26 Years of Rust Exposed

Welcome to my blog on turning a rusty old shed in to a thoroughbred Italian race car. In this episode the car is dipped and the extent of the last 26 years of tin worm is exposed for all to see.


In order to see the extent of any corrosion, damage and cracking in the shell we need to remove all of the paint, rust, sealant, filler and anything else which is not bare metal. The simplest way of doing this is a process called “dipping”.

In order to dip, the car needs extensive preparation work so that it is only steal which is exposed in the process. This means all aluminium, chrome, plastic, wiring and other parts need removing from the car.

When removed, the car is fully suspended in a heated caustic tank for two days. The mixture of chemicals in the tank dissolve all non-metallic material including grease and paint. When the car is taken out of the tank, the shell is power washed with very high pressure washer using fresh water, taking particular care through the seams.

The third step in the process is to dip the car again, this time in a acid treatment. The acid neutralises the case (caustic) chemical that removes the paint and other material. Again the car is removed and cleaned with very high pressure water and then again with extremely high pressure water.

The Damage

It is no surprise that after the dipping process a number of surprises have been uncovered which were not evident with all the paint and filler intact. Overall the shell is in good condition but there are a few areas which need remedial work. The front legs have rotted away and had a poor repair completed. The floor and roof have the small worm like holes visible and there are other areas of minor root. It is the left (or drivers) side of the car which had the main issue.

The rear quarter had taken a hit sometime in the past and there has been a reasonable attempt to put it right. What was made worse is when the ruler was broken out and compared to a group N rally car, the left rear had been deformed in by 5mm. Now Italian cars in the 80’s and 90’s are not renowned for their build quality and it may have left the factory with a similar tolerance, however we decided to source a new side and make the car dead square from all angles. In addition the whole outer and middle sil had completely corroded away and only some of the inner sil remained so sils were ordered at huge expense.

Repairing more Welding

In the meantime, the process of strengthening commenced in two key areas. The first is that strengthening plates were welded in to the known weak areas of the car and all of the different panels were seam welded together. With this additional welding, the shell is considerably stiffer which should translate to a handling platform that is sharper and easier to control when out on the circuit.

Once the panels, sils and cage had been sourced, this was all test fitted, checked, measured, tacked and then finally put in to place. Other cutting, fabrication and welding work has also been done to the front wheel arch to ensure the right amount of clearance is available on full lock with the suspension under full compression.

Once the car was made square again, we did a test fit of the seat, trying to get the ballast (me) as centre to the vehicle as possible. A small section has been removed from the tunnel and the seat has been moved rearwards as far as possible without snagging on the cage. The steering column and pedal box are being moved over so that legs and arms all line up with the controls being used.

Bits which were sent off or ordered have started to arrive including a re-conditioned transfer box and front differential, rear differential, fire extinguisher,  electrical cut off, heater matrix & fan and most important a driver cooling system so I don’t boil alive.

Next episode

In the next episode we see loads more bits have arrived, the roll age has been welded in, the car is dipped (again) and painted ready for the build. Don’t forget to subscribe below and give the blog a thumbs up.

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