Big job on a little car
OWNER: Massimo Delbo
Winter is nearly over, the salt is disappearing from the roads, and it is time to wake the cars hibernating in my garage. All but one spent the winter at home: my Fiat 500L was at Fabio’s bodyshop after I discovered some rust. Fabio looked worried when I arrived with almost enough spare parts to rebuild it entirely, but seemed relieved when he saw the car.
A few months later, the news was good: most of those spare parts weren’t needed. On my last visit to the shop, I’d seen work under way, and the only serious rust was in the front wheelarches and the bonnet. Unfortunately the wheelarches I had bought were not right for the car, so I had to buy two new ones. I prefer to preserve where I can, but I allowed Fabio’s team to take a shortcut with the bonnet: it was cheaper to buy a brand new one.
Now it’s almost ready. It’s been painted inside and out, reassembled, and rust inhibitor has been injected into as many cavities as possible. The result seems good, and I can’t wait to drive it home and make a proper inspection in sunlight. Fabio did a great job of taking care of such details as the missing ‘Fiat 500L’ logos on the rear engine panel and fixing the longitudinal chrome strips under the doors. I wanted those strips done because they are one of the 500L’s trademarks, but Fabio was reluctant to make the holes to fix them because this is where the rust started. I won! Where I lost was with the fuel tank.
I wanted to keep its original paint, or what remained of it, but Fabio forced me to accept that it needed repainting. I have to admit that I wasn’t very convinced even when I agreed, but he was right. The front bay is now so clean and smart that the old tank would look really ugly.
We both agreed on keeping the gearlever and the handbrake lever as they were, with their imperfect paint showing 44 years of use. What I like about Fabio is that he goes the extra mile. Without me having to ask, in one of his hidden warehouses he tracked down an original aluminium frame for the rear numberplate that suits the car very well, and has told me that he should have another one for the front, too. Let’s hope.
After my visit, he’ll be fixing some small neglected points around the sunroof, while I’ll have to look for a new external rear-view mirror. In the meantime, he has started work on another Fiat 500 and blames me for this. The car belonged to the late mother of one of his customers, and for years sat unused in a garage.
When that customer saw mine under restoration, he brought his yellow car to Fabio and asked for the same results. I think I’ll have somebody to team up with for the journey to the next Fiat 500 Club Italia meeting.
Above and below Fiat 500L bodywork is almost finished now; new fuel tank in freshly painted bay.