Alfa update

March 22, 2008

It’s been some months since I posted on the progress of my Alfa build. There’s been a fair bit more welding – rear panel and inner/outer arches plus middle and outer sill on the offside in addition to those on the nearside since my last report. Although its been a touch expensive at least I know the car is 100% steel and the repairs should be good for many years to come.

One positive to come out of this was an opportunity to sort out once and for all the fit of the driver’s door – the gap between the bottom edge and the sill was always too big (around a half inch) and it didn’t sit too well with the b-pillar. Now we’ve replaced the outer sill properly, the fit is much better, and Pete (aka weld-o-man) took to opportunity to roll back some metal out of the rear wing and butt-weld the seam back up to get the b-pillar to door gap looking just right.

Meanwhile, I was tasked with stripping everything from the car. Seeing as I’m never going to have the car in this many pieces ever again (engine and gearbox out, pretty much the bottom 6″ of the car replaced) I’m going to take the whole lot back to metal and respray it inside and out. This means I’ve spent about 3 weekends stripping the whole interior, wiring loom, hydraulic lines, exhaust and all the trim off the car so it is now a bare shell. The photo shows the car halfway through this process (you can see the brake servos are still in).

The loom came out in one piece and looks in pretty good condition – I’ve managed to keep the stalks and the buttons attached so re-fitting it shouldn’t be that difficult. The hydraulic lines, however, were a complete nightmare and I resorted to cutting them in places – so much corrosion where the lines enter under-floor master cylinder that trying to unfasten the unions resulted in them turning to brown dust. As the lines were all steel, they could do with complete replacement with copper items which won’t rust.

I also took the opportunity to ask Pete to weld in some proper seat mounts – the existing arrangement consisted of bolting the buckets to universal Sparco mounts bought from Demon Tweeks, and then bolting these in turn onto the captive nuts (mounted on the floor pans) that held the old runners. After a quick personal fitting, with the seat roughly in place thanks to two antique blocks of wood (Pete’s main business is restoring old French furniture) he welded two hefty cross members (per side) between the inner sills and the transmission tunnel. The universal mounts now sit on these instead. Much safer in the event of an “off”.

So, although it looks like complete shit at the moment, the project is actually coming together nicely. With just wheels still attached so the shell is mobile, the next step is getting all the paint and old filler blasted off and then it’s ready for a fresh skim of P38, prime and a very neat paint job inside and out. Then comes the tedious job of a re-fit.

Meanwhile, batman is having a tinker with the engine side of things. He’s making noises about throttle bodies and re-using the actuator from the doner engine that can alter the cam timing with revs – a primitive form of variable valve timing – we could end up with an engine pushing near or even over 200 ponies at this rate. Now the car’s got some metal in it making it nice and stiff, this is shaping up to be one cheeky little track weapon.

Full photoset of latest progress here.

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Run out of rust luck

December 17, 2007

Extracting the rear screen from the GT revealed more than a few holes in the gutter where the seal fits – looks like water has been getting underneath the seal for god knows how long and has turned the lip holding the screen into a brown mush around its base (as well as a hole on one of the corners on the roof).

Luckily, the car has finally entered the batcave after a few months sat outside looking forlorn, in preparation for some much needed attention from weld-o-man. Apart from the repairs to the rear screen area (which I am told, by weld-o-man, won’t require cutting out and replacing the panel) inspection to the dodgy nearside wheelarch area revealed the need for the following:

  • Nearside outer sill
  • Nearside middle sill
  • Nearside inner arch
  • Nearside outer arch
  • Nearside rear jacking point
  • Nearside repair panels 3 and 4
  • Front wing lower repair panel

Ouch! Luckily Classic Alfa sorted me out with the appropriate panels next-day all in for just over 400 notes.

Meanwhile, I have decided that the only way to ensure a top-notch paint job will be to remove all the paint from the inside and outside of the whole shell. Seeing as there is still some suspension, er, suspended from the car, and all the brake lines and wiring loom are present and correct, shot blasting or acid dipping is not an attractive option.

Once again, weld-o-man (aka Capt Slow) came to my rescue, having seen a company called Sodablast at the recent Classic Cars show at the NEC. They use baking soda as a blast material (believe it or not!) and can take a shell back to body-in-white without damaging attached lines, wiring or even headlining! Any residue just washes away with cold water. Sounds like an ideal solution to remove the paint, plus its cheaper than dipping.

Ideal – the car should be making its way over to Sodablast in Birmingham in January. Now, where to get it painted..?

Interior tidyup part one

November 18, 2007

Having stripped the entire interior, I spent most of Saturday afternoon scraping the meltsheet (a layer of tar poured onto the floor to provide soundproofing) from the floorpans of the Alfa.

Much to mine (and a lot of Alfa sceptic associates) I didn’t find any unexpected rust at all on either the driver’s floorpan or the rear pan directly behind it – not even by the floor mounted pedals where muddy and wet boots go – not bad at all for a 35 year old italian car. Not bad at all.

Next step is to strip the passenger side pans and wipe the whole lot down with thinners – then it’s on with a primer coat and a few coats of satin gray (to match the roll cage) using my new 50l air compressor to drive the spray gun.

Thanks to Dave lending me his compressor earlier this month to clean some engine bits I’ve invested in a compressor to convert all of my garage to air drive – impact wrench, sprayers, air drills… Oh dear I can see me spending quite a bit on tools in the coming months as air power is addictive!

I’m removing the dash from the Alfa to get it re-covered whilst the car is out of action – it’s got a big crack in it caused by the sun. I’m planning to fit some new door cards too to brighten up the interior.

Thinking of having it recovered in Alcantera to hide the crack rather than have the crack repaired – thinking of having my Momo Prototipo rim recovered in the stuff too.

All I need to do now is find a good automotive upholsterer…

One thing after another…

October 27, 2007

The problem with old cars is as soon as you start tinkering with one thing you find another thing that needs some attention. Having taken the old engine out of the Alfa (in preparation for the twin spark) we found some minor welding that was required to the front cross member. The grubby engine bay could then do with a spraying afterwards to make it look like it did 40 years ago.

Also, the interior (which has been stripped and caged) could do with a lick of paint. Ideally, I’d like to take the dash out (simple) and the seats + door trim and get a pro to give it a spray with the same matt grey that I used on the cage bars. Might as well have the (split!) dashtop re-trimmed whilst it’s out…

In addition, I’ve known for a couple of years that the rear arches will need doing on the car. Not only do the tyres rub, but the inners were full of filler and the replacement outers that were done back in 2002 weren’t the best job (before I owned the car). Might as well get it all tidied up whilst its out of action.

Plenty of stonechips on the front valance, too…

Bah! Might be as well to do a full lower half respray to keep things tidy. Do’h.

Merc fixed

October 20, 2007

After 5 days in the garage, the Merc is fixed after its embarrassment at Donnington last weekend. The culprit was a faulty metalastic crank pulley (which also acts as a damper for the belt). Not expensive, but enough to make the car undrivable – you’ll have no engine fan or alternator, which means you’ll either overheat or run out of battery if you ignore it!

While it was in, the front ball joints and lower wishbone bushes were replaced, both totally shot (and the cause of an imprecise steering and the recent crashing over bumps). Not cheap due to the 4 hours labour required to fit, but has made a world of difference to the steering field and actually knowing what the front wheels are doing.

No progress on the Alfa rebuild, aside getting a quote sorted for shipping the forged pistons from the US. Roll on next week when I shall tackle the remaining crank oilway plug and try and sort the shot peening on the conrods.

AROC Track Day @ Donnington

October 14, 2007

Some photos from today at Donnington:

Flickr Slideshow

Unfortunately, my Alfa is broken, so I took the Merc instead. I managed to set a 1m 30sec lap time which, according to a chap who came up to speak to me afterwards, was as quick as a Caterham Academy car also lapping in my session. Unfortunately, I only managed to do one 20 minute stint before the belt tensioner which keeps the belt driving my power steering, alternator and fan decided to squeal itself to death, putting an end to the day’s on-track activity. Do you think the Alfa club appreciated my Max Power stick on badges? 😉