This is my Daughters car. It was supposed to be mine but as soon as she seen it she claimed it. She was 2 at the time.
This is it just after I got it home in 2004. I bought it from a man from Belfast who was on TV, a certain MR McCarrigle who is currently doing a TV doc of his 1080 day trip around the world.The little car is in very good condition and at the time of buying it all it needed was a good clean and a little bit of tidying.
When I got it home I stripped out the rubber floor and gave the floor pan a good coat of chassis black to preserve it.
This is it once the rubber mat had been cleaned and put back in.
The seats were the next thing to get a good cleaning. I took the front ones out to do it.
Once the car was cleaned and tidied up a little I took her to a couple of shows, It wasn't long before the clutch started to slip. It was just old age and sitting in a garage for 4 years. A very easy job to change and the best way to do it is to drop the engine and gearbox out as one then split it. I had the whole job done in 2 hours and that included cleaning the engine and box.
Engine is placed on the trolley jack but as you can see I used a large piece of wood to cushion and steady the engine.
Engine out and gearbox off.
All ready for a good cleaning.
New clutch kit
I had a brainwave about fitting a new type of power plant but was told I might have problems with the mot.
I decided to clean the engine bay instead ready for the engine to go back in.
Next job was to fit the engine, boot rack and the new picnic basket as a finishing touch. I think the car looks super now. It certainly attracts a lot of attention at the shows.
After I put the engine back in I decided to give it a service and replaced the pLugs, plug leads, points, distributor cap and rotor arm. Now this was away last year and the car only had one drive to a show just up the road from were I live. On the way home it went onto one cylinder and once home just refused to start. Well it hasn't went since! I had tried everything and the car was getting a spark, it was getting fuel, all the ignition parts had been changed, but it just refused to start. That was until I took the plug leads off the plugs and just left them with the rubber bit losely on top of the plug. Then it would start!!! I couldn't figure this one out and spoke to all the mechanics I know who were also at a loss. A couple of them even came round to see for themselves. Everyone was baffled. As a last resort I seen a set of plugs being advertised on Ebay for a Fiat 500 along with a new coil so I bought the both of them. I put the coil in and it made no difference. My mate Neil who was over from England had just put the timing belt on my Fiat 127 engine and as he didn't like not having oily hands decided to put the plugs in for me. "Hey presto" the car started first go and has been running great since. The only difference in the plugs is the ones in the car were about 2mm longer than the 500 ones I got from Ebay. We can only assume that because of the extra 2mm the engine had went onto the exhaust stroke before the ignition fired and the fuel had been exausted before the plugs fired? But with the lead rubber just siting on the plug it was firing in time to catch the fuel. It's the only sense I can make of it.
We took Luigi as the 500 is now called to the largest show in N.I. and as we were with the NIIMC decide to put up a theme. Ian from the Club made up a hat, eyes and a mouth for the car after the film cars. The 308 was there to. Luigi got a great reception.
Luigi following the 308.
"Ahh" doesn't he look well.
"It's a Real FERRARI in my store"
Disaster struck. I had just finished getting Luigi ready for a local show and while going to get petrol just at the top of our road, the bonnet flew open and hit the windscreen. I hadn't closed it properly! You can see the result below.
So as the show was the next day, I had to hastily sort the bonnet out. It didn't take long to get the crease out and get it primed.
The problem was I didn't have the code for the paint to match it, but I had been given paint in a tin with the car. Unfortunately it was very old and thick and there wasn't much of it. So given I have one day to get it done I thined the paint out as much as I dared and put it on. You can't really see the result in the photo but lets say, I've done a lot better. Once I polished it up it polished right through in a couple of places. So when I get the show over and have more time I will repaint it. In fact I'm tempted to repaint the entire car as I would like it to be perfect at some point.
Sept 13th 07. I was asked by the Main Fiat/Alfa dealer Mervyn Stewarts, if they could borrow Luigi for their showroom. The new Fiat 500 is due for official launch in the UK in Feb 08 and they wanted to have a 500 to promote this. So Luigi is off on his hols until Feb. This is him when I left him at their place.
My Daughter wanted to see how Luigi was settling in on his hols so we went to visit him today. We got a very pleasent surprise as he has taken pride of place right in the middle of the showroom and the guys at the dealership even got a little dent he had, taken out. My Daughter went home satisfied he is safe. I'm not so sure as they have had quite a few people in looking to buy him.
Daughter checking he's ok.
15/01/08. The New Fiat 500 arrived at the dealers today and I was allowed to compare old and new together. I have to say a BIG thank you to Dez the Manager, Kim and the rest of the Guys at Mervyn Stewarts for giving me free reign to move the cars about for the photos.
What a difference in size 50 years makes. The photos really speak for themselves. But clearly the people at Fiat tried to stay true to the old 500 were possible. Having seen the 2 cars together now I can see so many similarities. Excellent.
Although bigger the silouete is really close.
27/06/08. There's local cavalcade held every year just up the road from our house and it has sort of became a family tradition to take Luigi to it now. This year though He wasn't for playing ball. He decided to run out of electricity and we had to keep putting the jump leads on to get him going. We made the show though and my Daughter stood guard as ever over Luigi
My friend John in his 1955 Riley RME had to keep lending us the electricity out of his car while my daughter kept Luigi running. I think she really enjoys it now because she's old enough to help out.
27/05/09. As it was going to be difficult to sort out taking both the 500 and the Panda to the shows I went out today and bought a car trailer that's purpose built for the 500, well actually it was purpose built for Smart cars but I'm hoping the 500 will be a snug fit. I only got as far as getting the car beside the trailer today so hope to do a trial fit tomorrow. My only worry now is that the Panda will be up to towing the weight.
29/05. Got time this morning to try the 500 on it's new trailer. He fits perfectly. I have to be honest though, I don't think Juppy is going to be strong enough to pull it. That could be a draw back for the shows.
30/05. I've decided Luigi could do with a little lift so I'm going paint the wheels old English white. It should give the car a more classy look. I have a model with the white wheels and I think it suits really well. So wheels came off this morning and I got them redy for painting.
03/06. Wheels now painted with an off white.
And cleaned up and bacl on the car. I think they change the look of the little car greatly.
13/06. Juppy trailered Luigi to the Ballymena show and shine show today. The 2 of them looked well and got a lot of attention.
26/06. Luigi's annual run to the Warringstown cavalcade. It was madder than ever with the amount of cars, tractors and bikes at it. But being so small we had no problem finding a place to park and daughter as usual stood guard.
The rest of the family had to get in on the act to.
And for the first time ever I have photo's of all of us driving through the Cavalcade. A Very kind person called Robert U who has been following Luigi's travels here, took the photo's and sent them to me straight away. Now that was a very kind thing to do and I am well pleased. Thank you Robert.
27/06. Warringstown last night and off today to another show at Ballymena arranged by the AOVC.
As usual I made some new friends from people who came over to tell me stories about when they used to own a 500. It was a good day.
25/06/10. It was warringstown cavalcade 2010 and Luigi's annual trip out.
02/07. The Italian Caffee were our Club holds it's monthly meetings was doing an Italian themed wine tasting night and asked if we could supply 3 cars for the night. So Luigi was in good company.
Jamakah was there to keep a watch on the cars.
22/01/11 Luigi got a new friend to stay with today.
11/11. Luigi went off today to Donnellys the New Main Fiat/Abarth and Alfa dealer for Northern Ireland. They asked if they could have him as a show piece for a while. All being well he'll be there for the winter to keep warm . And talk about VIP treatment. The weather was a bit poor when I arrived and they already had a space made for him in the showroom right beside the door. He was in a placed within minutes. Thank you Richard. But not only that, a man appeared within 10 minutes to dry him down and make sure he was nice and clean. Excellent.
He even made friends with a 696 Ferrari Abarth, £40,000 worth.
22/05. Got Luigi all cleaned tonight ready for the few shows I'll get to this year. His first outing is the All Ireland Italian day this Saturday.
And a period photo
26/05. The All Ireland Italian day and as usual Luigi made a point of sitting with the fancy stuff.
He even got to meet the Lord mayor of Lisburn.
Once he got back home he tried out his new bed. Its called a Carcoon. It keeps him dry and free from dust.
02/06. A new friend came to see Luigi today. It could almost be his twin as it even had the same interior. A stunningly restored car. They got on well.
04/06. We were asked to take part in one of the many Jubilee parades being held across the UK and my Daughter was very keen to have Luigi there. Luigi got his party gear on....
And took up his position ready for the off.
off we set for the 3 mile run to the main event.
We arrived at the event grounds all safe and sound.This was Luigi's longest run in a long time and he behaved impeccably.
09/06. Another show, this time the 2012 Ballymena Fest. And again the little car was keeping good company.
Time to head home after a long day of being the centre of attention.
11/02/13. The last few years have started to take their toll on Luigi and my daughter has been concerned he isn't looking his best. I know I have 2 other projects needing done but working with Rebekah on her first restoration was more important to me than anything else and the both of us needed to spend more time together. She dawned her best old clothes tonight and we both got stuck in to strip Luigi and get him ready for a new coat of paint. Rebekah was clear what she wants done though, we have to make the outside look like new but we're not to touch the inside as she loves the original smell and wants to keep the inside original. Who am I to argue! The evening started with him looking like this.
In true Maranello House spirit Rebekah got stuck in, starting with the door mirrors.
I left her to it while I stripped the rear bits off the car.
It wasn't long until we had the petrol tank out and the boot area pretty much stripped.
A good evenings work finished and a very pleased Daughter that she has started her first restoration.
16/02. Started this morning at 08.30 and finished at 19.00, and got everything done to have the car ready for rubbing down. First job was to remove the windows. I had to cut the front window out as I was concerned about damaging the glass plus the rubber was showing signs of wear.
Engine out and engine bay cleared ready for work.
Glass all out except for the door glass. I decided not to remove this as I don't want to run the risk of damaging the alloy trim. And as I said at the start I want to retain as much of the originality of the car as i can. Ok there will be a few little updates but nothing that can't be changed in the future.
So with everything now removed everything was tapped up ready for rubbing the body down. I still have to remove the wheels and get the car onto a trolley for easy moving.
19/02. I didn't have a whole lot of time tonight but I did get the engine bay and the spare wheel well stone guarded. I had toyed with the idea of just painting these areas but decided it was more important to protect them from any damage or corrosion than having them look shiny without protection.
I started on the roof with 500 paper which will then be block flattened with 600 W&D before priming.
23/02. Up early and got stuck in. By lunch time I had the car all flattened back and ready to be Barcoated.
By 5.50 I had all the barcoat on. Barcoat is a sealer primer that prevents any reaction between the old paint and the primer proper and cuts down on having to bring the car back to metal.
01/03. Up early this morning and primed the car then spent the afternoon flattening the primer back to get it ready for paint.
Things went well enough to allow me to get all the tin work stripped off the engine as its all going for blasting and powder coating in its original black. Photo's show before stripping to everything off.
09/03. Up early this morning to get the car painted. Dust coat was on by 10AM.
And just as I got the dust coat done some nice shiny new parts arrived.
By 7PM I had the car painted including inside the engine bay, boot area and the doors.
I actually painted 2 500's today
10/03. Left all the tinware from the engine with my Friend Mark to be blasted and powder coated in satin black.
14/03. My Friend who owns Canavans Auto centre contacted me to let me know the tinware was ready to lift so I did on the way home from work. As always he did an excellent job and now the lot looks like factory finish again.
And the decals came to but I won't be fitting them until the engine is back in so I can be sure I have them in the right place.
15/03. Got the roof and one wing flattened and polished, it took 8 hours and shows how slow a process it is. The photo's not great but gives an idea of the smooth finish I'm looking for.
I did get bored flattening as the day wore on so distracted myself for a while by cleaning and painting the engine, crank pulley and exhaust.
23/03. Unfortunately I've had Man flu the last 2 days so wasn't feeling up to a lot of work. I took my time today and finished the engine so it's ready to go back in the car once I've the car finished. I'm very pleased with the result.
21/04. Finally I have the shell all polished up ready for the rebuild. It's looking like its going to be like one of those reality programs as I've a week to get the car finished.
02/06. I'm afraid I've slipped behind badly with the updates on the car, holidays and being quite ill the last couple of weeks have been to blame. The rebuild went to plan with all the bits needing cleaned getting the full treatment. Even the brake fluid bottle got a good clean.
The last big job was the fitting of the new roof. Well I thought it was going to be but it was quite straight forward. The old cross bar that attaches the canvas to the rear of the roof had aged so I replaced it with a new stainless one.
And once it was bolted into place the rest just stretched into shape. You can see on the far side the little stretching that needed done.
Done and another job finished.
So after that the only other thing to do was take a photo of my Daughter in the same pose she did the last time the engine was out. How quick they grow.
Engine back in and at this point I had help from my mate Eddie who's a trained car spark to help me get all the wiring right. It took him no time. Oh, I did have to replace the fuel pipe at the rear of the car as it was badly corroded.
All done, for now. The next job will be to completely overhaul the braking system.
And of course it wouldn't be complete without it's picnic basket.