Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mermaid inspires decade long tryst with sports car.

Like these things do, it all started with a mermaid named Tina.

(I swear I am not making any of this up... I can provide photographic or reliable corroborating whitnesses for all of it.)

Like I said, a mermaid named Tina... When I lived in Great Falls, Montana (some of you might remember that as when I used to update this blog more than once a fiscal year...) Anyways, I got to Montana and soon met a girl named Tina.  As it turned out Tina was actually a mermaid and found work at the Sip-N-Dip Lounge slinging mer-drinks. (The Sip-N-Dip was actually an underwater bar in the O'Hare Motor Inn.)

This is a typical mer-drink! It is 5ish gallons... mer-people drink like fish!  ...obviously.

Tina the mermaid.

Though, now that I think about it, the Sip-N-Dip is probably most known for "Piano Pat."  She is pretty much the Eric Clapton of the piano... unfortunately she only has an organ in the bar to play, but she more than pulls it off!

I am sure you can find better clips on youtube of Piano Pat... but this was on my computer somehow so you get this clip.  I think someone was playing with my phone while I was in the pool.  Also, note how she syncopated musical phrases to keep the riffraff from singing along with her! Genius!

One day, Tina and I got talking about cars.  This is obviously true because that is one of the two subjects that I ever talk about.  I showed her a picture of my old Triumph and she told me that she drove a car just like that in high school.  (well it turned out she drove a Fiat Spider not a Triumph Spitfire... but close enough for females! In her defense, she knew she drove a Fiat, she just didn't know the Spitfire wasn't a Fiat also.) She told me it ran when she parked it and was currently sitting in her parent's driveway as we spoke... just it was in Cut Bank, Montana!  After a short amount of negotiations, the promise of five hundred bucks, and a drive to the edge of the world. (Cut Bank, MT) I now had a Fiat Spider to call my own!

The reason I needed such a car was because my friend Dirty Timmy had just gotten me into SCCA racing.  Just so you know, SCCA stands for Sports Car Club of America... and the only thing I had to race at the time was my 76 Buick Electra, "The Millennium Falcon!"  (I'll get into that name in another post.)  Short story... a 76 Buick is not a sports car in any sense of the word so I needed something to race that had at least half a chance of being fast when turning was required. (Buick is plenty fast when curves are not involved.)

One of the early Fiat races.  Not bad, but don't click it if you have a short attention span. Like I said, it wasn't that fast yet.

So now I had a Fiat.  I don't actually have any pictures of her in her original configuration because the first thing I did was pull off two hundred plus pounds of bumper and change out the terrible 13 inch wheels for some decent rims and rubber.

An early pic.

These are some of the oldest pictures I can find of her... Still with new rims and sans bumpers... and not all that fast.

In fact one of my early races, I ended up ripping off the left front wheel in slow motion and didn't drive it for a year while artisans in Italy made a new front cross member out of goat cheese and iron mined by virgin nymphs.  Pretty sure the blog-archaeologists can find the post about all that. 

Still the Fiat in Montana had many adventures.

Like the time she decided to not work any more in the middle of winter on the Great Plains.

Luckily I fashioned a new fuel pump out of ice and we were soon on our way!

Then there was the time I tried to learn electrical theory by reverse engineering an Italian electrical system.  (As far as I can tell, there are five wires required for any electrical device and four of the wires are labled "Cazzo!"

And when I had to use my trendy downtown Great Falls loft apartment as a garage before I had a downtown Portales, NM garage to use as an apartment!  Either way, bath tubs and solvent tanks are pretty much the same thing as far as I can tell!

Also there was some SCIENCE!  like when we learned about air temperature, density, and horse power!  Basically the fiat is like a motherly science teacher. Half Mother, half test mule! 

But the Montana adventure couldn't last for ever. so eventually I had to put her in storage in Gladstone, Michigan.  The bad part was having to drive her across the country in winter.

Here she is on her frozen trip across the continent. Just looking at this picture you can see her Mediterranean heart freezing and her perfect italian teeth chattering with cold!

Only to find herself stuffed into storage for years awaiting a hopeful future adventure.  This was her home for nearly 4 years!

Actually I brought her back to Gladstone and gave my Mom the keys hoping that my mom would take her out every once in a while. I think I ruined that when I was showing my mom the quirks of the Fiat by taking her through an intersection sideways Tokyo drift style.  She never touched it again.  


I would take her out when I was home on leave... you know, just to keep the top end lubed up and what not.  That was usually a Christmas Treat.  

If I came home in the summer I would do some little improvement!

Like adding this rattle can Abarth carbon fiber hood and trunk!

Eventually, I came home from Afghanistan... again, and washed the storage dust off her, (Not washed yet in picture.) and dragged her to New Mexico in an epic road trip.

Turns out the road trip was detrimental to the rear end... once I got to New Mexico, the rear end had catastrophically failed.  She couldn't be driven without the risk of iron shrapnel going through your kidneys.  Sure I drove it to work and sometimes to impress floozies at Club-B's but the impending death really took the pleasure out of driving it for me.

So, for about three years, she sat in my garage never going down the road. However I did get drunk one night and built a 60's Ferrari style driver-only roll bar for her. 

The only real difference in my mind is that the fiat is left hand drive and this is right.  Otherwise, this really is what the fiat looks like in my mind's imagination! 

I won't go into the details of 79 Fiat rear ends... but put it this way... it takes years and three-to-make-one to finally get a working fiat spider rear end together.

Well, happy days!  I finally have the Fiat complete and back on the road!  She is about to become the daily driver as I am putting the Buick into dry dock for a few weeks to change out the fuel system.  

Here is the Fiat in her new fastest and most awesome configuration ever!
Fully back together and road worthy!

For aerodynamics and coolness, I decked over the rear of the cockpit with aluminum sheeting and then made a tonneau cover with marine vinyl.  

custom tonneau cover... look at that sweet steering wheel bump... and the snazzy snaps! 

Then I used a sleeping bag zipper to basically make driving it down the road as close as possible to flying a ww1 figher plane!

Look at that forced smile!  I haven't seen such a happy fake smile since I quit stalking sorority girls on facebook!  (The only time she smiles for real is when she is wasting 5.0 Mustangs off the line in street races! The rest of the time, it is just for the camera.)

This is the pigeon's view.  Just incase any of you fecalpheliacs need like to imagine what a bird sees when he is pooping!

Last of all, now that there is an open space in my garage.  The Buick Electra, Pride of the Fleet!  She is going in for dry dock.  It has been a lot of years at sea.  She just passed her hundred thousand mile mark, the Florida salt air is developing her "patina" a lot faster than I would prefer, so she is getting to celebrate with a whole new fuel system. I pulled the fuel injection system off a 89 chevy truck and plan on installing it in the next few weeks.  The internet says it should practically bolt right up!

(I know what you are all thinking... damn... that guy takes a lot of pictures of his cars... Well true... but only because submarines are not as photogenic!)