onto the leaf spring, near the center where it mounts to the body. I have not done that yet, so I can't provide more details... The stiff front springs help to reduce body roll at the front, without lifting a wheel, a sway bar will lift the inside wheel. A front drive car is also driven differently, brake in a straight line, then as soon as you turn in, start giving it gas. The front wheels pull it thru the turn...

LMGill New Reader
7/12/17 7:10 p.m.

How does chassis stiffness effect this? It seems that if the chassis is extremely stiff the lifting of the inside wheel would be minimal.

TED_fiestaHP Reader
7/12/17 7:20 p.m.

As the car starts to lean in the turn the inside front tire will naturally get light, a front sway bar will just help to lift the inner front wheel and you will have wheel spin. With front drive you get the roll resistance from the rear. Done right the inside rear wheel will sometimes lift, but you won't feel it. As soon as you turn in give it gas and power thru the turn. If you lift in a turn it will rotate very quick... Once you get the idea of front drive you can throttle steer, lift just a little and let it rotate and get back on the gas and it will pull and stop rotating. Great in the rain....

LMGill New Reader
8/13/17 10:56 p.m.

Tested the car at Willow Springs, was running rich. Seemed to be bad spark, adjusted distributor/ coil stuff and it improved, but still no guts. Would clear up at 6800-7200 rpm, but still sick. After a couple of laps, called it a day and packed up. After some deducing of events, realized new Facet pumps were 8 psi...DellOrtos need 3.5. It was clear the floats were getting "overwhelmed" with petrol. Summit racing order arrived, and with the fuel pressure regulator installed, it seems to have cleared up the problem. We will know this Friday. Got back my gears from Colotti and spent the weekend rebuilding the racing gearbox and installing the newly Tungsten carbide plasma sprayed Titanium flywheel and Colotti box. The learning curve on keeping those shifting forks in the correct location on assembly was steeper than desired, but it all seems good now.

Trailer has been properly outfitted with memorabilia from the 60's & 70's New England region, SCCA races. If all goes well, I'll be on the road to Lime Rock in a week and a half and will manage to get in a test day at Lime Rock before the event. It looks like an old friend, Tommy Ciconne, (Among many other things, Tommy drove a Ford Escort with PLN) is flying out to drive back with me, it will be nice to catch up. Hope to see some folks there.

pizzaman1 New Reader
8/17/17 9:43 a.m.

My compliments to you and your late dad , I was born in Italy

Mezzanine Dork
8/17/17 10:26 a.m.

Did you replace the flywheel bolts? This motor has a weird propensity to shear flywheel bolts from what I've learned in the X1/9 circles. Not sure if the issue is as common in a front wheel drive application or not.

Keep up the good work - I can't wait to see some video of the car on the move!

LMGill New Reader
12/15/17 9:53 p.m.

I realized I never followed up on the results of the Lime Rock 60th anniversary Historics.

Well, turns out, the 128ski had modified MGB racing valves from British Layland special projects. It seems with the Alfa valve train the stock Alfa valves were not long enough, so MGB valves were utilized. But, for some reason an extra groove was machined into the tip of the valve, perhaps to accommodate the 8mm Alfa lash caps. It was not a good choice. On my last test day at Willow springs, the car was still running poorly. Thinking it was still a fuel issue I limped around the track figuring I'd have to trouble shoot the issue. But on turn 8, the Colotti gearbox made those awful noises you really don't want to hear. 

In short, the cast aluminum lip that retains the bearing on the main shaft, broke out and the shaft and bearing dropped into the bell housing. Oops...

Well given that I had just rebuilt the gearbox with the new gear from Colotti, I was a little upset. However, once I got the car home and checked compression, I realized I was not having a fuel issue. I was having a valve or ring issue. With the cam box off I discovered the problem. That little groove had fractured and the top of the valve stem, lash cap and all had broken off and was banging around on top of the retainer. Another valve had broken, but the tip and the cap were still stuck in place on top of the valve stem. Once I got the whole thing apart, I realized the transmission breaking saved me from sucking a valve into the cylinder and  Grfking the block. For, if the gearbox had not broken, I likely would have run the engine longer trying to figure out the lack of power issue and the retainer would have failed and "chunk", my block would had suffered.

Well I only had a week before I needed to leave for Lime Rock, so I scrambled to fix the valve. This is when I fond out that they weren't Alfa valves, but MGB valves. That had been modified and were using custom made 3.4mm tall lash caps. I tried to find another head, but there was too little time and to much unknown about what other things may have been custom made. When this car was set up in the mid 70's, there was no easy way of sourcing parts, so because he could, my dad just custom made what he needed. Never thinking that 40 years later, I'd have no idea what custom work had been done.

So, given the historic races are 25% racing and 75% socializing, I decided to go anyway and show off the car and see old friends.

Plus, we had already arranged air travel for my Mother, who ran registration at Lime Rock for may years and at 87, likely would not be abe to attend Lime Rocks 65th anniversary.

The event was fun, it was disappointing to not race, but it was nice to see old friends. Here is a photo from the Concourse (of course, the only day it rained) with myself and my mother with the 128ski. (Many thanks to Rick Roso for having this picture taken, as well as all of his hospitality)

Midwest Bayless is currently restoring the head with custom made valves, so hopefully I'll have on the track in January.


1 2 3 4

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners