MMR Blog

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Lights

Posted on May 23, 2013 Comments (2)

In 1995 I bought a 1978 308 GTS Euro spec Ferrari with a rebuilt engine and 13K miles on the long non-functioning odometer. It had had a serious accident on the right front corner. This is the fourteenth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

Let there be lights!

While driving in F1 for Lotus, Ronnie Peterson was famous for being able to take a car straight off the trailer and go fast. Upon returning to the pits the engineers would ask what they needed to do to make the car faster. He would reply: nothing, it’s fine the way it is. His teammate Mario Andretti was the opposite, his background in dirt cars and ovals made him a master at tuning suspension systems to get the most out of his cars. And he did. But he was not perceptibly quicker than Peterson. Peterson was just plain quick and he adapted his driving to whatever the car would do.

To a far lesser extent, many of us are the same. As our vehicles age and wear, they change. And we change right along with them. I remember sharing a car in a 4-hour endurance race once. We set a target time and as brake and clutch problems beset the car, we would slow down and then after a number of laps, we would be turning the target times again. We adjusted and drove differently to achieve our goal.

I bought the WASRED 308 in Chicago and drove it to Boston. When I first turned on the headlights, I thought the low beams were horrible. So I drove on the high beams and since no one asked me to dim I just always drove it that way. Once home, I tried to adjust them, but to little avail.

I have mentioned elsewhere that the car had once suffered a serious front end accident and was rather ham handedly repaired. This past winter I decided that I would upgrade my forward lighting and add auxiliary lighting. The MMR Goods and Services Directory lists a number of suppliers and in my pilgrimage to good lighting I interacted with many of them.

I began with Daniel Stern. He emailed a long and detailed response to my query and was quite familiar with my issues. I had Hella lights and Osram 100/80 watt. He supplied me a well written treatise on the subject of auxiliary lighting specifically for my car. He recommended Cibie headlamps with Narva 100/90 bulbs and suggested that since the original bulbs were 60/55s, upgrades in the wiring and relays were recommended to protect the switchgear. Communication between us was interrupted for a while and I was then helped by Dave Heupchen, an old rally driver who races Volvos. I think I got to him through Dimebank Garage. Finally, Gunther Hansele of Aardvark International was the most helpful and reliable resource. Like many other pockets of specialty vintage parts, the masters of it are slightly off the beaten track and one needs to adjust to their way or little is accomplished.

When it came to auxiliary driving lamps, I chose the Cibie Airport series 35 (H2 – 55 watt bulb) rectangular lamps. These have a clear white lens and they most resembled those fitted to the Ferrari 288 GTO.

That decided, we began our work. My mentor on this project was once again Spencer Guder of Spencer Restoration in Canterbury, CT. I felt the headlamps needed changing because the outside surfaces were pitted. Spencer suggested that the interior surfaces might also be dirty, as these were not sealed beams. When I ran a clean cloth around the interiors I was surprised at how much dirt came off. Before disassembling the old units, we made indications on the back of the garage door showing where the existing Hellas had been focused. The passenger side light, the corner of the car that had been damaged, shone across into the oncoming lane. That explained why oncoming traffic was at times annoyed. Before he could install the new lights he had to straighten out the brackets holding the light assembly and without taking the whole front end apart he was limited in what he could accomplish. But he is patient, resourceful, and diligent and he managed to get it straightened out so it would work properly.

The Airport Series 35s were fitted with a harness and relays which Spencer made up. A control switch which illuminated when the lights were in use was fitted under the dash on the driver’s side. Not an ideal location as it turns out. At some point they were briefly on and, (I think I have mentioned that I am not particularly observant) I never noticed. The lights melted the clever black/silver Cibie covers. I promptly made them completely black with the use of a Sharpie.

The important point here is that once we had the whole set-up completed, adjusted the headlights properly, and measured them against the previous markings on the wall, it was time for a test. Unfortunately it was late and I was leaving the next day for the 17 States in 20 Days and One Pair of Underwear Tour so testing was postponed.

On the first day of the tour I left Philadelphia after dinner enroute to Pittsburgh via the Turnpike. An ideal opportunity to test the lights. First I was thrilled by how well the standard light worked. “Brilliant” was the right word. The moment of truth for the auxiliary lights came on a long stretch of straight road. While more than adequate, the difference between them and my high beams was marginal. At the next stop I adjusted them to aim a little higher. By doing this, I gained a fuller view and a gain in distance.

Low

Low

High

High

High Auxiliary

High Auxiliary

High Auxiliary Higher

High Auxiliary Higher

Here is what I draw from this. I was upgrading a 1978 system which had already been upgraded at least 18 years earlier and poorly adjusted. Forward lighting has made quantum leaps since the car was initially built and dramatically more in the intervening years since it had been upgraded. The original car would have benefitted greatly from the addition of the 55W Airport lights. Today’s equipment doesn’t need that help. When weighed, the inconvenience of having to remove the auxiliary light covers before use vs. an actual need for the lighting they rendered diminished them to a form of entertainment. Another toy with a switch. But they do look cool, in a 1960s way.

Dark in the dark


308 Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale

Posted on May 16, 2013 Comments (3)

This week’s story is not so much about an upgrade, as it is a cautionary tale.

Early in the very late stages of the past century, my wife and I drove the WASRED 308 to Cavallino, an annual Ferrari fest held every January in West Palm Beach, Florida. We used the front tire well and rear trunk for luggage and even took along a set of golf clubs.

We stayed at the Colony Hotel in downtown West Palm Beach. “West Palm” is what we habitués call it. The Colony was, and probably still is, a well kept monument to the glory days of West Palm and nearby, still swishy, Worth Avenue. A number of its occupants are permanent residents whose presence reminds other patrons, and possibly themselves, of grander days.

Other than an ice storm in northern Virginia that forced us off Interstate 95 for a few hours, the trip was uneventful. Getting back on the highway in downtown Richmond we quickly discovered that while the sun had melted the roadway, the underpasses, where the water had been carried, remained glare ice. So the trick was to settle the car upon entry, pray the road didn’t bend and try to keep the front wheels pointed to where you wanted to go if you once again gained traction. Though slightly harrowing at first, it did add a measure of excitement to what is otherwise a thoroughly boring drive. It didn’t last forever but it was quite exciting while it did. At least for me.

Upon arrival at our hotel, I opened the rear boot (trunk) for the bellman to remove the luggage and when I came back it was closed and I parked the car. The next morning I opened the rear hatch to find that the mechanism which allows the lid to remain open had been disconnected and was broken. The doorman, not understanding the proper procedure had simply taken it apart and in the process broken it. The hotel was, as you might expect, mortified, but was immediately forthcoming and offered to pay all repair costs. This was, after all, a Ferrari. I don’t recall the exact costs but it will surprise no one that it was well north of $1,000. I learned a valuable lesson about leaving rear hatch operations to strangers.

Fast Forward fifteen years and some of you may have noticed in earlier pictures that the hatch lid is being supported by a yellow broom handle and may be wondering why. The rear hatch on a 1978 308 is steel. Later models appear to be much lighter and are probably made of aluminum. Later models are also supported by hydraulic struts on either side. My model has a rather ingenious mechanism that supports the hatch in a fixed upright position, the opening height is limited by the length of the supporting rod. The top of the rod is affixed to the hatch by a tough plastic knuckle, or universal joint, which allows the top of the rod to bend and fold down lengthways when the hatch is being closed. Ingenious but unnecessarily complex. The positive side is that it is strong and, being mechanical, not hydraulic, it should never need replacement. Uninformed hotel doormen aside, the only problem with the design is that upon reaching the top of its arc, the momentum of this heavy hatch being lifted is stopped, often suddenly, by it having reached the end of its travel. This sudden stop puts a shock on that little knuckle and it sometimes breaks. This is not uncommon.

Not surprising, Ferrari’s solution is to replace the whole unit.

Enter the MMR Goods and Services Directory and under the heading of Ferrari Parts is listed a small company called Unobtainium Supply Co. Verell Boaen is a retired electronic engineer who has a passion for Ferraris and has dedicated his talents to providing the no longer available (NLA) parts that classic and vintage Ferrari owners might require at reasonable prices.

The plastic cover for one of my seat belt housings is broken; Unobtainium Supply Co. has them. Unscratchable switch plate sets? Unobtainium Supply Co. has them. The part I want is the “latch housing” for the “boot.” Considering the fact that someone had to cast the part and the cost of its original alternative, $97 is a fair price and I have ordered one. It is companies such as Unobtainium Supply Co. that keep the ownership of vintage cars like the 308 fun and affordable and MMR urges you to visit their site and others in the MMR Goods and Services Directory, to purchase their products and to support their efforts. That is what MMR is all about!

Unobtainium Supply Co. created custom molds for, and supplied, these tail light lenses for the 1952 Ferrari 212 Pininfarina Cabriolet—one of the first two Ferraris built by Pininfarina. It is now being restored by Ferrari Classiche. If you watch closely you can see it at the back of the shop in this video.

You can download a catalog with contact information from the Unobtainium Supply web site.


Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Cooling System Part 5

Posted on May 9, 2013 Comments (4)

Improved Cooling –Aesthetics

In 1995 I bought a 1978 308 GTS Euro spec Ferrari with a rebuilt engine and 13K miles on the long non-functioning odometer. It had had a serious accident on the right front corner. This is the twelfth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

What Meets the Eye

We have pretty much completed the Cooling System Upgrade from a hardware point of view and we are satisfied with the outcome. There remain only two things to do. One is cosmetic and the other requires a little more research on our part before we share it. Stay tuned.

Let’s talk about “The Look” of what we have done. Beginning at the front, we changed the black radiator, the black AC condenser and the two black fans for a shiny aluminum radiator, a shiny aluminum AC condenser and a skinny black “spider web” style fan. Before we made the changes, looking at the front of our Black 308 we saw the aluminum vertical and horizontal bar grill against a dark background. Now, the new AC condenser and radiator are visible through the grill. Doing this again, I would find a way to make them invisible. Probably with high heat spray paint on the front surfaces. Neatly done, of course.

308 cooling system aesthetics

The bigger clamps are neither original nor as elegant, in some people’s opinions, as the originals. I like them better but that is a subjective call. The hoses themselves, in bright blue, don’t really go with anything unless Paul Newman (RIP) were driving the car. Doing it again, I would probably go with black hoses. I am not necessarily a traditionalist, but I think it looks neater against all the aluminum in the engine and the radiator. And I did find silicone far easier to work with.

308 cooling system aesthetics

308 cooling system aesthetics

We removed the Radiator overflow tank, sanded off the rust and spray painted the unit with a black semi-gloss. That now looks much better. And we changed the radiator cap which was looking pretty tired. We bought it from Geoff Ohland at Partsource.

More next week…


Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Cooling System Part 4

Posted on May 2, 2013 Comments (0)

In 1995 I bought a 1978 308 GTS Euro spec Ferrari with a rebuilt engine and 13K miles on the long non-functioning odometer. It had had a serious accident on the right front corner. This is the eleventh in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

Improved Cooling – Fans

If there has been a consistent theme to this series, other than the fact that with skilled help even the inept can succeed, it is that each part we changed was an appreciable upgrade.

If the shiny aluminum radiator was a visual and technical improvement over the 35 year old lump it replaced, the fan change was absolutely essential. State of the art in 1978 was twin fans hanging from a structural support above and aimed at the upper part of the radiator. Probably an inspired design at the time, but, 35 years later, with all the advances we have seen in cooling systems, this just looks inept.

Old fan mounted sans radiator

The two metal fan motors, even with plastic props, weigh three pounds each. The single plastic fan weighs less than a pound and bolts directly to the air conditioning condenser which is bolted directly to the radiator. I can’t find a number on the original fan motors that gives the amperage draw but they are fused at 20 Amps and if they were 15 Amps draw new they have certainly changed with age. The replacement unit has a draw of 11 Amps. Less weight, less draw equals win-win.

We looked at a website The Fanman and reviewed our options, one fan or two, shrouded fans or not, and blocking the sides of the fans to the fenders to channel more air to the fan were all considered. In the end, we felt that simply mounting a 14” fan to the AC condenser/radiator unit would be more than the original delivered and more than enough for our needs. The fan was less than $120.

Assembly seen through grill

The fan is triggered by a sensor, once the temperature of the coolant reaches 183 degrees. As mentioned in the hose story, hot engine coolant travels from the right side of the engine through aluminum tubing beneath the floor on the center-left side beside the driver’s right leg to the top of the radiator on the driver’s left. That’s what keeps the driver’s side a little cozier than the passenger’s side. When the fan is working, you can feel its cooling influence all the way down to the lower right of the rad where coolant moves out and back to the engine to begin the process again.

On the road less hood

Spencer Guder of Spencer Restorations in Canterbury, CT, did all of the work and I basically asked questions, ran for parts and tools, and otherwise stayed out of the way. He once again worked in my garage. He brought with him a Dremel to cut and shape metal, and all the tools such as crimpers, heat gun, and parts to make up or adjust a wiring harness. Because the car had once been damaged on the right front he had to do repairs to the existing framework for the radiator/AC condenser/fan unit and reshape parts of the incoming unit to fit the new shape. This is not something a simple amateur can do. But a simple amateur would try.

I believed that attaching a new fan to a new condenser with four bolts and a harness would be the easiest part of this whole operation. What I learned from Spencer is this: the 1978 Ferrari is not a production line car like we see today and there were probably small adjustments made at the factory that allowed this whole unit to come together. Thirty-five years later, and at least one repair in the area, we are trying to fit parts together that were never designed for this car, have different specs that must mate with remaining original parts, make wiring harnesses come together and it simply is not simple. Even if the car were perfect, getting these non-factory parts to come together takes experience, ingenuity, special tools and skill. The final four attaching bolts? I can do that. Maybe!


Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Cooling System Part 3

Posted on April 25, 2013 Comments (2)

Improved Cooling – Hoses & Fans

In 1995 I bought a 1978 308 GTS Euro spec Ferrari with a rebuilt engine and 13K miles on the long non-functioning odometer. It had had a serious accident on the right front corner. This is the tenth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

A Hose! A Hose! My Kingdom for a Hose!

When last we left you we had installed a new radiator at the front of our WASRED 308 and a new water pump at the back. Now to connect them.

There are 10 hoses and six formed aluminum tubes carrying coolant between the radiator and the engine. Only two hoses are easily visible and, other than the top radiator hose, none are easily accessible. I should point out here that a very long (24”) blade screwdriver is indispensible. My engine was rebuilt by IFS 11 years ago and at the time the best coolant hose available was a Gates Green Stripe. Coolant hoses are sold in either preformed bent shapes of single or multiple bends, flexible hoses of varying lengths, or straight stiff hoses in various lengths called “sticks”. All ten hoses but one, the 90 degree hose from the top of the radiator, are straight and short. Most auto parts stores have their hoses hanging from a rack on the wall. I took my old hose, which was fine, and found a hose on the wall that was the right length after the bend, paid about $12 cut it to size and also bought a stick of Gates Green Stripe for not much more. I was set. Getting to the hoses was something else.

The “hot” one, carrying coolant from the engine back to the top left of the radiator runs nearest the driver. The hoses are routed under the center of the car between the floor pan and the floor of the cabin. That accounts for the cozy cabin temperatures in the winter and the sauna like temperatures in the summer. I raised the car about eighteen inches off the floor in the front and a little higher in the back so that the engine coolant would drain and got to it. Most of the hoses are accessible, though not easily, but the few that aren’t… simply are not and take longer.

I used the same gasket sealant I used on the water pump and it served as a lubricant to ease the hoses over flared tubing ends. It wasn’t easy, but it was finally done when I learned about the Gates “Gold Stripe” hose! A new, higher quality hose. It really bothered me that the car was sitting there with second level hoses. It didn’t bother me for long. I ordered a fresh stick of Gates “Gold Stripe” and took the system apart before the gasket goo had even set. I didn’t change the 90 degree hose from the top of the radiator. I got it all finished and felt much better.

Then I learned that racers were using silicone hoses.

Upper Rad hose

Once again, I was bothered that a more reliable product was available and since I had the time, I ordered a stick of the silicone hose and a 90 degree hose and started all over again. The images shown here are of the silicon hose installed. The Ford Engine Blue color doesn’t go with my car but it matches the floor of my garage. The whole package cost about $100 from Racer Parts Wholesale.

Rad hoses

A couple of other things to share. First, the original hose clamps are what are called “Norma” style clamps. They are elegant (3/8 inch wide) and I am certain that they are also excellent. In my ham handed exuberance, I stripped two of them and then switched to the beefier Tridon unit (9/16” inch wide) from the local NAPA store. Once you have put these things on three times, “pretty” loses its appeal.

Norma on right

Second, the two formed aluminum coolant tubes from the radiator converge in the center of the car. Access to the hoses that connect these tubes to the straight tubes that run the length of the car is through a panel secured to the underside by four bolts. The two hoses are about four inches long and not particularly difficult to change. Left to their own devices, these tubes may rattle about down there, or, worse still, rub against each other and create a problem which would be difficult to solve on a roadside. Your challenge is the same one faced by the man who designed the Maidenform bra. You must somehow firmly secure and separate the two entities. I chose that word carefully. And the answer to the unasked question is: through the judicious use of two tiewraps or zip-ties or cable-ties. The first circles both tubes and brings them comfortably, but not tightly, close together. The second goes around the first tiewrap only, between the tubes and parallel to them. By tightening down the second tiewrap you tighten the first and at the same time separate the two tubes. Ingenious!

Third, tools. Conventional rad hoses can be cut with a saw. Silicone responds better to a knife. Sears offers a hose cutting scissor knife, for short money that works wonderfully. I have enclosed an image of the sealant I used. Great stuff, just don’t get it on your clothes.

Magic Goo

After all this, the question has to be, did he cheat? And the answer is, absolutely! The hose behind the thermostat housing goes between the carburetors in the intake manifold and you must take the housing off to get at it. Even then it is a bitch to do. Having done it twice, I wasn’t going to do it again. Besides, it is hidden. There is a lesson in all this somewhere.

Cheating

A week after completing this task, I was working on the Goods and Services Directory when I ran across Scuderia Rampante of Boulder Co. The owner/operator, Dave Helms, specializes in the repairs and restoration of Ferraris and is an online Ferrari Guru. For purists, SR offers black 100% silicone hoses in various lengths up to 12 feet. Scuderia Rampante offers a complete kit for 308s that includes clamps.

Addendum:

As I was finishing this story I received an answer to an enquiry I sent Dave Helms about his products.

Peter

I designed both our silicone coolant and silicone fuel hoses from scratch with the help of a team of defense contractor design engineers... nothing better has ever been built on either hose application. On the fuel hose (supply hose) we designed for 2.5 PSI and they quit testing when 100 PSI was exceeded, no finer can be found, Period. We have International Patents pending as it is an entirely new design.

All of our hoses are made specifically for Ferrari applications, not some SAE hose stretched to fit. I wanted it done right, done once and never have to do it again. The engineers thought I had snapped with no resale expectation but... I hate hoses and only did this because there are NO other legitimate alternatives.

Dave

Dave Helms represents what the MMR Goods and Services Directory is really all about. People who, in the vernacular of another time, “get it”. They understand that good enough isn’t good enough and the best requires extra effort but is worth it.

I’m certain we will be following up on this in the coming issues.