THE BOUGHT UNSEEN blind date ‘bargain’ 1974 Alfa Spider arrives, delivered with free rust (see last month’s magazine). It has turned out to also have seized brakes and, as a bonus at no extra cost, a shredded head gasket.
The sills remind me of the colander we use for spaghetti and the rear valance is no better. The ignition cartridge requires subtle persuasion in order to get it to do the one and only task in the entire universe that ignition cartridges are supposed to do. The door locks work when they feel like it – which is not often. And the radio is still refusing to surrender the secret of its life, assuming it is capable of life at all. None of which has deterred me in the slightest. Give it a few more weekends.
At Alfa counselling I met restorers Greg and Sarah.
Over the last few years, they have ventured down the same road. They’ve burned $22,000 so far and have now given up. In the wake of their money-burning exercise this leaves behind an unpainted body – converted from left hook to RHD – but still needing significant welding of sills and floors, a motor and gearbox sitting on the floor of the shed, mountains of imported new parts still in bubble wrap and a new-found respect for the tenacity of anyone who gets a project finished. I am determined to be that person.
I take advantage of their distress and pick over the carcass of their car. Spare gearbox: $300. Spare motor, original Campagnolo wheels, a set of new custom made chrome extractors, starter motor, brand new original door mirrors, it is all worth grabbing and putting on the shelf until needed.
On my car, the brake master cylinder is seized – it hardly moves. It has been despatched to be spoken to harshly at the re-sleevers. I trust it comes home better behaved. The cylinder head has been removed, sent away to be shaved and tested, new gaskets found and then reinstalled. The starter motor solenoid promptly collapses.
The spare that I bought just a week before is therefore already pressed into timely service.
Once the head is back on, we start the little beauty and let her run a while. It is rough as guts. Turns out the rubber bellows between the head and the Dell’Orto carbs are all perished, sucking in air. New ones have been imported from the UK and fitted to snazzy new air filters that I prefer instead of the heavy ugly and bulky original.
The motor seems fundamentally strong and once the brakes are working I can finally drive the little beauty to the panel beater so that Bill can wave his magic wand next.
Meanwhile, just because life can get too orderly and sensible, I have again – yet again – rescued an orphaned DS Citroen. Under a tree gathering moss sits a DS23 Pallas carbie five-speed, arguably the most sensible and desirable combination of all. I get her to start and pump up – so the hydraulics are all okay.
More importantly there is no structural rust whatsoever and almost none even in the skins of the boot and doors. It is 100 per cent intact and the steering rack has already been replaced. The price is fair and I crazily embark on yet another project. Is she my Juliet to go with my Romeo?