When I saw BlythBros’s post about his dearly departed Alfa, my heart sank. I’m all too familiar with how much an incident like that hurts. At some point though, the mess has to be dealt with and pieces have to be picked up. The question is, what pieces should be kept?
When my dad and I went through the mess of our burnt down shop, it was tough to sort through. Deciding what was still good and what wasn’t proved difficult at times. From my experience, I think whether a part should be kept or not comes down to three factors.
Material - What is it made out of?
Steel gets a bad rap nowadays. Carbon fiber and aluminum are the new hotness, and steel is just the cheap, heavy old stuff that oxidizes too easily. You know what steel does well? It survives high temperatures, that’s what. My dad and I kept many tools from the fire such as the socket I am holding in the cover picture. Anything that is aluminum, plastic or rubber is highly questionable after a fire. Although any part should be thoroughly inspected before using it again after a fire, anything that is steel should fare pretty well.
Complexity - How many separate parts is it?
An engine may be mostly made out of metal but it relies on many non-metal parts to run properly. An engine may appear okay after a fire but it is worth it to break it down, inspect it and replace every seal, bushing, ring, gasket, etc. That is what my dad did with the engine from my old Mustang. Never was I glad the heads were cast iron until after the fire. Aluminum heads may not survived as well. After refurbishment, I’d say the ol’ 302 turned out quite well.
The car itself though we ditched. Being a unibody, the Mustang relies on its body for structual integrity. With so many welds and seams that could have been compromised, we didn’t feel it could be trusted again. Some people take the chance and will restore a fire damaged car, and I would hope that they decide to do so after a very thorough inspection.
Proximity - Where was it in the fire?
This one is sometimes not so obvious. You think the further away an object is from the source of the fire, the less damage it receives. But sometimes an object that is close to the start of the fire survives well. My dad and I were shocked that the Tremec T-45 transmission, despite being aluminum, fared really well. Especially since the rear rims, which were also aluminium, melted into puddles. The difference? We believe that once the tires burst, the car sank to the ground and suffocated any fire happening underneath the car. There was no oxygen around the transmission to burn. Or at least we think so.
So for anyone that has to deal with fire damaged parts, I hope this helps. I know I bring up my burnt up ‘67 a lot, almost to the point of, well, um... beating a dead horse, but what happened to my dad and I was so tragic that I feel compelled to prevent anyone from going through the same thing and to help those who unfortunately have to deal with a garage fire. BlythBros, I wish you the best. Everyone, stay safe and motor on.