rconlon Reader
3/9/09 11:11 a.m.

I pretty well know something about everything on my Fiat. At the this time, it fits into the niche of cool older sportscar with few dedicated professional mechanics. So if you want it done, you must learn how and do it yourself. There is no choice in my town. In ten years, I have needed to do about everything at least once and often moreso. Mail order parts stores and the internet have made a huge positive difference for the DIY folks.

Cheers Ron

Cosworth1 New Reader
3/9/09 3:44 p.m.

You're so right about doing things yourself, Ron. I've found that if I have even the slightest feeling that I can do something myself and be successful at it, I'll give it a go. The worst that can happen is I muck it up, and then have to take it to a professional. I know there are alot of pros out there who really DO take pride in their finished product, however I have crossed alot of so-called pros off my list in recent years because they simply did not give me anything near what I paid for. In some instances, I had to bring the part home and re-do it myself. I hope the professionals who are reading this take note of something: with the failing economy, this is going to become a consumer's market now. And competition for a better product will be fierce...and only the strong are going to survive.

Cheers, Lou

blaze86vic Reader
3/9/09 5:26 p.m.

I have never been able to trust someone else working on my car or anything that is going on my car. I can count on one hand the number of times I've paid or asked for someone to do something to my car or build something for it (excluding my Father). And I've only had it done right once (thankfully that was the machine shop plaining my head flat again)

I do sometimes grow tired of the lack of quality work in almost anyone these days, but it's good though because it pushes you to keep growing your own skills. I've done everything to both my cars now, and from building engines and transmission to electronics and suspension it's nice to know I am capable of fixing or modding anything on my cars no matter what. I even got an O-ringing tool so I could copper o-ring my engine block myself. However, body work is something that I can do...ok, but I do honestly feel that for someone with experience, even a half ass job 'can' look better than DIY work. Upholstery is probably the only thing I doubt I will ever get into doing myself.

KaptKaos Reader
3/9/09 10:54 p.m.

I know a lot about my car, and can pretty well cover most topics, but not all. I am not good at valve train geometry, and only passable at weber carb tuning.

ddavidv SuperDork
3/10/09 5:12 a.m.

I can converse with intelligence about most any aspect of the cars I own. Researching them is part of the hobby for me. As far as the techical capabilitites, I actually left Fiats because I'd grown bored with them. I'd done about every job there was to do and simply didn't see any new challenges with them that were appealing. So I bought a LBC with everything installed bass-ackwards so I could re-learn my techical skills.

Karl La Follette
Karl La Follette Reader
3/10/09 12:12 p.m.

One thing I can discuss expertly is where I got my cars from ,the thrill of finding a tattered neglected car and then getting the widow to part with it ahhhhh . Just joking alot depends on how many times a certain car breaks down .

bikesnrovers Reader
3/10/09 2:46 p.m.

Not my "sports car" but my Land Rover... since I have either repaired or replaced most of it.

Ian F
Ian F Reader
3/11/09 10:37 a.m.

Depends... define "expertly"

I know a fair amount about old Volvo 1800's... taking a couple apart and putting one back together again helps. But Phil S (VClassics) never fails to remind me of how much I don't know every few weeks...

It's even more so with the Spitfire... just a different guru...

At the same time, I've met some "experts" who scared the crap out of me...

VClassics New Reader
3/11/09 12:18 p.m.

But Phil S (VClassics) never fails to remind me of how much I don't know every few weeks...


No one knows everything about a car -- we're all learning, or we should be.

Ian F
Ian F Reader
3/11/09 12:50 p.m.

No need for apologies.

I've referenced your "How NOT to Build a Motor" article a few times when someone asks a question about motor mods but seems to really a "Motor-building 101" course... Of course, whether they take any of it to heart is any matter...

"Can lead a horse to water..." etc...

Many of my MINI & Volvo friends look to me for answers, but I still have a LOT to learn...

Cosworth1 New Reader
3/11/09 3:21 p.m.

Learning is part of the fun (and at times the frustration) of our hobby. And when you take on a job that you never thought of trying in the past, when you DO succeed (once in awhile), it makes you feel like a million bucks!

Gary Reader
3/12/09 8:48 a.m.

I bought my Spitfire as a driver a few years ago. It was probably a stretch to call it a driver. The body and engine were good and the clutch was relatively new, but the brakes were squishy, the wiring was brittle, the shift linkage was sloppy, the seats were unsupportive and it had other problems that made it somewhat unreliable and probably unsafe to drive. It’d been 25 years since I’d monkeyed around with sports cars, but I decided to take it off the road and get intimately familiar with the basic systems before I drove it. I’m doing as much as possible myself, not because there aren't any good British car mechanics in New England. There are. I just want to learn more about the 40+ year old car I’ll be driving, so if it breaks down 50 miles from home I’ll be better equipped to maybe fix it on the spot myself rather than have it towed.

(One instance that really reinforced this concept with me happened a few years back when I was on a gimmick rally with the local British car club. One of the snootier members who was driving an immaculate TVR 2500M with triple Webers experienced a break-down out in the middle of nowhere. He didn’t have a clue if it was electrical, fuel, or something else. After nearly burning out the starter he called AAA for a tow home. Meanwhile one of the other club members came to the rescue and within a few minutes had diagnosed the problem as a loose wire and had the car running again. He probably just used basic auto mechanics troubleshooting principles, but I think if you know your car’s systems and have worked on it yourself, your better equipped to solve problems in the field).

spitfirebill HalfDork
3/12/09 9:31 a.m.

Where do you get this "How Not to Build an Engine" book? I need one

I bought a TR3 back in 1976 when I was still in college. The first trip to a shop cost me $50 to adjust the carbs and to fix a short. (It didn't work as I later found out the shafts were horribly worn) Back then that was a lot of money. I learned then that I would have to learn to work on my cars. A few years later I tore that car down to restore. Ending up selling it before I could finish it after having to relocate three times.

My Mk I Spitfire has been gone through from front to back, top to bottom. There isn't thing on it I haven't seen or held in my hands (except the insides of the gauges).

bikesnrovers Reader
3/12/09 9:33 a.m.

What Gary said!

OFracing New Reader
3/13/09 9:27 a.m.

I enjoy working on my Triumphs almost as much as I enjoy driving them. I'm an engineer and problem solving is something I find rewarding. Now that my wife as rediscovered LBCs, she's getting into working on them too. My boys, especially the younger one (18) are now an official British car nuts and can do a rebuild on most of the systems in the cars.

Sure you can take a Miata, throw on an inter-cooled turbo, Brembo brakes, chip mod and whoop my A** on any road (other engineers I work with have done this),but I know their families aren't involved in the project. It's just not the same with a modern car, it's all about performance numbers.

Accountants are excited by numbers, not a real car enthusiast.

If I finish a trip with out any problems in a classic car, I feel good. If I do run into a problem and can fix it, I feel a real sense of accomplishment.

Keep them running


bikesnrovers Reader
3/13/09 9:48 a.m.

So Mike, what is your secret to get your wife interested? Mine doesn't mind my "hobby" and loves going for drives, but I would really like to get her interested in a Bugeye (just because I like them and I think she would look great in one).

pete240z Dork
3/13/09 12:41 p.m.

I took my Datsun Roadster to the Dairyland Datsun Roadster meeting at the Vintage Races at Road America back in 1992? 1993?

Those guys knew so much about Datsuns. I had the wrong hubcaps (pickup truck) but I had the right gas filter. Wrong fender on one side.......

OFracing New Reader
3/13/09 12:43 p.m.

I have absolutely no insight into the female mind. I've been racing spits for years and if anybody asked her what kind of car I raced she said a F%$king race car. I had a 75 spitfire when we got married but one thing lead to another and it sat idle and rusting for 20 years, she really didn't care about it.

Then last summer a friend had a pair of Spitfires, a 71 and a 72 for sale. His wife said sell them as a set and I couldn't pass up the deal. I figured I'd be in for a dose of crap when I towed them home. A week later, one was on the road and she had a revelation about how much fun a LBC can be. She started fixing little things on the car and driving it to work.

A month or so later, when it started to get cooler out, she wanted a hardtop for the car. By then she was looking on eBay and Craigslist for spitfire parts and I suggested that if she wanted a hardtop, why not look for a GT6. Once I showed her what a GT6 was, first example was Andre's car, she loved the color (thanks Andre), and off she went. By thanksgiving we had decided on a GT6 in North Carolina and pulled a overnighter to tow it home. She started making door panels, glove boxes and fixing the carpet in that car but she still wanted a spitfire with a hardtop.

Last month she found a pair of 1980 1500's a few hours away from here, both with hardtops and a parts car. She's adopted the yellow one, calls it Big Bird and has taken it under her wing. My dining room is a mess. This week she's sewing up a parking brake hump cover and is getting ready for the new seat skins to arrive next week. She's making plans (templates) of everything she takes apart so the other 1500's (mine I hope) interior will be next on her schedule.

My youngest boy has grabbed the 72 spitfire from me and the older has his eye on the other 80 ( we will negotiate on that, his ownership share will be directly related to how much work he puts into the restoration). I was going to sell the 71, just too many cars around, but I might have to keep it now if I want to carry on with my original plan of having a convertible to replace my Jeep Wrangler.

All in all, things could be worse. Now if i could only get her to come to the track, maybe I'd catch less grief about my racing addiction.


Ian F
Ian F Reader
3/13/09 1:16 p.m.

"March 12, 2009 9:31 a.m. spitfirebill HalfDork Where do you get this "How Not to Build an Engine" book? I need one "


(now send some money to Phil. )

Shinsen774 Reader
3/14/09 10:24 a.m.

The reason I bought my MGB two years ago was to learn and have a hobby that I thought I would enjoy. I was right. I have zero mechanical experience and no formal training, not an engineer. But, I can read the manuals, search the internet, ask questions, play around on the many spare parts that came with the car, and usually figure it out. I'll let y'all know if that holds true for the water pump replacement project that is ready to commence!

bmw327 New Reader
3/15/09 7:54 p.m.

Interesting topic! I'm no mechanic, but I read a lot, know how systems work, and research carefully. I used to do most of my own work when I was young and broke but chose not to now for several reasons. chiefly among them is the lack of free time to devote to wrenching; I am terribly slow. I find that I can pretty easily evaluate what a mechanic knows and what he doesn't. I've developed a good working relationship with a local wrench who knows what's expected and knows he'll get paid, and whaddaya know - my cars all run fine!

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