Quick update

Since the last time I posted, I’ve done some work on the Avanti. The main thing is that I removed the cattle catcher and installed some driving lights (pics coming soon). We bought a house last Fall, so I haven’t done much with the car, other than driving it over to the new house. That was a fun drive. So now that it’s Spring again, it’s time to buckle down and get the last few things wrapped up.

I’m looking for a good shop to do some interior resto work. These items are:

  • Install gauge overlay
  • Install stereo overlay
  • Install¬†chrome gauge rings
  • Repair the weld on the driver seat
  • Repair the tear in the passenger seat
  • Replace headliner

The last bit of mechanical work I’m getting done is new tie rod ends and new seals & gaskets. I will also probably get all the hoses and lines replaced, as well. A new set of tires and a detail, and the car is ready for cruise-ins and shows!

What’s the latest?

Since I last posted, I’ve been working on interior restoration and a bit of modding on the Avanti. I replaced the overlays in the center console with black anodized aluminum (from the 20th Anniversary Avanti) and I replaced all the switches with beautiful chrome rockers. Here’s a picture.


This weekend I’m taking the car to an interior shop to have the last bit done, which is the gauge overlay. This bit is more difficult as it involves dropping the driveshaft and removing the driver’s seat. While the car is in the shop, I’ll have the passenger seat repaired, the driver seat frame repaired (there’s a small crack in the seat rail), and hopefully have the headliner repaired. Then the interior will be just about done minus some dye touchup here and there. I also need to install the radio overlay, which is easy.

My car was featured in a calendar for 2014, specifically August 19.


And finally, because I forgot to post this last time, here’s a picture of the new brakes. I think they look great. They stop well, too. :)


I’ll post another update after the car goes into the interior shop. I look forward to it!

Back from the resto shop

I have been somewhat quiet on this blog the past few months because my Avanti has been in the restoration shop. I finally got it home on Saturday after having extensive mechanical restoration work done by a local shop.

It all started with brakes.

Back when I got the car, I noticed that it wasn’t performing very well. I emailed the seller and he said it just needed to be driven more. Well, it turned out that the front right caliper had seized and the brake lines to the rear brakes were crushed. In addition, the carburetor would surge and the exhaust smelled really bad. I searched around for a shop that could work on my car but kept turning up empty. Frustrated, I decided to hold off on mechanical work and do some interior restoration.

Summer turned into Fall, which turned into Winter, and I realized that if I ever wanted to enjoy my Avanti, I needed to get it fixed up. I got it in to a resto shop and then the adventure truly began.

Six weeks later, my car came home. Here’s a summary of the work:

-Turner disc brake conversion
-New brake lines
-New brake hoses
-Rust removal from the frame
-Rust repair on the frame
-Reroute the power steering lines (they were touching the exhaust)
-New power steering hoses
-Cut and reweld driver’s side exhaust to clear the frame and power steering
-Repair the front bumper mounts (including fiberglass work)
-Replace the carburetor due to a severe leak in the rear float bowl
-Replace bushings on lower control arms
-Clean and reweld the frame were front springs go through
-Align front end

Most of the work was necessary due to neglect by the previous owner, as well as some modifications the previous owner performed. When I bought the car, I didn’t anticipate all of this restoration work, but that’s water under the bridge. Now my car drives fantastically and is a blast.

Now I’m back to focusing on the interior work, which I am doing in a more “restomod” fashion. The Avanti has been referred to as “the American Ferrari”, so my mods are to make the interior a bit more like the Italian cars that it ultimately inspired. I want to stay true to Loewy and Egbert’s aircraft inspiration, so I’m using lots of industrial materials. I will certainly post pictures once I get something done.

Interior resto, continued

The latest update is that I’m working on the interior restoration. I’ve just about finished the console but will need a professional to do the instrument panel. I am looking for a good interior shop to do the headliner and seat repairs. I’m not prioritizing a full interior restoration over the mechanical stuff, so I’ll probably just get the seat fixed (it’s a small tear) and save the other stuff for later.

Yesterday I met the president of Club Avanti Northwest. He offered up some great information: a mechanic here in my area can work on my Avanti. That made me so happy. Right now she’s getting cabin fever in my garage. Summer will be over before you know it so I really want to get her out and enjoy driving her.

I’m taking pics as I work on the interior items, so I’ll share those soon.

Ministry of interior

Yesterday I got started on the interior restoration and customization that I’ve been excited about doing for quite some time. The wife and I carefully removed the interior pieces with wood paneling on them (except the dash, which will come later). I soaked them in water and dish soap for several hours and then painstakingly removed the wood from each piece.

There are three pieces I’m working on right now: the ashtray, the shifter plate, and the air conditioner plate. I wasn’t able to remove the plate with the air conditioner controls, and I didn’t want to force it. I figured I’d go for the low hanging fruit and get something done before I frustrated myself with messing something up. More on that later.

Allow me an aside for a moment so I can point out how incredibly helpful the members of the AOAI have been, especially on Facebook. I asked for help finding a mechanic in the Seattle area and several people offered to connect me. That’s pretty amazing, if you ask me. I feel much more confident in getting my car well sorted and any twinges of buyer’s remorse have gone away.

Now, back to the interior.

After soaking the pieces in soapy water, I carefully removed the wood with a scraper and some Goo Gone. This process was all about patience and being ok with scratching the metal. Since I’m going to be applying a high quality vinyl wrap to the pieces, it’s important that all the sticky glue residue is removed and the surfaces are perfectly clean. I will sand them lightly with a fine grit sandpaper before I apply the vinyl wrap.

The vinyl wrap is an engine-turned aluminum look that I ordered online. It looks like real engine-turned aluminum. I would have loved to do the Real Thing but the interior pieces are hard to find and expensive. I might still do it in the future, but at least for now the vinyl lets me see if I like the look.

I’ll take pictures of the pieces and such and make a nice post about how it all went down soon.

She’s home

After almost seven weeks sitting in the shop waiting for repairs, my Avanti is home, safe and sound in my garage.

We ended up telling the shop to just forget about trying to repair the brakes. They didn’t have any experience working on Avantis and I didn’t want them to experiment on my car. I was tired of waiting for it to be done, too. In a weird way, I had sort of “gotten over” the car, like an ex-girlfriend. When I drove it home, I reconnected with it and felt that bond and passion that I had built up so many months ago.

Some local members of the Avanti Owner’s Association are going to help me find a mechanic that can work on my car, which is great news. It will be such a relief to have someone I can trust working on my car. I already have a lot of money invested in it and I don’t mind spending more to get it just the way I want. Some upcoming projects include:

-Brake job
-Interior restoration (repair a tear, replace the headliner)
-Nardi steering wheel install
-Engine turned aluminum panels to replace the woodgrain
-Removal of the ‘cattle catcher’
-Upgrade taillights to LEDs
-Carburetor tune
-Rechrome the front bumper
-New seals in the doors
-New bulbs in the gauges
-New tires
-Retrosound hidden stereo install

That’s a lot of projects, but it should be a lot of fun.

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There she is, waiting for the next adventure.

Definitely having not

My Avanti is sitting in a shop here in Redmond waiting for brakes. I guess you can say this has put the ‘brakes’ on my resto project, for now.

It’s just sitting there. Resting peacefully. The shop has struggled and struggled to replace the rear brakes on it. It’s been sitting there for over a month. I know, I know, I should have picked it up and taken it elsewhere, but while this was going on I was so busy at work that I just didn’t have the time or energy to mess with it. But now Summer is almost here and I want my car. They promise it will be ready on Monday. They said that three mondays ago, so we’ll see. If it’s not ready, I’ll go ahead and take it home and start my search for brakes elsewhere. I’ve got other projects to do!

Having and having not

Buying my Avanti was a harrowing experience. When I decided on the silver one, I was also evaluating a really nice 1983 Avanti in red with tan interior. It had a new 350ci crate motor and the whole car was in fantastic condition. But there was just something about the color combination that wasn’t resonating with me. I didn’t feel anything when I looked at it, not like I felt when I ogled pictures of the silver car on the eBay auction.

I had never bought a car on eBay before, nor had I paid to ship a car, nor had I ever bought a car I had never driven. But here we were. The auction didn’t end with a winning bid–the reserve was set too high, in my opinion–but I was able to make a deal with the seller in a second chance bid scenario and after a long, long email exchange. The decision became very easy for me when I went to Lemay’s American Car Museum down in Tacoma and saw a 1963 Avanti R1, so with my excitement in tow I wired him the money, he sent me the bill of sale and title, and the deal was done. I had my Avanti!

Wait. No I didn’t. It was resting in a warehouse thousands of miles away. I live in Seattle and my new baby was growing older in Massachusetts. I was going to have to ship it home.

Wait. Let me give you some backstory about the car. It had been originally purchased in July of 1976 (two days after the bicentennial) and delivered to its owner in Chicago in September. The owner was a famous person, not famous like a celebrity but famous for some stuff that happened in Chicago in the 1980s. I like to think that he drove the Avanti around Chicago, gold chains rustling in his chest hair, mustache sidling into a smirk, mirrored sunglasses reflecting the interest of all the foxy chicks watching him drive by. I imagine he was so overcome with patriotic pride on July 4 that two days later, he bought the Avanti, his pride swollen by pure American engineering and craftsmanship. (He would have bought it on July 5 but that was a holiday.)

The car went through a couple of more owners. I think the original owner sold it to a dealer in Evanston, who sold it to a couple in Ohio. They owned it through the 1990s, and then sold it to the person who owned it before me. He passed away in 2008 and the car went into storage. Based on the documentation that came with the car and conversations with the previous owner’s son, he loved this car. There were all kinds of notes and print outs and such that the previous owner had made that showed just how much time and attention he put into meticulously restoring the car, a restoration he did not get to complete.

I’m not sure if that’s exactly the story, but that’s how I put it together from the details I have, and it’s good enough for me.

As I mulled over how to get the car home, I wished I could fly to Massachusetts and drive it to Seattle, but it had been sitting for five years after all, and I didn’t want to risk a 3000 mile journey in a nearly 40 year old car that wasn’t restored, so I decided to ship it. After much hand-wringing and negotiation, it was picked up, loaded on an enclosed carrier, and very slowly transported to my home.

While I waited for my car to arrive, I devoured every bit of Avanti information I could find. I bought books and magazines to complement the car at shows, including an original copy of the July 1976 Car & Driver issue that, you guessed it, featured the Avanti. I bought a copy of the build sheet for my car, revealing fantastic details about the car that brought me closer to it, like all the stuff you find out on a second date. I put together a binder of information, including the build sheet, an order form, magazine clippings, and more. I was ready.

And after two unbearable weeks, my car was finally delivered.

Avanti Delivery2

Unfortunately, the driver ruined my shot, but I had my car. It didn’t have license plates and it was almost completely out of gas, and I still had to drive it up the hill to my house, so I got behind the wheel and began my journey.