I have a long time wanted a RWD car for the winter driving - perhaps because I am childish since I like to play on ice track. A FWD car is equally good for obtaining good lap times, but with RWD, it will be more fun.
I got this car from Helsinki, from Southern Finland, where it has been owned by a hobbyist and after that it has been sitting a few years. The car has experienced some modifications; the chassis is painted with graphite grey color, the side mirrors changed and so on. Luckily, the mods have been done with quite good taste. The engine has been rebuilt and it seems to have race cams, dual carbs and tubular exhaust manifold fitted. The rest of the exhaust system is also updated.
This story is about a '82 model Fiat 131, with original 2-litre Twin-Cam engine, known as Supermirafiori (or Superstrada in some regions). Because of being a four-door version, these models are often underrated but I think this version is even more useful than two-door one.
The condition before restoration
There was quite much work done on the chassis before - basically it was still ok and external appearance was also good for being a 22 years old car. The sills are renewed as well as several other exterior parts. Many parts of the chassis were like new, which is a miracle because the car has been in Southern part of Finland where road salt is used unreasonable way. The car has been in year-round use but apparently the chassis has been regularly protected with rust inhibitors.
Despite of the relatively good condition of the chassis, some fixing was needed because there was incipient rust spots in many places. There were also wet leafs and other stuff inside the body sill so I decided to cut the sill open from that point and also remove some old patches. Some anti-roll bar and headlamp mounts were quite heavily corroded. There was some rust under the paint on the left side front door and rear fender. Those needed only removal of rust and re-painting.
Rust spots were sand-blasted, filled and painted. In addition, many parts were restored - for example, the front grille and bumpers.
As expected, the results of repairing the metal-flake paint surface were not satisfactory. The car should be re-painted in the future.
The tiny Bendix front brakes of the 131 are famous of being undersized and powerless. Also, these items were dragging and the discs were worn so there was a good opportunity to update the brakes while the car was under restoration. 257mmm Girling brakes from Fiat Regata 100S/Weekend were chosen - they are also less prone to dragging. Citric acid was used to remove rust - after the acid bath, the the brake calipers were completely grey and free from rust.
The brakes were put in place. Girling brakes have M10x1 thread for brake hose which is different to Bendix. A suitable fastener was found from Regata rear brake cylinder.
These needed surprisingly little attention. Even the electrical windows and central door locking seemed to work quite correctly. The central lock motor was missing from the driver's side front door, though, and some wiring needed renewing. The homebuilt instrument cluster was rebuilt with for example, mechanical oil pressure gauge. The gauge was illuminated with four green leds. The key cylinder of the passenger side front door was found from the inside of the door, broken...
The engine compartment
The engine compartment was left unpainted when the car has been painted so it still had the original color of the car, and also looked quite deteriorated. I decided to paint it. Prior that, some parts were removed but the engine was left in place. The engine with some associated components were cleaned.
After the painting, it was time to reinstall the parts into the engine compartment. Leaking fuel pump was replaced with electrical one. Also the fuel system was equipped with the legendary Malpassi Filter King fuel pressure regulator.
When changing the cambelt, it was noted that some material has been removed from the block surface, because the stock cambelt proved to be too long. The problem was cured by removing some material from the tensioner.
The engine coolant system looked rusty from inside, and it was washed. Caustic potash was used, it cleans even better than sodium hydroxide. Both chemicals are used for clogged sewers so they can be found from hardware stores.
Camshaft timing seems to be a little retarded because of the shaved block. The effect is yet to be seen...
Some electrical wiring was renewed and badly rusted headlamp mounts were fixed.
Finishing and assembling
The car was quite rapidly put together because fabricating of any special parts was not needed. Sadly, my digital camera broke down so there are no pictures from this period...
A few litres of anti-corrosion compound was sprayed inside the body sills and boxes. This stuff is also visible in some pictures. Whole bottom end of the car was oiled.
After venting the brakes and checking the electrics, the car was ready to be inspected. The car was idling quite erraticly, so the emissions were checked at a repair shop. However, there was no problem with passing the emission rules.
The car was inpected and taken into daily driving at 11.1.2005.