November 30, 2008

In our garage.

Open up most classic car magazines and you'll find a section called "in our garage" or something of the sort.

Well, here is our own version of "in our garage"-- or what finally left my garage.

I've had this 1988 Alfa Milano Verde since October of 2004. I parked it in April 2006 due to ABS problems. I made the decision to convert it to non-ABS using two 1987 part Milanos, one of which was my own, one that was a friend of mine's (both are documented here somewhere.) I worked on it on and off, lost interest and gained interest in equal amount. Finally yesterday, the last of the air left the clutch system and the car runs, drives and shifts again- without ABS.

It still needs some work, it could use more bleeding, it needs a tuneup from sitting for two and a half years (most notably the timing belt) and inspections/registration wouldn't be a bad idea but it's great to drive it again. Maybe now that it runs and drives again and isn't monopolizing the garage, I can put another car in there to work on instead of using the street.

November 27, 2008

Ran when parked.

Sometime in 2006 I got a call about a 1976 Alfa for sale. The owner new nothing about it other than it was driven down from Idaho when the water pump started leaking and the car was parked, the whole thing having happened several years prior. Asking price: $400.

I went to look at it and found a 1976 Alfetta GT. Complete with Russian steel, SPICA injection and all of the emissions bells and whistles. There was one problem I couldn't quite get past: I thought the engine was seized, despite the owner swearing up and down that it wasn't. I passed on the car.

A couple of months later, a friend of mine bought the car. Surprise surprise, the engine is seized. He still has the car rotting away somewhere

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a.. Fiat X1/9?

These two X1/9s are perched in a junkyard off of I-15 in Salt Lake City, Utah. I can't fly yet and didn't fancy climbing atop a 1960s ice cream truck so I wasn't able to see what the interior looks like but odds are it's poor.

In a junkyard west of here.

A couple of years ago I got word that a junkyard west of here had two Alfa Spiders. At the time I was looking for an engine for my GTV and a 2,000cc from a Spider would fit just fine. I went out there. Turns out the motors were seized and not something I particularly wanted to deal with but the cars there were amazing. Scattered throughout an ocean of American cars (and not your run of the mill GMs- we're talking Kaisers, Studebakers, etc) were various old European cars.

A Triumph Herald, a rare sight anywhere, especially in western Utah. Not restoration worthy (unless you're very ambitious) but definitly a good parts car.

Citroen DS19. Much like the above, this would be fairly complicated to restore but all the body panels are intact.

The owner of the yard also informed he had another DS19 but it had been hit pretty bad. He wasn't kidding:

This Renault Floride looks to have been hit slightly in the rear but is still relatively complete, including a hard top. In my opinion of one the most beautiful French cars of the 1960s.

Finally, the two S2 Spiders that attracted me to the yard in the first place:


These two very rare Autobianchi Bianchinas are sitting outside, uncovered and in the elements in northern Utah. I've known about them for three years but they've likely been sitting longer. I've contacted the owner several times who claims he will restore them and is not selling them though they haven't moved.
The Bianchina was initially designed to be a more "upscale" Fiat 500, sharing its drivetrain and other bits and pieces.

Various cars spotted in SLC over the last couple of years.

Looking through my photo archives, here are various worthy cars that I've found in the last couple of years in the Salt Lake area. All are now gone, sadly.

Saab Sonnett III. This car was complete, fairly straight and rust free. Interior was a bit sunbaked but it could have been a good project.

Crosley. I admittedly don't know enough about them to tell you the year or the model, but Crosley vanished from the U.S. market in 1952 so that's your timeframe. This was fairly gutted but still had useable panels. Either way, a rare sight.

1972 Fiat 124 Special. As far as Italian cars go, the Fiat 124 is pretty common. However, 124s are common, but that's only the Spider variant. The 124 Sedan is fairly rare and I've only personally seen a handful in Utah. This one was in rough shape: interior needed work, the body was rusty and worst of all, the automatic transmission was slipping. It could have been a good project for the $300 asking price.

November 22, 2008

Mercedes-Benz 240D transmission removal.

Just a disclaimer: I did this quite quickly and didn't pay as much attention as I should have to getting photos or getting the size of the tools. Also, this car had 318,xxx miles on the notoriously unreliable Mercedes odometer, meaning some of the bolts or screws might not be original to the car, meaning they might be different than your car. This one was different (and much more straightforward) than other 240Ds I've done, same way I'm sure my 300D is different than this, but the basic concept is the same. Also, it should be pointed out that I have no idea what year this car is, all ID plates were gone. It's your standard, U.S. spec 240D though.

The very first thing I did was get under the car and spray PB Blaster on all the bolts I'd be dealing with. This will help get them loose and doing it first avoids having to wait for the PB to work.

I chose to remove the gearshift assembly, you don't have to. To do that, start by crawling under the car. The three shift rods are held on by clips. Remove them using a flathead screwdriver and the rods slide out. Next, from inside the car, remove the center console where your hazard switch is. This one was held on by two screws near the end of it. Unscrew those, undo the connection to the hazard switch (and the power windows, if applicable) and the console comes out. Next, the actual assembly is held on by four bolts (I believe they're 10mm), undo those, unplug the reverse light switch and the shifter assembly slides out.

Next step (and in my opinion the trickiest) is the driveshaft. At the front, there are six bolts that keep the end of the driveshaft, the driveshaft donut and the output shaft of the transmission in one piece. This is where it can differ greatly from car to car: these were bolts with a 15mm head and a 17mm nut on the end. I've seen w123s that use allen head bolts instead which was an incredibly frustrating setup.

The transmission crossmember has holes provided to slip a wrench in there. Insert the wrench and make sure it goes around the nut. Then, using a ratchet with a 15mm extension, start working away on the bolts. A breaker bar is handy, borderline necessary, to get these bolts loose.

Once you've removed all six bolts, remove the driveshaft mount on the center of the car. This is held on by two 17mm bolts. Softly wiggle the loose end of the driveshaft until it's no longer attached to the transmission.

You'll notice the exhaust is attached to the transmission. Unbolt the two 13mm bolts that hold the mount on and the exhaust will drop. Depending on your car it may be necessary to unbolt the exhaust at the exhaust manifold, too.

Using a 12mm wrench, remove the hydraulic clutch line going into the slave cylinder and remove the speedometer cable. That should be everything attached to the transmission. Except that, wait, it's still attached to the engine.

Start undoing the bolts that hold the transmission on. They're 17mm. Some are simple bolts, some are bolts with nuts behind them, one also has a ground cable. You also need to unbolt the starter bolts which are allen bolts of a size that I cannot recall. You have some coolant hoses in the way for the top bolts. You can work around them, or you can choose to remove them. On a 4-cylinder, you have plenty of room between the engine and the firewall to get to the top bolts. This clearance is MUCH less on a 5-cylinder car and consequently those bolts are tougher to get to.
Double check that all bolts are out (and keep track of them-- don't lose any!) You can now unbolt the transmission mount (which also acts as an engine mount.) These are once again two 17mm bolts and they're the reason why I said above that dropping the exhaust from the exhaust manifold may not be a bad idea, it's easier to get to the passenger side one. You'll naturally notice the transmission start dropping.

Making damn sure you have something to set the transmission down on (couple of old rims and a piece of wood will do), slide the transmission out. It is not light so I'd advise against trying to get it onto your chest.

If you're trying to get to the clutch out, you're not done yet. Get your allen wrench set back out and unbolt the six bolts that hold it on (a breaker bar is handy.) You'll need to block the flywheel so it doesn't move. Once that's off, the clutch slides out.

And, if like me you need to remove the flywheel, you're still not done. There are twelve 12mm bolts that need to be undone. They're very tight and a breaker bar is handy, once again. Use something to block the flywheel and untight them all.

Reassembly is straightforward and is the reverse of disassembly. Align the clutch using the proper tool and it's always good practice to replace the release bearing and the pressure plate. Be VERY careful not to turn the engine the wrong way when torquing the flywheel/pressure plate. Now is also a good time to replace that worn driveshaft donut.

November 13, 2008

1979 Volkswagen Scirocco

I really should have posted this over the summer, but it's been somewhat forgotten until now. 
This 1979 Volkswagen Scirocco was sitting in a driveway in Fairview, PA for nearly 10 years before finally being dragged out to the lawn with a "For Sale" sign on it. The car had well over 100,000 miles on it, but was essentially all original. It was very complete, with original paint, interior, and so on, though the engine had ceased to run at some point in the last decade. The seller was offering it for $300 or best offer, which I nearly instantaniously agreed to pay. However, the very evening I decided I wanted to purchase this car, our '74 Porsche was involved in a very bad accident and the prospect of another project car became unreasonable. It was sold about a week later. There are very few of these Mk1 Sciroccos left. Hopefully this one found a good home. 

November 2, 2008


This 300E was at a local salvage yard. It appears to have been rolled several times. This is by far the worst damage I've seen on a w124.

Another w123.

This early model, normally aspirated 300D appears to have been parked for quite a while. All four tires are dry rotted and rust is starting to eat at it. The odometer is at 202,xxx.

Still going.

I saw this 1989 Saab 900 at a local repair shop. I briefly owned this car in 2007 and defying all odds considering the innumerable issues I had with it, it's apparently still going with 142k on the clock.