Fiat Update

So I’ve been meaning to give an update on the Fiat saga for a while. Late last December I went outside to start her up and she made a pretty heinous grinding noise when I turned over the key. I was thinking starter grind possibly as it still ran and didn’t sound rough so while curious about what on earth could possibly have made the noise I didn’t have time to check into it any further. Then on Christmas she wouldn’t start at all. Fuel was getting there and spark was good, but it just turned and turned but wouldn’t fire. I didn’t really have too much time to look into it so I had to move on. Luckily this happened before I had the chance to drive it down to Atlanta for New Years Eve and get myself stuck.

Ever since I’d first picked up the car I’d intended on ramping up into rebuild/restore mode, but didn’t have the motivation or time to do it until now. So fast forward to March when my lease was getting ready to run out and I knew I’d loose the facilities of my precious garage. I decided to go ahead an pull the motor so I’d be able to work on it back in the corner of my parent’s garage. The day before I was scheduled to fly out to Denver for work, coincidentally this cars original home, I decided to pull the engine and begin to get down to the bottom of things. I’m still fairly green when it comes to working on cars and thought ripping her down to the core was as good as any place to start my education. So after a very long day and missing a few very, very important steps in the removal process I was able to get the engine removed. There was a bit of jumping on top of the engine to get it to break free and I can definitely say I’ll read instructions more thoroughly from here on out, but it is out none the less.

Once my lease was up my friend Dusty was kind enough to volunteer a spot in a barn at his folks property for the chassis to sit while I work on the motor. We loaded her up and rolled her back into an old barn they had used to raise rabbits when he was a kid and trailered his old VW Beetle back over to his place so he could start a bit of tinkering with it. If you ever get a minute he’s got some pretty hilarious stories about raising rabbits.

Back over at my dad’s garage we built a makeshift engine stand out of some old casters and chunks of wood that would suffice for the first part of the engine deconstruction. After removing the cam towers and getting to look at the cylinder head I noticed one very heinous problem with a shim bucket that sits on top of the valve springs. The bucket had somehow ruptured and the metal split open banging into the cylinder head when the engine turned over and then eventually jammed in place in the cam housing…not a good thing, but I’m still not entirely convinced that was the root of the problem. As nasty of a break as that was I would have thought the car would have at least started or attempted to fire and just run really rough.

I’d originally planned to do this deconstruction over the two week period of vacation in July, but soon found that wasn’t going to happen. I tend to go into very minute detail when I’m working on something I really care about and I want this to be a thing of beauty when she’s done. I was watching some hot rod tips on block preparation and one mentioned smoothing off the block before repainting so you get a really nice glossy finish. So I think I’ve put in roughly 20-25 hours worth of grinding with my Dremel during the crazy heat of late July and August to as much as I can create a smooth surface. I took home the distributor and worked on it up on my kitchen table; cleaning, disassembling and inspecting and then piecing it all back together. Keep in mind all along the way is a whole new discovery process for me. I mean I get how the basics work, but seeing how they’re implemented and pieced together is a whole other level of detail that I am pretty excited to understand.

I finished the block preparation and was ready for the first spray. We took it up to the chem bath at a local shop for one final wash before the spray to get all the junk and shavings out of all the little nooks and crannies. Let her dry and then plugged up and covered all the holes and did the first spray. And with the exception of some residual chem wash seeping from the radiator plug hole the paint went on beautifully. Even with the knowledge that I’ll have to sand a bit and do another spray I’m pretty satisfied considering I’ve never done anything like this before.

So my next steps are to send off the cylinder head to get ported, repaint the oil pan, powder coat the pulleys(obviously no functional improvement, but I think it’ll look really sharp), replace the core plugs, and then slowly put everything back together cleaning and reconditioning as I go. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to get any pictures of the finished paint on the block, but I’ll have some soon. For now here’s some before and after pictures of various camera quality from the process so far.

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