THE VINTAGE FERRARI SPECIALIST

Little Chrome Projects

June 10, 2024


I keep getting drips and drabs of the chrome plating parts back from my plater so I can install them on the 330GT. The extractor vent trim is looking very nice, but there are a bunch of parts that have to go together to install this part. The three painted panels had to be polished before assembly. Little rubber strips that fit between the parts had to be cut, and little screws and washers all have to be fitted for it to be installed. Access is tight and there are a lot of loose pieces ready to fall out before the tiny nuts are installed. I often wonder how inefficient this must have been when these were originally installed at the factory! With both hands juggling a dozen parts at the same time, I didn’t have another hand to take pictures, but you’ll have to imagine the struggle!

For the eagle eyed viewer, the vent hose behind the extractor vent in this picture is not concours correct. The correct hose is a cloth wrapped hose, but in some places in this car, I chose to use a more flexible hose where no judge will be able to see. It allowed the hose to bend easily and connect better to in the car. Wherever the hose can be seen, we used the correct hose. Let’s keep this secret among us!

The rear quarter window latches looked great, and I worked with my plater to confirm the orientation of the parts when everything was reassembled after plating. The true test would be to see if the latch latched!

I cut little rubber gaskets to insulate the anchor from the hole in the glass.

With all the parts installed, the latch latched! Eventually, the interior will get an upholstered panel, but the latch is installed!

The next little project was the door lights. The frames were replated, and new light fixture gaskets were ordered, so now I needed to prep the lenses and fixtures for installation.

Cleaning and polishing the lenses made a world of difference!

It was a pleasant surprise to have the reproduction gaskets fit so well!

Finishing the Ferrari 365GTC/4 AC and Lights

May 28, 2024


I pulled the radiator out of the 365GTC/4 to remove the old condenser. I decided to replace the old condenser with a new one to have less chance of having debris or old R12 refrigerant and oil trapped in the system.

The new condenser was sized to fit where the old one lived, but I managed to get one a little larger. It also seemed to have finer tubes and more surface area than the old one.

Inside the car, I decided to keep the old evaporator but cleaned it out thoroughly with a flushing fluid. I installed all new lines and installed a new expansion valve as well. These were the only lines using the old flare fittings, with everything in the engine compartment upgraded to new 0-ring fittings.

In this picture, you can see the new compressor on the left with the new 134a fittings. On the right, is the radiator installed with the new condenser and new lines and fittings. At the bottom of the picture, you can just see the dryer and binary switch that is connected to the compressor clutch.

I connected the refrigerant lines to my gauges and vacuum pump to start evacuating the system. I kept the vacuum pump running for a few hours to evaporate any moisture, cleaning fluid, or old oil out of the system. I closed the system up, and left the system under vacuum overnight to confirm I didn’t have any loss of vacuum. In the morning, I was happy to see the system had not lost any vacuum, so I was ready to charge the system.

I slowly charged the system and added about 13 oz of fluid along with about 14 oz of PAG oil to the empty compressor. I managed to get the A/C temp down to about 42 degrees F, but the true test will be when I get the car out on the road on a warm day to see how she performs.

Some of you were asking for a parts list and here’s a rough list. It may not be complete, but it’s a starting point:

York Compressor with 6″ double groove clutch. RH Suction.

Roto Lock service valves for O-RIng fittings with charge ports

O-RIng Drier with brackets and port for Binary Switch (Please include Binary Switch)

7′ of -6 hose

4′ of -8 hose

9′ of reduced barrier -10 hose

Expansion valve

     Hose Ends

(1) -10 straight with flare fitting for Reduced barrier hose (Evap)

(1) -10 90 with O-Ring  (Compressor)

(2) straight -6 O-RIng

(2) 90 -6 O-RIng

(1) 90 -6 Flare 

(2) 90 -8 O-Ring

(1) Straight -8 O-Ring

The condenser was a High Performance Aluminum Condenser 13.5” (Height) 24” (Width) ordered from Classic Auto Air

You’ll have to decide if you want to use the regular barrier hose or the reduced barrier hose. The reduced barrier hoses are thinner, and are supposed to have the same performance as the thicker hose. The thinner hose made it easier to route the hose through the firewall on the C/4. You’ll also have to get a crimper to attach the new fittings. I recommend you get the handheld hydraulic crimper, but make sure it comes with the dies that can crimp the reduced barrier hoses if you choose to use the thinner hose.

Before putting the hood back on the C/4, I needed to address the head lights. They would occasionally go into a constant loop of flipping up and flipping down.

https://www.instagram.com/p/C7W0hgTsFgp/

I immediately when to check the switch of the steering column. Removing this knob requires care not to lose a small ball bearing inside that can be easily lost.

I quickly found out the switch was suffering from the classic problem of shrinking and cracking plastic. The arrow pointed to a crack that was forming, allowing the whole switch turn when the light switch was turned. I widened the crack with a file and secured the shrinking plastic collar with a thin piece of wire. The plan was to fix and strengthen the crack with a plastic repair kit.

Here’s the repair of the stalk with the wire embedded in the switch body, and the plastic repair holding it all together. If the rest of the stalks in the steering column were breaking, I would have sent the whole steering column out for repairs at ODD Parts, but this repair I did myself saved me the time to send the unit out to California and wait for it to return. Instead, I had it all back together by the afternoon!

Ferrari 365GTC/4 A/C

May 13, 2024


After getting the carburetors sorted on the black 365GTC/4, I was asked to take a look at the air conditioning system. I had some good guidance from my friend Scott McClure on the the Dino A/C, but my next challenge was to see what hurtles I would have to overcome with a C/4!

My biggest concern was how difficult it would be to access the evaporator parts hidden behind the dash. As bad as this photo looks, I found I didn’t have to remove the whole center console to reach the fittings I would need to disconnect so new A/C hoses could be installed.

The A/C hoses ran through the firewall on this car, and were found under an insulating wrap. This particular system seemed to be in pretty good shape, and I decided to leave the evaporator in place and change out the rest of the system. It was a calculated risk, but I felt the main failure points of this system laid elsewhere. The plan was to remove the old hoses and expansion valve. Flush out the old evaporator with cleaning solvent, install new custom hoses with the proper flare fittings that would mate to the old evaporator fittings. Run new A/C barrier hose and install modern o-ring fittings on the other end of these new hoses to mate up with the new components I would install in the engine compartment.

The compressor in this car looked in good shape, but still had the old R-12 fittings. Replacing the compressor with an identical newer unit with more environmentally friendly coolant and modern fittings would help with repairs in the future, not top mention any A/C shop would be able to handle the modern compatible parts.

When I removed the old A/C compressor, I found my first problem that was not so obvious during my first inspection. The bearing in the A/C compressor clutch was seized, so it was forcing the compressor to be engaged all the time! Who knew how long this going on, but it was not good. Having the compressor engaged all the time meant refrigerant was always circulating through this system while the engine was running. Worse yet, if the system was empty, how much lubricating oil was in the system? These compressors rely on lubrication oil in the system to keep the compressor functioning. The safety switch is designed to disengage the clutch and stop the compressor from spinning when it’s low on refrigerant but with a seized bearing, this was not happening. Luckily, the old compressor was still working, but replacing this compressor was prudent.

The clutch coil was also showing some age as the resin that sealed the coil was cracking. I would imagine moisture would eventually find its way into the coil and cause issues. A new one was on its way to me.

With the new compressor in hand I started transferring the mounting studs from the old unit to the new one. Since the compressor is American made, the fittings were SAE, but the hardware that went on the Ferrari side were metric, so these custom studs had to be transferred.

Dino A/C II

May 5, 2024


A new York Style compressor arrived in the mail and Scott McClure who’s supplying me with the parts spec’ed it out with 134a fittings, but managed to make it still look like a R12 system by making dummy R12 caps!

The only way to get the compressor installed in the Dino is by removing the right side fuel tank, but once it’s out of the way, getting the new A/C lines and compressor mounted wasn’t too bad. Getting fuel tank back in is another story…

Scott also supplied a new evaporator, but I had to drill out the pop rivets to take the A/C plenum that housed the evaporator.

Since Scott had exact reproductions made of the Dino evaporator and condenser with modern o-ring seals instead of the original flare fittings, I decided to replace everything in this system. This would save me the step of flushing the old parts of the old R-12 refridgerant and oil to accept the new 134a refrigerant and PAG oil.

The new evaporator fit perfectly in the original housing.

I removed the radiator to separate the condenser and replace it as well.

With a low mileage car, the parts didn’t look too worn, but I wanted to make the A/C system work as best as it could with the new 134a refrigerant. If any of the hoses, fittings, or heat exchangers leaked, we would be wasting time chasing leaks.

The new condenser fit perfectly and lined up with everything like the original parts.

Dino A/C

April 28, 2024


One request I’ve been getting lately is getting air conditioning working on a vintage Ferrari. When I was first getting into cars, any car collector car that came originally with air conditioning would eventually need service, but sometimes refilling the system with refrigerant wouldn’t last long. Eventually, refilling the system would not solve the problem (and we realized was bad for the environment!), so we gave up and drove our cars without air conditioning. Maybe the climate was cooler, maybe we were used to not having A/C, or maybe we’ve gotten used to our modern cars with reliable and efficient air conditioning, but today my clients demand a working A/C! I have always declined working on these systems because I didn’t have the necessary equipment or skills to work on them. I usually took the car to my local garage and had them work on them, but sometimes leaving a valuable six figure plus car at a shop for A/C work made me uncomfortable. I realized I needed to step up my skills and services.

Many times the Vintage Ferrari systems were American made systems from the era that were fitted to these cars. The technology was from the 60s and the components were the same age. Not only were these systems leaking from the old fittings, but probably leaking through the 50 year old hoses. I felt the only way to make a reliable system was to replace much of the old components with new parts, and change over to a modern refrigerant. R12 was banned from use in automobiles because of its environmental issues, but after 30 years, it seems to be making a comeback. 134a, which has its own issues, was its replacement, and most shops are capable of working with 134a and its fittings, so I’ve decided to work with a 134a system.

To guide me through this process on this Dino, I called Scott McClure, a Dino owner that has worked on his air conditioning system extensively, and had the tricks and knowledge to fix the system in the one I was working on. He had the evaporator for the Dino reproduced exactly and will supply one to me for this project.

The first step was to remove all the old refrigerant hoses running from the compressor to the front of the car. Even for a low mileage car, these hoses were still over 50 years old, so we will be replacing them with modern A/C barrier hoses that will do a better job at keeping the refrigerant contained. From my understanding, the 134a is a smaller molecule than the R12, so using modern hose designed for 134a will help. I am also going to upgrade the fittings to a modern o-ring seal from the old flare fittings on the original system. I don’t believe there is any solution to fixing an aging leaking flare fitting without simply cranking down on the fitting. The fitting will either seal or break, but the o-ring seal should be a better solution with o-ring replacements to repair a leaky fitting.

Replacing the hoses and fittings means replacing the other components of the system with the same fittings, which means the evaporator under the dash had to come out. Luckily, with the Dino, it was relatively accessible. We used to explain to certain owners who had a bad evaporator under their dash that when the A/C system was designed by Ferrari, they started with the evaporator and built the car around it! Luckily, this was not the case with the Dino, so getting the evaporator out was not too bad.

I managed to pull the evaporator out of its home for the last 50 years, and waited the new parts to arrive!

Ferrari 330GT 2+2 Rear Suspension

April 27, 2024


I installed the rear suspension and axle in the 330GT that I’m restoring. I had Francois set up the rear axle with new bearings so it was ready to put back in the car. Without the rear axle, it made this car very difficult to move around the shop. I resorted to putting it back on the chassis dolly so I could put other cars on the lift when this one was waiting for parts.

The rear springs on a Vintage Ferrari are a little tricky, and have to be pre-tensioned so the shackles will line up with the chassis mounts. This tension and orientation is held in place with limiting cables that have to be installed before releasing the tensioning bar I have installed here.

This orientation is crucial to get the proper ride height and movement of the rear suspension and I’ve seen these installed incorrectly by shops that are not familiar with this set up. Using this beefy bar to tension the rear spring has taken most of the fear out of this procedure, but it still took some prying and manhandling to get things to line up properly. I’m happy to report I have all my finders intact!

With the limiting cable installed and adjusted, I was able to remove the spring tension bar and install the lower locating arm for the suspension. I’ll cut the excess length of cable when I am certain everything is working properly and there is enough suspension travel when I put the car on the ground.

With the rear axle installed, I moved onto getting the hubs and rear brakes installed.

As usual, not all the parts I ordered were exactly what I needed. The flex hose that went from the rear chassis to the axle had the wrong end, but the correct threads for the junction block. The junction block sealed with a copper washer, while the new flex hose came with a double flare fitting. It was easier to trim the nose off this fitting on my lathe than to order another one and hope my supplier could find one.

A Couple More Stops Before Heading Home

April 25, 2024


I had a flight back to NY on Monday evening, so there was still time to stop by a couple more shops. My first stop was GTO Engineering on La Cienrga Blvd. in Los Angeles. Eric Sander is their lead tech and we probably talk on the phone at least every other week trading information on vendors, sharing techniques for fixing certain cars, or bitching about the stupidity involved with fixing broken Ferraris! GTO is always busy working on the hundreds of Ferraris in the LA area, so it was nice to stop by and say hi.

Even though it was a bit of a drive down from GTO to Oceanside to see Chris Dugan at Dugan Enterprises, I figured what else was I going to do waiting for my flight out on Monday?

Chris has grown quite a bit in the last several years restoring and painting Ferraris, Maseratis, and Lamborghinis. He was spread out over four industrial units employing 10 people to make this all happen.

I can’t imagine the scheduling, ordering, invoicing, and managing of all these cars and manpower.

Chris never seemed to be phased with all that was going on as he showed me shop space after shop space. Thanks for spending the time with me Chris, I know it’s got to crazy to keep all these plates spinning!

Mullin Museum

April 21, 2024


The main reason for my trip to Los Angeles started during a casual conversation with my friend Tom McIntyre during the Amelia Island weekend. We were talking about the Peter Mullin Collection of prewar french cars and how it was a shame how after his death about a year ago, his heirs had closed the museum in Oxnard, and were planning an auction to sell everything. McIntyre told me he had a special invitation through the Peterson Museum for one last tour of the Mullin Museum in a month or so. I felt this could be the last chance to see a collection of cars of this caliber in one place again, so at the risk of being too forward, I asked if there was a chance for me to join him on this tour.

Being a long time member of the Checkered Flag 200 group through the Peterson Museum in LA, Tom added me to his +2 which included his good friend Lynn Park. Mr. Park is known as “Mr Cobra” and has been friends with McIntyre for decades. Not only did I get a ticket to an exclusive viewing of the Mullin Collection, but I also got to tour it with these two interesting gentlemen!

The Museum was built with the inspiration of the Paris Auto Show back in 1937 and when I first saw this thoughtful design, I was immediately overwhelmed with a sense of sadness when I looked at the collection of cars, memorabilia, models, furniture, and curation that represented a lifetime of passion and work. All this was going to be dispersed by the end of the month through an auction and may never be seen in one place at the same time again. It became clear the Mullin Family was either not interested, or not capable of sustaining this collection into the future.

The cars were spectacular, but the the models of the same cars would have been an impressive collection!

The appreciation of pre-war cars was not the only thing Peter Mullin must have admired, as large collections of art deco furniture was also on display.

There was so much to see everywhere I looked, and things to learn about that I never had easy access too. Just like the Ferraris that I am passionate about, many pre-war French cars had racing history before they were known for their elegant street cars.

A few of the notable 1:1 scale cars had already been moved or acquired by other collections. I heard the Atlantic went to the midwest, and four cars were already obtained by the Peterson Museum.

I would have been very happy with some of these models! This one is especially captivating!

One car that I was glad to see was this Bugatti Brescia that was recovered from a Swiss lake over 20 years ago. Failing to pay the import duty at the Swiss Border after winning the car at a poker game, the playboy owner abandoned it and never came back to retrieve the car. Under law to destroy unclaimed property, the Swiss Duty officers sunk the car in a local fresh water lake hoping to someday recover the car. The plan was literally sunk when the chains broke, but the car recovered decades later. A charity auction eventually brought the car here to the Mullin Collection. Where this car ends up next is anyone’s guess, but I’m glad I had a chance to see such a notorious car!

There was so much to see and so little time that I recorded my visit. It’s just raw video of me wandering around the museum, but I wanted to document all this one last time.

A Weekend in Los Angeles

April 20, 2024


I made a trip out to Los Angeles last weekend and in my usual form, I filled as much of my time as I could during my stay. My motto is “Sleep when I get home” and I tried my best to keep true to my word!

I got in on Friday afternoon and stayed with my friend Tom Wilson, a fellow Ferrari owner. Tom had arranged to see a collection of cars hidden away in Costa Mesa, so we headed out first thing Saturday morning to meet the collection manager. The first place housing one of four locations of this collection was Finish Line Auto Club a storage facility for collector cars.

This facility housed condos that car collectors could buy and store their collections. I heard there were monthly meetings where the owners would open their doors and visit each other’s collections. This place was either the coolest place for a car collector, or the worst place when you’re addicted to cars. Imagine the one-upmanship when guys see what the neighbor is doing with his cars!

Unfortunately, the owner of the collection wanted to remain private, so I couldn’t take pictures, but you’ll have to take my word for it, it was impressive with a mix of everything from pre-war to modern Ferraris. Ed, the collection manager, had the enviable job of curating, managing, driving, scheduling repairs, building facilities, designing interiors, and being all around confidant to the owner about everything to do with a multimillion dollar car collection. When I list all the hats this guy wore, it actually didn’t sound so much of a dream job anymore!

In a spill over warehouse there was one thing I could photograph, which was PF Cabriolet that was for sale. You can imagine the world of Vintage Ferraris is very small, and the conversations with Ed brought up all the names of people we both knew. When I saw this car being stored as a courtesy for Tom Shaughnessy, I remembered this car was offered to me to buy for one of my customers a few months ago.

All the bodywork and paint has been completed, but the mechanicals still need to be addressed and installed. I’m not sure why this car was not completed by the shop that originally started it for the owner, but as they say, there are three sides to every story!

The parts seemed to be all there, and many of them were ready to be installed, but there’s still lots of work to do. We ended passing on this car as I have two cars at my shop that I’m working very hard to complete, so I don’t need another jig-saw puzzle! Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll put you in touch with Shaughnessy.

The next stop in Costa Mesa was Steve Beckman’s shop, Beckman Metalworks. I met Steve Beckman in 2005 (19 years ago!) at Laguna Seca during Car Week, and visited his shop with Shaughnessy back then. Steve continues to do outstanding metal work, but somehow found time to work on a personal project.

Through the years, Beckman collected the mechanical parts to make his own Ferrari race car. Copying a 1957 500 TRC, Beckman made the body from scratch, and plans on showing this car in Monterey for the Quail Motorsports gathering. It will be powered by a V-12 engine instead of the 4 cylinder engine found in original TRCs, but Steve’s car will still have Vintage Ferrari parts.

As I got the tour of the shop, I saw cars that belonged to owners I know. This car came in from the East Coast, so you can see Beckman’s skills are needed across the country!

Steve’s shop has also been commissioned to design and build a wall hanging made from shapes inspired from Ferrari bodies. The first collector we visited wanted something never seen before in full sized relief to display at his shop. We could see the parts and pieces making up this vision. I can’t wait to see the finished product!

Next stop was Francorchamps, owned by Rod Drew. I have to admit, Rod Drew has always been a little intimidating. He’s a man of few words, and he’s very similar to the old school craftsmen who don’t suffer fools lightly. I’ve been blogging and working on Ferraris for a couple of decades, but was surprised when Mr. Drew reached out to me a couple months ago to help him with a project he had at his shop. He needed a replacement center console for a SII 330, and I happened to have scanned and printed one a couple years ago. Delivering a printed center console and saving Rod Drew a lot of time fabricating one for his customer, and was my chance to ask if I could visit his shop the next time I was in California. The visit was short, but Rod was gracious enough to show me his shop and compare notes on the cars we work on. It was a hard won connection, but worth the effort!

The eighth stop of the day after lunch was to visit Ken Thomas and his 250GTE. Ken has been a long time Ferrari fan, and even owned a 250 LWB California Spyder back in the 80s. Ken sold the Cal Spyder but still owns the 250GTE. Tom Wilson and I visited with Ken and talked about what it was like to own a Cal Spyder before they were worth 10s of millions of dollars. He used to drive the car from the LA area to Monterey for car week and use it as a regular car. At one point, as the prices started to go up, Ken got uncomfortable using the car in public and decided it was time to sell. It’s a common problem with Vintage Ferraris, and can be a curse as much as a benefit. Ken sold the Spyder, and although didn’t time it to get 10s of millions, he still managed to buy a couple of houses in Southern California!

Ken still has the GTE and drives this car all the time. It may not be as pretty as a Cal Spyder, but doesn’t come with all the liabilities!

The last stop for Saturday was to visit my old friend Ron Karp in Upland. Ron retired from the brake rebuilding business about 7 years ago, but he advises me on brake related problems all the time. Ron taught me all the little tricks to fix and rebuild the braking systems on the Ferraris I work on, but his knowledge from working in the automotive trade for almost 60 years always amazes me. He’s forgotten more than what I need to learn. It was good to catch up, but every time I see Ron, I wish I lived closer to him!

Tom Wilson and I drove back to Culver City after a long day of visiting and talking cars. We had a short time to rest before a second full day of my LA trip!

Another Black Ferrari 365GTC/4

April 7, 2024


Passport Transport dropped off a car off at my shop last week, and it belonged to new customer. I’m actually friends with the owner, but this is the first time I’m working on his car.

It was a recent purchase, but the owner said it wasn’t running very well, and I would have to agree. She would not start off the truck, and I was afraid I was going to have tow her into my shop. Luckily after shooting some starter fluid down the carb throats, she fired up and I managed to limp her inside.

The car was really clean, and tidy under the hood, but it soon became obvious there was something wrong with the carburetors. The accelerator pumps weren’t squirting, so that was the reason for the hard start. From the looks of the car, it was pretty obvious what was happening. Sitting for an extended period of time, the fuel inside the carburetors evaporated and clogged up some of the passages inside. Side draft DCOE Weber carburetors makes access to the accelerator pump jets easily accessible, but even after checking one or two, I found the problem was even deeper.

The real solution was to pull all the carburetors off and deep clean every one. On C/4s, this can be challenging with the removal of the air cleaner assemblies, but with the carbs off, I found the accelerator pump pistons themselves seized in the bores from the old residue.

After a good bath in my ultrasonic cleaner, the parts came out nice and clean. The parts looked like they were in good shape and the gaskets were relatively fresh, but however long this car sat without use managed to foul up the internals.

The old air filters were a little beat up from being removed several times before, and putting it back the filter housing with with exposed metal mesh was risking cutting the crap out of my hands when it came time to install each velocity stack inside. How much were new filters? about $250 bucks each! Welcome to Ferrari ownership.