I naturally enough started by ripping the head off. That was done in a few hours, and, being curious about the general condidtion of the car and overpowered by the mouldy mildew smell emanating from the interior, ripped that out too, expecting to see an interesting new view of the garage floor through the floorpan of an 850. To my surprise and delight, the floorpan was in pretty darned good condition.
The rest just went on from there. More parts came off until I had not only taken up the one car space "Aunty" allowed me, but half of the underneath of her house too!
Before I noticed, I must have made a decision to rebuild this car in preference to Fang. At least this one looked good enough on close inspection to save. Perhaps I just got carried away with the boundless enthusiasm of youth. I was going to Tech College at nights by now doing a Journeyman's course in panel beating, welding and custom body-forming, and I guess it just seemed that anything was possible...
Due to the poor paint quality on it and a desire to do a thorough job, I began to strip it back to bare metal - I wanted to learn and know just what I was up against. Out with the paint stripper... I ripped off all the bumpers, trims, lights, chrome strips, rubber grommets - everything that wasn't welded onto to the body. All external surfaces were stripped, with the paint in the engine bay and front boot simply sanded back to a sound base as these had not been previously resprayed.
I started out with a $20 K-Mart socket set, a few weak and crumbly screwdrivers and 2 bottle jacks - not exactly a well equipped workshop! (Note the use of concrete 'Bessa' blocks as car stands). I was just getting into cars and made do with very little money, or in retrospect, knowledge, but hey, how else would I learn?
The next things I did were remove the engine, gearbox, windscreens and glass. Eventually, the entire front and rear suspension came out too along with the steering and braking systems and the fuel tank. There really wasn't much of the car left besides a bare body shell which is exactly how I wanted it!
The months ticked by and Aunty became a bit ticked off, though I think she enjoyed the company even if I was always grubby and making noise and dust and mess downstairs.
I ended up spending 3 months of my 18th year underneath this car as I painstakingly chipped off the old and cracked proofcoat and assorted crud back to original paint. I scraped all the old seam sealant and caulking compound out of every weld, nook and cranny to ensure a perfectly clean and rust free body, doing repairs and taking anti-rust precautions as I went.
This was exceedingly boring and at times I seriously wondered what the heck I was doing squandering my valuable youth on this menial task, but today when I look in my garage at the results of my work, I see that it was all worth it.
After all this preparation, I sprayed fishoil everywhere, re-sealed the seams, re-caulked and proofcoated the underside, finishing it in a gloss black.
Whenever I simply couldn't take another night of working on the body, I side-tracked to the various engine and suspension parts lying around the garage floor (I didn't have a workbench) begging for my attention. One by one these were all cleaned up, inspected, replaced as necessary and detailed within inches of their life! Call me crazy - you wouldn't be the first - but every individual component, even down to nuts, bolts and washers were given the "treatment" and finished in enamel or if they were alloy, polished to a fine lustre then clear coated in engine enamel. Everything had to be colour co-ordinated in blue black or silver.
These days with more money and sense, I'd opt for hot tank cleaning, bead blasting and powdercoating of many of the parts - especially the suspension - for durability, but back then, I wanted to do everything.
I also replaced all hoses and lines with Cavis Benz original spec and replaced hose clamps, suspension bushes, trim clips, missing fasteners - everything!
Finally after months of despairing that it would EVER get finished, there appeared a little light at the end of the proverbial tunnel... I got some paint back on the car!!! OK, so it was only primers, but it was a good sign!
I didn't own a real compressor at the time, only a small touch up gun type, but it was fine for pushing acrylic lacquer as it doesn't need high PSI. When it came to the final coats I hired a full sized unit and gun. (Did you know that if you remove the passengers seat from an 850, that a compressor fits perfectly between the seat tracks with its wheels and front support nestled in the footwells? Well it does!).
After the etch primer and grey primer, I hit it with a guide coat of misted on black. When rubbed back with a block, this shows the high and low spots for fine tuning the surface. This was important as a high gloss dark colour like the Midnight Blue I was painting it with shows ALL imperfections beautifully. The colour I chose was a Fiat paint code used on some 850's and 125's. After some spot putty and spray putty and loads more rubbing back, it was finally ready for top coats.
Just as well too, as by now Aunty was really starting to get a bit hoofey...
Just as well - after an incredibly tolerant year, Aunty needs her garage back. I have 3 weeks to get out.
The suspension, steering and brakes go back on, I spraypainted it, put the engine and gearbox back in, and everything else is bolted back on in a big hurry. After a year of diligent preparation, it all suddenly comes down to this.
Triumph & Tradgedy
All the Extras
Resprayed & Improved
Today & the Future