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    Massimo Delbo
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    Light restoration required

    CAR: #1967-Mercedes-Benz-230 / 1967 / #Mercedes-Benz-230 / #Mercedes-Benz / #1967-Mercedes-Benz-230-Fintail / #Fintail / #W110 / #1967-Mercedes-Benz-230-W110 / #Mercedes-Benz-230-W110 / #Mercedes-Benz-W110 / 1967

    OWNER: Massimo Delbo

    I believe that, no matter how old you are, a day when you learn something is a good one. So I should have been very happy when I discovered something I hadn’t known before about my Fintail. But truth is that, instead, my feelings are a little mixed.

    Since I bought the car as a restoration project in February 2005, and during the following years of work, I’ve been puzzledby the right rear light because the cluster - a single unit - had a reversing-light lens that was a very strange amber colour. It was too dark to be the ‘right’ white that was shining on the left side, and too orange to be the all-red American-spec unit, the good quality of the part and the way it was moulded looked very original, though, so I didn’t think it was a cheap spare part bought by the previous owner some time in the past.

    Looking at the inside of the lens, I could see that the amber colour was not the result of fading by sunlight or heat because the hidden internal corners were all the same shade. Unable to solve the mystery, and not liking the mismatched effect of the two lights, I looked for a new part with a normal white reversing light.

    This process was neither easy nor fast, because I didn’t want a brand new cluster, which would look too shiny compared with the left side’s original one. I had to find a used, but not too-used, part.

    I bought, for almost no money, five old rear lights, but all of them were too tired to look good. In trying to resurrect one of them I also learned that you can’t separate the chromed frame from the lens, because they are thermally attached. So for a good 10 years I’ve lived with the wrong rear light.

    Then, a few days before Christmas, I found the correct piece, in the right condition, from a dismantled Fintail. there was just time to clean the new part, install it and take a picture before tucking the car away for winter. It was lucky that I kept the old one, because I discovered that I’d been wrong and that ‘meddling without knowing’ is the worst thing to do.

    What I’ve discovered is that the rear lights of cars sold in France had to conform to a unique French law. We all know that for a few decades front lights had to be yellow, but very few seem to be aware that for two years only, 1966-1967, the right-hand reversing light had to be of an amber colour. For Mercedes-Benz, this applied to Pagodas, Fintails and S-series saloons and coupes.

    So now I don’t know what to do. the ‘originality is a must’ side of me says to refit the historically correct one. My aesthetic side prefers to keep the wrong one I have just installed, which looks right to 99% of the population. I have always kept the 230 as original as possible, so I can guess what the final decision will be, but I wonder why, after 13 years of research, I couldn’t have found this out two weeks before I bought the light. I would have been less tempted to change it - and I’d have €200 more in my account...

    Clockwise from top: Mercedes as saved from the scrapyard; ‘correct’ (amber) and ‘incorrect’ (white) reversing lights; how the 1967-Mercedes-Benz-230-Fintail looks at present - aesthetically right, yet wrong!
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    Big job on a little car

    CAR: #1972-Fiat-500L / #Fiat-500L / #Fiat-500 / #Fiat / #1972

    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.
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    Massimo Delbo
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    Massimo Delbo
    Massimo Delbo joined the group Pininfarina Club
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    500’s back on the road

    CAR: #1972-Fiat-500L / #1972 / #Fiat-500L / #Fiat / #Fiat-500

    OWNER: Massimo Delbò

    THE FIAT 500L is back from its body restoration, and it looks gorgeous like never before. First visit was to Alessandro the mechanic’s shop, because after almost 18 months of standing still it needed some work.

    We changed the engine, gearbox and brake fluids, the air and fuel filters, and the rubber engine mounts, too. We overhauled the carburettor as well, changing the tired-looking needle at the same time. To play safe we also replaced the eight-year-old fuel pump, the condenser and the contact points. Only three days and a 5km shakedown run later, one early morning I set off to drive to the 33rd Fiat 500 Club Italia’s International Meeting. After three hours and 250km I joined the meeting, ready for an additional 83km of mountain roads around the village of Garlenda in Liguria. This year’s event hosted a huge 746 examples of the 500, from the most preserved to the perfectly restored, and from the totally original (usually rusty) to the most pimped.

    The beauty of driving a 500 in Italy is that other motorists know your car’s limit only too well, as they’ve all had one. They are kind and considerate, even when they have to slow down because of you. It’s something I’ve recently been reminded of, while driving through several sets of one-lane road works.

    Everything was perfect until a rain shower revealed a leak from the right of the windscreen, most likely due to the rubber frame being less-than-perfectly fitted during the restoration. It will take a few hours of work, and another journey to the bodyshop, to fix it. I want to sort it soon, because it could easily become a typical rust trap – and because the leak, being acidic, leaves its mark on the dash’s freshly waxed black panel.

    From top Fresh from the bodyshop, revamped 500 joined in the fun at club’s International Meeting. Screen leak will be sorted soon.
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