'58 600 resto-mod to Abarth 850 TC nurburgring

Discussion in 'Rear-Engine Fiats' started by myredracer, Feb 8, 2018.

  1. myredracer

    myredracer Daily Driver

    Long time Fiat & Abarth enthusiast here. I've owned a number of 600s and 850s over the years and an X1/9 and a 128 that I used to race back in the 70s. This is a story about a car that was already 30 years old when I bought it 30 years ago from the estate of an elderly lady who had owned it since new. It's 60 years old this year! :) Have been planning on turning it into an 850 TC nurburgring replica for a long time and collected a lot of various parts for it the past 10+ years, mostly off ebay (when it was still in it's heyday for vintage parts). Have been tied up with other life issues for way too long and finally got the attached workshop on our house finished last winter and then started work on the 600. Have been working on it again this winter. I don't have another 30 years left so it's time to get crackalackin...

    I want the car to look as period correct as I can but will have some upgrades, kind of like an original owner might have done back in the day - sway bars (aftermarket Abarth replicas), 4 wheel disc brakes, wider 5-1/2" x 13" Cromodoras, higher HP engine, Carello remote oil filter, etc.

    The body has been a ton more work than I expected. Even though it has been it a garage most if it's life, there has been a LOT of rust to deal with. Just about anywhere where there is overlapping sheet metal, there is rust, and especially bad on the lower areas of the shell. It has needed a new front nose panel, new front fenders, driver's side floor pan, new rockers and lots of rusty sheet metal cut out all over and new pieces fabricated. Along with that are various mods to be done. I've taken lots of photos along the way and some are to follow another day. May not be in chronological order.

    I have the engine built and is 1050cc based on a 903cc block and has new A112 crank, rods, pistons, head etc. and a bunch of other high perf. parts. It was built by Paul Heyden - Scuderia Topolino (S/T) just before he went back to Europe using parts I supplied to him. I had Chris Obert rebuild the transaxle using all new parts I also collected and has a 9/39 R&P from S/T. Pics and details another day...

    This photo is from 30 years ago and is the only one I have of it from then. My son & I look a little different today... Ad is what it would have looked like back in the 50s.

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    It will have the early style Monte Carlo radiator like this . I have an original Abarth rad for it. I bought the shroud and rad for it from Guy M. in Belgium and the rad turned out to be an oil cooler for a BMW.
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    Rear deck lid will be partially raised like this.
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    I really want to make the early style rear fender flares like in this photo but haven't been able to figure out yet how to do it like Abarth did. I have fiberglass copies but I won't do anything but steel on the car. I've seen many photos of them on the internet and in books and there seems to be a variation in them so perhaps were all pounded out by hand. I may just cut the fender lip off and do a rolled wire edge.

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    The very first thing I did was build a rotisserie. Sure makes things waaay, waaay easier. Highly recommended for anyone doing extensive work!
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    Before I started, I needed to outfit the workshop with some various tools and equipment. I've never done body restoration like this before and spent many hours on the internet figuring out what I needed as well as how to do some of the work. Here's one wall where the free-standing equip. is. Have had it all for 10+ years except the HF media blaster. I made the stands for bench grinder, bead blaster & drill press last winter and also built the compressor piping & filtration/dryer setup. Built the 12' workbench from scratch.
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    Invested in a number of hand tools like shrinker/stretcher, leather mallet, dollies, body hammers, etc., etc. and also bought some various air tools like DA sander, body saw and several die grinders along with a wide assortment of sanding discs, flap discs, cutoff wheels and conditioning discs. Also have afew trick tools like these for metal forming. Must haves for anyone!
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    While I'm at it, here's a pic of a corner of the workshop I call coupeville. My '66 Abarth 1300/124 is the white one on the left, the center one is a rolling shell I brought up from CA and has excellent sheet metal and the one on the right is a local rolling shell that the PO started to modify to make an Abarth-ish car from with a 124 twin cam. The 1300/124 has extreme body rust and the middle body will be the basis for transferring all the Abarth-modified sheet metal onto.
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    So onto the work... I started on the front of the car where the spare tire well needed some new metal. This area was my first go at metal forming and mig welding thin sheet steel. With a little practice to follow, by the time the car is finished I'll be what you call an expert. :)
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    The rocker panels and A-pillars on both sides were in pretty nasty shape.
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    The following are various photos of the rocker replacement and repairs. I was able to just replace the lower part of the inner rockers. The bottom of the B-pillar on both sides needed a lot of repair. My original intention a number of years ago was to replace only the lower part of the outer rockers and had bought some later 600D ones from Jeff Stich, however the contour at the front area of them was too far off from the early suicide door ones. Last winter I ended up buying a set of NOS early ones from Italy.

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    New rocker panel ready to weld up.

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    Passenger side rocker welded in except needs a few more spot welds along the top. I lost a lot of sleep for weeks and weeks before attempting to do the exterior welding between new and old sheet metal between wheel arch and B-pillar. Just do the tiniest weld dot needed and walk away and let it cool down... Turned out pretty good so far and will only need a lick of filler in the end to hide the joint. Heat can make a real mess of things and patience is a must-have...

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    Much to my horror, the front area of the passenger side rocker did not fit properly and was quite different than the driver's side one. Out by about 3/8" at the top of it. I salvaged a piece from the old rocker to insert into the new one. A bit of welding and a little work with a flap disc and grinding disc on the die grinder and it's back to where it should be. I think I'm starting to get the hang of this stuff, LOL!!

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    The driver's side floor pan was beyond salvaging. Last winter I got one from Serbia (or might have been Croatia) that was for a Zastava. A bit of a different pattern but close enough and nobody will ever notice. If it was a real Abarth it would have found a correct NOS piece. Unfortunately, the front area and entire outer edge of the Zastava floor pan was quite a bit different than the 600 and had to be reworked a fair bit. A PITA as they say...

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    Of course, every time you cut away a layer of metal, you find more rusted metal. More rust in the driver's footwell area had to be dealt with. This piece sure took some time to fab up and get back into place.

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    The passenger side floor pan wasn't too bad except for the front edge and I made up a couple of replacement patch pieces and welded them in. It also had a few small spots that I was able to patch. Needs some more welding and grinding down of the welds. I plan to remove and reinstall the seat rails and re-inforcements under the floor pan. I know enough by this point that there will definitely be rust hiding there, pfffft.

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    By far the hardest and most time consuming work so far has been in the front wheel well areas. The bump stop brackets and shock tower mounts had to be removed, new pieces fabricated and reinstalled. The new brackets were made with heavier gauge steel so there was an upside I guess. Also plenty of rusty sheet metal to re & re. Some pieces were tricky to make as they were bowl shaped and needed some metal forming work. I bought a pair of Berni Motori replica Abarth chassis reinforcement plates and they were a challenge to install. Because I was replaced the bump stop bracket, I filled in the opening in the plates and put the brackets over them instead. This will be stronger than the original design too. They needed to be hammered out to match the contour of the wheel well and I had to make some taller dimples in them to clear the trunnion adapters that will be installed (from S/T). I plug-welded the plates in place. In one photo you can see a cardboard template I made for the brackets. I've made lots and lots of cardboard templates so far.

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    I've had a lot of trouble fitting up the new front fenders and nose panel. I think these are also Zastava pieces (had them so long I can't remember). Lots of modifying and reshaping required around the headlight buckets. The worst part is where the new fenders are supposed to mate up with the A-pillars. I was so frustrated with this, I put it the front end aside and went onto other areas. The fender lips have been trimmed back and I'm going to do a rolled wire edge on them. Would have liked to have made the top of the arch a little higher but that'd require some hammering out and reshaping of the metal which I don't know how to do yet and don't want to mess it up.

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    I thought I had some more pics of the nose and fender work but can't find them. Plenty more work yet to be done there anyway so will be more to post later.

    More photos to follow on this winter's work progress soon. In the meantime, here's a peak preview of the engine. The belly pan piece, remote oil cooler, catch tank and breather tube are original Abarth parts. I just made a replica stinger style exhaust for it from scratch. Really can't wait to get it fired up and running.

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    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
    JimL likes this.
  2. JimD

    JimD Waiting for Godot... Moderator

    Location:
    Missouri, USA
    That is a lot of hard work Gil. Maybe you need a hobby! :);):p:D

    Very impressive work. It makes me feel very lazy. :( Thanks for sharing the story with us. I can hardly wait for you to finis and show us the result.
     
  3. ramona300

    ramona300 Daily Driver

    Nice work. Excellent taste in cars in your shed too!
     
  4. NM850

    NM850 True Classic

    Location:
    Albuquerque NM
    Nice work, thanks for sharing.
     
  5. kmead

    kmead True Classic

    Location:
    Michigan
    Indeed a fine job of it. Thank you for sharing some great work with us.

    Karl
     
  6. Dr.Jeff

    Dr.Jeff True Classic

    Location:
    Sin City
    Great project and excellent workmanship.

    There is (was) a Abarth specialist in central California called "Abarth West". He was the second generation to run the business and very experienced in old-school Abarth's. His personal interest is in the 600-based variants and competes in vintage racing with them. He would be an excellent resource for information and parts. Unfortunately he went through some life changes, closed the business and moved away, and I've lost track of him. But I loved his builds.

    Looking forward to watching yours develop, please keep us updated.
     
  7. myredracer

    myredracer Daily Driver

    Been busy lately on the car and lotsa progress. :)
     
  8. myredracer

    myredracer Daily Driver

    Been busy lately on the car and lotsa progress. :) More pics...

    Have been working on the rear wheel wells and fender flares. I cut out the outer half of the wheel well on each side. I've had an idea for these pieces after they were cut out as you will see later.
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    I wanted to enlarge the wheel well and make room for the fender flares. Once the wheel well was cut out I needed to repair some rust damage which was where the inner and outer halves of the wheel metal metal overlapped (a perfect place for moisture to get trapped). Exact same issue on both sides.
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    Once new metal was fully welded in place and ground smooth, I made a cardboard template. Then laid it out on a sheet of 20 gauge sheet.
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    Here's what the new wheel wells look like. Another day I will get in there with a die grinder and grind the welds down. Will eventually get some seam sealer over them.
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    Not hard to tell where the new wheel was welded in! Not to worry, a little work with a DA sander and you can no longer see the back side of the weld dots.
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    On the to-do list for the wheel wells is more rust repair which included fabricating new bump stop brackets. I use copper based weld through primer on all overlapping metal where it gets plug welded in or will be overlapping. I sure wish Fiat had used something at the factory instead of bare metal against bare metal.
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    Here's the new brackets I made up and the patch pieces and brackets welded in place. Also shown is copper backing that is needed at edges when mig welding otherwise the edge of the metal will get blown away. The copper piece is another trick tool made from a piece of copper pipe.
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    Having gotten to this stage, I'm ready to tackle the fender flares. I bought a pair of fiberglass flares from someone in England who made molds off a genuine Abarth. I never really wanted to install them and wanted them for a pattern. Even *if* I wanted to use them, they just wouldn't fit - not even close. They just weren't made very well. I even tried trimming off a bunch of the material to see if I could get them to fit. The photos won't do justice but you may be able to see the big gap at the front and rear. I would have needed to use a lot of force to get the fiberglass to "sorta" mate up enough and not sure if 3M panel adhesive would have held up to the stress. And a lot of work with fiberglass and filler would have been needed to blend them in. They just weren't gonna work, no way, no how. :mad:

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    Have been wondering for a long time *if*, *maybe*, *perhaps*, the outer halves of the wheel wells could be joined to the stock Fiat fender lips somehow to create a similar looking flare. I'd REALLY rather have fender flares in steel anyway. I've had a pair of brand new outer fender lip repair panels sitting on the shelf and wasn't sure if I'd ever use them. So with the wheel well piece cut out and the fender lip pieces laid out together, it's started to look do-able. Huh...

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    So it was time to roll the sleeves up and get at 'er. After a LOT of careful measuring, checking with a profile gauge, making some cardboard template and much trial and error fitup, this is what it looked like (driver's side). Holy smokes, this just might work! You can see by the pile of sheet metal scraps how much trail and error trimming I did to get it to come together. Cut too much away and it'd be a whole lot of work to fix it or even having to buy some new pieces and start over.

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    The next thing to do was simply attach it to the body... Here's checking the fit to the body and the two halves of the flare tack welded together. Once I was happy with the flare matching the contour of the body, I used my "special" edge roller to put a radius around the outer edge of the flare - leather mallet on a piece of 1" schedule 40 pipe.

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    So here it is tack welded in place and ready to complete the welding process and grinding & smoothing down the welding. Looks dang good if I don't say so myself.
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    Here's the pass. side showing the flare tacked together, the old fender lip area "hacked" out and ready for the new flare and then the nes flare tacked in place.
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    The "only" thing left to do with the flares for now besides finishing the welding, is to do a wire edge around them. I've always wondered how Abarth did the early styles flares and am sure they didn't use fiberglass. Maybe they did it like I did? Maybe that's why if you look a photos of the factory Abarth cars with early flares you can see a telltale sign of the original Fiat fender lip outline along the top of the fender opening (see one of my earlier photos that I posted in my first post).

    More another day.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2018
    motoTrooper likes this.
  9. NM850

    NM850 True Classic

    Location:
    Albuquerque NM
    Nice metal working skills. Thanks for posting all the photos.
     
  10. motoTrooper

    motoTrooper True Classic

    Wow, nice results there.:)
     
  11. Dr.Jeff

    Dr.Jeff True Classic

    Location:
    Sin City
    Yes, great metal shaping skills. I think you need to take a break from it and come fix my rust issues. ;) Keep up the excellent work.
     
  12. myredracer

    myredracer Daily Driver

    Thanks! I'm pretty much a newbie at this stuff. I spent countless hours and hours studying up on the internet first. There's simply tons of great info. and vids out there nowadays but also some horrendously bad stuff too. Mig welding thin sheet metal sure takes a lot of patience and practice. Too much heat can warp the sn*t out of sheet metal faster than you can say oh sn*t... Too long a zap and you'll burn through. Too wide a gap and it's hard to bridge. When butt welding pieces together, you have to do to the quickest and smallest weld dot you can and let it cool right down. Weird thing is, welds shrink and they pull the pieces together so you have to planish the weld dots as you move along the joint to restore the spacing with a hammer and dolly - can get slow and tedious. Tig welding would be nice but is expensive to get into.

    The best site for info. on doing serious rust repairs and fabrication is on the Retrorides forum in the UK by user "tonybmw". He has a thread here http://retrorides.proboards.com/thread/70135/panels?page=3. What the guy can do is truly amazing and inspiring. For anyone wanting to learn mig welding sheet metal and what basic tools you can use for metal forming without having to spend thousands of $$ on fancy equip., his posts are a MUST read. This is where I got the confidence to tackle my project.

    Oh, and I'm glad I took metalworking 11 & 12 in high school decades ago, lol!
     
    Dr.Jeff likes this.
  13. Dr.Jeff

    Dr.Jeff True Classic

    Location:
    Sin City
    You are indeed a fast learner.
    I know what you mean about all the info found online. I seem to spend more time looking at stuff than doing any actual work.:)
    TIG is nice, but not only is it expensive, it also takes a lot of practice to get right. But I have the same experiences as you with MIG on sheet-metal...frustrating at times.
    Keep it up, gives me more to look at rather than working.
     
  14. myredracer

    myredracer Daily Driver

    Last month I made a replica Abarth stinger style exhaust from scratch. I bought a couple of mandrel bends and a Flowmaster stainless steel muffler. The 2 into 1 piece was cut off an old Fiat exhaust downpipe, I cut the flanges from 1/4" steel plate and bought a 1-5/8" to 2" adapter. The oval shaped exhaust tip is the interesting part. I found a pair of exhaust tips on ebay that were listed for a hot rod. Got them for a good price because they were pink. Who would want pink exhaust tips? The tips were just the right dimensions for an Abarth replica. The muffler is 409 stainless and can be welded to with regular mig wire and gas.
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    Here's the finished product. Need to take it in to get ceramic coated. I scoured the internet and found 4-5 photos of a few versions of the original style stinger and was able to estimate the correct look, proportions and dimensions. A round muffler would have been more appropriate but could not find one in stainless steel that would work the way I wanted. I did a mockup with a bare block and head mounted in the car to make sure it all fit correctly so there won't be surprises in the end.
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  15. NM850

    NM850 True Classic

    Location:
    Albuquerque NM
    Looks like a genuine Abarth header there.
    Thanks for the retrorides link, always looking to learn.
     
  16. myredracer

    myredracer Daily Driver

    Yup, good eye! That is a genuine Abarth header and a very solid, heavy and well made piece. I just had to put it on ebay tho. It doesn't work because the two triangle shaped flanges are an inch or so closer to the engine compared to where I need the flanges need to be so I can swap in a standard aftermarket muffler if I ever need to. Not sure what application it had - perhaps a front radiator car with the muffler shroud cut off? I have an aftermarket header that does fit properly and is what I'll use instead.
     
  17. myredracer

    myredracer Daily Driver

    I'm going to be using an Abarth 750 radiator in the rear. It's 2" taller than a stock 600 one and will provide some additional cooling capacity. I'm also going to be using an early style Abarth "Monte Carlo" radiator in the front which tucks under the bumper - not the large radiator shroud that most use in their replica projects. Both rads I have are original Abarth items from the 60s. Because I will be using an Abarth remote oil filter setup as shown in my mock up in 1st photo, the stock 600 fan setup (which is attached to the water pump) cannot be used. Abarth used a fan in front of the rad like in the B&W photo (courtesy The Revs Institute) in about '63 - '65 before getting rid of a rear rad altogether. Sorry for the huge photo - not sure how to resize them. There are very few photos of the Abarth setup on the internet, only 4 that I've ever seen. Everyone else building an Abarth replica incorrectly mounts the radiator to the shroud at the rear of the rad.

    I removed the shroud off the Abarth rad then took it into a rad shop and had them braze on a bung for a thermostat and install a large diameter outlet fitting. I also took in the front rad and had both cleaned, pressure tested and coated with "radiator" paint.

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    The fan assembly I'm using is out an early X1/9. I need to reverse the air flow direction and just have to reverse the polarity of the wiring to do that. Air will flow into the engine compartment instead of the original forward and down under the car. The X fan blade is a perfect diameter. I made a bracket to mount the fan motor and to fit the curvature of the forward wall of the body. It's made from 16 gauge steel and I had to weld some washers on it to get the correct thickness to match the bushing from the X fan. I wanted the finished product to be a reasonable facsimile of the original Abarth setup and I think it's not too bad, but then it'll be hidden in the end anyway. There is a curved piece ahead of the stock rad that directs air flow that had to be removed. The openings ahead of the fan into the interior of the car for heating will get pieces welded in. The car will only ever see warm dry weather in the summertime. The fan blade that I had was very crispy and brittle and finding a replacement wasn't exactly easy. Why are old Fiat parts so hard to find, pffft? I remember being able to go the parts counter at the local Fiat dealer and get whatever you needed for your 60s or 70s car... Doing anything bodywork related to the front rad will have to wait for another day because I don't have the nose panel back on yet (soon to happen).

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    Last edited: Feb 25, 2018
    kmead likes this.
  18. kmead

    kmead True Classic

    Location:
    Michigan
    850s pull air from under the car, through the radiator and into the engine compartment.

    I wasn’t aware that 600s went the other way, ie pushing air through the radiator from the engine compartment, into the radiator with exhaust under the car.

    They say the 850 process is to minimize the amount of oil that could get caked into the radiator from the mist of oil that can exist in an engine compartment and to minimize the amount of heated air the fan could cycle from the exhaust system.

    I have never seen the Abarth fan mount before thanks for posting that.
     
  19. myredracer

    myredracer Daily Driver

    That's supposedly the way Abarth did it and it's what Paul vander Heyden told me once. You are right, the 600s are like the 850s and pull the air from under the car and out through the engine compartment. That's a big reason it's important to have the shrouds in place. Maybe Abarth reversed the air flow direction because it's better to blow air through a rad rather than suck it through? I can always easily experiment with the fan rotation by reversing the 12 volt polarity. My memory is sketchy on this but I seem to recall reading once that the Abarths with a rear rad putting a scoop under the rad facing forward to force more air into it when the car was at speed.

    I found the photo of the Abarth fan setup on The Revs Institute photo library that has a lot of old Cosentino photos. Was looking through them today and found some that I've never seen before which will help me.
     
  20. NM850

    NM850 True Classic

    Location:
    Albuquerque NM
    Second on the appreciation for the B&W photo.
    Pulling air through a radiator is more efficient than blowing it through. Hence 99% ( I made that up, let’s say most production cars) pull air through. Mostly it’s down to fan dynamics and in convention cars the blockage of the fan when there is airflow from forward movement.
    You we probably well aware but this is the how the coolant flow should be with a front and rear radiator.
    Engine thermostat housing to top tank of rear radiator
    Bottom tank of rear radiator to top of front radiator
    Bottom of front radiator to input to water pump
    Output of water pump to input of engine.
     

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