Current Projects:

 

Panda 4×4

Our own show car now has a Tan leather interior, body coloured bumpers and plastic mouldings, custom sump guard and rock sliders, 14″ alloy wheels with mud + snow tyres. This work was carried out in order to show it at the Footman James Classic Motor Show at the NEC  (November 2014). It is now back in the workshop waiting to have the mechanicals brought up to scratch, this will include the fitment of a 1242cc mpi engine from a 2005 model Panda.

 

Buick Skylark GS Custom

Well the Buick developed soggy carpets last year. Ever since we bought it four years ago we’ve had a leak into the boot when it rains. I had suspected rust around the rear screen aperture but wasn’t in a position to do anything about it other than keep it under cover as much as possible. When the problem grew to the point that water was also coming down behind the back seat and making the carpets in the car wet something more permanent had to be done.

Interior was stripped, old vinyl roof, windscreen and rear screen removed, and the rust holes around the rear aperture were cut back to good metal. New metal was then welded in where needed. The Buick was next trailered six miles down the road to the trimmers for a new vinyl roof to be made up and fitted.

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The Buick has now returned with a lovely new roof and has never looked better. Next job is to start cleaning up the floor of the interior and see what we have. It looks much worse than it is as rusty coloured water has sat there and dried out. I’m not expecting to find any actual rot.

Well the interior is now back in place, this was to allow entry to the London to Brighton Classic Car run 2017. It was great to be driving the Buick again and it completed the route with no issues whatsoever. In fact it has since been to several shows and will continue to do so throughout the winter as there seems to be a number of ‘Breakfast Meets’ relatively local to us that continue throughout the winter months.

Apart from the 20mpg fuel consumption, the Buick has proved to be one of our cheapest cars to run.  Even 20mpg is pretty good for a two ton 5.7 litre car.

 

Oslo our 4×4 off roader

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Oslo (his colour is Oslo grey) has been our Panda of choice when we wanted some off road fun but this does take its toll on a Panda. Because we want Oslo to survive for a very long time, we decided to retire him from active service when the last mot ran out. He needs a little bodywork before he can gain another mot and so the plan at the moment is to carry out this work but then take it further and have him resprayed and generally spruced up in readiness for an easier life.

 

 

New Off roader

Oslo’s retirement does not mean that we have to retire from off-roading ourselves.  Fortunately we’ve acquired another Panda 4×4 to adapt for serious off-roading. I will post in here as things progress with it’s build. Here it is as bought……

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So far wider steel wheels with knobbly 145/80/13 tyres have been fitted and an air scoop over the bonnet vent…….

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I’ve been dipping in and out of this one as time’s allowed. This is a pretty solid Panda in general, most of the rust present is in non structural areas, and as this one is going to be bashed about offroad I didn’t plan to sort these areas to a very high standard. Also, the paintwork wouldn’t be having too much time and money spent on it either. I want it to be cheap and easy to touch up any scratches it will inevitably collect. White is a very forgiving colour and hides imperfections well but for me it is also a blank canvas for a little design work. I’ve had half a dozen cans of  BL Snapgragon yellow kicking around for a few years that I’ve been reluctant to throw away and this may be an opportunity to finally make use of them if they are still useable.

Below are most of the rust areas that have been dealt with…..

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Both doors were typically rusty and I’ve decided to fit a new one to the driver’s side and repair the passenger door. A new door may seem extravagant but I bought half a dozen a couple of years ago at a good price making them cheaper than the time spent on repairs. Sadly new passenger doors have not been available for quite a while now so repair was the only option.

On the mechanical front the suspension has been lifted by about 2.5″ at the front and 2″ at the rear.

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The pic. above does not show the full lift at the front.

The now standard upgrade of Alfa 147 seats will be applied to this Panda. I would have liked to leave out the back seat but we may well use this Panda for normal driving too from time to time and carry passengers in the back and therefore I will fit one. I have another Panda in storage that has the seats fitted to it. As that one is not likely to be back on the road for a while, the seats will be taken and used in this one instead. The rest of the interior will be matched to the external colour scheme but suited to offroading and therefore I will not be fitting carpets or sound deadening as these tend to get wet if we get stuck in deep water.

The outside colour scheme will be cheap and simple. The Panda will remain mostly white but the previously mentioned yellow rattle cans will help to resurrect a design I had on a Chrysler Sunbeam 1.3L about twenty five years ago.

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Well two weeks ago Huey, as we call him in honour of his previous owner, and it’s many colours, passed his mot test and hit the road. The plan is to run him around a little and see what else needs doing. Three things to note so far are that the noisy gearbox bearings he came with are quite wearing on long trips so a gearbox rebuild is needed sooner rather than later. The off-road tyres add to the noise so a second set of wheels with quieter tyres are needed for normal driving. Lastly, the fuel tank has a slight leak if filled more than three quarters full. I have a new fuel tank and a set of alloys already so these can be prepared and fitted in the near future. I also have a secondhand gearbox that I can fit. I don’t know its condition but if it turns out to be a good one then it’s job done. If it’s not so good then I’m sure it will do while I have the original reconditioned.

Here are some pics of how he is now……..

 

  

Since completion Huey has given us four great days off-roading in Carmarthenshire (May 2017) with the UK Panda 4×4 group. We all stayed at Llanerchindda farm, a guest house dedicated to providing car clubs and groups with great accommodation, food and driving routes.

The Strata Florida green lane was a highlight of the trip. Search ‘ UK Panda 4×4 – Wales Off Road 2017 – Strata Florida’ on YouTube to watch the fun. We are already booked for five days of the same next year (May 2018).

We met up with the group for a weekend in Yorkshire too which had us doing more of the same. Every time the group goes out the members get more and more adventurous. I think further upgrading is going to be necessary if we want to keep up.

 

In 2017 we have added a couple of cars that, whilst still being Fiats, are not Pandas.

  

The first arrived in June, a series 1 Uno Turbo ie. Totally original and showing just 60k miles it could be the oldest surviving UT in the UK. It’s registered date is 1-4-1986 and so if anyone knows of an older example we’d love to have this confirmed one way or the other. After a few years in storage it needed a little fettling when it first arrived but since then has been running beautifully, taking us to Castle Combe and Brands Hatch racing circuits for a couple of shows in the summer. I really enjoy driving this one and had the chance whilst at Castle Combe to take it for a few laps in anger. I always thought that being a small turbo’d engine it would be delicate and unreliable. I could not have been more wrong. The Uno Turbo engine was developed to handle far more boost than Fiat provided upon release.  As a result, a well looked after example is just as reliable as anything else but much more fun than many. Our example, after thirty two years, is running beautifully with everything it left the factory with still in place (apart from service items), proof indeed.

The underside is in great condition but the bodywork up top has a couple of areas needing attention at some point. Worst area of rust is around the sunroof and then there is a small patch on the o/s/front wing. None of this stops it showing well and grabbing the attention of those that appreciate its rarity. However I have a new original wing now and so all will be rectified in the near future.

 

  

The second arrival to the fleet is a Fiat Coupe 20v Turbo le. We were told of this car by a representative of The Fiat Motor Club UK after Barbara took a fancy to a yellow example at Brands Hatch.

The one and only previous owner bought it in 1999 as a retirement present to himself but arthritis was getting the better of him and he was finding it difficult to get in and out. He was looking for a new owner that would look after it in the way he had. With so many of these being modified (not always very well) he wanted to ensure that it went to someone who was equally keen to keep it original.

His advert in the club magazine only had a phone number and so he could have been anywhere in the UK. Was it fate that he should live only ten miles from the workshop?

As far as I can tell, about 1600 Limited Edition Coupes were produced worldwide with around a hundred or so coming to the UK. Ours is number 1119 and is a real credit to the previous owner. The mileage was showing just over 62k when I went to view it.  Knowing that the cam belt is a very involved and expensive job on one of these, I asked if it had ever been changed? His answer “ Twice” says it all really.

After taking our Mk1 Panda to Italy last year and loving it we plan to do the same again next year in the Coupe.  An entirely different but no more enjoyable experience I’m sure.

Both the Coupe and the Uno Turbo will appear in the ‘For Sale’ section eventually but for now we’re enjoying owning them far too much to sell!