Fiat Strada 130TC Abarth Restoration
A story of time and money
I bought my strada a few years back in 2002 from London. I spoke to the owner on the phone and from his description and a couple of pictures I decided to travel (500 miles) to see the car. My mate Roger picked me up at the airport and we drove over to see the car. It had been off the road for 2 years as the owner had lost interest and the car had fallen into disrepair through neglect and poor maintainance.
I looked at the car and found the sills were solid and the car was very compete (torch, deflectors, badges), it started up and drove but the doors, tailgate and rear panel were poor as well as the brakes. I hammered out a deal and bought it anyway.
Driving along the M25 it started to rain, I turned on the wipers and 2 years of dirt cover the window. The wiper on the drivers side was shot and soon I couldn't see where I was going at rush hour on the M25 in pouring rain. I had to stop on the hard shoulder and swap the blades over from the passenger side to the drivers side. About 1/2 a mile from my mates house and just after coming off the M25 I heard a large thudding noise. I pulled over and heard a ping. A traffic police car drove past in the other direction, great timing I thought. Juming out and looking under the car I saw the metal plate of the brake pad had fallen out (no pad left) and was steaming in a puddle. The cop car never came back, obviously busy thank god. I drove the car very, very carefully the final 1/2 mile. It could still brake but it was quite dodgy.
I went to the factors in the morning and bought a set of pads and wipers for the 500 mile journey home. Fitting them and looking at the starter problem which I could not fix I set off, my mate shadowed me in his WRX until I reached the M25 and he waved goodbye.
The roof lining was sagging but I drove it (very carefully) all 500 miles back to Scotland, when I stopped for fuel and the call of nature I had to leave the car running as it would not restart due to the starter problem which made for an interesting trip. It took only 7 hours (not bad) at a steady 75mph, I was too worried to take it above that incase anything fell off. That was until I got 50 miles from home and realised I wouldn't need a low loader to complete the trip. I gave it a few prods of the pedal and was rewarded with torque and power. I had got the car back to Scotland no problem, it ran like a dream.
I got the car down to my workshop and started investigating further. I knew the doors, tailgate and rear panel needed replacing but I also found the tyres, starter and radiator would all need replaced. The rear brake bias valve was also seized and both front brake caliper nipples were snapped off - very helpfull.
With a list of work that long I left the car standing for another year before I started work. I fitted a new rear panel, patched up the doors and tailgate (could not source decent new items in time) then had the car painted. I recovered the roof lining in leather look material and decided to fit Lancia Integrale brakes which meant having to use Integrale wheels. I had 'only' spent about £1000 on top of the purchase price.
The car ran great and I got some good use out it for the next few years. I attended many shows in it and it drew interest everywhere it went. Not much went wrong although the doors and tailgate were a ticking time bomb. I only had to buy a new exhaust system so I bought a stainless 2" straight through as the original is so badly designed it saps at least 10hp. It comes with a lifetime warranty and sounds great, not bad for £320.
I was surprised it lasted 3 years before the doors and tailgate bomb went off given their condition. I decided to bite the bullet and source good panels. Little did I know that was only the start!
I thought I was taking it off the road to do a quick swap of panels and paint, 2 weeks I thought. What I ended up doing was a complete restoration to take it up to show standard, I had gone mad.
The list of parts needing replaced was extensive and I wanted to use new parts where possible as well as completely respray the car in 2K Ferrari red with a clear coat. The old style 2 pack that had been used a few years back was a straight colour (no clear coat) and it had started to fade. I didn't was to have to polish the car as I don't have the time. 10 weeks later and about £4000 lighter the car is done.
It was a hell of a lot of work, but was it worth it?
Not financially no, cost to do it right £4000 + £1500 value of the original car, worth now, £3500, loss of £2000
But definately worth it emotively, I had a car I know is sorted to a very high standard with many new parts and is tuned to my liking with a little more power, slightly different look and the comfort I wanted. It's also very rare in Scotland, only 3 or 4 are up here and of those I only know 1 other is on the road but rarely driven.
These are not cheap to restore, very difficult to run on a budget and fragile but so much fun to drive that it's worth it in the end if you really like to drive your car.
PART 1 - Body
Doors, tailgate replaced with good s/h parts, various repairs made to the body and painted in Ferrari Rosso clear over base 2K paint. Below shows the sequence of work, click on the picture to see a large size of pic!
Rust proofing takes place
I used Dynax cavity wax, yellow tin is an old container being reused. You need to make sure all the rubber bungs are removed and the wax is sprayed at high pressure into sills (inner and outer), front and rear inner wing box sections, front cross member, rear panel, floor box sections, inside of the doors (lots) , the inside of the rear wings, the tailgate and the bonnet. Dynax is dark brown in colour, cures existing rust and penetrates further than most cavity waxes. Without this all the hard work would go to waist within a few years, this should make it last much longer