The Never Ending Story Part 2
What could happen in a year and a half from the last entry regarding the Italia you ask? You know I don’t need to embellish this story, it stranger than truth and it is the truth! As you know we ended the saga on the first installment with the body and paint being repaired from the damage incurred. The decision was made to not repaint the car at that time considering the potential of something else happening to the car as the development continued. The car was completely wet sanded though in preparation for when it would be repainted.
The six speed, as you may remember, was successfully adapted to the Cleveland motor, now it’s time to fit the combination into the car. Initially Orville used the original Cleveland short block with the six speed attached to test fit to the car. This was much easier to handle as opposed to the complete motor that was intended for the car. All told the short block and transmission combination and the intended motor and transmission was installed and taken out of the car twenty five times. You ask how could that be?
I didn’t do the work so I’m sure that I will miss some of the finer points in recounting the process. With the Cleveland motor being so large for the car every change has an effect. Points that were affected included, but were not limited to, the exhaust system. Orville decided that it would be easier to remove the bell housing one more time from the motor to machine the reliefs necessary for the exhaust pipes to clear. Clutch linkage was another big factor. As I remember, it had to be modified due to clearance problems with the steel bell housing also. Like everything Orville does, the clutch linkage is light years beyond the cobbled rods and levers that it left the factory with. The decision was made (by me) to use a mechanical clutch linkage as opposed to hydraulic, which can fail due to a lack of use. I can tell you that if an hydraulic internal clutch release had been installed in the bell housing it would fail after the car was finished. I wasn’t going down that road. An external slave cylinder was considered for a short time, but mechanical it was in the end. The engine is not located straight in the engine compartment due to clearance problems that the factory had installing the Cleveland originally.
The steering column was originally the main fit problem with that engine. On this car, with the addition of the six speed, it required the existing custom headers to be modified to accommodate the raised port SVO aluminum heads and the four tube exhaust system space has become scarce. With it finished, it all seems tight and very factory looking. This “look” does not come easy. The more time passed I couldn’t help but think this car represented a pre production car that was never going into production. All the effort has been put into the car as if it were though. Fuel and brake lines, exhaust system, custom fitting of the heater and AC, wiring and on and on. Engineering a one off car does not come cheap. What I have learned in this exercise, is that the car should not be equipped with the Cleveland at all but instead the 289 Hi Po that the early cars were originally equipped with in the beginning of production. We will be back on that subject later, lest I digress further. The tunnel required modification on the right side due to clearance problems exacerbated by the angled engine. I can tell you that I was committed to that transmission being installed in the car and believe it will be a very enjoyable driving experience. The cross member that had been constructed for the five speed was discarded and another one fabricated to accommodate the new T56 six speed. So now we have the engine and transmission installed for one of the last times in the car. Next an aluminum drive shaft was ordered for the car and installed. Things were starting to shape up at this point.
Due to the limited space where the car was being worked on, the drivers door, hood and trunk lid were being stored at my home in the second building on my property that also housed other cars. Other bits and pieces were also stored in that building waiting to be installed at a later date. On 12/12/2007 that building burned to the ground along with all my tools, a 1966 Corvette convertible, a friends 1967 Corvette convertible and a 1989 Camaro convertible that I purchased new. Too many other things to list were lost in that fire. I was in shock for days about all the implications of the fire. Time to start over. In the last sixteen months there has been the insurance to deal with, deciding if I would rebuild the building and how I was going to deal with the loss of the perfect body parts that were destroyed and replacement of the other lost Italia parts.
I assume that the addiction of buying cars will never end. Jay Leno is my hero, he still owns his first car that he purchased and the hundreds of cars there after that he has purchased. As he states, he just does what any car nut would do if he has the resources to do so. About eight months ago I purchased the 1967 Italia convertible (Omega, Torino?) of Lorring Burnette. The car is equipped with the 289 Hi Po and the usual equipment, consisting of power windows, brakes and the Magnum style 500 wheels of the day. It’s number fourteen car has all the early features, including no side vents and the early style suspension, brake booster and dash. Like all Italias, it needed all the usual work, including carb rebuilt, radiator, water pump, brake and fuel lines replaced, fuel tank, calipers rebuilt, starter, bearings, shocks, bushings, and on and on. It’s not that far from the daily driver status after the rear axle locating bushings are replaced and maybe the clutch. The original engine that has never been apart seems to run great with high compression in the cylinders. Sooooooooo…..I didn’t intend to buy anymore Italias but then a man from Colorado called and said that he needed to get rid of his 1971 Italia coupe quickly. so I obliged his offer and obtained that car. For the moment it is a donor providing the hood and trunk for the Black Italia that had the body parts destroyed in the fire. Speaking of donated parts, Terry Shultie offered and supplied one left and right door, tracks and regulators for the replacement of damaged parts on the black car. I can’t thank him enough. Terry is a fellow Italia owner and has a restoration shop in North Dakota. My understanding is that he will entertain restoration projects on Italias and Apollos when his Italia is finished.
So now the Italia is running and is having the body panels fitted that were lost in the fire. When that is done, the car will return back to Orville Pearce for final work on the AC, audio system and the details required before the car can be painted again. When the paint happens again, it will require special attention to not get paint on any finished part of the car. No, the engine will not be removed again for that painting process! Then in a perfect world it will go off for the interior and top. The saga continues............
See more photos in the Gallery section of The Never Ending Italia