Looking back at 2018 Monterey Car Week.

Finally time for an update!!

We have had some time to relax after the hectic Monterey Car Week. The Iso insiders already knew I was working on getting the unbelievable Grifo #405 ready to be shown. This car was found in Oregon after being stored for 38 years in a humid environment, never moved from it’s position other than finally moved from an open pole barn to a concrete building. Not on it’s own power, the motor and brakes were locked up and basically the car was unsafe when found. It had a total of 005950 Miles racked up before being stored. It was my intention to show it in the Preservation Class at Pebble Beach. After several discussions with the “judges” I decided to not change anything about the car until it was shown on the lawn… Unfortunately on April first (no joke) I received a letter from the “committee” explaining that without further given reasons this Grifo would not be accepted in their Preservation Class. So I had 4 months to get the car ready for Monterey Week!

First I had to pull the motor because it was just a lump of rust and it was seized – water had been running into it and I wasn’t able to turn it even with the tallest wrench.

To just get an idea of what humidity does to a car take a look in the trunk. (Which I called a bio-hazard) The aluminum vent tube form the gas tank was corroded off the tank – it had to be rewelded to be safe and functional.

At the same time I opened the transmission and found the owner hasn’t been too nice on the synchros. I put in original ZF parts and the motor received new bearings, seals and gaskets but stayed as standard as it was. No modifications, all clamps and hoses were either restored or exchanged for OEM ones. Built to 1973 Mustang specs, with it’s unique dual point distributor – it was soon ready to rumble!

Talking about rumble: this Grifo still had it’s factory original exhaust system! So I restored it and this is now the only Grifo I know of with a factory exhaust system.

While the drive train was out I could tackle the body and suspension parts and get the engine bay ready for serious detail work. All steering, cooling, electrical and brake parts were restored to stock configuration. Even the hood springs got their cloth liner back.

All components got powder coated and all usable hardware was cad plated – luckily my daughter June we on vacation to help me figure out the mess I made with the nuts and bolts, hahaha!! She learned when she was just 7 or 8 so she’s used to it.

I turned everything from a rusted pile into a factory new look, complete with all new bushings, bearings and shocks.

The paint itself was left untouched, my “dent-guy” Steve made sure the old “mechanics dents” were taken care of and the panels are straight like new. Cheers Steve Brown!

The drive train was put back, everything restored like factory specs and the first test run was done 8 days before Monterey Car week began!

The interior was taken out and the rodent nests removed, it needed a new headliner because that’s where they lived. The bumpers were straightened, all stainless polished and a few days before Monterey I was still mounting the bumpers.

The car was scheduled to be on the lawn in Monterey Saturday morning but Friday night the trucked called me to tell me his truck broke down – I had to figure out how to get the car to Monterey! After a long night of phone calls and not being able to hire anyone to pick it up I decided to take it out of the trailer and make it’s first test drive right up to the lawn! To make a (very!) long story short; it got there in good order and we had time to detail it for the show. It was shown with fully original interior (except new headliner), fully original paint, wheels, tires, exhaust system and sheet metal.

Needless to say – it was a great success! We had 8 Isos on the lawn – one of the biggest attendances the last few years. Grifo 405 won Second in class and a First prize with the Iso-Bizzarrini Club. The people I spoke to about the car all agreed that this Grifo is very unique and the Iso community is better off because it still exists.

Ricky got his prize later at the Iso-Bizzarrini dinner after a job well done supervising me in the shop. What a great experience to have been part of the resurrection of Grifo 405! Thank you for everybody who attended, gave their input and enjoyed it as much as I did!

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??? ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Maybe someone can determine what cars these consoles go to?

Restoration Chronicles: Iso Fidia โ€“ 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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Getting ready for Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance

After a few weeks of preparation, the illustrious 1967 Bizzarrini Strada of my late good friend Gerd Eckstein was picked up today on it’s way to the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance in Pebble Beach, California. It was purchased from Mr. Colosio in Italy and after driving it to the Monza (Italy) race track together I shipped it to his home in California in 2005. He showed it at Pebble Beach that year and again at Concorso Italiano in 2006 – in both places it won it’s deserved prizes.

It has not seen much use in the following years and now it needed some work for the upcoming 50 Year Bizzarrini show. The car had received a (partial) new paint job in its original color around 2000 and we had to put some effort in to revive it so it would be presentable for the show. There were also some mechanical issues which were solved and it was brought back to perfect running and driving condition. This week, Gerd Eckstein’s son Michael and daughter Verena will be driving it on the Tour d’ Elegance so I had to make extra sure the car would give no trouble. Actually, this was the first time it was in the same location as another car Mr. Colosion owned; the most important Bizzarrini Grifo A3/C B0211 – the first car Giotto delivered with the new style rear glass. It seems the world is a small place – especially when it comes to such rare cars.

Today was the day it was picked up and we had to scramble to get everything done in time, Bill the paint detailer was still putting the last work in and even Dixie and Talia helped. It looks radiant and will honor Mr. Gerd Eckstein posthumously by its presence as this is the first time the Iso-Bizzarrini world knows he will not attend in person anymore. Luckily his family keeps his dream alive and make sure his legacy goes on. I’m proud we were involved in it and look forward to seeing a mostly unrestored Bizzarrini with such provenance on the lawn among all the other magnificent cars Giotto left us with. Have a safe trip!

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One Long Lost Iso Grifo โ€“ Part 4: Letting Go

After being preserved as well as possible and getting it in the best condition possible without actually restoring it – the time has come to make a decision… After much thought Sam has come to the realization his Grifo 369 is not a car he will ever dare to drive again, especially after it’s recent full recommissioning. Actually, the mere reason this car still exists like this is the fact that he could not STAND people being that careless around it and risking damage in all kinds of ways. So arrangements have been made to offer it to the public and this will be done at THE best venue for that; the Gooding Pebble Beach Auction in Monterey.

Today it was picked up and it was like saying Goodbye to an old friend. This car has taught me a lot about TRUE originality of Iso Grifos and I was able to add 1000s of detail pictures to my restoration library. I hope it ends up in good hands, this car deserves a special place in a high end collection. Thanks my friend and Happy Trails!

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One Long Lost Iso Grifo โ€“ Part 3: Resurrection

I have had the long lost Iso Grifo #369 in my shop and I treated the car to a “sympathetic recommissioning” by not altering the car’s appearance but just cleaning it by retaining it’s (most coveted) patina. By now we all realize this word has been misused in many places, however, this car BREATHES it! The car came to me with the front fenders full of the small “mechanics dents”, the main reason why Sam (the second owner) parked the car decades ago. To correct this I hired a friend who is a specialist in this field and flies all over the world to help owners of special cars out. He is a person who does not use any paint, but “massages” the sheet metal and makes the sheet metal come out perfectly straight. He did exactly that and the fenders look like factory originals now…

The second person I hired was a detail specialist who first assessed the paint and told me what to expect. He found a few old repairs, probably from small dings (door) and rock chips (valance areas). At some edges there were some touch ups done aย long time ago, the present ones were left to add to the character of the car. He suggested to hand-polish the paint and make the repairs disappear as much as possible. So he spent 4 days on a stool in my shop; NO machines but all kinds of polishes, rags, cleaners and waxes. When he was done the car truly showed off its 22000-kilometer heritage! There were no areas overly “restored”; he put it back as one would expect the factory would have delivered it. What I was most excited about was to have found a Grifo with bone stock gray metallic body parts on it – after detailing these parts I was able to extract the correct color code which I will use for my current (and future) Grifo restorations! The color is a medium charcoal but holds 4 different colors of metallic flakes – very fine but visible with a magnifying glass under sunlight. Right, I didn’t hold it there too long! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

While the exterior was being detailed I had an interior specialist go through the interior to mainly restore the original leather and corduroy. The leather was still supple but did have some aging signs and a bit of discoloration in the driver’s seat edge. He was able to make it all come out beautiful, when you open the doors on this car it feels like you’re in 1974!

The trunk compartment held the highly coveted Iso tool roll, Bettani jack, fully original upholstery and an even more awesome find: a spare wheel which has never been mounted! The original Cinturato tire is like new and never touched the road! So the trunk compartment was easy to clean up and put back to the year 1972.

The engine compartment needed more cleanup work, obviously old oil and oxidized parts. Several parts were missing their (black) paint and we decided to not repaint them but preserve the parts as they are – just clean them. The engine got serviced, a few new tie rods were installed and the car now runs and drives like any restored Grifo I handled.

Some repairs I did: the vacuum headlights did not open; they were connected wrong after a solenoid locked up – I put new bellows in and they now work perfectly. The door windows did not work and it turned out some “mechanic” had tried to re-use the brittle (Ducellier) motor gears and (of course) they failed again – leaving Sam wondering if they could do ANYTHING right to his Iso! I DO give the “mechanic” some credit for his inventiveness though, I included his “good for ten minutes fix” of the gears with steel wire and resin… Looking at the picture; I’m glad Sam did not give him more to work on! It does have 2 (non-audible, small) holes in its exhaust system but I don’t see it my task to change anything on it – it still carries the (now non-existent) Iso-stamped chrome muffler tips. One of the many revelations Grifo 369 brought us by just existing.

The car is still in my shop to assist in another project I’m dealing with: to restore a client’s Iso Grifo who’s sheet metal has been badly mangled by an accident, but even more by the welding job afterward. That car is missing it’s original factory dimensions and Sam’s Grifo 369 is very happy to offer it’s perfect body for all kinds of cardboard take-offs.
I have made known to the Iso-Bizzarrini community that this car still exists and for all of them this is the first time they laid eyes on it. Only 5 or 6 of them ever saw it in person but they rave about it (as they should). A true miracle how it could go undetected all these years, especially in this condition. Sam should be hailed for how respectful he treated his car, he is the one who kept it and made the word “survivor” mean too little for a car of this caliber. It now gets driven occasionally and it will probably be shown at the Supercar Sunday next week – it’s first non-work related outing in decades. I’m looking forward to it!

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