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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
It's been pointed out to me too many times I need to better organize my thoughts. This thread serves as a collection of information about everything I'm doing to my car in Spring 2020. Trigger warning: If you're an ultra-purist, you will be disappointed.

Background: Last year my '78 Spider was a nice running car. I have owned the car for the past 3 years. I brought her to a mechanic before a 3000 mile road trip and said, "I'm about to drive across the country, please fix everything.". A lot of work was done. Neither here nor there to mention it specifically. When I returned I discovered a lot of "very small" issues which collectively motivate a lot of work. Besides, my car doesn't have every visual and functional part that I want, it isn't exactly the dream car I picture in my head. Yet!

Goal: Build the car up to exactly the spec I dreamed of, and overhaul most major mechanical parts. The goals for this project are a modest street car build suitable for use as a gran turismo, fundamental goals are reliability, longevity, and suitable for long distance / long term use as a driver.

What's been done so far (and links to detailed info where relevant):
  • Rear section of driveshaft removed and replaced with new, which was sanded and painted as well.
  • Driveshaft center support replaced
  • Rear control arm bushings replaced on one side
  • Rear right brake caliper replaced
  • Gearbox fluid replaced with Mobil-1 75W90
  • Replace exhaust manifold gaskets
  • Minor repair of interior and complete center console refresh
  • Install wind deflector
  • Obtain hood bag
  • Rebuild window regulator on both sides
  • Install power antenna (I never use the radio, but it's cool looking)
  • Install retro-style radio to replace JBL CD player
  • Replace conventional bulbs in some areas with warm (amber white) LEDs - hard to find, but retain vintage feel unlike most cool (blue white) LEDs
  • Un-do 3-point belt conversion and install chrome aircraft style 2-point belts
  • Re-instate water pump studs on donor engine timing cover
What's in progress:
In progress but progress stalled (I'm stumped):
  • Driveshaft is rubbing in the tunnel just past the guibo. Tried washers on crossmember, no luck. This will be revisited after new engine is put in and engine mounts + gearbox tailhouse bushing are replaced (both are sagging).
What's planned:
  • Clean and degrease engine compartment, install replica of all original stickers
  • Install overhauled engine
  • Remove 80s body kit (a previous owner was creative in building what they wanted)
  • Have body shop fill in holes used to mount rear spoiler and side pieces with weld, sand down, and apply primer
  • Remove all chrome trim, buff and polish to remove overspray (from early 2000s respray) and scratches
  • Sand down paint, if rust is discovered under body kit, have body shop repair
  • New Maaco respray (keeping current black color, not returning to original yellow)
  • Replace black vinyl interior with bright red vinyl or leather interior.
  • Replace entire exhaust with period correct from Classic Alfa, which includes sand blasting and painting of headers and replacement of 13mm brass manifold bolts with 12mm copper for easier access and better torquing.
  • Upgrade to electric radiator fan
  • (//Re-core//) Replace radiator
  • Replace bushings where applicable
  • Flush brake and clutch fluid
  • Have set of turbina wheels re-finished, get new taller tires, and swap in to replace S4 rims currently on the car
  • Replace door locks with ones from another car I actually have the key for
  • Many interior trim screw mounts are stripped. These will be repaired by bolting in plates with tapped holes so this doesn't happen again.
  • Replace poorly fit generic rubber floor mats with carpet mats bearing the majestic Alfa Romeo logo - prettier and won't interfere with pedals.
  • Improve pedal feel
  • Replace spare tire with custom gas tank and tool storage (for touring, expanded gas capacity and relocating tools and spare parts for more trunk storage)
  • Painting of second trunk to car color and installing roof rack for touring
  • Repair holes in vinyl convertible top, or replace with mohair canvas if in budget
  • Replace remaining conventional light bulbs
  • Locate position of bolts in rear seat area and install missing latch points for hood bag
Regarding the paint job, the PO told me the guy who had the car before him did a Maaco respray in about 2000. There is some peeling on the front fender, but otherwise it's held up. The body kit removal will require paint, and I want to return to 70s spec appearance. Hate on Maaco if you want but for what it's worth this paint job lasted okay for 20 years. So look, if it's not as good as a $6k job quoted by my body shop, and if that's not as good as a "proper" dip job for $20k, I'll revisit this in 10-20 years. In summary, between the objective issues and the less required and more desired I consider my efforts to warrant calling this a restoration. Here we go.
 

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Hmmm, I'd put the 3 point safety belt back in if done well as a heck of a lot safer than a 2 point

Pete
 

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Discussion Starter #3
One of my friends in the mechanical engineering department disputes this based on the structural design of the seat and the impact rating of the parts used to secure the shoulder strap in the conversion. In either case I made the choice for aesthetic and feel. I prefer the original and accept the risk, if I wanted a safe car I would drive a Camry. Not the best choice perhaps but I'm too old not to live with a little chrome.
 

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Where did you find the clip-style belts?
i would love to have those back...but 3-pointers for me. Have you thought about strengthening the shoulder mount point instead?
Also don’t ‘paint’ your exhaust headers; go the whole hog and ceramic coat or (much cheaper) use a graphite product that some here on the BB have recently used with what looks like great results.
On paint...if I were to chose between flash paintwork or fix-everything-else...I’m with you. In fact I did.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Where did you find the clip-style belts?
i would love to have those back...but 3-pointers for me. Have you thought about strengthening the shoulder mount point instead?
Also don’t ‘paint’ your exhaust headers; go the whole hog and ceramic coat or (much cheaper) use a graphite product that some here on the BB have recently used with what looks like great results.
On paint...if I were to chose between flash paintwork or fix-everything-else...I’m with you. In fact I did.
I got them from SeatBeltsPlus (link to the item I got). They have many other attractive styles as well, including 3 point and retractable 2 or 3 point. I picked the most traditional style I could find. Take note of the installation graphics, the specific belts I got have "handed" attachment points which point the wrong way. For each metal bracket that mounts in the car (two per belt) I had to cut the stitching, flip the metal piece, and sew it back up with 110/18 upholstery needles and Coats ExtraStrong nylon thread (thickest I could find at JoAnn Fabric). I was pretty set on the lap belt so I did not give a redesign of the 3 point belt conversion much thought.

Good ideas, I was planning on POR-15 high temperature stuff, I will look around the BB to explore options. Fortunately engine work is not near completion quite yet so I have time to look into this further. It is reassuring to know you were satisfied with your paintwork.
 

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One thing I found to handy in doing my (minor) restore is brake cleaner.
I buy it by the case. Comes in handy in cleaning most parts.
Use it out doors. If I have to do a job in doors I put a big fan to blow the fumes
out the open garage door. A real time saver. Put a sheet of card board under the job and in a few minutes the card board is dry. And it's cheaper, by the case, then the auto parts stores.

 

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Discussion Starter #7
@smakijoe Great suggestion, I could use some bulk solvents. I always find brake cleaner too volatile, so I use aerokroil or PB blaster. Aerokroil is expensive, PB blaster not so much, but I wonder, do you find this brake cleaner stays on the parts long enough to wipe things down?
 

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No, I don't bother to wipe anything off. It dries pretty quickly. I just flood it off.
I've gone through a couple of cases in the last year or so. It's a big time saver. Mostly I go outside to spray. And yes this does burn really big time. I not sure that aerokroil or PB blaster are designed to remove grease or oils. They leave an oil coating behind. I use brake cleaner when I want a part clean and dry.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I put in some RFQs with local cerakote services, this is a great idea. The POR-15 I used in a different car burned off within 15 minutes. It was not the correct high temperature stuff. I should have expected this. As for the brake cleaner I ordered a case. I'm pulling a rear axle in the donor car once the weather is fair outside so I will need it.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Almost forgot, here are some pictures of my car. The black car in the first three is mine, which is in fact a 1978 Spider. Don't recognize it? A previous owner installed the 1980s body kit, Niki Lauda spoiler, and S4 wheels. The next three pictures are of a blue 1974 spider which give a general idea of my design inspiration. I will be keeping my car black. Effectively backdating from an S3/S4 mashup to early-70s S2 flair.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
The rear axle makes a grinding sound on the right side occasionally. While the car is waiting for the new engine I might as well rebuild the entire rear axle and suspension. Hasn't been done in 42 years after all. I pulled a rear axle from a donor over the weekend and tore it down today. Picture attached. Removal from the car and complete teardown was extremely easy. Power wash to remove grime was moderately effective. Would work on parts from better condition car. My donor car is extremely dirty and caked in grime underneath. Much of it did not come off. This won't matter. Rear axle shaft sections will be sand blasted by a shop and painted with POR-15 by me. On one side the mount point needs to be repaired. I'll have the shop bend and weld it up after blasting. Differential casing could be blasted if doing a rebuild, I left it alone as I'm buying a 4.10 rear to swap in. Next step is to grind off the bearing retainer, remove bearing, then bring to shop to have them press in the new bearing and use heat to install the retainer.

A little advice on removing the rear axle. Remove parking brake cable, disconnect rear section of driveshaft from differential, drain brake fluid and disconnect hose leading from rear brake balancer to brake hose under car. Disconnect trunion bushing at the top of the differential. Disconnect rear trailing arm bushing on either side where it attaches to the rear axle, when removing the trailing arm bushing use a bottle jack to keep the spring under load and drop it slowly. Remove two of four bolts on rear axle support shaft and drop each side. It's that easy. Doing this solo might be how the right axle was damaged - parts car garage is extremely dark so I don't know if it was already broken. If you want to avoid breaking the mount points for the rear trailing arm mounts, don't do what I did to get the trunion out of the way - forcefully pushing the axle to the right until the trunion was free to swing upward. Instead get two friends to help pick it up gently while you climb under the car, instruct friends, and move trunion arm out of the way.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Today I tried pulling the steering wheel out of the project car to get the steering box out. Another chance for anyone reading to learn from my mistakes. I foolishly tried pulling it with my hands as some suggest I might get lucky and it would pop right off. Instead I managed to put a hairline crack in the clear coat on the wheel - a perfectly new '74 steering wheel that previously appeared untouched. Then I tried a rubber mallet and cracked one of the mounting brackets on the turn signal stalk. The correct puller tool is $50 from Classic Alfa. I just bought one. Always use that tool. I learned this lesson the hard way.

On that train of thought, anyone know what the gloss coat on the steering wheel is made of? I could repair it easy if I could match the material exactly and sand with 2400 grit for a few hours.

Edit: link to compelling explanation to use marine spar varnish for steering wheels followed by hefty sanding.
 

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Yes I cracked my steering wheel too, many many years ago as my brotherinlaw said that it would probably just pull off ... it will fix ...

Pete
 

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Discussion Starter #15
@PSk How did you fix the crack?
 

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Haven't yet. On my reassembly to-do list

Pete
 

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Discussion Starter #18
It is tomorrow :). Steering wheel puller makes quick work of steering wheel removal. Now it's out of the car. Here are some pictures of the damage, two spots are a bit dark and worn like it's worn through the varnish, which was there already. One spot shows a crack I either put there or made worse by yanking on the wheel by hand. Not sure how to repair dark spots or if it's worth trying, I might make things worse. Another puzzle is the ignition switch which does not have the bolt I expect, instead it looks like a pin or rivet. I have the key for this car so I will try unlocking the steering lock and pulling the gearbox. Final picture attached is firewall grommet, some forum posts suggest remove drive side heat vent to get at some bolts for the steering box - if these are them, I can't see how that would help. Maybe I'm missing something else.
 

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One of my friends in the mechanical engineering department disputes this based on the structural design of the seat and the impact rating of the parts used to secure the shoulder strap in the conversion.
I agree with your friend. Unless your seats were designed to bear the vertical load of the shoulder belt, they are susceptible to collapsing under load, possibly injuring the occupant more seriously than would have happened with just lap belts. The challenge in fitting a 3-point harness to an Alfa spider is finding a sufficiently high mounting point for the shoulder harness. Adding a roll bar would solve this problem, though it's a drastic step for a street-driven car (and could result in head injuries if you aren't wearing a helmet when you get rear-ended on the way to the grocery store).

Having said all that, I will freely admit that 3-point belts are a lot better than 2-point. But then too, side impact beams, multiple airbags, crumple zones, ABS brakes, etc. etc. are advantageous as well. At some point you have to treat driving an older car like riding a motorcycle.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Indeed, I recall it was something to do with the design of the seats. Sticking a 3 point belt in there and expecting wherever it's mounted to is going to support it properly as designed is rather futile. That was the argument and so I wear my 2 point belt on every drive.

At some point you have to treat driving an older car like riding a motorcycle.
I have both. I do. Our cars handle far better than motorcycles but in the event of a collision, we share the risk factor for self and property. Not to mention we stand to lose an outrageously expensive and sentimental machine. I guess the Harley folks would share that notion. Reminds me, there is a motorcycle rider course in the US that is state sponsored and only $50. Well worth the time for any classic car driver as it includes a useful analysis of how reckless people drive. It should probably be required for everyone, to make all drivers learn a little more about the other machines on the road and people who love them. But I'm getting borderline political here and that's not my intent.
 
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