Monday, July 21, 2014

Restoration Lesson #1: Do not believe in magical pixie dust

With our restoration mainly behind us we decided it would be a good idea to share some of the lessons we learned when restoring our Dino. While these lessons can be transferred to a number of different projects, they are the product of our observations and experiences in dealing with a multitude of vendors and workers in the restoration and automotive service field. Our experiences have been diverse but certain constants seem to continue to pop up over and over again and it is these patterns that will serve as the basis for a series of posts aimed at helping fellow classic car owners. With that said I shall introduce our first lesson:

Do not believe in magical pixie dust

I can already sense the looks of confusion but allow me to explain. The classic car service and restoration industry is inundated with mainly self-proclaimed experts who tout their services as being special and not available anywhere else. Spend any time at a car show and you will hear stories of a mythical mechanic who is 'the only person I trust my car to'. This is normally followed by some tale of an iconic mechanic he trained under, or some special connection he has to the factory, or how he only tunes engines at dawn, etc., etc., etc.

We have come to call this indulgent self-promotion 'magical pixie dust' where owners very much believe that supernatural occurrences take place while their car is being serviced or restored at the hands of their perceived vehicular savior. Of course I am glorifying things a little here but we have met a countless number of vintage car owners that speak of their chosen service facility with a reverence normally reserved for a magician or sorcerer.

The reality is that a vintage car was built by human beings and will be repaired by human beings with the goal of this lesson being that it is most important to judge ACTUAL RESULTS rather than be blinded by the reputation that a particular person or shop has. Reputation has some value but it is the result YOU get and the quality of service YOU receive that truly judges how competent a particular technician is.

We fell foul to this on a number of occasions during our project falsely believing tales that ended up being as founded as a handful of magical beans. In the end we learned to not get wrapped up in elaborate stories but to coldly and methodically judge results in a vacuum devoid of over hyped emotion. As soon as we started doing this the quality of our results really increased as we began working with REAL professionals who would tackle problems methodically and would reference proper technical texts to ensure the correct results.

In the end a car is nothing more than a machine with a large number of numerical specifications to its many parts. Assembling to these specifications using good mechanical practices is where the real experts shine and there is no magic about it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Our Goals Exceeded: FCA National Meet Judging Sheet Received

Ferrari Club of America judging rules dictate that your judging sheet showing your deductions is sent to you a few weeks after the show. Up to this point all we knew is that we had scored 95 points or better to achieve a Platinum Award but did not know how close to 100 we did.

As previously stated 100 points hardly ever happens as judges get infinitely more picky as a car approaches a perfect score. On our end we were never arrogant enough to think we would score 100 either. After all we are just some newbie restorers doing our first Ferrari so we felt that we were bound to make a mistake somewhere along the lines that would be cause for deduction. In addition judging errors do happen so you must also take into account the human fallibility of the volunteers who evaluate the cars. With all this in mind we had set a goal of 98 points or better and worked hard towards that outcome.

Today the judging sheets came in and with it came a pleasant surprise. In the end we scored 99.5 points out of 100. With a half point being the smallest deduction possible we came as close to perfect as the rules allow which is better than we hoped for.

The obvious next question is: Why not 100? and What was the half point deduction for?

The answer to the second question is easier than the first so we will start with the low hanging fruit.

The leading edge of the doors on the Dino have a soft rubber trim on them that tucks under the rear edge of the front fender. When the trim is 100% brand new it takes a while for it to take its final set so from time to time it catches on the fender and sticks up a little. In our case we had our trim fitting well however when it was being loaded onto the truck for delivery it somehow got caught and spent 2 days bent backwards in the hot truck. When we unloaded for our final prep we saw the molding was deformed and did our best to get it set back into its correct position for the show. The extreme heat and humidity did not help our cause but we were able to get it to the point where 8 times out of 10 it would work well with time being the only proper remedy. Come show time the molding stuck ever so slightly when closing the door and we were deducted the half point because of it. With nothing more than a few days to heal itself the molding is now working perfectly again so all we can do is shrug our shoulders and call it one of those things that happen.

That said, we are realistic and believe that had it not been for the sticky molding at that moment  'something' would likely have been found (no car is perfect) as 100 scores are as rare as a 'hole in one' in golf.

99.5 Points at the Ferrari Club National Meet for a Dad and two brothers working in their spare time as total amateurs. We'll take it :)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

An empty parking lot: The first shakedown runs

With barely a single low speed kilometer on the clock since restoration, the time had now come to start running the car more seriously. While it would be great to just hop in and go for a cruise the reality is that for the car to run properly, hundreds of assemblies need to operate without problem.

Having had the whole car completely apart down to the disassembly of the clock, we felt that a progressive and metered approach to getting our Dino fully road worthy was called for. As such we have begun a process of progressively longer and more involved drives between which a comprehensive check of the tightness of all the fasteners is done. Racers call this giving the car a proper 'nut and bolt' and today was the first of these tests.

Lucky for us there is an enormous convention center only a few hundred meters from our office and today (being a Sunday) the entire complex was all but deserted. As such we had access to a number of roads and large parking lots on which to put our Dino through its paces. Operating in this controlled environment was great because it allowed us to really pay attention to the car without concern for other vehicles. Also should a mechanical problem arise we are not too far from home.

It all felt a little like those days way back when Dad would take us to a parking lot on a weekend to teach Paul or I to drive. For a good while we just circled the complex and with time built up more speed and confidence with the car. While keeping the engine within its break in max RPM we still managed some blasts up to about 70mph as well as some proper brake and cornering tests.

The test went well with no visible mechanical issues. The real proof will come when we get the car cooled and on the hoist for a comprehensive nut and bolt. If we don't find anything serious then the next run will be longer and on the public roads.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Filtering out the details: Making a period correct looking Fram oil filter

While there are no concours point deductions for the use of modern service items such as oil filters we still wanted our Dino to look factory fresh and that included fitting the correct Fram Carello oil filter.

Of course these have not been available for decades so we re-painted and re-labeled a modern oil filter to look like the original.

A small detail that made the engine bay look all the more authentic.

Monday, June 16, 2014

David vs. Goliath: Our tale of the 2014 FCA National Concours

In our last installment we showed the car after it had been finished and put on a truck to Virginia for the Ferrari Club of America (FCA) Annual Meet. Part of that event is the concours which we aimed to participate in. For the uninitiated, a concours is an evaluation of your car by expert judges who begin with a score of 100 and remove half or full points as they find flaws in workmanship, condition, or historical accuracy. The FCA has a standard that anything over 95 points is considered a 'Platinum' car and it was our intention to shoot for as close to 100 as we could get.
Perfect scores almost never happen as judges are reluctant to score a car as faultless making the last 5 points very very difficult to get and the last point near on impossible to achieve. That said we felt we were well prepared and wanted to do our best.
The concours was last Thursday but things really started in earnest when the car was delivered to Ferrari of Washington on Wednesday for its final prep. The guys at FOW were great and we want to send them a special thanks for allowing us a few hours in their service bay to give the Dino its last spit and polish before the show. The weather was ungodly hot and it was great to have the air conditioned comfort of the dealership to work in.
Finally the day of the show arrived and we thought we would tell our story one photo at a time.
The first two photos are of Paul ready to join the show field. It had rained the evening before and we had 01464 looking its best.


Next up were the competitors. The Dino class was small with only 3 cars entered. Despite this they were all of a high standard and the other two cars would go on to score Platinum themselves. The red GT in the photo belonged to our friend Hugh who had 3 flight cancellations the day before and would miss judging having shown up about an hour late after an early morning plane ride. As such we fielded and showed his car for him and he was able to take home a top prize.

Now it was about to be our turn. Paul and I have a last minute discussion before it is time to be judged.

In addition to the concours supplied information sheet (seen on the dash) we included an additional information board indicating this as the Dino profiled on this blog. It was great to have a number of blog followers come and show their interest and give their feedback on the project.

Prior to inspecting the car Paul introduces himself and the vehicle to the judges. With ominous skies overhead they were a little rushed for time fearing the opening of the heavens.

First up was a visual inspection followed by an operational check of the lights and horn. No problems there.

Next up was a look in the trunk to inspect the factory books and tools where a surprise was in store.

In the trunk we had a special treat for the judges. In addition to the requisite books and tools, we had a plethora of additional period documents including sales brochures, paint and leather samples, expanded parts books, service manuals, and period road tests. Many of these items were kindly given to us by the original salesman Scot MacDonald a few months before his passing making them incredibly genuine to the car.

By this stage the judges were all smiles and struggled to contain their excitement for the car. With every passing moment they uncovered more and more details.

Once it was all over Paul and I posed for a photo and anxiously awaited the results.

It was then that the heavens opened in a big way. The weather turned for the worse and we just managed to cover the car before rains of biblical proportions began to hammer down. So intense was the rain that we feared major flooding with some cars having water up to their doors. As it was we were well positioned near a drainage canal and the water never broke the level of the grass where the Dino was parked. Even so it was a bit of a scare that led to the cancellation of the awards presentation leaving us to wonder about our result for a few more days.

With the rain past we got the car off the soaked field and back on the truck. With almost no mileage on the car since completion we decided to forgo any more driving until we had the chance to properly execute a running in procedure on the car to catch anything that may cause problems. Regardless Paul looks pleased and now all we could do is wait.

So how did we do? Well the exact score of the concours will not be known for a few weeks as the judging sheets need to be mailed to us. That said we did score Platinum and were awarded an FCA Major Award for Best Dino. Below is an image of Paul accepting his prizes at the final awards banquet dinner.

Dad could not be there for the awards presentation but this photo was taken for him. The next day was Fathers Day and below are the two of us holding the awards that he helped us achieve.

But wait there is more. While we were very proud to take home the hardware the real prize carried no trophy but some words and actions we did not expect. During the show many of the worlds top Ferrari restorers including the guys at Motion Products (the only shop ever to score 100 at Pebble Beach with a Ferrari) took time out to inspect our work. All of them gave their praise and approval that our work was as best as the best no expense spared restorations they have done. In addition we were able to share some of our restoration processes and it was great to be able to interact with the pros in this way.

Furthermore we came to learn that our Dino was being strongly rallied by the judges to be given the award of Best of Show (BOS). This prize is the top of the top and takes into account quality of restoration, vehicle rarity, difficulty of restoration, and historical significance. Realistically BOS was never going to happen as this is the domain of the one-off multi-million dollar 12 cylinder cars but we came to learn that our little Dino took them on and came within the very last few cars considered for this honor. In the end BOS rightfully did not happen but we came much closer than any Dino had ever come and were proud to have been considered for the distinction. For a Dad and two brothers working in their spare time we truly felt we had come close to toppling the giants.

Stay tuned to the blog as we fill in the missing parts of the restoration and chronicle the final tuning to get our Dino ready for the road and race track.