In the October of 2019, I started making plans to get my Coupe back on the road. I hadn’t driven it since February 2018 when it was declared SORN and aside from the occasional start up and shift around, it had just sat outside accumulating grime.
After this little ‘trial separation’, we decided to give it another go
I suppose a bit of an outline of the plan would make the below make a bit more sense so I would like to outline what I’m doing and how / why I came to these decisions. Some of this has moved on since but this is where I was back then
Also, a bit of background might be in order. I tried a brand-new car by leasing a Golf R 7.5 Estate, wondering if the ‘all the car you’ll ever need - for sensible money’ really exists. For me at least, it doesn’t. Not enough drama when you’re on it, too thirsty when you’re not and it could be a smoother ride when you really want a chilled drive. I decided that, as I was going to keep the Coupé, I might as well make a project of it and emphasize all the qualities of the Fiat Coupé (for me at least).
I want to modify the car to make it handle as well as a Fiat Coupé can without creating a stripped-out track weapon that loses all reasonable usability on the road. Searching for inspiration, I read everything I could on track days special versions of normal road cars. (GT3s, Megane R26R, 695 Biposto, 360 Challenge Stradale etc.) If the Coop will be a second car, I am going to make sure I’m getting the most out of it.
This was the basic plan when I started and it's largely the same now... • Full rollcage, two buckets seats • Stripped of any unnecessary (according to me) weight • The rear of the car will be carpeted to maintain a ‘factory feel’ • Full suspension overhaul and refresh • Corner weighted • ALL niggling issues will be sorted • ALL rust will be treated • New bodykit and full respray • New soundproofing added to improve perception of quality • Fully forged with bigger power will be the last step
As I started back in October, the first few instalments will be catching up, so here goes a month by month breakdown. I took random photos along the way, and made a few notes as I went to remind myself, so I’ll chuck them in as I go
Back in October I was presented with the opportunity to have all my interior panels resprayed in gloss black. Since having the centre console and handbrake console done in a metallic black some years ago, I always wanted to change it to a proper gloss black (as it always looked ‘dusty’) and do the rest of the panels while I was at it. So, the following panels were removed and pulled apart (where required) and handed to the paint shop.
04/10/2019 The following interior came out and went to the paint shop: Centre console Handbrake console Heater vents Steering wheel cowl Interior door handle surrounds Ashtray Ashtray surround
26/10/2019 This was the first day devoted to stripping the interior and I made good progress. The following was taken out of the car: Remove rear seats Remove passenger seat Remove spare wheel Remove toolkit Remove jack Remove boot base Remove boot liner Remove boot latch cover Remove front door cards and speakers Remove ski hatch surround Measure headroom 3" Remove gear gaitor
Notes • Broken glass was everywhere. I had a rear window blow out a few years back and it seems a lot of that had found its way around under the rear seats and throughout the boot. • The foam backing on parcel shelf had turned into what I can only describe as… mud. Very odd • A fair-sized puddle was found in nearside haunch – tool kit was rusted • Damp in both rear sides • Flakes of rust in both sides rattling around • Sound deadening cracked and flaking off • Boot base and carpet against interior bulkhead soaked in oil / brake fluid / some other equally nasty substance that must have leaked out at some point • I got rained off on this day • Rear wiper delete plug shot out when I closed the door – that needed fixing properly with some sealant!
02/11/2019 More interior removed: Removed lower console Removed footrest Removed driver’s seat Removed box under driver’s seat Removed plug under throttle pedal Removed screw behind bonnet release Removed ECU bracket Removed carpet mini piece Removed carpet Removed sound deadening – Across front – damp on driver’s side, came out in chucks Removed sound deadening – Across middle – dry but old and tired Vacuumed interior – broken glass everywhere, blue plastic pipe things too? All removed panels were thoroughly cleaned Clean boot scrubbed clean– all-purpose cleaner, wipes, microfibre pad ADD PHOTOS
Notes • ‘Mud’ and grime both sides in the boot, especially passenger side. • Black foam back sheet behind pedals also damp • Lots of small rusted patches found • Weird letter box bottom right of the inside of the boot • Bits in the vacuum need to be taken out – clips and fitting went in by accident
09/11/2019 Removed CD changer lead Removed door cards Removed rear seat belts Re-build heater vents (after having been painted) Identified all sound deadening in boot for later removal
16/11/2019 Removed under bonnet sound proofing Removed boot lid sound proofing
23/11/2019 All carpets and cloth interior panels washed, cleaned and vacuumed
After seeing a number of 'plastic welding' tutorials on YouTube, I bought myself a soldering iron and had a go at fixing the broken screw holes on the back of my centre console and also to fix the tabs of the heater dial surround. Very pleased with the results.
Carpet came up well after being held up against a wall and thorough cleaned with a Karcher and a few cleaning products. My pal's car port even had some perfectly placed hooks to hang it from! All of the interior fabrics were cleaned in this manner. The bonnet foam pads also got the same treatment as they were green...
It was over the Christmas period that the condensation and general damp issues really started to become a problem. It was often dripping wet when I went out there and no amount of drying the puddles kept it at bay. I had tried running the car up to temperature and leaving the heating on a few times but it wasn’t really touching it. Suspecting the water was getting in through the many holes left from removing seats, I went round and re-fitted any bolts that had left a hole to outside upon removal and finally fixed the rear wiper delete plug with sealant.
My headlights were then sent to Marius Petrescu for a refurb. I’d seen his work on the various Facebook groups so figured it would be worth a shot.
Up until now (as you will have seen) my project consisted of taking things apart and (hopefully) not losing the fittings... I figured it was time to get it back on the road so at least it could be driven around to have further work carried out.
Having received the headlights back from Marius, I was keen to get them fitted.
Here are some photos of fully refurbished headlights with gloss black inserts. Having fitted them, I quickly realised they weren't working properly. It was eventually diagnosed as faulty wiring on one side and a knackered HID on the other side. Knowing the car would fail on this, I took it over for it's MOT anyway...
Offside Front Macpherson strut attachment bracket/mounting insecure and impairing directional stability (5.3.3 (a) (ii))
Repair immediately (major defects):
Supplementary restraint system warning lamp indicates a fault (7.1.6 (a)) Horn not working (7.7 (a) (ii)) Nearside Front Headlamp not working on dipped beam (4.1.1 (a) (ii)) Offside Front Headlamp not working on dipped beam (4.1.1 (a) (ii)) Nearside Rear Position lamp not working (4.2.1 (a) (ii)) Offside Front Integral body structure corroded to the extent that the rigidity of the assembly is significantly reduced inner wing (6.1.1 (c) (i)) Nearside Front Coil spring fractured or broken (5.3.1 (b) (i)) Nearside Rear Suspension arm pin or bush excessively worn (5.3.4 (a) (i))
Monitor and repair if necessary (advisories):
Passenger seat(s) missing at time of test () Nearside Front Integral body structure is corroded but structural rigidity is not significantly reduced inner wing (6.1.1 (c) (i)) Offside Rear Suspension arm pin or bush worn but not resulting in excessive movement (5.3.4 (a) (i))
Next step then was to get it booked in to have these issues addressed. Before then, I ordered four new LED lights from Classic Car LEDs and fitted those. No sense in mucking around with old eBay HIDs anymore.
After having the Welding carried out at the MOT station and a new BC spring fitted by Roger, Snoopy sailed through her MOT on the 28th January 2020 was going to be an epic year!
Work carried out at PowerItalia: New spark plugs Reset airbag light Headlight nut thread (this had previously snapped when I removed the headlights...) Fix power supply to nearside headlight New BC coilover front springs New front springs fitted Rear trailing arm bushes
March was a quiet month for the project. I spent most of the time soaking up puddles of water that were still forming on the floor of the car. Having already removed just about all of the fabrics from car car, it was time to address the last panel - the headliner.
The head liner was in a right old state. I removed the A and B pillar covers as well sun visors and front widow trim. I then broke the corner off the interior light panel removing it…
Snoopy went in to Roger at PowerItalia for the next phase of 'maintenace' work New door check strap Bonnet release cable fixed Full service minus spark plugs Replace brake fluid (Motul RBF 660) and fix twisted flexi brake line New Mobil 1 10W60 Replace power steering belt Fit clutch cylinder mounting bracket Nearside wishbone / hub, new bolt
By now Snoopy had only covered a few dozen miles, mostly being driving to and from various garages for work to take place. At the start of May though, she was starting to smoke. I was convinced it was turbo seals (smoke after idling for a minute or two) but after a few trips to Roger's he wasn't convinced. Eventually, she started to run rougher and rougher and so she was booked in for a proper inspection.
Before then though, I'd ordered a box of dry ice to remove the sound deadening. So with some new oven gloves (I figured insulation works both ways) I set to work
Having received advice from Jon from Foresnsic Detailing (awesome channel BTW - check it out) to invest in a bottle of Tardis to tackle large areas of tar, I then set to work spraying this all over the affected areas. It made short work of the remaining mess leaving a nice finish that was then cleaned up using Bilt Hamber Surfex.
While the Coupé was at Roger's having the intermittant smoking issue investigated, some more work was carried out.
I discovered that the front BC Coilovers damper setting was to full 'hard'. I had reduced this to full soft but asked Roger adjust the rear. I have no idea when this ws adjusted or by whom but it's a world apart back on full soft. Until the car is properly corner-weighted, I'll leave it here for a dregee of comfort. In theory, the ride will soften up when the cage is installed and the torsional rigidity is increased.
Front inner CV boot on both nearside and offside replaced.
The engine was then pulled apart revealing the extent of the damage. In a nutshell, it had melted piston number 5 and there was scoring on both cyclinders 5 and 1. Roger didn't have the workshop space to keep my coop while the block was being rebored and so we looked at other options.
We ended up calling some bloke called Joe who runs a business called F.C.S.S.? Apparently he has done some work on a few coupes before... Anyway, he kindly arranged for the car to be picked up and carted off out West where it would have a fully forged rebuild this time. Back in the late noughties, after it melted a piston, I replaced them all with Wossners. At the time, I had a little less budget and so it was all done as cheaply as possible. This meant standard rods and was a regret of mine pretty much ever since. This time, it would be done properly.
As noted at the start of this project thread, more power / engine mods was firmly placed at the bottom of my list of things to do. At the 416bhp mark, the power was clearly far too much for the chassis. I had intended to sort the restoration side before attending to chassis, suspension and brakes but my hand was forced. Joe is now completing a full front-end resoration and engine rebuild (and answering lists of questions I throw at him on Mondays ). There are a few more 'while you're at it' goodies going on but I believe Joe is going to put together a post of his Facebook page at some point so I'll refer to that here when the time comes.
I expect the next update will come towards the end of August when the car is rebuilt and run-in ready for remapping
April 2021 It’s home! After the car was taken to FCSS last summer, I finally drove it home on March 31st.
Here’s a summarised run down of the work that has been carried out, ordered into categories.
Engine re-build Block bored to 0.050 Wossner 82.5mm pistons Maxspeeding rods ARP 2000 bolts Crankshaft lapped Balancer bar removed Standard mains, big end and thrust race Head repaired, machining valves and seats, surfacing and grinding in and assembling valves OE/Dayco cam belt including new aux belts, pulleys and tensioners Brass water pump, cam and crank phase sensors Payne rocker cover gasket New flywheel mains seal, oil pump and head gasket, head bolts
Restoration and protection Quite a bit of welding: Inner arch welding (finishing ‘engine side’ welding that was carried out last MOT) New front Eiffel towers fitted Nearside - Front quarter of outer sill, centre section, rear quarter (Pinin badge area), Rear arch Offside - sill and rear arch repair Welding on N/S and O/S floor pans Panels sprayed with a rattle can to keep the cost down for now but protection for the primer Engine bay prepped and painted New radiator support bar Powder coated engine bay parts
Odd and ‘while you’re at it’ jobs Five EGT probes (stainless steel 1/8 thermocouple probe socket) – EGT monitoring planned Wideband sensor fitting welded in Direnzo alloy Radiator fitted Quaife ATB differential fitted New Brembo solid brake pipes (copper nickel) New oil remote O'ring and dip stick tube seal Pinch bolts and nyloc nuts for wishbone ball joint / hub Mileage corrected - 52,346 miles added (previously replaced clocks were incorrect)
Further purchases for later fitting… Momo steering wheel - Leather Mod. 07 Momo steering wheel boss Saikou Michi dual catch can 3m ASH 19mm stainless steel braided oil hose Gear knob - We Are Likewise (Daytona Pro) Gear knob European adapter (10mm)
The current plan I drove it home to start the running in process (Millers 10/60 running in oil) and will return it to Joe before driving it to Flea for mapping on Wednesday April 21st.
I had the alignment corrected this morning at Tyre Tyre-Smart in Witham. The guy in the shop said the alignment on the rear was 'mustard' and that of the 3 or 4 of these (Coupés) he'd sewen in recent years, it was by far the best Only the Toe was out so that was cheaper than expected. Nice to have a straight steering wheel for a change!
I've also sorted the windows not closing properly. Both channels either side of the glass needed cleaning and lubing and the bottom seal also need soem attention on the driver's side. I can't remember the last time the windows opened fully with one press...
Next stage? 8-point roll cage FIA spec lowered seat mounts Bucket seats Harnesses Momo steering wheel fitted
As per this post, mapping didn't exactly go to plan. Speaking to Joe and Roger, the pair agreed that it was worth doing some checks on the engine to see if it was tight and to get a second figure on the compression ratio. As the starter motor had died, a new one was fitted and the engine tested. It turned out that the engine was not tight and a compression check came back at around the 150psi mark.
Speaking to Leighton after this, he informed me that Coupés do not like to be tuned with high compression and mine has always been a bit difficult when it comes to advancing the timing. We've since agreed that a fresh 2.4 head is the way and discussed options around a water meth system. A way forward was agreed and I'll cover this in more detail when that time comes.
As the fitment of the roll cage had already been pencilled in when the engine issues appeared, I decided to go on with this and return to the engine at a later date. The car was usable and so the rest of the project could continue. Fixed back seats were ordered from GSM along with harnesses and all the associated fittings.
The car went in to Power Italia to have NGK8s fitted (another possible contributing factor with the engine issues) and dampers adjusted to 14 front, 11 rear. It felt a lot more planted after this set up so I'm going to leave it here for now.
With the cage booked in for end of July, I was understandably relieved when the Sabelt Titan XLs arrived at my house only a week before! Of course, I immediately sat one down on top of the old seat on the garage floor to test it out and found it to be just as good as I had hoped after having tested them many months before. Very happy With a boot full of shiny bits, I headed off to Joe’s to get some help removing the dash…
The dash proved to be even more stubborn than I had feared, but thankfully Joe was able to draw on near limitless levels of sorcery and it finally came off. Back into the car, I headed on to the roll cage guy.
Upon arrival at the roll cage fitter, it transpired that he’d forgotten I was en route so the whole day of rushing around in blistering heat was for nought. Which was nice.
As soon as the roll cage guy started prepping the car for the cage, he found a problem. The inner sills had rotted away to nothing, precisely where the cage was to be mounted... They looked fine from inside the car but when he cleared away the seam sealant, it quickly became apparent that they were nothing but seam sealant. He wasn't willing to do the welding himself (he'd done his share over the years apparently, and wants to stick to the actual cage work). I asked him for a recomendation for someone who would do the job to a good standard. He gave me a number of a chap based down in Radstock, Somerset.
Unfortunately, this chap was booked out and so it was several MONTHS later before I could finally have the car taken to him, the idea being that he would make a start between existing jobs. As it turned out, this meant the car was sat for yet another two months... He finally made a start just before Christmas.
Here are some photos from before, during and after the repair of just the nearside sill. He's going to be doing the offside too, as well as some work on the boot floor for the roll cage rear stays.