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Robbie
Robbie UltraDork
10/17/16 9:45 a.m.

Every good build starts with a good story, and this one does not disappoint:

John's photo - I did not rent a trailer, that would have been too smart.

About 10 days ago I agreed to buy this 1980 Fiat x1/9 from John for $250 (John mentioned that he bought it previously as part of a large package from forum member grafmiata). Last Friday was the day identified to go pick it up.

The car was in Climax MI. I am in Chicago IL. My buddy and teammate Ian, who will be hosting the car for at least the primary build phases, lives near Detroit. I do not have a trailer, but I do have a tow bar, and I am full of hubris because I just flat towed my challenge car to and from the challenge with a tow bar with great success. John assured me that the x1/9 was a roller, but that it rolled well enough to be flat towed. My plan was simple, drive from Chicago to pick up the car in Climax, flat tow the car to Ian's in Detroit, have a party for planning the build and starting a team, and then drive back to Chicago Saturday morning.

I researched online before leaving how I was going to hook up the tow bar. I had a plan. I didn't need many tools to enact that plan, so I packed light. I also grabbed the planned power plant for the car - a disassembled 2004 GSXR 1000 motor+wiring+accessories+extras that I bought a couple years ago for $300. Truck was loaded up and I was on my way.

John lives in a beautiful house on an even more beautiful and large plot of land. I think I was 3-5 days before peak season for fall colors. The road to John's house has big deciduous trees on both sides of the road forming a tunnel. Wow, just wow. John was waiting for me when I arrived. He quickly showed me around the car which I found to be better than described. We transferred $ and paperwork and John even helped me hook up the car to the tow bar. (and we ended up needing the slight use of an angle grinder, which I of course did not pack). Tested the lights, shared some stories, talked challenge build plans, and then I was off.

In this story, as with many other times in life, the highest highs and the lowest lows came shortly after Climax. Got to the highway no problem, car was pulling great. I could barely see the little car back there in my rear view mirrors, and I really couldn't even feel it. I was so elated (and excited to get to Ian's where the initial build party was starting) that I set the cruise right at about 75. And then a few miles later, BOOM. Blew a tire on the fiat. I pulled off into the nearest gas station, and confirmed my fears.

$250 cars generally don't come with spare tires, and honestly sustained 75 mph is a lot to expect from tires that might come on ANY $250 car - looking back, of course this is clear to me. So now it is after 5 pm on a Friday night, in the middle of Michigan, with daylight waning. I'm 87 miles from Ian's, and I need to find either a 13 inch tire, or some wheel that will fit on the fiat's 4x98 bolt battern. Nice.

Called John. He was the person who I knew who lived closest to where I was. Did he have anything? even a donut from a 4x100 car should work. Unfortunately he did not. John actually started rallying rescue rangers for me. THANK YOU JOHN! No Walmarts had any 13s in stock. I called a Tractor Supply that was about 10 miles away, and luckily, they had a 12 inch 4 bolt trailer tire in stock. I decided to take a chance, and I learned that as long as you take the fiat brake caliper off, a 12 inch 4 bolt trailer wheel and tire will kinda-sorta bolt onto a fiat. Standard trailer bolt pattern is 4 x 4 inch or 4 x 101.6 mm. But trailer wheels have really big lug holes, so it worked. Torque carefully.

Of course I didn't disconnect the parking brake cable and the brake line (I put the trailer spare on the rear, even though the blowout was on the front, since I thought the rear might have smaller calipers that would clear - they do not clear it turns out), so now I had to affix the caliper to the fiat somehow. I didn't bring zip ties... Seriously!?! Who does that?!? so I had to clip a random wire from the engine bay of the fiat to literally tie the brake caliper to the control arm.

The level of jank was getting really high really fast. I was sure I was going to roll up to Ian's house missing a perfectly good brake caliper. But I was back on the road - now at a much more old tire friendly 57 mph (70 mph speed limit + michigan = I'm almost going shiny happy person slow). Luckily I didn't have any more problems, and I made it to Ian's about 3 hours later than expected.

The build party was already roaring when I rolled in, and the fiat did not disappoint in the dark. We unloaded the car, snapped a pic, cracked a beer, and started discussing detailed "engineering" plans around the campfire. The next morning Ian and I grabbed a local diner breakfast to ward off the headache, and I drove home. Stay tuned.

Robbie
Robbie UltraDork
10/17/16 9:50 a.m.

The next day Ian is already hard at work organizing and cataloging what we have and where we need to go. He even popped out an old can of primer and hit the areas damaged by the blowout in an effort to stave off any rust.

We have talked a lot about goals of the project, and essentially goal #1 is bike engined power. Goal #2 is to make this thing as light as possible. From a starting point of (says the internet - trying to confirm) about 2000 lbs, we will try to document what all we can get rid of.

m4ff3w
m4ff3w UberDork
10/17/16 10:00 a.m.

Looking forward to progress. I miss my X1/9s so very much.

It's amazing how heavy they are given their size, but they are very rigid.

Andy Neuman
Andy Neuman HalfDork
10/17/16 10:39 a.m.

This should be good. Looking forward to future updates.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/17/16 10:54 a.m.

"Level of jank". Somehow I feel this needs to be incorporated into the car's build. Like a DEFCON level.

This story is off to an excellent start.

lotusseven7
lotusseven7 New Reader
10/17/16 11:41 a.m.

Inspiration, just in case you haven't seen it before.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7YGVEMlHPs

Stefan (Not Bruce)
Stefan (Not Bruce) MegaDork
10/17/16 11:59 a.m.
m4ff3w wrote: Looking forward to progress. I miss my X1/9s so very much. It's amazing how heavy they are given their size, but they are very rigid.

They were built for proposed legislation in the seventies that would have made convertibles nearly impossible to build.

The big three balked, hard, and the legislation was killed. However, Bertone and Fiat had already started building the cars.

The result? They are seriously stout little 'verts.

Robbie, pick Steve Hoelscher's brain on suspension setup for those.

Also, the brake calipers are the same front/rear with slightly different caliper diameter, but the same pad size.

I believe BMW 320 calipers fit on the front, but a set of bike calipers might work as well with the proper adapters.

The Xweb forum has a ton of info on these cars and can help you find ways to reduce weight/improve the car.

Good luck!

Acme Lab Rat
Acme Lab Rat Reader
10/17/16 12:11 p.m.
Robbie said: The car was in Climax MI. I am in Chicago IL.

Ah, Climax. You always get there faster than you'd have otherwise thought.

Stampie
Stampie Dork
10/17/16 12:24 p.m.
m4ff3w wrote: It's amazing how heavy they are given their size, but they are very rigid.

Sorry I couldn't help myself.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
10/17/16 1:07 p.m.
lotusseven7 wrote: Inspiration, just in case you haven't seen it before. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7YGVEMlHPs

Such dirty thoughts from seeing that. Wow.

Robbie
Robbie UltraDork
10/17/16 1:26 p.m.
lotusseven7 wrote: Inspiration, just in case you haven't seen it before. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7YGVEMlHPs

Oh yeah. We have been combing the internet for more details and pictures of that thing for weeks. We've found a few

chandlerGTi
chandlerGTi UberDork
10/17/16 1:32 p.m.

Wondered where that car had gone! Best of luck on the build I should have bought it!

singleslammer
singleslammer PowerDork
10/17/16 1:41 p.m.

This is going to be sweet!

JohnRW1621
JohnRW1621 MegaDork
10/17/16 1:51 p.m.

I know all the players and all the pieces in this story I just didn't realize that they all had become intertwined.

Very cool build. I have high hopes.

John Brown
John Brown MegaDork
10/18/16 4:30 a.m.

After talking with Robbie and Ian at the Challenge, and then enjoying their company at the Challenge banquet dinner, I was pleased to find out that they were interested in the Fiat! They are two genuinely nice guys that have a unique idea for their Challenge car!

I will be watching like a proud grandparent (which of course makes grafmiata a great grand parent!) as these two get to cutting and welding this high revving wonder together!

TED_fiestaHP
TED_fiestaHP New Reader
10/18/16 7:20 a.m.

The brake calipers can be replaced with; fiat 124 front calipers, ford fiesta calipers or maybe a few others. If you don't care about the hand brake, front calipers can be put on the rear. Pads, RX-7 rear, using those will give you a few more choices, and a local parts store might have them. There are 2 different RX7 rear pads, I think you want the earlier ones, one is a perfect fit.

First place to remove metal, the panel between the engine compartment and the rear trunk, this makes the rear trunk part of the engine compartment. That is what I did, with mine. I then moved a few thing to the trunk, like the overflow coolant tank, gas vapor tank and the ignition box. Creative use of the additional space will make working on it easier. Might remove the trunk floor, it is several layers with insulation between, with those two panels out, will make the engine swap easier.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
10/18/16 7:32 a.m.

You know what I've been thinking about...

Find a cast off FSAE car, and "roughly" put it under the fiat.

I know doing that exactly is pointless, but given NoCone's car and the DM MGB builds- this one can be similar. Replace the back of the car with a "subframe" like thing that contains the engine and rear suspension- much like an FSAE car (but wider). And then do the same in the front.

Lot of work, but I suspect that the super fast hill climb car is that.

petegossett
petegossett UltimaDork
10/18/16 8:03 a.m.

In reply to alfadriver:

nocones should do that with his Subaru 360 shell after he's done with his Midget.

John Brown
John Brown MegaDork
10/18/16 4:04 p.m.
alfadriver wrote: You know what I've been thinking about... Find a cast off FSAE car, and "roughly" put it under the fiat. I know doing that exactly is pointless, but given NoCone's car and the DM MGB builds- this one can be similar. Replace the back of the car with a "subframe" like thing that contains the engine and rear suspension- much like an FSAE car (but wider). And then do the same in the front. Lot of work, but I suspect that the super fast hill climb car is that.

Contact Aussie Steve

Stefan (Not Bruce)
Stefan (Not Bruce) MegaDork
10/19/16 11:35 a.m.

In reply to alfadriver:

I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

grafmiata
grafmiata SuperDork
10/21/16 2:20 p.m.

I will definitely be following this, as my original plan for the car was a bike engine. But then I was offered a free Lancia Zagato, so the plan changed to using the fwd 2.0 twin-cam out of the Lancia.

But working 6 days a week, crewing for my friend's GT-3 car, and having two other unfinished projects turned the Fiat into a shelf. Glad to see someone take this on!!!

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 PowerDork
10/21/16 2:33 p.m.

This should be fun to watch

kevlarcorolla
kevlarcorolla Dork
10/23/16 8:56 a.m.

Robbie contacted me with some questions,turns out I have a billet oil pan for the engine they want to use to keep it from blowing up so that will find its way to them.Maybe some wheels I have as well.

One of these yrs I should really try and do this challenge thing.

Robbie
Robbie UltraDork
10/24/16 12:08 p.m.

Last Saturday was the real day of beginning work on the Fiat. First order of business – start stripping. Ian organized a bunch of hands, and we even had some GRMers come over to help. Also, we adjust the level of jank.

First things first: GRM forum member Phil and his son Mark came over to Ian’s house to help weigh the Fiat and get a baseline weight. And by help I mean they did the whole thing.

Final results – car with bumpers, all glass, engine/trans etc (really only missing complete exhaust, intake manifold and some sheet metal from rear and trunk area). 1774!!! Woohoo – less than we thought and a great starting point. Corner weights are probably not accurate because 12 inch trailer tire is still on the car. But still, we are excited! Thanks again Phil and Mark!

Now it was time to start tearing into the car. Get ‘er up on stands and start removing interior.

OOOOOOhhhhh…. What are these? That’s a bonus!

Start unbolting the motor.

Seats are out.

What can come out of here?

I’ve seen hootuses larger than this lug nut wrench.

Let’s remove those rear hubs and axles.

Yes, those.

Keep unbolting.

Place dollies strategically.

Lift Fiat – not engine.

Make it look GOOOD.

Level of Jank +1.

Slide engine out.

Some interior out.

Large pile of things removed.

Another large pile of things removed.

Waiting for next time.

Robbie
Robbie UltraDork
10/24/16 12:09 p.m.

GRRRRR. Google drive and picture hosting. Double Grrr. Fixing.

EDIT: photos should be fixed. Let me know if not working.

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