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To restore or not to restore? Mechanical done, now realizing should have dug deeper into that rust.

I inherited a 67 Duetto from my father about 17 years go. The car had been sitting for 30 years. He got it from Boston in ’75, exterior covered in grey primer with damage to one of the front fenders and a slipping clutch. He promptly sent it to a body shop for a paint job in original red but never fixed the slipping clutch, couldn’t find parts, I even have a copy of a letter requesting a part quote addressed to Italy. Well, he never licensed it and after the brakes froze up he lost interest and dragged it out to an out building and proceed to cover it with junk from his farm auction obsession.

My brother and I pestered him over letting us restore it and when I had a place with a big shop he said come out and take it. I trailered it out here to Washington state and started doing all the mechanicals: Complete engine overhaul, new clutch, completely new brake system all new front suspension links and bushings, new exhaust, fuel tank, lines, heater core, hoses, valves cables, charging system, soft top, new wheels and tires. Surprisingly the mice left the electrical alone but the combustion chambers with open exhaust valves became toilets and the machine shop had some fun with their big press recovering my connecting rods from the cylinders!

After removing furniture stacked on it.
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Interior Mice nest complete with skeleton
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Little did I know how frozen that engine was
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After a quick wash, looks are so deceiving!
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After the first pull, no structural rust in this area
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Installing rebuilt engine
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First drive, no top yet
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New wheels on a tour over mountains for a desert cruise
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I’ve put about 30K on it in the last 16 years since I got in on the road and it runs beautifully.

BUT, last couple of days I decided to finally replace the shredding rebound straps (what a pain! Had to cut out threaded tubes, serious rusted in place) Iv’e always known my rockers were badly rusted but today I finally put on my glasses and dug around - what rockers?! Yup the body guy welded some sheet metal over the old exterior rocker panels but there is nothing much left of the inner rocker beams between the jack points (which I never use knowing they were soft) The front end of the car is fine as I’ver had plenty of good views the 2 times I pulled the engine (thank you faulty new rear seal) the back- usual non structural places, front and back of wheel wells. With the rockers in their current condition I’m surprised the doors close so well.

I’ve seen lots of restoration shots of what looks like welding together a Duetto from scratch and always wondered if its worth it. I probably have 4K in parts into this car and of course tons of my time (could never of afford hiring someone to do it) I currently maintain 6 cars ranging from 1948 to 2003 myself and although I consider myself handy I know I’m an amateur and welding I am not versed in. I’ve run a mill and a lathe but never trained in welding and I fully respect the experts in that trade.

Is it safe to drive? Have I been taking my life into my hands driving this car the last 15 years?( I don’t drive it esp. hard.) Is it worth taking to the next level? What kind of cash range are we talking about here if I strip the car and hand off the chassis to an expert (if I can even find one in my neck of the woods) I it reasonable to try this myself if I had training (we have a great program at our CC I’ve always wanted to take). Or find a doner car and swap out parts.

I don’t expect to tackle this for a while as I’m currently steeped in a wooden boat restoration project (yeah I know, crazy) where I can fabricate basically anything I need. I was talking to my wife noticing how on one project I’m dealing with rot and on the other rust, what’s with THAT! she took a beat and said “well your getting older”

I’d appreciate advise from any of you that have been down this road with these 105 cars

Thanks
Wayne
 

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whagan said:
Is it worth taking to the next level? What kind of cash range are we talking about here if I strip the car and hand off the chassis to an expert
No one can really answer the "should I restore it?" question for you; it's a very personal decision. And most likely, no one can even give you a very precise cost estimate for repairing rusted Duetto rockers - depends a lot on how severe the damage is, the quality of paint & bodywork you'll want when the metalwork is finished, and the billing rates of the shop you chose.

As a Duetto owner, I would of course vote for you to repair it. Now that you have sorted out the mechanicals, it would be a shame to walk away from that investment. The fact that this was your father's car provides another reason to hang on to it. But you don't need to decide - or start the restoration - immediately. Perhaps the best strategy is to keep driving it in a limited manner and see how your thinking has evolved once the wooden boat project is complete.
 

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I tend to follow my heart and not my mind when it comes to cars. So, I'd say "restore it".

But you're closer to the project though. If the underside is completely rusted, it would certainly be a costly and difficult investment (time and money).

If its running and safe to drive, I'd also recommend enjoying it for the next few months here in the PNW before deciding.

Jeff
 

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I also vote to save it. This car has been in your family for close to half a century.

You should ask around to find a body shop experienced with Alfas, and have them inspect the car.

The car looks good, I would try to see if the structure of the car could be corrected without going into a full fledged body restoration. You know how it starts, and you never see the end.

What helps here is that Duettos have picked up some value over the period you've been driving it.
 

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Photos of the rust rockers/sills would help. The fact that the doors close so well still means the structural strength has not yet been compromised.

Pete
 

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Duettos continue to rise in value; good ones are few and far between. If I had that much time, money, effort and emotion tied up in a vehicle, I would not be able to walk away. I'm under water with my S2 Spider expenditure, but don't care - I love it, I enjoy driving it and tinkering with it.
 

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Photos of the rust rockers/sills would help. The fact that the doors close so well still means the structural strength has not yet been compromised.

Pete
Yes, please take a bunch of pictures and share them.

If the frame rails are shot, you'll run the risk of damaging the car as those are structural components. If you can jab a screw driver through the frame rails, they are in bad shape and will need to be repaired or replaced.

If you elect to have the work done by a shop, please ask around the Alfa community for some recommendations. Several members here have had work done on their cars in Washington state.
 

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First post - and as such holds little weight, but I vote to restore! Those Duettos are too beautiful and too rare to just pass off to someone else. Unless it's terribly cost-prohibitive, I believe the end result will be worth the headache!
 

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The car looks good, I would try to see if the structure of the car could be corrected without going into a full fledged body restoration.
Right! That's what I was getting at in post #2 when I mentioned how his budget would be dependent on the paint quality whagan might chose when the metal work is complete. The outer rockers will definitely need re-painting after surgery. The question is whether he will be satisfied with just re-painting that area and trying to match the color/texture of the rest of the paint or decides to re-paint the whole car to make it perfect. Certainly the latter strategy will increase the price considerably.
 

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I don't know what under water is, but I do know that you shouldn't take it to a shop that refuses to give you written estimates, or says something, and "forgets" what was said. I once achieved entry into Harvard but went instead to Stanford in 1972. I say that because it wasn't because I did not have a very, very good memory.
Now, you are in luck. There is an honest good fellow in Michigan running an Alfa shop. Second, all these panels are available for welding in. When you start digging in, there is a lot of rust, so just figure everything in the rockers will need to be replaced, and an honest shop should be able to tell you a worst case scenario price.
Dr. Leo Kadejian was responsible for my Alfa affliction. He used to park it on the front lawn at the chemistry building, and sadly, his Alfa started out in Boston. It sat in Palo Alto under a tarp for years and sadly rusted away. He offered it to me for $7500 and a flipper got $10K for it as all I had was a recent wallet buster experience, and turned it down.
I made the mistake, as many others have, of selling a family member and wish I hadn't. My first green Alfa.
Your cost basis is still way low, and it has been listed as one of the most beautiful designs for a car. Keep us posted.
 

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See what pictures you can get for us, id almost be willing to bet that there is someone here that either is or has driven a Duetto with worse rust under the car.
Id also be willing to bet the damage could be repaired in chunks, it would not all have to be tackled in one swallow. But I could be wrong. I would like to think if the damage under the car is that bad, your foot would have pushed through the floor or the seat floor would flex when you sat in the car.
Not saying the damage wouldn't be a bit $ and time consuming to repair...
 

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PS: I bought a green car from Monterrey, and when I started it, a mouse nest blew out of the tailpipe. Your mice reminded me of that.
Screen over your water drain pipes might block pine needles, but maybe over the fresh air inlets under the cowling might work if you park it long.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for all the feedback! It's funny but the older I get the nostalgia gets more focused. With this car the only person who really got to drive it was my brother. He was the one who found it outside Boston while he was at music school there, convinced my dad to get it, and drove it back to Minnesota with a 6'6" friend, a German sheered, a cat, through blizzard with one headlight pointing up in the sky, in December feeding it oil, with the clutch slipping the whole way! Oh yeah and I think psychedelics played a roll (it was the '70's). That was the last time the car was licensed and on the road until after I got done with it. My brother came out to visit a few years ago and it was great to get him behind the wheel again. He was like "oh my god! I remember that **** rattling shift knob so well!" (yup, it's got the cursed push for reverse lockout that always rattles). He got rid of his Triumph GT6 and got a Spider after that. My father always wanted to trade the Alfa for a Mercedes SL, it never happened. If there was a car I'd associate with him it would be a '76 Toyota Land Cruser. He bought it new to plow the driveway but it was ended up being his daily driver. When driving up to Minneapolis towing a junky trailer made from a truck bed the trailer popped off the ball while we went over a bridge expansion joint and I touched the brakes seeing the trailer floating behind us on chains and it promptly rammed under us and rolled us on the driver side and flipped us so we could see oncoming traffic on the 4 lane interstate. Thank god the only one behind us was a nurse in her car who helped us out the back doors while the whole time I thought of that gas tank literally visible under the driver seat with the spout draining onto the pavement. My dad suffered a broken collarbone and dropped me off at my house refusing accommodations and drove the crunched Landcruiser and crap trailer 100 miles back home. He had the Landcruiser fixed back up and continued driving it until one morning getting ready for work out at IBM, he forgot that he left it warming up with the choke set and he came out to his beloved Landcruiser in flames. It was close to the house so he fired up his Bobcat and pushed it out into the middle of his driveway and watched as the fire truck drove buy missing his address. (1/4 mile driveway was hard to find) He told me he was really choked up to see that car go.
I'll go out and take some pics of the rocker underside and post them, it's really ugly, there's literally nothing left of what I think is the inner structural rocker frame. There were holes in the floor that my dad patched with layers of sheet metal and tar paper he pop riveted in. those surprisingly look the same as they did in the 70's.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
OK, here's some pics of all the GORE. The car has always been stored inside since my dad took ownership in '75 if not, it would have been hauled off to the dump a long time ago. This is a good example of how outside looks can be deceiving. The outside sills were replaced with metal when he did the paint job, those rust bubbles have been there the last 15 years. As far as my standards of restoration, I like it a little rough around the edges, a little Mad Max, I know that I get a little OCD on stuff so imperfection works with me, I'm more concerned with safe. If it was showroom pretty I'd be afraid to park it anywhere. After 30 years of sitting I'm into driving it, and after I got it running I fully understand why drivers love Alfas, how effortlessly and smoothly that 1600 revs and the tight responsive steering, sheer joy. I've thought of installing one of those chassis stiffeners as a safety measure until I have the time to tear it all down again. Pulling the engine will happen again some day because I have an annoying slow leaking front tranny seal that needs replacing. OK, Let me have it!

This is what inspired the original post, results of poking around, YIKES!
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Eeewh! Looking forward, left rocker
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LR Jack point
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Dad put in the commercial grade foamed backed carpet The after market steering wheel and shift knob were on the car when he got it in '75. He had the seats reupholstered but the mice enjoyed that, low priority to me, nice patina.
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Wayne, You sound pretty much like me when it comes to the Alfa. I have a 77 spider that I had painted by what was supposed to be a top professional. He has painted cars that have won at Monterey. The job he did for me was crap and the car began to rust almost immediately. Suspension and drive train had been redone prior to that by the previous owner. I made the decision to make mine a daily driver. I've done the basic repairs to make it safe, comfortable and fast but that's it. From 10 feet away I get ooh's and ahh's ; up close is another story. I have a 74 jensen healey which is a much better car in all respects and even that is still a car that should just be driven. I've had over 150 cars at this point in my life and I wouldn't pay current prices to get any of them back
My vote, and what I would do, is do what it takes to make it a daily driver and then drive it 'til it dies. It really is only a car despite some of the people on this and other forums.
If you really want a nice one buy one already done. Every day there is craigslist add for one classic car or another that says "put $100,000.00 into it, willing to sell for $30,000.00" and you know they will take less.
Classic cars are a money pit just like wood boats. (I'm sure you know, boat stands for break out another thousand). If your not passionate about it just do what it takes to make it a driver and leave it for somebody else to restore to concours condition when your done with it.
Ventura Alfa
 

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If I can help with likley hrs and costs let me know. If you look at my 1750 s1 resto thread you will see probably one of the worst from rust being repaired and doing the work you are talking about and some. I have the experience to do it but its still a big job.
If yours drives it would be worth restoring imo as mine was undriveable since 2003 and outside under water for 10 yrs.
Maybe we can inspire each other !
 
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