Finally here: Iso Horn buttons!!

It’s been a long road to have these manufactured the right way but in the end our efforts got rewarded big time! I have been keeping you updated on the process and how I had to reject the first production run of these. But the manufacturer (USA made) understood my complaints and reworked the molds and process and the result is no more than stunning. I decided on manufacturing the two most popular of the three versions and will thus be able to supply most of the Isos who need one.

They are perfectly factory correct in every detail and will complete any restoration. We made sure the gold and silver have the correct tone and shine while making sure the whole unit has an even better UV-stability than the originals. Because Isos own horn button production shows some dimensional tolerances I also had a limited amount of horn button beds made – just in case there is any doubt these buttons will fit your car. However, in 99% of all cases they will fit and they only need replaced when yours is broken or worn out.

I will try to get them up on my site as soon as I can so some of these can be used as a unique Christmas present. Thank you everybody involved in this project – another journey with a great ending!

Monterey week is nearing…

News from Iso Central…

Now Monterey is just 10 weeks away I came to realize how many projects I’m working on at the same time. I don’t have/take the time to take pictures to post but here is an overview of the Iso/Bizzarrini interiors that are still out. And that doesn’t include the 2 Rivolta GT’s and one early Fidia I’m working on: one A3/C for paint; one for sheet metal; two Iso Grifo’s still have the suspension and motor and transmission out and one Fidia is now 7 months late for upholstery…

Nervous yet??? 😎

Maybe someone can determine what cars these consoles go to?

ISO RIVOLTA HORN BUTTONS

ISO RIVOLTA HORN BUTTONS

As many of you already heard I have decided to reproduce the (rarer-than-hens-teeth) horn buttons for Iso Rivolta cars. To keep the production as efficient as possible we chose to use two of the most often used designs. This is the early “Horseshoe” design and the “Griffon” which is used on several models including Grifo. I decided to also have the underlying bed reproduced as they are often cracked or worn. For this I provided the very best examples I had collected through the years for each style and after several quality checks in December 2017 the complete batch was cast. Their fit was perfect and I was happy to tell them to go ahead with the coloring.

The coloring is a three step project, it involves gold metallic, gloss black and chrome – in three separate steps. This week I received the first sample that used the gold color we need in the correct hue and shine! This was a big step forward. We will now focus on the masking for the chroming process. I’m excited and hope to update you soon on any further progress!!

Restoration Chronicles: Iso Fidia – Assembly of Components

The time for assembling our Fidia has begun; most all components have been rebuilt and made optically factory correct. The body got a special undercoating and engine compartment treatment and the cabin and doors received a special sound deadener. I then first wanted to make the car a roller so all suspension components were installed, all new bushings, the (super heavy) Salisbury differential and intricate system of brakes and drive line. A fully rebuilt steering column was installed and the highly detailed original wood “Personal” steering wheel was wrapped well to keep it from being marred. All came out perfect! The gorgeous looking Ariston shocks were installed with the correct decals and once the newly restored wheels were mounted we had a car we can roll around again! The wheels are a whole deal of their own, they are made of Elektron, a highly reactive Magnesium alloy that can even corrode under a paint layer. The wheels on this car have been hand stripped, hand sanded, specially primed and painted with the factory correct hue of silver metallic. One wheel had a crack in one of the mounting holes and had to go through a special welding process and came out perfect – the disadvantage of working with 48-year-old Magnesium! New Pirelli Cinturato tires make the car have a wonderful stance again!

The next majorly important component is the fully restored original wire loom – complete with correct ends for the many factory options this car came with. I used the correct ties and routing through the cabin, I only upgraded the stereo wiring and left all else stock. In October 2016 the engine was completed and hooked up with the Muncie 4-speed. The valve covers and bell housing were treated with a special finish which GM used and will not fade in time. Installing the engine and transmission HAS to happen in one unit, the narrow chassis does not allow this separately. It’s a pretty intense job, knowing all paint is done and NO scratches are allowed! But it went perfect and I could focus on the (expansive) work of putting the rest of the car together.

The side glass systems were next and didn’t make it not easy on me… It seems the Iso factory took a very easy (and sloppy) route to install the door glass and make it actually seal with the door frames. Iso glued strips of plasticized cardboard under the window felt to keep rainwater out. To be honest, it looked cheap and unprofessional. I was able to modify their NOS window felt in a way that it looks totally factory correct AND the different thicknesses are not visible to a critical onlooker. If you ever see the car on a show, please check out the differences in window felt. I know, these are small details but in rare and unique cars like these one HAS to think in detail to get this right. Like this window felt there are literally dozens of parts that need such special attention and completing such work is very satisfying in the end. Not for everyone but then again these cars are not for everyone…

Early 2017 lots of items neared its finishing stage and many ready-to-go components were on my shelves – this is the time when everything comes together and the prep work BETTER be perfect! The leather was being produced after lots of research was done, we’re reproducing the original Franzi leather and my good friend Henk from HVL Leathers in Holland is the go to man for this. Around this time we started to plan to show the car in Monterey for the 50th anniversary of Iso Fidia, however, we understood all the stars had to be aligned for this to happen. Restoring an Iso is not just ordering the needed parts and put them together… Several glass seals turned out to not fit Fidia and I had to have them reproduced, they were all on my shelves now. All the chrome and stainless was back, some were returned because it was not to my standards. The instruments were back from being rebuilt and looked gorgeous. The dash and door panel wood was newly fabricated and was awaiting installation in a box in my bedroom…
Another item that has been planned for a while (years) was replacing the (broken) windshield with a new one. I looked all over the planet and the best one I could find was one of an early Fidia I sold to Italy – however it just was not good enough for this car. So I decided to have a batch fabricated and after many disappointments, I was promised we’d make the August 17th deadline…

A new dual exhaust system was mounted in a perfect manner, it is all new but fully to original specs and with factory hardware. We did make it flow a bit better and it sounds like it should now. A newly rebuilt Becker Mexico signal seeking radio was ordered and an original Autovax electric antenna was installed under the right fender.

Around this time a new crossflow radiator was planned. I wanted to have it a look as original as possible, so my master craftsman Patrick hammered out a simulated top tank with a specially fabricated “Firsat Torino” embossing. While this is going on the leather was flown in and the car could go in for upholstery. Because of a few delays, it became clear the interior could not be completed fully. It was then decided to STILL show the car in Monterey for the Fidia Anniversary no matter how far the restoration was finished – it will be shown as a partial restoration so there is no excessive pressure to get it done as happens so often. I decided to install the headliner and carpet and I will finish most of the dash (wood) so other critical parts can be finished before the August 19 show. My goal now is to drive it onto the lawn on its own power and have people look at the perfection of the restoration work. This just shows that even a perfectly planned restoration has many variables that can interfere with that plan; some things just can not be predicted…

At the time of this writing, we’re putting the last finishing touches on the interior work and radiator. These Fidias had a very intricate finish of the dash wood, where it integrated a strip of interior leather in the seam of the dash wood. This came out beautiful and is one of the finishing touches that will make this car stand out. The completed windshield was finally installed in the last week of July 2017. It comes with a factory correct St. Gobain etching to make it correct in every detail. So as of the last week of July, the car has all the glass installed, including the rear glass with (working) heating elements. It will go to my painter next to correct the last imperfections and the plan is it to return to my shop to finish the mechanical work. Keeping my fingers crossed!

I would also invite you to visit me and the car at the lawn at Concorso Italiano in Monterey. Especially for the interested technical people, I’d love to explain more details about the restoration. I hope to see you there!

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Restoration Chronicles: Iso Fidia – Restoration of components

This is the part where everything is coming together again. Even though this car has spent most of its life in Southern California – they had almost no rust protection and the body shop had to insert new metal in the doors, floors and trunk areas. From there it went to paint and for me, this is always THE most painstaking process. I oversee every aspect but am not always there to 100% check things so sometimes they have to change things which are not as “factory correct” as I want it to be. It starts with a special etching primer which is shot right onto the sheet metal, followed by a high-grade filler they can use to make the flat sides of this Fidia absolutely straight. That said, mostly my work also means to do it BETTER than the factory and the paint system is a good example of that. Once our paint system and undercoating (my special recipe to imitate Iso’s system to a tee) is applied, the exterior of any Iso is way better protected than any factory new Iso! Once all sheet metal is fitted perfectly, most of the time is spent on blocking, blocking, and again more blocking. The finishing coat is easy in comparison.

At this time we made the decision to make the car dark blue metallic with a red leather interior. The owner and I picked a very eye-catching shade after we showed him a few test samples. For leather, we contacted the only business capable of duplicating the Frantzi process as used by Iso and Bizzarrini. The process of finding the perfect shade commenced here and I’ll report on that later. As indicated this car was born with a brown metallic exterior and tan interior, not really a shade that makes the car stand out. In all my years of restoring such high-end cars, I have come to the conclusion in most cases it should be left to the owner to pick his own color – in the end, HE is the one to enjoy it, and I also noticed there is no negative effect on selling prices, some non-factory colors even fetch more than factory.

While the car is being painted all other parts got my full attention. Because all aftermarket wiring looms look very fake and give me more work than old ones – I restored the wiring in this Fidia to factory specs. And that means down to original spade connectors, boots, and colors. There were many (burned) shorts in the old one and even just cleaning off the old overspray took us some serious time to do it right.

The engine was being rebuilt by the shop that does all my Iso and Bizzarrini engines – we leave the outside as stock as possible and tweak the internals so we are right under the 400 hp mark. I have included the link to a video of this actual Fidia motor being dyno tested – that way I also don’t have to break in the cam anymore. As this is going to be a street car, we kept everything else (like cast iron intake manifold) totally stock. Video:

The transmission was working but had some serious damage which could get worse in a jiffy. The whole main shaft was marred and it’s bearings had a lot of tolerance; several other hard parts like the pictured gears needed replacing.

The complete De Dion tube and rear axle setup were disassembled, powder coated and rebuilt with new components. The differential was completely stripped, needed both pinion and ring gear and was painted black as all late Iso differentials are. The half shafts were still fine but in order to perfectly powder coat them they were completely disassembled and put together with new parts. All suspension parts were stripped of bearings and bushings, powder coated and assembled with new parts. A few pictures illustrate how perfect they came back. Same thing with the Girling brake calipers, they have a special gold cadmium coating to do it right. Needless to say, they came out perfect. All brake rotors were tested, powder coated, trued and installed with factory correct hardware.

All aluminum and chrome work went to the chrome shop. This is just a very lengthy and tedious process, there is a lot of brightwork on these cars and every piece needs special attention. Let’s just say it takes a lot of trips back and forth to get it right – essential to start this process as early as possible. I had to fabricate new aluminum transmission tunnel cladding, once that is taken off it cannot be used anymore. Luckily the best sheet metal guy on the planet works with me… He entered the first car he restored into the 1976 Pebble Beach Concourse and it won it’s class so he knows what he is doing – thanks Patrick! The burl walnut interior parts were all dropped off at a specialist to restore the cracks, discoloring, and delamination. That process takes about 3-4 months depending on what we have to work with and fortunately this wood was not too deteriorated.

In the meantime, the search for original or even NOS parts kept going to keep pace with the restoration work – obviously most Iso Fidia parts can not be ordered at Autozone! As usual with such rare cars, I ended up having certain parts fabricated in small numbers just to make sure I didn’t have that problem when finishing my projects. As soon as I write about the assembly, I’ll indicate what parts were specially made for this car – or for Iso S4/Fidia in general.The Ariston shocks were sent to the UK to be modified inside where we kept the original look and specs. All instruments were sent out to be cleaned, fixed, restored or whatever they needed to be perfect.

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Restoration Chronicles: Iso Fidia – Disassembly 3

It’s Christmas time and I have a bit of time to update my site. The work on the Iso Fidia is progressing next to the finish of the restoration of a 1955 Porsche (Pre-A) 356 Speedster. Here you can see how Ricky at disassembly concentrating on the wiring while I tackled the engine compartment. This is the original motor the car was delivered with: a 1969 March 21 casting Corvette L-46 350 V8. The Iso company used very good motors for their cars, this 350 horse L-46 is just one step down from the legendary (mechanical lifter) LT-1. (It only needs another intake, cam and carb – it still had pressed in rocker studs) The heads were the same 2.02 heads as the LT-1 and this motor could really open up!

Through the years several things got changed but nothing I can not reverse back to original. When I inspected the car in 2002 my main complaint was the lower end knock it had when seriously revved and yes – it still had it! 😎 But, it will be rebuilt with better internals than factory – the outside will stay fully stock. Fortunately major items like water pump, manifolds and starter were still the original 1969 units. The transmission is the original Muncie 4-speed and there was a noticeable hard spot in shifting which later showed explained itself once I had it open.

I had to cut up the exhaust system as it was fully welded so did not clear the frame and had the wrong mufflers welded into the wrong position. These engines do not come out easy, it takes 3 people and a LOT of tricks to do this! Especially in Fidias there are clearance problems with the distributor and clutch system, sometimes I ask myself how they did it in the factory. I am specifically showing the motor mounts: these are the original (worn out) units and because of the power steering Iso had to cut a corner off the LH one to make it fit. I found out the hard way 8-).

Once the motor was out, the true scope of what damage a quick paint job can do came out: the gloss black paint covered everything! Not only sheet metal but wiring, relays, brake system, steering – they just shot whatever they could reach. Fortunately, some of the original wiring colors could still be seen. Lots of Mickey Mouse “repairs” which are because original parts could not be sourced.

Now there is a lot of weight off the car, the next items that will be tackled are underpinnings, interior and wiring.

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