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Fupdiggity New Reader
1/24/16 11:58 a.m.

I've owned many a car in my life, but never an Italian one, or a convertible. It was time. Given I'm also trying to be more financially responsible the only answer was a 124.

I dragged this home yesterday, now I need to figure out what to do with it. As the title says, It's a 1975 Fiat 124 with about 118k miles.

It's a one-family vehicle, purchased new by the father in '75 and transferred to the son in the late 90's-early 2000's. The father drove it pretty regularly & did quite a few parking lot races (there's a few SCCA stickers around the car). It lived in Virginia & then Florida where it was last titled & driven regularly somewhere around '90. After that it spend the next 10ish years in dry storage, bouncing between Florida, South Dakota, then Cincinnati before coming out to Denver to live with the son.

The son took it on as a project, replacing the head (timing belt broke) w/ a 1650 head, rebuilt the carb, plugs/wires/distributor, replaced the shocks, brakes, headers & top. Life got in the way and he decided he would rather have a more modern toy, hence the sale.

BrokenYugo UltimaDork
1/24/16 12:14 p.m.

Sounds like you won't have any rust to deal with, so that's half the battle already over.

Being one of the first timing belt engines, these go through them quickly, like 3yr/36k miles quickly, start with a fresh one.

Being an Italian car, go buy a fire extinguisher before you try to work on it, keep one in the car when driving it.

Fupdiggity New Reader
1/24/16 12:33 p.m.

The car moves under it's own power, but is far from road worthy. My first goal is to address a few drivability issues, make the top weather tight, and stop the advance of rust. So far I've driven it around the block and into my driveway and I've never driven a 124 previously.

Even though it has "new" fluids, it's sat for long enough I'll probably run through them as I'm sure they have collected moisture over the years. The timing belt was done in 2005 and has no more than a few miles, but I figure it's good insurance to replace that as well. The timing belt cover that came with the car is missing the timing marks on the bottom, so the ignition timing is off. I have a bid in on an ebay cover to rectify that. The only other immediate mechantical issue I know if is the drive shaft appears to be rubbing on the exhaust and/or the brake lines

As for the cosmetics, it's a neglected old Fiat, so theres rust. Although I'm reasonably handy with a wrench I've never done body work, so this will be a first. My first goal is to keep any of the rust from advancing while I drive it before determining the level of reconditioning I'm ready to undertake.

Back in the 70s, the father was at a gas station, when he came out, the Fiat was gone. He spent a few hours riding around with an officer looking for his "stolen" car when he realized it rolled across the street into a drainage ditch. The DS front fender & bumper got mushed up, and he had a friend do a budget repair job by cutting the front half of the fender off & replacing it. There's evidence of the spot welds on the fender and poor quality welds on the bumper mounts. There was also a fender bender that left a decent dent in the DS door. These are the only two accidents the car has had.

Passenger side rear fender:

Passenger rocker:

Passenger rocker by the rear wheel, this is the worst spot I can find on the car.

Underside is pretty clean:

Trunk drain:


Driver's corner inside the trunk:

Passenger bumper mount w/ poor quality welds:

Driver's bumper mounts:

Driver's fender, paint chipping:

Inside the driver's front fender, I'm guessing the poor quality repair job is to blame for the rust, the passenger fender well appears to be clean.

Driver's fender/door trim rust:

Rust holes on the top of the driver's rear quarter panel, this will have to be addressed right away so the fender doesn't fill with water. This will most likely be my first ever rust repair. I'm guessing wire wheel & a metal patch is the way to go. Is there any additional rust prevention that should be done while I have access to the fender?

Top fitment on the driver's side, is there some type of stiffener/reinforcement that should go here to help with the seal?

Passenger's rear top fitment, same issue as the drivers:

Interior, cracked old leather, delaminating wood:

Driver's floor board:

Driver's fender behind the rear wheel:

Engine compartment is pretty clean:

Top of driver's front fender:

Cowl area:

Driver's side hood mount:

Top of passenger fender:

New(ish) headers:

Timing belt sits on the outside of the driver's cam, is this normal?

Hood insulation is in surprisingly decent shape:

As she sits now, somewhat protected from the weather while I figure out the top & rust issues.

It came with a pile of parts, including a 1456 (i think), a 5-speed, front a-arms/hubs & rear axle shafts out of a '71 124 coupe. The father has a storage unit down in the springs filled with a ton more parts from the '71, I just need to make it down to pick them up.

I have to get this put back together before I can really spend time on the Fiat, my '83 rallycross cressida, getting a new heart:

Found some sunglass in the trunk, my dog is diggin' them.

Fupdiggity New Reader
1/24/16 12:36 p.m.
BrokenYugo wrote: Sounds like you won't have any rust to deal with, so that's half the battle already over. Being one of the first timing belt engines, these go through them quickly, like 3yr/36k miles quickly, start with a fresh one. Being an Italian car, go buy a fire extinguisher before you try to work on it, keep one in the car when driving it.

Ha, I was busy putting together all the rust photos when you posted that. I wish there wasn't any rust to deal with, although non-rusty 70's Italian cars seem to be pretty rare, at least in my price bracket.

Timing belt is high on the list, it's clearly in very good shape, but I'll replace it anyways before I put any real miles on it. He threw in a fire-extinguisher can with the car, how appropriate!

BrokenYugo UltimaDork
1/24/16 1:47 p.m.

"Any" might have been poor word choice, perhaps "any serious rust", as I understand it some of them were almost that bad new.

Can't comment on the belt being off center, never had a twin cam, definitely looks wrong though. If nobody show up here and tells you what's wrong, post about it in the Grassroots Motorsports sub forum. Somebody will know.

Jumper K. Balls
Jumper K. Balls UberDork
1/24/16 2:56 p.m.

Inspect the rear trailing link mounts on the body tub carefully. I have had to inform two crestfallen 124 owners that their cars were scrap due to bad rot in this location.

 photo FB_IMG_1453668656161_zpspyvcasa2.jpg

This guy kept driving it after our warnings saying "I only drive it every couple of months and never hard. It will be fine"

It came back the next summer with the complaint that "it seems to steer from the rear" Uh... Yeah I am sure it does!

Fupdiggity New Reader
1/24/16 3:59 p.m.

In reply to Jumper K. Balls:

Ouch, thats nasty.

Luckily mine looks pretty solid.

NOHOME PowerDork
1/24/16 4:27 p.m.

Good foundation for whatever the plan is. So what is the plan?

brad131a4 Reader
1/24/16 6:25 p.m.

First off welcome to the last free day of your life. Owning a fiat will shortly become an obsession of finding parts and improving the parts you have.

If you don't have a welder yet that should be the first thing you buy. All the rusted area's you have pictured are fairly easy to repair. About the only one I see that could be a problem is the one on the top of the fender next to the top.

Even the area Jumper K Balls said is a deathnell for the whole car is incorrect. It is actually a very easy repair if done correctly.

First thing you need to do and you sound like you're on top of it is to change the timing belt. Second and a little more cost is to do all the front and rear control arm rubber bushings. Much easier just to buy the rear control arms than to try and replace the bushings. Did it once and that cured me really fast. The front can be a pain but you can get them all done and ready to bolt on. This little bit will make about the biggest improvement on how the car handles other than going full race.

Also check the guibo in the driveline for cracks in the rubber. Having one of these go is not fun.

Be ready to chase grounding issues as the Italians of that era had a demented way of grounding things on these cars.

If it still has points change that to electronic rather quickly unless you are into adjusting them every other week or less depending on your driving still. Motors are very robust and will take a lot of abuse even today. Now the transmissions on the other hand aren't as robust as the engine but treated nicely can take a nice bump in power up to about 200hp as well as the rear end.

If you don't know already there is a fair amount of info on Fiatspider.com as well as Mirafori.com once on there they have a supply of vendors to get just about any part you might need.

Good luck on the project. I have some body parts if you need them PM me if you are interested.

Fupdiggity New Reader
1/24/16 7:30 p.m.
NOHOME wrote: Good foundation for whatever the plan is. So what is the plan?

Pretty simple to start, get it road worthy, weather tight, and stop any active rusting, then drive for a bit and see how I like it. It will be a few weeks at least as I need to finish up the Cressida and get it out of my garage.

The drivable list includes: -figure out what the drive shaft is rubbing on and why. I think it's hitting both the rear brake lines & the exhaust. A quick look shows the front donut is dry rotted, so I'll replace that as well. -properly secure the battery (currently held in by a bungee cord -replace the timing belt -get a full timing belt cover & set the ignition timing properly -change the oil, coolant, brake fluid & clutch fluid (it may be a cable clutch) -diagnose a coolant leak, the PO thought it may be from a heater hose -maybe find some cheap tires, these are weather checked. I don't want to invest in a new set yet as I may move to a larger size (14 or 15") for better tire selection. In the mean time they will be fine for bumming around town

I'm sure this list will grow pretty quickly.

For the weather tight, I need to figure out how the top seals around the rear windows and fix the rust.

Fupdiggity New Reader
1/24/16 7:38 p.m.

In reply to brad131a4:

After it's on the road I'll take a good look at the control arm bushings, they look pretty dry and I'm sure it would really benefit from a new set. Not sure if the ignition is electronic or points, I'm used to more modern cars so there's a big learning curve on this.

I have a mig & tig, and I'm thoroughly mediocre at them. Bummer to hear the top of the fender may be a problem, what makes you say that? I was hoping that would be pretty straight forward. I figure that's the first spot I should go after to keep any water out of the fender.

Does anyone have some tips for a newbie's first rust repair? I figure after I sand away the paint to expose how much rust is there, I'll make a patch & butt weld using my mig. The question I have is prep of the back of the patch & any work that needs to be done inside the fender while it's open. Being the internet there's 100 different opinions. Should I treat the inside of the fender with a rust neutralizer? For the back of the patch panel I was planning on a self etching weld through primer.

I'm waiting to get confirmed from the moderator at fiatspider.com, and I have been poking around the Mirafori site for a few days. As my garage is full it will be info-gathering time for the next few weeks, I appreciate the tips.

brad131a4 New Reader
1/24/16 8:11 p.m.

The only thing wrong is the top being right next to the hole. There is a possibility you can remove the inner cover to access the rivets that hold the top on. Then you won't have to worry about melting the top by accident.

BTD New Reader
1/24/16 9:12 p.m.

This was the one on CO craigslist, right? Glad to see a GRM-er picked it up, I think it was a solid price for everything you got!

Fupdiggity New Reader
1/24/16 11:01 p.m.
BTD wrote: This was the one on CO craigslist, right? Glad to see a GRM-er picked it up, I think it was a solid price for everything you got!

Yup, it was on CL. I ended up paying $1700, a little more than I initially wanted but I think it was a fair price. I would have much preferred to find a less-rusty example, but it seems that even the clean ones aren't really that clean unless you spend the big bucks (relatively).

This will give me a good excuse to learn some body work, round out my skills a little. What's the worst that can happen?

BlackSweeper New Reader
1/27/16 9:43 p.m.

I second what Broken Yogo said about a fire extinguisher, I had a 1973 124 that caught on fire .... TWICE before I let the insurance company take it away. On the other had I have seen some nicely restored 124s that I wouldn't mind owning.

Fupdiggity New Reader
1/27/16 10:21 p.m.

Agreed, I'll definitely get a dedicated fire extinguisher for the fiat

Fupdiggity New Reader
1/27/16 10:41 p.m.

Went to the DMV today to get my temp tags, and when I got home I was all excited to take it for my first drive. After a quick inspection the other night the reason for the drive shaft rubbing was three-fold. The center driveshaft support bearing rubber was shot, the support mount was loose, and the exhaust was pretty loose. I figured without too much work I could get it acceptable enough for neighborhood driving.

Although the headers & rear muffler section is new, the center resonator section is pretty old. It appears the resonator pipe rusted out, and a section was hastily replaced with a straight pipe that doesn't quite fit. Since the center section doesn't have any support (it relies on the front & rear sections for support) and the fit was off, the resonator can move around and contact the driveshaft. For a quick repair I wired up the muffler to better constrain the resonator.

New header, old resonator, generic intermediate pipe shown. You can see the PO put some type of wrap around the old resonator to get it to fit better, didn't work..

Temporary muffler constraint:

Muffler wire worked as expected, next step was to cinch down the center support bearing. Like an idiot, I cranked on the bolt and promptly snapped it off. I'm kicking myself at this point because I could tell after the second turn that things weren't right, I know better.

Now there's only one side of the center bearing support attached and the car un-drivable. So much for my first test drive, that's what you get for rushing.

The bolt appears to be pressed into the floor plan from above, problem is it sits directly below the seat crossmember.

You can just barely see the top of the bolt in the corner where the set crossmember meets the chassis crossmember

I was originally thinking I would have to pull the crossmember to get it out, but now I'm thinking I can just notch the seat crossmember, bend it out of the way, pound out the stud, and bend the notch back & weld.

Fupdiggity New Reader
1/27/16 10:48 p.m.

After I broke the bolt off, I was checking out the head code. The PO had apparently replaced the stock head (1756cc) w/ a "1650" head when the timing belt broke. Well there isn't a 1650 head, only a 1592 or a 1608. The code shows he put on a 1608 head. Problem with this is the water jackets aren't the same size (1608 water jacket is larger). I'm not quite sure what that means yet, other than I may have a leaky head gasket in the near future.

NOHOME PowerDork
1/28/16 6:20 a.m.

I would de-grease the scene of the crime where you snapped the head off that bolt, put a nut over the remains, and aim the MIG down the middle of the nut towards the stump.

If the bolt was cross-threaded, it might be long odds. If you just over tightened, it should come out.

The only reason that I see where the repair repair near the top is going to be fun is that the patch panel could be tricky to fab up. Hard to tell until you get the top out of the way and the area ground down a bit. Go through Burrito's build thread for some of the best localized rust repair examples you are going to find. Learn his ways.

classicJackets Reader
1/28/16 6:41 a.m.

In addition to Burrito's thread, I would suggest you start skimming Here for some really good metal working and patch welding tips. its a little overwhelming so take it one page at a time, haha.

Hopefully the bolt snapping off is the most resistance this car will give you for a while!

TED_fiestaHP New Reader
1/28/16 7:09 a.m.

Timing belt, anytime you see a belt move to one edge of the pulleys like that, there is a issue with the tensioner. SO with the belt off, remove the tensioner and check the guide roller and the parts the tensioner pivots on. Also look for bayless fiat, and vick's fiat, for parts supply. Fiat parts are available and are fairly cheap.

Most of the rust spots, you can clean up and coat with POR15.

 These are great little cars, but they are now rather old, so owning it could be interesting.  I have 2 old Italian cars, they can be a great adventure for sure.

  Once you get it up and running, you will want more carburetor on it, they were always choked down, and with the free flowing exhaust, now you will want to open up the intake for sure.
TED_fiestaHP New Reader
1/28/16 8:17 a.m.

The broken stud; I would just leave it there. Just drill a hole next to it and drop a bolt thru next to it, weld the bolt head down and mode the bracket as needed. That would be a lot simpler. Places like that, always assemble with anti-size, in case you ever want to take it apart again.

trucke Dork
1/28/16 8:24 a.m.
Milo902 wrote: Given I'm also trying to be more financially responsible the only answer was a 124.

This statement^^^^, I do not understand.

Although it appears to be in great shape, it will deplete those financial resources rather quickly. I'm a former X-1/9 owner. Fun cars to drive, but........

itsarebuild Dork
1/29/16 12:55 p.m.

I'm not sure if they are usable for you but our Fiata challenge project was a 1979 fiat 2000 spider. Looks very similar to your 124 though other fiat peeps could tell you more about the similarities than I can. Anyway. We are changing course and will be ditching most of the under chassis stuff. The only parts from our fiat we have left that are worth anything and are shipable are a set of new front end a arm bushings, some recently resealed brake calipers, some wheel spacers for 4x98 to 4 x 100 conversion, and I could probably cut out my panhard bar mount and a good bit of metal around it if it's desired. I've posted the remains for free in the 2015 classifieds section. I won't mail any of that junk for free but if you want it and cover postage it's yours! I'd rather see that stuff reused than get the gas money scrapping it will give me!

Fupdiggity New Reader
4/11/16 9:31 p.m.

Sorry I suck at updating my build thread, something (else) to improve on a I guess.

In the last few months I have been running through a few maintenance items to get the car into driver shape. I re-built the driveshaft, replaced the timing belt along with some gaskets & hoses to fix a few leaks. The PO installed the timing belt one tooth off, took me a bit to figure that out but once I did the car (predictably) ran a ton better.

Unfortunately it all seems for naught. I put about 50-60 miles on the car trying to get the rings to seat, but it had a consistent knock under acceleration. First thought was an issue with fuel/ignition, 110 race fuel didn't help but retarding the ignition seemed to. The problem is to make it go away completely I had to retard the timing to almost 5 degrees AFTER TDC, and the car would barely run.

The car was still down on power and smoking pretty bad as the rings apparently weren't seating properly. I finally broke down and took it into a local restoration shop to get some help diagnosing the issue. After a drive he felt it was most likely the beginning of a bad rod bearing. I've heard they like to knock under light load and tend to go away under load, but I guess every engine is a special flower.

Now I'm just waiting for the post man to pick up my oil sample and send it off to Blackstone. The hope is they will be able to confirm if my motor is eating it's bearings or not. In the mean time the car is a very pretty driveway ornament.

Not sure what I'm going to do if it is a bearing. Problem is the car is pretty beat cosmetically and I'm not sure I can justify the cost of an engine rebuild, although it would be good fun.

Oh, while it sat I got antsy for my roadster fix and bought this:

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