We’ve all heard it before, but do we listen? No. Because what fun would that be?
A little over a year ago I made in impulse buy on a 1979 Fiat 124 spider. It ran good, needed some cosmetics, and had issues with several electrical components, described to me by the PO as “corrosion in the fuse box from water getting inside due to my now ex-wife forcing me to keep it outside”.
A preliminary inspection revealed no rust, and a quick test drive showed all major components to be in working order, and $2,500 later, she was in my driveway (and later my garage).
Man I thought I had a steal.
I began working through the electrical issues, starting with the fuse box, which had corroded, and showed signs of stagnant water (and before you ask, no, there were and still are no signs of flood). While working through the electrical I decided it was a good idea to lift the car and give the whole thing a good once over. This revealed bad bushings, bent brake lines, and generally poor workmanship.
Now I don’t mind having to fix the suspension on a 30 year old car as this is a fairly important component and I enjoy knowing that its not going to fall apart at the next turn. I also decided to upgrade some parts while I was at it.
The A-arms came off, were blasted and re-coated, new wheel bearings, stainless brake lines, new ball joints, polly bushings all around, new sway bar, upgraded springs from Germany (on an Italian car in America, I know...), adjustable struts, slotted rotors, and some EBC greens, as well as a few other miscellaneous parts.
$2,200 later and all I had to do was finish the electrical concerns, and then later the cosmetics, and I would be good to go...
So again to the task of the electrical. With the fuse box replaced, I was excited to see I had working headlights, but still, no working turn signals, tail lamps, or HVAC.
Fast forward through lots of wire chasing and pinning outs, and it turns out PO decided to, not splice, but cut and re-use the power source for both the tail lights and the turn signals to power the fuel pump he also shittily installed.
With mostly functional safety lights it was time to move onto the HVAC system. A few screw later and the blower motor was free. Hmm? Thats intersting, this isn’t working becasue its not plugged in... And it’s not plugged in becasue it was made for a Mercury, not a Fiat, so the connector does not match.
After much deliberation and discovering the fact that the PO basically rebuilt the whole HVAC system with leftover parts from various cars and lots of plumbers putty, I decided to remove the HVAC system completely, as this car was (or is) slated to remain in my garage with the top down as I don’t fit with the top up (yes I will drive it, just on nice days with top down, so HVAC won’t be useful anyways).
In removal of the HVAC system I came across several concerning items. First, the AC compressor was not hooked up to anything. All the parts were there, but there was no belt, and the signal wire was not only not plugged into anything, but wrapped around the drive gear. Finally, the AC condenser was held in place by double sided tape...
With the AC unit removed, I now had easier access to the heater core hoses. Oh, wait, whats this? They aren’t actually connected to the heater core? So why is coolant not spewing out madly every time the car is on? Oh, becasue the other end of the hose is disconnected and capped off with random bolts held in place by hose clamps.
Oh and whats this that I can see clearly now?
A random hole punched in the firewall for the purpose of..? Were the two open grommets not more than 6 inches away not good enough to use? Seriously, there was a wire in that punched hole, I found one end melted on the exhaust pipe with no reference to where it may have been “supposed” to go, and the other end was tucked under the carpet, leading literally no where. Just a foot long piece of wire with one cut end under the carpet and the other end slowly burning on the exhaust pipe.
I found a slew of other things whilst fiddling. Lots of loose wires to nowhere. missing bolts. Incorrect size bolts. Things that should be tight and were not. Things that should not be tight but were. Things that can melt zip tied to things that get hot.
Yeah, it’s not pretty. But this one was my favorite.
When I bought this, I asked about any issues he had. I was told, among other seemingly small things, “sometimes it seems to mis-fire, and I cant seem to figure out why”. As you can see in this picture, the coil is bolted in on one side. It can move fairly freely. What you cant see is that the terminal on the other side is in such a position that should you hit a bump in the right manner, the coil will move, and likely ground out.
My tale of caution to you is this. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
While we have all been told that time and time again, my $2,500 Fiat quickly turned into a $5,000 Fiat, which is now likely to result in me saying screw it, I trust nothing of the PO, and pulling the motor and doing a full rebuild and rewire to the tune of another $5,000 +.
(P.S. If the pictures are showing up upside down, just know, Kinja took a brief trip to Australia)