Thursday, March 16, 2017

Part 4: Ready for Paint

Since my posts on this project started about a month or so after I started working on the car, my writing has finally caught up to the project. Now I have to be more disciplined in keeping my posts current.
The bodywork and repairs are finished and it looks like the Fiat is ready for a new coat of Imron white. This will give me some time to work on the rest of the bits, so they are ready to go back on when she comes back from paint. There are limited number of test days at the local track and the one in May I need to be ready for.

Newly made fiberglass hood with new stiffeners on the underside
and original machined aluminum air vent grills.
In addition to body work one of my tasks is a new hood (bonnet). After a rules change in 1977, we needed to lighten the car, so the stock steel hood was replaced with a lighter fiberglass one. The original fiberglass hood was pretty sad looking, but I had the mold and it looked pretty good. I have done a lot more fiberglass (FRP) work in the 40 years since, so I was sure I could make a slightly better one than I did when I was 16. The trunk lid was also a fiberglass replacement, it to is in sad shape, but I don't know what happened to that mold. For now I'll use an original Fiat trunk lid and perhaps make a fiberglass replacement in the future.
The problem with the original FRP hood, was it had no structural reinforcement on the under side like sheet metal hoods do. This wasn't a factor when the car was not moving, but at speed, air pressure was bowing the hood up slightly. To add stiffness, I made a template for this reinforce structure that needed to avoid areas that might interfere with components in the engine bay. This template was used to cut 1/2" rigid polyurethane foam, then the foam piece was fiberglassed into the back side of the hood. I also had quick release hood mount pins and 2 machined aluminum grills to fit into the finished hood. Back when we first decided to make a lighter FRP hood, dad and I felt the air vents in the hood would be more successful in aluminum, since reproducing those in fiberglass was beyond my abilities at the time. I removed the vents from the original hood and carefully glassed them into the new hood.

A Stock Fiat 128 sl coupe chassis
As I have said previously, the car is no longer "stock" and it has many modifications But, as I have gone over the car I am amazed at the places my old man got into to TIG weld the roll cage and suspension reinforcements. I'm now about the same age he was when he built this, and with the few difficult places I have had to weld in, rust repair sections, I have trouble imagining how he could have welded some of the places he did. Also, the amount of welding! I have been tempted to measure the total footage of welding on the car, but it would take too long. Here are some images of the things I'm referring to.
The same area of the Fiat 128 ski
Pedal area with the slightly lowered floor.
The two tubes coming through the floor
tie into the control arm mounting assembly.
  Front control arm mounts in a "not stock"
sub assembly, tied into the roll cage.
Custom radius rod brackets, now with
spherical bearings. (removed)
Engine mount (on left) moved down and
duel master cylinder mounting bracket.
Reinforced chassis member  and new
 shock towers, all tied into the tube frame.
Rear suspension mounts again,
all reinforced and raised into the car.
Opening for the ATL Fuel Cell.

After addressing the rust repair, I need to make sure that anything that requires heat, hammering or welding is done now, while the car is bare. With all these modifications, one of these areas I've need to focus on is making sure all of the threaded insets or studs are not damaged. Some I've masked, others I can run a tap into to clean up any residue. Luckily there seems to be no rust damage to any of the mountings.
The last issue I have issue, is I am taller and have bigger feet than my dad. So, I tested out my seating position one more time and have decided I need more room for my feet. The clutch pedal is pretty close to the down tube of the cage/ frame but, I can make that work. But it forces my left foot too close to the brake pedal and I don't need to get my feet tangled finding the brake.  I am hesitant to start cutting pedal brackets on the original set up. Dad did this to get the pedals where they are now, and I'd like to preserve his work here. I internet search shows me Midwest Bayless to the rescue! A complete pedal box & clutch, brake pedal unit is $69.00. I've ordered one and use it to make my re-positioned pedals, keeping the original, well, original.
Pedals still need to be moved back,
but now my feet don't hit the box.
Then there is the sheet metal floor. The passenger side is the stock sheet metal, that just gets painted. After two trips to/ from Alaska on the Al-Can highway, with the Fiat filled with spare parts and belongings, the floor took a pounding and looked like a topographical map of Finland.  Using my hydraulic lift and a custom aluminum "planishing plate" I heated the floor with a rosebud torch and with the plate pressed up from below, planished the dents down to a map of Nebraska. Some small wrinkles, but at least flat. On the drivers side, there was a rusted section that needed to be replaced where water had pooled under the drivers seat. But on this side, most of the Fiat's floor would be covered. In addition to the seat, there was a 16 gauge titanium "skid plate" under the seat and the foot well had a bare aluminum "scuff plate". Dad knew getting in and out of the car would eventually damage the paint here, so the bare aluminum could get scuffed up and still look OK, while offering a little more protection to the drivers feet in case of an "off track" excursion. But with my big size 12 feet, I needed a little more clearance for my toes, as they where hitting the steering linkage and the pedal box. I decided to planish this side flat as well and push the floor down a half inch in the process.
Now my feet have the room.  Off to paint and on to suspension restoration.

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