I bought my 1978 Spider over the summer for $400.00 off of Craigslist. My original idea was to use it as a rolling parts warehouse for my 79. But when I saw it, I decided that it was in too good condition for that fate. Rust is minimal, and the only things missing are the left rear side reflector and the right side mirror. It also has a bruise on it's nose- easy to repair. The hard top is from my 89, because about half of the soft top is gone. The 79 lives in the garage next to the Midget, so it gladly lent it's top to it's slightly older sister in the driveway.
It was not running, so it was towed home. When I removed the air filter box, the filters were filled with pine straw and acorns. It looks like some type of rodent made the air filters into a cozy home at one time.
The oil was clean, without any coolant, and the coolant was clean, without oil- a good first examination. The spark plugs were a little sooty, but nothing too bad. First I sprayed a little penetrating oil into each cylinder, replaced the plugs a let it sit for a few days. As the oil worked I removed the fan and radiator to get easy access to the crankshaft nut on the harmonic bal. pulley. The next weekend I removed the plugs, put a socket on the nut and turned the engine over by hand several times to make sure the pistons moved and of the valves were sticking. Wow, as I did this I could even hear those little SPICA pistons working.
The gas cap was also missing. Goodness knows what or who lurks in the gas tank. So to bypass the highly questionable tank and fuel lines I made a temporary system, powered by my boat battery and a 14 psi fuel pump.
Then it was disconnect the fuel pump fuse, hook up the battery, and turn the engine over for a cold compression check. All cylinders were between 155 and 161, dry and only a pound or two more wet. So far so good. Pop in a new set of NGK plugs, reinstall the radiator, hook up the Rube Goldberg fuel system and start it up, right? NOT !!! No spark. Pull the distributor- almost as much bare wire as insulated (well not quite that bad, but enough to keep it from sparking). Rewire the dist., set the points, and drop in back in place. Yes, it now has spark! Hook up the fuel supply and try it again. Yes, it cranks, it starts, and it runs!!! But since the clutch master cylinder is frozen I can only sit in the driveway until I repair that. But the most important test has been passed. The engine runs and is in good shape. So now it is on to fixing the clutch, dropping the gas tank, etc, etc... I know what I am going to be doing over the winter.