History of the project;

Back in the summer of 2005 we bought a cople of X1/9’s from John down the road.

All for 650 bux. One, a mostly complete car that had been run up the back of something shocking, and another – a bare shell with no engine, interior or anything else for that matter.

The shell had a very tasty Abarth replica bodykit glassed onto it, so the plan at the time was to build up an Abarth Prototipo.

Prototipo Replica

Like the one on the right which is Andy Black’s. (Photo from Fiat Club Victoria Febuary 2006 Concourso)

Unfortunately after scratching the surface, the Arbath kit was in a poor state of repair and serious renovation was needed… The saga begins…

 

Julian – Head Mechanic… well, he has one that’s currently on the road and he knows his way around one (I hope!)

Dave (me) – Apprentice… hell I do what Julian tells me to! I know a little, but I’m on a steep learning curve

Jack – he knows what he’s doing, too, but mainly on V8’s (and unfortunately, the X hasn’t got a V8)

 

Jono – loves to help. Enthusiastic as a puppy, and has a 6th sense for stripping hard to reach parts

These are the main 4 perpetrators, you’ll see a few more people pop up as Project X makes its momentous way into the pages of web history.

 

 

—–HOW IT ALL BEGAN—–

 

So anyway, it has been the dream of a couple of friends and I over the last few months to buy an X for modification and eventually track racing in Victoria, Australia. Searching the Trading Post for a few months showed up one person selling two absolute rust buckets – not unusual as everyone who’s ever owned one only ever complains about the uncanny ability to rust just about everywhere. Plus the cars were in Brisbane, and it was going to cost as much to freight them to Melbourne as it was to buy them, thus doubling the price. No fun at all if we’re paying for them through the nose.

 

Christmas passed us by, the New Year was spent interstate, and then Julian needed a part for his X. He made a few calls and found the part nearby with John, a guy from the car club. Julian dropped a hint about wanting to find a car to play with (to supplement his own roadie) and John said “I gotta get rid of a couple around the back”. Lo and behold, the 2 cars sitting axle deep in mud were screaming out for restoration. John had already started on one, before getting sidetracked on his proper race car (another X1/9). He had already fitted fibreglass wheel flares, engine bay/boot lid and stripped the car ready for painting. Thankfully for us the car has miraculously resisted the trademark rust on most panels, and what cancer there is, is merely cosmetic.

The donor car however was a write off. A complete car, run into a bobcat. Luckily the car is still complete, and we plan to strip it and use all of the parts to build the racer. That is the plan.

The donor car

 

 

 

—–GETTING THE CARS HOME—–

Luckily John could get his hands on a tandem trailer for a day, and the cars could easily be towed the 15 minutes to my house – their new home for a couple of months. Mum cracked it when she saw them (I’d only sold the dune buggy that was taking up the space about 2 hours earlier after a year of trying) but I’m sure her enthusiasm will grow as she sees it coming together (heh fat chance)

 

Winching the car out of the hardpack

 

 

We had to winch the cars out of the hardpack, but with four pairs of hands we moved the 2 cars into their new homes in about 2 hours flat. Impressive? I thought so.

 

—–ONCE HOME (or how to strip a car in 2 weeks to keep mum happy)—–

Well, I never thought I’d have so many people just drop around to look at a couple of rusty old shells. Not only do they rock up and say “Wow, that’s so cool” but some even get their hands dirty. Thanks, Cal, Stuart and (shock horror) Sarah for getting your mitts filthy in the name of restoration. Also kudos to Shan, Lane, Paul and anyone else who just saw the floodlights on and came for a sticky beak. I’m not sure how long it will be before the novelty wears off, but we’ll take all the help we can get while we’re getting it.

Jack being fed while working under the car

 

 

 

—–ENGINE CRANE? NAAAAAH—–

 

I suppose the reason the X1/9 makes suck a good race car is the same reason it makes a good project car. It’s light. Very light. We had lots of helpers around today, including Woppy; my dad’s mate (Has a Cortina GT – great fun to watch at the hill climbs). Juice decided that it was time. Everyone raced to their car boot (trunk, for the norteamericano’s) and grabbed a jack (the lifting type, not the person. Putting people in boots is illegal in Australia).

 

 

Tools ready, we supported the engine on one jack, the car on two more, and undid the engine mounts. Unfortunately the jacks wouldn’t lift the car high enough, but Woppy didn’t bat an eyelid. Using his gorilla strength he lifted the car clear of the engine (The engine comes out the bottom, not out the top. Backwards Italians…). With the help of Macca and Jack, the engine was lowered and dragged clear. A productive day.

 

—–NOVELTY MOST DEFINETELY WORN OFF—–

 

They’ve finally snapped. Autumn is upon us, the nights are colder and the worker ants are dropping in with ever decreasing frequency. I said it would happen, did I not? Well 2 months after the cars were purchased; the parts car is nearly stripped. Only the windows remain in it, along with electrical components of varying degrees of usefulness. Speaking of electrics, Julian got a call from John, the guy we bought the cars from, with a strange request.

 

 

“Do you guys have a spare wiring loom?” A short pause… “Umm, yeah, why?” The story goes that John’s fuel injected beastie caught fire. Just a little fire at first. He saw smoke in the rear view mirror, and originally thought it was nothing serious. He pulled into the pits, and turned off the engine. The smoke continued. That was bad. He asked the marshal if there was a fire, and grabbed the small extinguisher all cars legally must carry for occasions like this. It was emptied onto the fire. It continued. Others grabbed their own extinguishers from surrounding cars, and still no effect. The fire then hit the fuel lines, shooting flames several metres into the air. It was minutes before the fire marshal vehicle came with extinguishers of any size (and usefulness) appeared. The end result was one very charred car, what some might describe as a “renovators dream”. It was nearly the end of John’s dream, and I suppose this event just makes me realise that even these events are quite dangerous. I can’t wait!

 

—–MOVING NORTH FOR THE WINTER—–

 

Because the weather is now quite chilly, thanks to the southern winter, Juice and I decided it was time to move the “Builder” car somewhere a bit warmer and lighter (with a concrete floor, unlike my car port’s dirt). So we did a “chuck” at Juice’s Nona’s. We threw out old boxes of toys, scrap pieces of wood, and various other pieces of nebulous crap. Joe (Nono) was enthusiastic with the idea of having a FIAT again, just more oil to clean up he thought.

 

 

So we borrowed John’s trailer again which only juuuuuust scraped through my gates (it rubbed on the fenceposts) and changed it from Jack’s Ute to his dad’s brand spanking new Mercedes 4wd. The FIAT went on with little trouble (it didn’t have a steering wheel, but this was only a minor drawback for the innovative thinking of combined mind power). We tied it on, and Cliff drove it back out the drive and started down the street. On the slightly upward incline in my driveway, the car was solid as a rock. However, as he drove out and down the hill in front of my house, the unthinkable happened. The X rolled forward on the trailer. Towards the Merc. There was nothing to stop it except the trailer bar. Lucky it did, because the nice new Merc would have been not so nice, or new if the X had have got its way. After picking up our jaws back up off the ground we re-tied it and off it went to Fairfield.

 

—–PLENTY GETTING DONE—–

 

We’ve had a burst of energy lately, and have now done all the electrics! We decided to make our own ignition circuit using far heavier wire than the original. We also installed a kill switch (earth isolator) and prepped the engine bay in anticipation of the engine to be replaced in its rightful spot BEHIND the driver. We don’t even know if the bloody thing works!

 

It was also around this time that John suggested that while the engine was out we get the flywheel off it and get it lightened. The way he described it sounded simple enough, “Just put it on a lathe and take material off the back face” he said. No specifications were specified, only the warning “If you take too much off and it shatters while you’re doing 9000rpm on the main straight at Philip Island, the whole engine is f**ked”.

 

With this in mind, I trundled off to Robin’s (my dad) factory. He gave me a crash course in turning steel and set up the flywheel for me. We tapered the edges and everything. It was a beautiful job and the flywheel was less than half the original weight. Juice took it and the clutch to the balancers and the whole lot was bolted back onto the engine ready to be re-installed in the car.

 

—–ENGINE IN—–

 

It took a while, but eventually the engine from the donor car made its way into the racer. Jack made a comeback, and just in time. He spent several hours under the car (again – this time with a broken arm in plaster) manhandling the engine and gearbox combo into position, while I passed Julian tools to do up the bolts. I manage to get all those sorts of jobs. Julian probably thinks I’m gonna knock off his precious sockets. In actual fact I don’t want them, they’re all too big to fit the bolts on my motorbike anyway.

 

I digress. It took most of the arvo, but G (Jack’s missus) was there to witness it, and she took the photo to prove it, so it really happened. It still hasn’t been turned over.

 

—–IT’S ALIVE!—–

 

It’s been well over six months since we bought the cars by now. The progress is quite tangible at the moment. Stuff you can see and hear always is, and the anticipation of seeing whether it’s a lemon or a growling Italian stallion is saliva inducing.

 

Final preps were made to the car to start it. I bought 5 litres of Optimax from the servo, we fitted the replaced fuel pump, primed the lines and the carbies, eyeballed the points, turned the engine over on the starter to ensure oil pressure, made sure it was all good, and then…

BOOM! A few splutters, backfires, and then it rumbled into life of its own. I must remind everyone that this engine had not been started since it was driven from john old to new house over 4 years ago. Pretty amazing how well an engine can be preserved with oil in it. It’s just the rest of the car that had all the problems, rust etc. Whether it lasts a long time or shits itself on the first track day remains to be seen. I think Juice and I have approached all problems with the view of over engineering or fixing the problem properly, to avoid costly repairs and frustrating time delays once it’s running and racing. The bottom line is that the engine runs of its own accord. This is very good news.

 

2 Responses to “History”

  1. woppy Says:

    G’day Boys
    Nice work so far and an entertaining read .
    Would like to see updated pics and report of Phillip Island
    regds Wop

  2. woppy Says:

    Its about time for an UPDATE


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