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Mezzanine Reader
7/8/14 12:01 p.m.

Since all of you were kind enough to enable me, I will return the favor and post my exploits here for all to enjoy. Perhaps some other poor soul will be motivated to join in an Italian folly with me?

It started HERE when I found this little Fiat on Craigslist in my area. After checking it out and gaining spousal approval, I decided to buy it. $800.

On Sunday, July 6th, I went back to the seller's house to get it hauled home. He lived at the top of a steep gravel driveway, and I was worried that the AAA tow truck might have a hard time getting up there and turned around. So I pushed the car out of the shop and decided to test the brakes trial-by-fire style and roll it down the hill. Lucky for me, they worked great. Here it is safely awaiting tow at the bottom of the hill:

In these two pics, you can see that the trunk and top of the B-pillar wing have a silver/grey vinyl film applied. No idea why- perhaps a previous owner testing viability of paint alternatives? The trunk lid is yellow beneath, as evidenced through a few tears/scratches in the vinyl.

The tow home was uneventful- the driver put it on dollies, so I didn't have to worry about the transmission. After using a come-along to pull it into my garage, I started to look it over.

The car came with about 8 boxes full of new and used parts. Some spares, some parts that need to be reinstalled. Also included is a complete set of factory service manuals as well as a Clymer and Chilton book. In those boxes, I managed to piece together some of the car's history. The tires were made in 2004. The person that bought most of the parts for the car lived in Oregon, and by the ship-dates, I can verify that they owned the car between 2004 and 2009. Could be much longer than that, but those are the extent dates I found.

The next owner I found record of was in Bainbridge Island, a little over an hour north of me. I don't know how long he had the car, but the title was in his name. This owner sold it to the guy I bought it from, who only had it for a few months before he realized it was more work than he wanted.

It is obvious that this car has sat inside and in many pieces for a long, long time now. Since some of the parts purchased as far back as 2004 are still in boxes and the tires (again, made in 2004) still have the nubbins on them, I think the car hasn't been on the road in a decade or more.

I've looked it over closely, and there is no rust to speak of. One of the previous owners was very liberal with some POR-15, but even that looks to have been preventative. No major body repairs. The car was originally yellow, and since a can of Sunburst Yellow Rustoleum was included in the sale, I am concluding that the rough coats of paint the car currently shows are Rustoleum. Some spots were applied nicely with a good start on wet sanding showing. Other spots have runs like crazy and it is clear that they were just slapping paint on to cover primer. Perhaps the work of different owners? The body is very straight:

The frunk is all POR-15. All solid metal, including the battery tray.

The windshield has the same marking as all the other windows, so there is a chance it is original. It is not secured- I had to gaff-tape it down for transport. Looks like it was removed to paint or possibly make repairs to where the A-pillar meets the body, a known place for rust in these cars.

The upholstery looks like factory, and is a little ratty, but quite serviceable for now. I'm bummed about the brown dash and door cards. I may try my hand at flocking the dash, but that is low on the priority list. A previous owner began to recover the dash in black vinyl, as shown here:

There are some carpets included in the sale, but they aren't all that nice, and don't look factory. Plus they smell faintly of cat piss.

Mezzanine Reader
7/8/14 12:09 p.m.

My plan is to first get it running, then see about making it look better. Since the car has changed hands so many times, I want to do a thorough check of everything. The previous owner could get it to sputter to life momentarily on starting fluid, but it appears no gas is getting to the Weber, since the filters are empty.


Before I attempt anything on the car, I plan to spend some quality time with the service manuals. It looks like there is some new wires going in to where the fuel tank lives... I'll be honest, I don't even know if the car has an electric pump yet, but that's why I'm going to be reading up. You can't quite see them in this pic, but they are just under the fuel lines going through the bulkhead on the right. They have some different flags or tags on them that look brand new, but factory installed.

Much of the wiring was labeled by a PO, and is all in nice condition. No melts, no damaged insulation, no corrosion on terminals to speak of. But it is a little intimidating hanging out there like that.


Wish me luck.

Mezzanine Reader
7/8/14 12:12 p.m.

One last thing that gave me the warm fuzzies: There are no hack-job electrical splices, no scotch-lock connectors, and the few screws I've turned all had anti-seize paste on them. Someone was thorough, and loved this car. I can't tell you all how much piece of mind little things like that give me, especially on a project like this.

wvumtnbkr GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/8/14 12:19 p.m.

Partially restored Italian sports car with some wiring redone by PO.

This is GRM! No problem!

Good Luck! It will be awesome when finished!

Rob R.

turboswede GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/8/14 12:24 p.m.

If I had room, I'd have nabbed that one myself. Great find! You might head on over to the Xwebforums and do some research on some of the common mods people perform and there may be some folks aware of the background history on that car as well as it is a small and close-knit group.

If you're interested in going EFI, I do have a more or less complete 1500 long block from a later Bertone branded x-1/9 that I'd let go to the first person that shows up. There's also a rear trunk lid, engine cover, chrome windshield surround and a few other odds and ends that would go along with it.

Mr_Clutch42 HalfDork
7/8/14 12:25 p.m.

You're welcome for the enabling . After all, everyone can't own a Miata for their small sports car. It looks good for a car that hasn't been able to run in at least 12 years, especially with rewiring that has been labeled.

pinchvalve GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/8/14 12:28 p.m.

I gotta tell you, I love the look of that thing as is. I would want it mechanically 100%, upgrade the suspension and a make a livable interior...but I would clear-coat the outside and leave it. How fun would it to have a ratty-looking X-19 that could blow past a new FR-S in the twisties?

Mezzanine Reader
7/8/14 12:30 p.m.

In reply to turboswede: I am definitely interested in eventually going FI, and a 1500 would be a great place to start. A big part of me is sorely tempted by the B16 and K20 swaps though...

I've already started cruising Xweb, and I've seen lots of different mods. Unfortunately, as is often the case in smaller production cars, it doesn't appear that there is a common formula (replace this with that, buy this, not that, etc.) but that hasn't stopped me before. Obviously, I'm not interested in the easiest route, otherwise there wouldn't be a Fiat in my garage.

nderwater PowerDork
7/8/14 12:54 p.m.

These cars look so much better without the huge US-reg impact bumpers. Great find!

ArthurDent HalfDork
7/8/14 1:25 p.m.

Looks like a solid project car. I bought something similar (but in Spitfire flavour) and so far it is working out. I bet you could sand down those runs in the sand and put a could fresh layers of paint and have it looking decent. What about vinyl paint for the brown door cards - black would look sharp with the exterior yellow.

Burrito Enthusiast
Burrito Enthusiast HalfDork
7/8/14 2:25 p.m.

Wow, that's a lot better off than the CL ad made it appear. Well got for $800, I'd say!

Since you've actually gone out in bought one of these, I'll give you honors on the Turboswede goody kit. Also, SWMBO wasn't too keen on me dragging home more E36 M3 to stack in a forgotten pile...

I look forward to reading about your progress.

turboswede GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
7/8/14 3:46 p.m.

Couple of mods to do when looking at the wiring:

Headlight relay harness.

"Brown wire mod". Helps reduce voltage drop through the ignition switch.

Finally, the stock alternator's suck and GM units have been swapped in with little effort.

On mine I was pretty close to fitting a Neon DOHC drivetrain in it. The Fiat axles fit into the Chryco inner CV's, slight notch in the frame rail to clear the transaxle, pull up slave cylinder, mounts, wiring, cooling, etc. which means a SRT-4 drivetrain wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility either.

Jus sayin'

Let me know if you wanna grab a pile of stuff and that engine, just send me a PM and we can sort it out.

Mezzanine Reader
7/9/14 10:18 a.m.

I managed to get about 45 minutes in the shop last night to poke around. It went something like this:

Step 1: Gather fire extinguishers. Place in strategic locations around car.

Step 2: Tell the car you're going to hook up a battery and that you'd appreciate it if it didn't catch on fire.

Step 3: Gather battery from truck and set down near car. Confirm locations of fire extinguishers.

Step 4: Place battery in frunk; do not hook up wires. Quickly grab fire extinguisher and walk around car to see if it is thinking about catching on fire.

Step 5: Connect ground to battery. Reassure yourself that everything will be ok.

Step 6: Lightly tap positive cable to the positive terminal on battery. Check for fire. No sparks, so there is likely no draw on battery.

Step 7: Connect positive cable to battery and apprehensively walk around the car looking for signs of fire while clutching fire extinguisher.

Step 8: Try to start car. Fail.

I hooked up the instrument cluster and tried the key. The door ajar/remove key buzzer works, and it is wake-the-dead loud. Are Italians hard of hearing or something? The car positively vibrated when it went off. No power to the starter though. Remember when I said the PO could get it to run a little? He was jumping the starter directly, but I wanted it to work the way it is supposed to. I spent a few minutes going through the troubleshooting section of the FSM. Surprisingly good troubleshooting guides. I have to say that I am quite impressed by the manual and wiring schematics.

The car is low enough that the targa top makes a great desk for your manuals.

After poking around for a few minutes, I discovered that one of the plugs that powers the starter relay was not connected. Just like that, the starter turns the engine over. WOOHOO!!

I gave it a shot of starting fluid just to see if I would get lucky, but it wouldn't catch. I need to work on spark tomorrow.

In other news, remember when I said I drove the car down the hill at the PO's place? Yeah, I just discovered there is no bolt connecting the steering column to the rack. Spooky.

GVX19 Reader
7/10/14 8:49 p.m.

Yes the missing bolt is bad!!! Without the bolt, you can pull back on the steering wheel and pull the entire assembly out 4 inches and lose all steering

Mezzanine Reader
7/11/14 11:31 p.m.

I've started a build thread on this car over at the XWeb, and I've asked for some advice there, but I'm sure it would be a good idea to see if you guys can help me out too.

I've gone through the FSM to troubleshoot spark, and I think I have an issue. I have 12v at the coil, but I can't get spark anywhere: points, plugs, etc. Shouldn't there be a resistor somewhere supplying <8V to the coil? I have 12V at the C14 connector too, which the manual says should be <8V. Coil tests good for resistance, and I swapped in a spare that was included with the car for no change in results.

Also, this schematic shows a green and black wire at the D terminal of the coil, but black at the distributor. Mine is green and black all the way there.

What is 0510, "Idle fuel flow shut-off solenoid", and where can I find it? The points and condenser appear to be brand new, and I made sure everything was adjusted and gapped to the manual specifications.

Since I can't get any spark out of the coil what so ever, I'm really curious how the PO had the thing sputtering. I only saw it on video...

Kenny_McCormic PowerDork
7/11/14 11:59 p.m.

Use a testlight to verify the distributor is grounding the wire.

SkinnyG Dork
7/12/14 1:11 a.m.
Mezzanine wrote: What is 0510, "Idle fuel flow shut-off solenoid", and where can I find it?

When I worked on Japanese carbs way back in the day, it was a solenoid right on the side of the carburetor. Likely something similar for yours.

Kenny_McCormic PowerDork
7/12/14 6:16 p.m.
SkinnyG wrote:
Mezzanine wrote: What is 0510, "Idle fuel flow shut-off solenoid", and where can I find it?
When I worked on Japanese carbs way back in the day, it was a solenoid right on the side of the carburetor. Likely something similar for yours.

More commonly known as an "anti diesel solenoid" its a smog era thing that does exactly what it says, keeps the engine from dieseling on when you turn the key off due to smog era engines running lean and hot, combined with crappy fuel in combustion chambers that were wild guess designed around leaded gas. Might actually be a benefit of E10 come to think of it.

turboswede GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
7/12/14 8:24 p.m.

Awesome. Progress is good. Glad it didnt kill you!

BYW, tried to reply to your PM, but your inbox was full. Let me know when to try again.

Mezzanine Reader
7/12/14 9:57 p.m.

turboswede, I don't even know where to find my PM mailbox- I've never used the GRM PM system before. Reply to my email address, included at the end of my message. CPR.Richmond at that g-mail place. G's up, hoes down.

Mezzanine Reader
7/12/14 10:37 p.m.

Special thanks to turboswede for suggesting I ask the members of Xweb if they knew the history of the car. The very first response directed me to the two owners who had the car the longest.

Looks like my forensic analysis was pretty good. Karen in Salem Oregon had the car the longest and did most of the work. They weren't the most competent in some areas, but did a nice thorough job most everywhere else. Here is the sale thread. In trolling through posts by this owner, I'm pleased to see some of the work they did. I did find that I may want to take another look at the brake master though... Here you can see that I have this owner to thank for the bent-up pinch welded seam under the car:


Here is the sale thread from the next owner in line. This is the owner that I can blame for much of the shoddy paint and vinyl work, but it does look like they made some headway. Looks like they are also to blame for the loss of the bumpers and a few other items on the car.

Progress continues on the efforts to get it started. As Kenny suggested, I hooked up the test light to the primary coil windings to see if it was firing. I had a steady light when cranking instead of a flashing/flickering light indicating the points were doing their job. I tested the continuity between every wire on the coil, distributor, and ground and determined that the condenser was bad and was grounding out, preventing the coil from firing across the secondary.

I disconnected it and suddenly had spark. I think there was a new spare in the parts boxes somewhere, but I'll fish that out later. I can continue testing for now without one. I put the plugs back in and connected everything up to see if it would catch on some starting fluid, but still no joy. I need to find TDC and make sure the distributor is where it belongs.

Interesting engine trivia: the Fiat 1300 has all of its timing set by the #4 cylinder instead of the #1 cylinder.

I should have a first-start video to post soon!

JoeTR6 Reader
7/13/14 10:20 a.m.

This is a cool project. Keep the updates coming.

Mezzanine Reader
7/14/14 11:52 a.m.

After determining that I had spark, I needed to get the timing set. The POs had it way out of time, so with that corrected I went ahead and pulled the cam/valve cover off and applied some assembly lube to the lobes. I was pretty confident it would fire right off with a shot of starting fluid, and I wanted to do what I could to get it some lubrication. The bottom end would have to fend for itself until the oil pressure built up.

Just like that, she lives! Warning: pale shirtless white boy in video. Don't judge me. It was hot out. First start!

I plugged hoses and ports and made sure there was no possible place for tramp air to bypass the throttle plates, but still the engine wanted to race. I made another video with my phone for that awesome shaky hand-held effect, complete with distracted videographer moments. This video includes a seriously custom Kydex restrictor plate so I could get the engine to idle a bit. It runs really smoothly, without any weird or angry sounds. It revs very freely and feels like it has more in common with a motorcycle than your average car engine. As an added bonus, this second video includes unscripted narration and loud sucking-carb induction noises. Sadly, there is no shirtless dude for you to ogle. Running, not racing.

I actually let it get some heat into the engine after seeing that the oil pressure came right up in the first start.

I'm guessing that the throttle plate(s) aren't closing completely. The throttle cable and linkage aren't causing it, but I'm not familiar with the Weber 32 DATRA, so there could be some other trickery or witchcraft causing them to open. Advice?

Kenny_McCormic PowerDork
7/14/14 12:48 p.m.

Have you tried messing with the idle speed screw? Po could have ran it in all the way trying to make it run.

The best way I've found to describe a properly set up (IE desmogged and timing set for performance) fiat single cam is they run like a chainsaw.

Mezzanine Reader
7/14/14 1:14 p.m.

Kenny, I turned the idle speed screw in one full turn, but didn't see any notable difference. Isn't the idle speed slowed when turning the screw all the way in? Or do I need to back it out?

In either case, I'll play with this tonight. With the restrictor plate over the throttle, there was a significant vacuum- it was more than I expected which led me to believe the throttles were open somehow. Both butterfly valves were closed when the engine was off.


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