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1922 Fiat 501 Targa Florio


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Hello, are there any "Vintage" Fiat enthusiasts out there?

Many of the AACA people will already know my name but have not seen very much of me in this (Italian) part of the forum. 

I am about to embark on a new project and right now the most likely candidate is a early "20s Fiat 501. 

These are an interesting little car with a four cylinder, side valve engine of just under 1.5 Litres,  In 1922 the Fiat ran a team of three cars in that years Targa Florio. In this photograph you see Carlo Gasparin in one of the specially prepared Corsa Biposta cars. In various period photographs you see cars numbered 4 to 6. each with slight differences, i.e. At least one was fitted with wire spoke wheels and there were minor variations in the body design. In this photograph the car is fitted with standard factory "Sankey" steel artillery wheels. There are also variations to the amount of protection the driver and riding mechanic were given from the wind. In fact due to their pressed steel construction these are little or no heavier than the wire spoke wheels available at the time. Being "bolt on" type they avoid the expensive (to make) machined splines of "Knock-on" hubs. It would appear that a stock standard cast iron exhaust manifold is linked to the "sporting" outside exhaust pipe.

My first task will be to decide which of two basket case cars that are on offer to me to buy. The car in the second photograph may be one or two years later. It is different in a number of features. Most of the period photographs show cars wearing single digit race numbers, (4, 5 &  8)

 

Bernie j.

 

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Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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There are quite a few 501s in NZ as you may know. I know of two which have the Silvani overhead valve conversion. I think there is another one in Oz. A friend of mine was something of an expert on them but unfortunately he passed away a couple of years ago. He was a talented fitter and turner cum engineer and project he had done was to produce gear sets to increase the ratio of the lower gears in the 501 box. I think some of his sets went to Oz. Once you get to know the local Fiat community you may hear about that. I rode in the Fiat several times. With the ohv conversion, a more modern carb and taller overall gearing it would cruise with the traffic. His container of parts is still at my place but I don't think there is much left on the way of Fiat stuff.

 

This is a well known local car whose owner I know. It has been in regular and enthusiastic use for many years.

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Hello Paul

Good to see you along for the ride, nothing much will be happening for a week or two, I still have to decide which of two "basket case" Fiats to buy but I will keep you well informed. If I had more space I might buy both but then that would be going against all my principals. The old addage still holds true if only in my own case. "One at a time is good fishing! or should that be "Fiating"?

Bj.

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VP155-Bergese-Fiat-501-TF1922.thumb.jpg.74a2723a8242220690e39a9a876a113c.jpg

 

Here is another example of a Targa Florio Fiat 501, this one probably 1923-4 as it has front brakes in addition to the wire spoke wheels. Interestingly it is still wearing bead edge (clincher) tyres. It is driven by 'Bergese". This one has just the one "cowl" in front of the driver. The riding mechanic does not enjoy this level of protection from the wind etc. The passenger's main duty was to maintain pressure in the fuel tank, using a dash mounted hand air pump. While on level ground or when travelling down hill,  gravity took care of getting petrol to the carb, going up hill it needed some assistance. All these cars have hand crank-handles for starting. There was some considerable weight saving to be made by deleting the electric starter motor and battery along with the generator. In addition the generator would have consumed a certain amount of power.

Looking at "period" photographs it seems as though there were minor variations to the bodies fitted to individual cars probably dictated by driver preference. I hope that all this is not too boring for you. All these seemingly minor details will come into play when it comes to building a new body on the yet to be purchased 501 chassis. The same could be said for the layout of the exhaust system. No two cars appear to be exactly the same. For example this car has seperate swept exhaust pipes feeding into the main large diameter pipe, this appears to be flattened where it runs inbetween the body and the rear tire. Again there are several versions of the "under- tray" running back from below the radiator and  underneath the engine and gearbox.  How many of you noticed the long, passenger, steam train in the background or the Policeman's Rain-cape worn in conjunction with short trousers and long "stockings"?  It is also worth comparing the road surface with today's silky smooth roads. It is easy to see why the mesh "stone -guard" in front of the radiator was so essential.

 

Bj

Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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Hello again

We have just returned from looking at our first possible project "car". I am sorry to have to tell you that we did not buy it. In effect it would have been an ideal car for us to buy. It was a completely dismantled 22 or 23 Fiat 501 unfortunately missing little things such as all the instruments etc and all the nuts and bolts etc required to put it back together again. The other unfortunate thing was that the vendor would not even start to discuss price over the telephone. This was a pity because it could saved us a trip across town. The amount he was hoping to be paid and the figure that I would have been prepared to pay were at completely different ends of the spectrum and could not be seen even as a basis for negotiation. One could safely say that we were many thousands of dollars apart! 

We do have another collection of bits to look at hopefully during the next week. At least we know that this vendor is much more realistic in his expectations. Just don't hold your breath.

 

Sorry, we did not even bother to take any photographs. Perhaps next time.

 

Bernie j.

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Bernie, I know you will let us know when you have any news. But just wanted you to know I'm keeping a close eye on the Italian car section of the forum. :)

 

Hope you are doing well, and touring in the Lagonda.

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Hello Paul. 
No but today I have actually done some work on the Lagonda which is fully reported on my Rapier thread. No one could be more frustrated than me when It comes to buying a "basket case"  Fiat. I have two in the possible pipeline. Both have been dismantled for some (many) years. One I have actually been to look at and have made what I thought was a generous offer. I am now waiting to hear again from the Vendor. The other I have spoken on the phone to the owner who has told me that he is anxious to sell. I have agreed to pay his price and I am waiting to hear from him. It seems that his phone is locked on to his answering service which he never checks for messages. I must have left at least a dozen. 

I may ring the first gentleman either later today or tomorrow to see if he has given the sale of his Fiat any more thought..

 

Bj.

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I am definitely a vintage FIAT enthusiast,  particularly the 1910's and 20's cars. The good thing about a 501 is that there a lot of parts about, especially mechanicals. Every swap meet seems to have one of those brass hubcaps, so there must have been a lot come here (Australia) from new. There was also a 501S, which I think came to Australia, and the 501SS which was more of a works machine -I doubt that one made it here. The FIAT club of Victoria has a very active pre-war scene, and their newsletter FIATmonth Magazine has a section devoted to pre-war FIAT's.

Edited by Craig Gillingham (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Yesterday I bought what I am told was over 40 years of collecting 501/3 parts, there is more than enough to assemble a complete rolling chassis along with almost enough for a second. It is going to take the vendor a couple of weeks to get it all out and loaded onto his trailer but he has very kindly offered to deliver it all for me. Now I have to organise myself and make room for it all. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

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Among the copious file of information that comes with the 'car' is the original 1923 Owners hand book and a collection of other really useful printed  material, photographs and hand written notes, unfortunately most of these are written in pencil and have faded quite badly. One of these records the prices of petrol over a range of years. During the years shown Australian currency was still in Pounds, Shillings and Pence. At the time of the change to Decimal ten shillings was equal to one Australian dollar, as shown in 1947 an Imperial Gallon of petrol cost about 35 cents.

There is also another Hand-book a 1964 reprint all in Italian. Even so the illustrations and diagrams are much

clearer,  the original 1923 English version of the wiring diagram also gives the translation,  Italian to English.5a84c3422d7a9_Chassisphoto2.thumb.jpeg.5cdd450b462875e600692a8a5ccbec09.jpeg5a84c34f906a0_Chassisphoto3.thumb.jpeg.7f731110cabb6dbb38841d6ccf2f3bae.jpeg 

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5a84bbcde6c42_FiatOwnershandbook.thumb.jpeg.ecc75c275c78f2e2a9e1ddc99402a503.jpeg . 

Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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Also included is a reprint of the 1923 English Autocar Magazine's Care & Maintenance series devoted to the Fiat. I have seen the relevant Articles related to other makes before but not the Fiat. These are an excellent reference and  often mention things that are not always covered in the owners hand-books.

Autocar  reprint.jpeg

Autocar  reprint 2.jpeg

Autocar  reprint 1.jpeg

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Only now I have discovered that the Fiat "basket case" I have bought but not yet have at home is actually a 1923 503. The main difference is an improved combustion chamber shape and front wheel brakes. These brakes have the added attraction of large finned drums.

You, as I do, will have to be patient! I do not expect to have it home for another week or possibly two.

 

Bj.

Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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Unfortunately Paul it is out of my hands, the vendor was extremely kind in offering to unpack it all out of his rather large garage, load it onto his trailer and deliver it for me. I really cannot argue with that.  

Bernie j.

 

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Having actually managed to speak on the 'phone with the vendor yesterday, he tells me that he has almost got everything loaded onto his trailer and hopes to deliver it next weekend so there is some light at the end of the Fiat tunnel.  

Bj

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Hello Paul

I am happy to assist... Living in Australia has its advantages, it has given us access to both the American and the European Car markets, and now, as with I suspect the rest of the world, we are swamped with  Korean and Japanese cars, those and for the well heeled, German luxury models.

Back in the days when these were somthing of a novelty ......... But that was a long time ago!

Recently my 12 year old Grandson, who is an absolute car nut, was excited to learn that I had bought New, first a Mazada 626 2 door coupe and then a Celica (Mustang look alike) fast back Coupe.

Both acted as tow cars for my single seat Rapier "special". We must have had some hairy interstate trips, leaving Friday after-noon to drive about 600 miles over night, scrutineering Saturday morning, practice Saturday afternoon, Party Saturday Night, Race Sunday. Then drive the 600 miles home to arrive in time to have a shower then off to work on Monday morning. We must have been mad!

 I remember being in a Highway All Night Coffee Stop when some one came in to ask who owned the RED racing car, one of my friends said that it was his. The fellow traveller then asked, "Did he know that he had left it in the centre of there road about 100 miles back ?". In the rush to get on the road and back home, He must have forgotten to tie it down. As a result it had quietly slipped off his trailer to come to rest in the middle of the highway, while he drove on unconcerned. Fortunately this was in the middle of the night so there was not very much traffic.

 

Bernie j

 

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Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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I really should apologise to all the Italian car enthusiasts re: the above.

The only excuse and this may make matters even worse, that I can offer is that, not that I expect anyone to recognise it, the Rapier "special" shown above (and below) to give it it's full title is the AMILCAR-Rapier! The chassis came from a late 1920s G Series Amilcar, not that I would expect too many Amilcar people to recognise it now. It came to me as just the bare frame with the rear section already cut off.

 

Golly! Two black marks! A French Chassis and English motor, transmision and axles.

I had better stop here!  I promise that I will only talk here about the Fiat in future.

And lots of photographs after the 501(3) arrives home next weekend.

Bernie j.

 

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Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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While I am waiting for the Fiat 501 to arrive here are two photographs from the archives of how you could expect your new car to look in 1922.

The second shows a chassis ready to go off to the coach0builder of your choice.

 

Bj.

 

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After a little delay the first consignment of Fiat 501/3 stuff arrived yesterday for me to start sorting and cleaning. Taken individually there are some really nice bits......

The next question is "Doesn't everyone buy cars like this? 

Note, the "Horse Art" displayed on the carport wall is a remnant from a different period,

Our son Steve has just sent me the attached cutting. Steve very kindly came to assist in the unloading. He seems to developed an interest in Early 1920s Fiats. It is an hour drive each way for him to visit.

That the attached cartoon may have some relevance but I am not sure how?

Steve tells me that In the Steiner School philosophy, it is a proven fact that children choose their parents.

 

Bernie  j,

 

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ELISKA JUNKOVA: THE CZECH RACING QUEEN OF THE JAZZ AGE.

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Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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While I am waiting for the previous owner to decide what he is doing I am slowly taking apart the few pieces that he must have overlooked.The Bonnet (hood) is fairly sad but I would like to retain it because I doubt that anyone could/would replicate the Louvers on either side piece

Removing the hinge pins looks like it may develop into one of those painfully slow tasks. only time and some effort on my part will tell.

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Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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Taking less time, having left the water pump to soak in some penetrating oil, I am now  able to turn it, albeit a little tight. Some more soaking and I should be able to fully dismantle it and clean it up properly. I will need to drill out two "headless" screws among the half dozen that retain the cover over the impeller. Then I can run a tap down the threads and replace the six little countersunk screws when I re-assemble it.

Unlike any number of would be restorers, I will not throw all the bits into a container and leave them on a shelf until I get a "round toit". 

On the subject of "round toits', I know some people who have been looking for "years and years" and not found them either! They probably put them in the same container as the "round toit",  the "some time" and a little bit of "spare time" ?

Oh well - back to work!  Just as soon as I get a "minute"................

 

The good news is that the rest of the Fiat should now be delivered on Sunday morning. Meanwhile I spent most of yesterday afternoon sorting out the windscreen. As the frame for the bottom half  of the windscreen is missing, the upper half is to be used. This will require some modification to the windscreen pillars, This is now well in hand and I will include some photographs once they are completed. Observant people will have already noted that they have had a "hair-cut" in preparation.

 

Bj,

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In Australia it is already Friday afternoon, for a variety of reasons I seldom make it out into my garage on a Friday, so here is where I left off yesterday afternoon.

I have, in the process of cleaning up the two pieces that attach to the top of the scuttle to support the windscreen i have discovered that both are stamped with a number. 6382. As the same number is stamped into both pieces it is not a part number but I believe it is the coach-builders Body Number and in the absence so far of any other identifying number, it will take on that role. DSCN5889.thumb.jpg.e48b951615fc7192145ed3f7a9a276bc.jpgDSCN5886.thumb.jpg.67a2cb0a507a737afe5de8db23497174.jpg

Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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The purpose of this exercise is to use the existing frame from the top half of the windscreen  together with the shortened "pillars" to create a new short windscreen more or less, a full width "aero-screen" similar to the one on Madame Junek's car.  This will incorporate the two wedge shape pieces to attach it to the scuttle top.

Unfortunately to see the completed article you may have to wait (patiently) for some little time until I have built and panelled the body. ( in three or four months time).

 

 

Bj

 

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Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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I now have all the Fiat 501 parts under the one roof and will be able to start work seriously.  The good news is that one motor turns over smoothly and should be OK with a valve grind and new piston rings.  Unfortunately the other is well  and truly locked up. The Chassis and wheels can go off to the sandblast works within the next two or three days and work can start. I am missing one front spring but that is relatively a minor problem. I am sure that I should have no trouble obrtaining another. Perhaps when Neil has a tidy up he may find the missing one. What is more important is that now I have virtually everything I will need to erect a rolling chassis. Also I can positively say that the car is a 1921/2, 501 with rear wheel brakes only. I even have not one but two pair of headlamps. The engine number stamped into the one cylinder block has a matching number on the brass tag on the crank-case. Both radiators are relatively dent free and one in particular looks to have led a drama free life for the past 97 years. Officially the engine number is 1144720. As the cylinder block has a separate exhaust manifold this makes it one of the second edition motors. The other motor has the earlier one piece block/exhaust arrangement.

As you can see in one of the photographs I have even gone to the expense of buying a new wire brush. Finally to calm the nerves of the people that have reeled back in alarm at the vision of the broken section at the front of the cylinder block may rest easy This is the mounting for the radiator fan and I do have a matching spare (intact) block.

As they say at the Olympics, "Let the games begin."

 

Bj

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Bj.

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It's like a giant real life puzzle that needs to be put together! :)  But I have no doubt that you can do it Bernie.

 

The frame looks absolutely tiny when compared to the size of the wheel/tire of the late model car in corner of the picture.

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Hello Paul

I think that the camera is playing tricks. That wheel is on my wife's VW Jetta. That and the frame is actually quite straight.

You will have to keep watching for developments. It is a holiday long weekend in Australia this weekend but I will organise for my friendly sand blast man to collect the eight Fiat wheels, the chassis and some other bits on Tuesday or Wednesday.

In the meanwhile I can start pulling the engine apart. It will get a valve grind and some new piston rings. I will probably have about 30 to 40thou machined off the cylinder head to bring the compression ratio up a little. The  combustion chambers are a little like bath-tubs.

You are right about the puzzle, I just hope that not too many bits have been lost in the 40+years that it has all been stored in boxes   and lying about in bits.  I know already that there are one or two little parts that have fallen through the cracks.

Bj.

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I hope that you are all holding on tight. things are slowly starting to move. The cylinder head and the block have gone over to my friends at Crankshaft Rebuilders to go in their "hot tank'" and then to have the matching faces machined. Then the cylinder bores cleaned up. Right now I am sorting out the load of stuff to be sand blasted, they are to be picked up first thing tomorrow morning. This included the chassis frame, eight wheels four running board (step) brackets, the three pedals, brake, clutch etc. Once these have been done they will come back primed and ready for paint. Before they are painted I will have to decide on a colour. I have talked about "Deep Indian Red" a colour that I have  used once before. I am not a big fan of "red" for old cars. I always think that they look "Cheap" This is a "Killrust" Epoxy Gloss Enamel. It brushes on to give a smooth knock resistant finish. The Deep Indian Red is dark enough to avoid looking "cheap & cheerful" and it leaves me with a range of complimentary colours to use with it. I will paint the Radiator surround and the Windscreen-frame with the same colour. 

 

Bernie j.

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Look what I found at the bottom of one of the containers of bits.

Bj.

Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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Bernie, you are jumping right into this one!

 

I couldn't resist doing a search to see what the Killrust Deep Indian Red looks like. Nice color, to me it should be very complimentary to this age of car. And yes, a bright red would be 'out of place'.

 

deep indian red.jpg

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Hi Paul

When you get to my age* there is a very strong argument against waiting to see what variety of grass is growing. I just hope that there are not too many "old Indians' who will take exception to my using their red. I have used it before on the Dodge "Flying Four" and I think that it is an appropriate colour.

Bj

*9/11/36.

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What a busy day, my friends from Blast-off have collected a load of "stuff" to be sandblasted and given a coat of etch primer. Then this afternoon has ben spent finishing removing the sump from the crankcase and removing the four con-rods and pistons.

I am pleasantly surprised to discover that the three main bearing crank is machined all over and drilled for pressure oil to be fed to both the main bearings and the big-ends.  Like wise the con-rods are very nicely made and machined all over. The white metal big-end bearings are also in excellent condition and appear to have done very little running. I will organise some more photographs in the morning after I have given everything a wash.

It would appear that once I get the cylinder block back from "Crankies" that it will be a straight forward clean and re-assembly .

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