Spotted this W111 on Craigslist and upon realizing it was just down the street, I couldn’t help but have a look. Huge bench seat, accented fintails, lovely curved glass and a grille that says “pull over, peasant” make this chassis one of my all-time favoritie Mercs, and high on my list of next potential projects.
Though the body on this one looks decent from ten feet away, those ominous freckles of rust hint at substantial rot underneath. The blacktop on which the car was parked was too hot to crawl on and properly inspect the underbody, but just a glance at the front arches revealed some pretty gnarly through-body deterioration. But even the holes in the floor (which I found after lifting up the carpet) wouldn’t have deterred me off this car completely… it fired up without much coaxing and was probably tidy enough to pass state inspection with a minimal palm-greasing.
The problem lied in the paperwork. From the look of the license plate sticker the car hadn’t been registered since 1972, and as there was no title present getting a fresh set of plates from the death-grip clutches of the heinous Mass DMV would be almost as difficult as completing the restoration. So alas, this car may be condemned to RIP (Rot In Place) unless somebody can brave the bureaucratic bastion and get some tags on this lovely car. Or hey, maybe the seller will just find the damn title…
The seemingly endless saga of restoring my old GSXR brought my father and I to Drum Hill Cycles in Nashua, New Hampshire- a massive warehouse full old motorcycle parts, basically a Cave of Wonders to a couple retro-moto enthusiasts.
Aside from a small banner on the road-facing wall, there’s not much to tip you off about this treasure-trove unless you already know the address. But if you’re in the neighborhood, the railroad crossing right next to it is a good landmark to defer to.
Say what you will about ours being a “disposable” culture, but from what we saw Drum Hill had plenty of business keeping old bikes alive.
In the thirty or so minutes we were there, at least five other people showed up looking for various miscellanea for their motorcycle projects. It was encouraging to see that the restoration business is still running, and that I’m not the only one with a soft spot for “modern classics.”
Bikes and cars from the 80’s and 90’s used to get written-off by the collector and restoration community for being “too modern” or “bland”. But now that people like myself, who grew up dreaming about the vehicles from that era, are starting their own projects we’re seeing a renaissance of these machines we now call- modern classics.
The nostalgia of riding something I fantasized about while I was supposed to be learning my times-tables is without a doubt part of the appeal of the 80’s/90’s iron, but I also love the blend of modern-ish design with the primitive brutality and rudimentary interface of say, my ’91 GSXR.
While we didn’t end up buying anything this trip, it was a lot of fun to walk through the canyons of fairings, fuel tanks and every other motorcycle accessory you can imagine for bikes from bygone decades.
The proprietor was most agreeable, talking over the issues my bike was having with me and dumping out a few boxes of parts to sift through pounds of plastic to try and find what I was looking for. Unfortunate it appeared that the ignition control box I was seeking had been “sold yesterday”, and so continued my less-than-ideal luck with my project.
Drum Hill isn’t a completely unreasonable drive from Boston, but if you don’t feel like picking parts yourself they’re website has just about everything they stock in their expansive collection.
Be sure to check them out if you’re spinning spanners on a bike from the forgotten era of modern classics, and help them keep the old school spirit alive.
After a long two months of great convertible weather passed, Nino finally relinquished dad’s FIAT Spider 2000.
While it still may not be perfect, it sure looks good.
We decided to immortalize it while we could, before some jackass in the Crosby’s parking lot opens the door of their QX56 too close and squashes it.
These photos were taken at Castle Hill in Ipswich, MA. If only my camera were a bit sharper…
“De kahr e dun” was the message my father received from our wacky FIAT-obsessed Italian mechanic.
Interpreting that as “The car is done” we grabbed the checkbook and drove out to Kettle Cove industrial park to pick up our newly-restored ’79 Spider.
But as soon as we rolled up we knew something had been lost in translation… because the car we were looking at did have a fabulous black paint job on it, but it did not have a roof, heater, air intake, cooling fan, chrome trim, bumpers, or working lights.
But did I mention the paint looked good?
Apparently the spray-job was what Nino DeMayo was referring to when he said “dun.” We got a tour of the undercarriage which we were pleased to see had been coated with anti-rust spray, and the inside edges of the wheels were gleaming with new brake components.
Our convertible’s still got a long way to go, but at least it’s better off than this old 190E it was sharing a parking lot with:
No seats, but it’s bringing a new meaning to the term “green transportation” …yes, those plants in the bottom left are indeed growing from the carpet. And this car is parked on pavement, not in some field where it might be reclaimed by vines. Never seen anything quite like it.
Anyway, Nino says the car will be done for real on Monday.
“Ness tiime, all dun”
Sure hope so, the nights are still long and the sun has been shining… I hate to think of the precious few convertible months going to waste. I almost forget what it feels like to be behind the wheel of that thing.
Meanwhile, the tach on my motorcycle decided to stop working this morning… godamit.
The family’s beloved roadster, the 1979 FIAT Spider 2000 that raised me is finally getting the treatment it deserves- an almost full restoration back to its original glory with a working roof, heater, and an absence of rust.
Dad dropped it off at our mechanic’s, an animated Italian fellow named Nino DeMayo (for real) who happens to have worked on FIATs since the days when they were still sold new here in the U.S.
Spiders are his passion, and he’s progressing nicely on ours.
Bumpers have been removed (for now), and a lot of rust has been cut out already.
By the end of the month, we’re expecting a new roof, functional heater (did I already mention that?), working tail lights, a fresh coat of paint and who knows- maybe even an inspection sticker.
It doesn’t look… too bad… as is, but I’m pretty excited to see how it turns out. Stay posted.