Viva Mexico - bringing #854 back to life

Discussion in 'Maserati' started by lbird, Aug 3, 2014.

  1. lbird

    lbird Karting
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 24, 2012
    222
    Germany
    #1 lbird, Aug 3, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2017
    It happened - never thought much about writing an extensive piece about a car restauration, but a lot of likeminded people encouraged me to do so. So here it is: My journey to get a heap of Maserati Mexico pieces back to one of the most beautiful coupes ever made....

    First of all: This is my first italian car i lay my hand on. Since i am from germany, i am totally fed up with all the Porsches and Mercedes you see on every car show. So my classic car genetics were totally focused on english classics: I normally drive MGB GTs, an E-Type or a fabulous Rover P6 limousine. Some of them sport V8 engines, which i deeply fell in love with.

    Since some of my closest friends are knee deep into Maserati 3500's, i always had these cars (or precisely: all the bits and pieces to restore those cars) around me. The 3500 never got me - nice design, but a little too "50's" for me. Never mind. But a friend from not far away has a nice black Mexico. That car always appealed to me, but was totally out of reach. Since i made bad experiences with buying cars from unknown people (like we probably all have), i swore to myself to only buy cars i witnessed in the rebuilding progress or which i rebuild myself with the actual work done mostly by good friends in the various professions needed for such a job.

    But with some 400 cars made, the chances of getting a Mexico which fits these critera are more or less nil.

    Then last year something strange happened: A very good friend of mine (one of the 3500 gang) stumbled upon not one, but three Mexicos which were located about 50 kilometers away from our hometown (#80, #204 and #854). The seller wanted to restore one and had the others for spares, but never came far. My friend bought the whole lot on the spot. I applauded him for this nice deal and thought no more of it.

    Then about two months ago we spoke again and he uttered the words almost everybody of us classic car weirdos has said at one time or the other: "I have got too many projects on my hands, i need to scale down."

    The next sentence was the important one: "Don't you want to take over the Mexico project, you always liked the car." It took me about a New York minute to think it over and a deal was struck quickly.

    I took over #854 and all parts for it as a base and the golden #204 for parts (especially the 4.9 engine).

    Immediately i was starting the inventory process. Here is what i have:

    A good primed shell, a lot of welding work already done, a clean bottom of the car. Lots of parts and chrome for it, dashboard, all instruments and the whole electric installation still in the car.

    The first examination and the findings will be unveiled in my second post.

    Please allow me to say some words about my intentions with this thread, since it takes a couple of minutes to write everything down: I will need help and information during the restoration, and since a lot of likeminded enthusiasts are present here, i don't want to only suck up all the good bits and pieces of knowledge given here, but in exchange offer some story about all the little things that will certainly happen to me during the restoration process. I don't know if it will be entertaining at all, but i will try to provide pictures and details that will probably help other Mexico restorers. I already met some of them.....

    Here are some pictures of the package as found (beware: does not look like an italian beauty yet):
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
     
  2. Volante 43

    Volante 43 Karting

    Nov 8, 2011
    72
    The Netherlands
    Full Name:
    Rudolf J Visser
    +1 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
  3. lbird

    lbird Karting
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 24, 2012
    222
    Germany
    A little addendum: The engine of #204 is a 4.7, not a 4.9. Met too many Indy owners recently and got confused... :)
     
  4. thecarnut

    thecarnut Formula 3
    Rossa Subscribed

    Apr 22, 2006
    2,085
    Atlanta
    Full Name:
    The Car Nut
    Nice looking body! Please keep us informed on your progress with lots of photos.

    Ivan
     
  5. Quattroporte3

    Quattroporte3 Formula 3
    Silver Subscribed

    Nov 13, 2010
    1,030
    Awesome thread, awesome car.

    Looking forward to the next installment!
     
  6. Mexico074

    Mexico074 Formula Junior
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 14, 2008
    944
    Harriman, TN USA
    Full Name:
    Michael Demyanovich
    Lbird..

    I am the owner of AM112-074... Please keep us posted with your work, stories, and photos.
    If I can be of some help, let me know...

    Mike
     
  7. Tired of seeing this ad? Upgrade now
  8. lbird

    lbird Karting
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 24, 2012
    222
    Germany
    #7 lbird, Aug 4, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
    Here is part 2 of the inventory process. The first part on my side now is to identify and sort all the parts that came in various boxes with the car. That is an ongoing thing and will be discussed another time. The most important question especially with italian cars (and sometimes other human beeings) is always: How is the body?

    Since #854 is stripped of all its paint and only primed in a rather funny yellowish colour, i can check that out pretty easily. The doors were removed first and sent to a shop for chemical removal of any paint and primer. The lower doors are repaired nicely with new metal. Somebody has done a good job on them. Normally i would have sent the trunk lid and hood to the shop too, but there is a little problem in doing that. I will shed some light on that situation in a later post.

    A further examination of the rest of the body shows no visible accident damage whatsoever, which is a big plus. The front and wings are very good, but when you go to the back of the car there are some spots i don't like. There is no visible rust, but the quality of the welding is not perfect. In fact some of the welded seams would look much better on Herman Munsters forehead than on a Maserati. These parts will be opened again and properly done by one of my friends, who is an expert in welding anything. Pictures of the welding will follow at a later stage.

    The underbody is nice and clean, all the protective underbody coating is completely absent, which is a nice bonus. Normally this stuff is very nasty to remove. Check out the picture, looking good.

    The car has been on the road only 13 years, the last road registration was 1983. That means the body and chassis have not done that much work and the car was not abused as a cheap used supercar like so many others, and it shows.

    The wiring loom and the dashboard are complete and in a very nice condition (at least the dashboard). Steering wheel with a pefect horn center is there, all instruments and switches look good.
    I will try to leave this all untouched, because removing this completely will be a heck of a job. Even if the loom will be just a model for something new, i know exactly how it looks like. It seems like nobody tempered with it.

    Now here is the joblist for the upcoming days:

    - Strip the car of all remaining technical bits and check for rust spots
    - Prepare the body for sand- and iceblasting, which will remove any remaining debris
    - Sort the dismantled technical bits for sand blasting. All the chassis parts will be either new parts or they will receive a black plastic coating
    - Prepare a shopping list with all the needed parts to get the car back on its wheels later on

    My rough plan to go ahead is like this:

    Get the car absolutely clean via sand- and iceblasting. Please absolutely NO sandblasting on the outer panels. This will ruin the body!
    After that it is off to the welding shop. We will really see what this beauty is made of after that.
    Then the first painting process will go ahead. Trunk, engine bay and the underbody will receive a black protective truck chassis paint, the outer body will be sanded down, primed and will receive a first coating in black.
    By doing the painting in two steps you are ready to install everything back in the car and you have all the panels straight and clean, but you don't risk any damage to your final paint while installing technical bits like the engine, gearbox and the like.

    Then everything technical will be installed in the car, all the brightwork will be sorted and test fitted. After that another stripdown of the brightwork will follow, then the final paint will be applied and everything refitted. That's the theory so far :)
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
     
  9. Mexico074

    Mexico074 Formula Junior
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 14, 2008
    944
    Harriman, TN USA
    Full Name:
    Michael Demyanovich
    Hello Lbird...

    Sounds like a plan! From your post, I gather the car is a 1970 model.. That
    may explain the different vents in your dash.. The type in your car I mostly
    see in the Ghibli, Khamsin, etc.. What is the round knob between the clock
    and the tachometer? At the moment, I am drawing a blank on it!

    Mike
     
  10. lbird

    lbird Karting
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 24, 2012
    222
    Germany
    Hello Mike,

    you are spot on, it is in fact a 1970 model. Regarding the knob: No idea yet, but maybe for the mandatory hazard lights in Grmany? I will try to find out....

    Cu Lbird
     
  11. lbird

    lbird Karting
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 24, 2012
    222
    Germany
    #10 lbird, Aug 5, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
    Next installment in this little series: Interior design, especially leather.

    Let me first say a few words about my general goal when i restore a car, because this point of view is essential for a couple of decisions i will make: I restore it to drive the car, not for show or Pebble beach. Better than new is not my approach. I will try to preserve most of the original material, but i don't mind technical upgrades at all that will enhance usability and driveability of the Mexico. And i don't tolerate any rust on a car...
    For example none of my vintage cars have breaker contacts anymore, i always install an electronic ignition. I have never seen somebody who argued that originality is important down to the breaker contacts when he was trying to get his car going on the highway in pouring rain because these parts fail - and they do fail pretty often...

    I am therefore not sure which gearbox will go into the Mexico - i can install an original ZF S5-20, but this box is normally for the 4.2 engine. I don't know if it can cope with the forces of the 4.7 engine. The alternative would be something like the Ford T5 box with matching ratios, but that will be discussed in detail at a later stage.

    But i digress: Leather and whips, ahem, leather and seats was the theme now. The car has a black interior, which makes it a lot easier to refresh and repair. All seats and leather parts were there, no big holes visible. But 30 years of storage took their toll: The leather was pretty dirty, and more important, it was dry and not elastic at all. If you would have sat down on the seats in that condition you would have ripped the leather apart.

    What to do now?

    Since i am a friend of using what you have first (you can always order new leather later if a repair doesn't work out) i tried to refresh the seats and leather parts myself. On top of that a brand new interior looses its "vintage car aura" forever in my opinion, so all the little cosmetic signs of use are nice (if its not broken or harms the usability).

    I did some research on the net and found a couple of options. The by far most helpful information came from the german company "Lederzentrum" (Willkommen | Lederzentrum - Spezialist für Lederpflege, Lederreparatur, Beratung). They specialize in leather restauration of furniture and car interiors and they offer a bunch of tailor made products just for that purpose. On top of that they have a very helpful youtube channel where they explain and show the usage of these products (https://www.youtube.com/user/lederzentrum).

    The first step is always a thorough cleaning of the leather. I used a mild run of the mill cleaner from my wife and lots of warm water. Don't forget to clean the seams with a brush and get all the little residue of 40 years of use and storage out there (use something similar like a shoebrush). You will be surprised what you find in old seatpockets...

    After that we need to get the leather flexible again. I used colourless saddle grease for that, 1 kg can be had for less than 6 Euros. Of course you can use expensive stuff from Conolly, but there is not much difference when you try to get the leather going in my opinion.
    When you apply the grease, you have to massage it in with a cloth, otherwise it doesn't get deep enough into the leather. Just putting it on the surface won't do the trick, so you need lots of elbow grease too.

    I repeated that process 2 times, after that the leather was really flexible again and felt totally different, not like paper anymore.

    Now it gets interesting: You have to inspect your leather for defects that have to be repaired. I don't mean the loss of colour, we will deal with this later. I mean holes, deep scratches and the like. Luckily i had no holes, but a couple of deep scratches that needed attention.

    Now the "Lederzentrum" stuff comes into play. First i sanded the deep scratches down with a special sanding sponge, after that the leather is much smoother. If you have holes in your leather, please refer to the youtube videos how to repair this.

    Since it lost a lot of colour i ordered a colour refresher from them. Black is easy, but they offer to taylor make a colour for your leather if you send them a sample.

    First i cleaned the seats with a special leather cleaning petrol. After that i applied the colour refresher. When all that dried out, i used the saddle grease again to remoisture the leather.

    The final result was great - almost looks like new. Please check out the before and after pictures.

    One final remark: When i recommend something here, i don't get anything from that, it is only based on my own experience with the respective product.
    And something else: Please do not get used to the frequency of my updates here, i am kind of working from my backlog now :)
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
     
  12. JulianMerak

    JulianMerak Formula Junior

    Very impressive!
    Looks great

    Julian
     
  13. Mexico074

    Mexico074 Formula Junior
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 14, 2008
    944
    Harriman, TN USA
    Full Name:
    Michael Demyanovich
    +1...

    Mike
     
  14. Tired of seeing this ad? Upgrade now
  15. Quattroporte3

    Quattroporte3 Formula 3
    Silver Subscribed

    Nov 13, 2010
    1,030
    That's an almost unbelievable transformation!

    As an aside, I was told with my QP3 leather that the parts that were dry and like paper could not be saved, I'm glad to see that someone thinks otherwise, and proves it too!
     
  16. lbird

    lbird Karting
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 24, 2012
    222
    Germany
    Probably your leather was much worse than mine, but nevertheless it is always worth a try if it is not ripped in pieces. I invested probably 50 Euros into the leather products, that is not much compared to renew the leather. Of course i spent something like 20 hours on the complete leather parts in my car, but that was more fun than work and the result is not that bad.
    I think i have to consult somebody to replace the seat foam, but that is a totally different animal than replacing the leather....
     
  17. lbird

    lbird Karting
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 24, 2012
    222
    Germany
    @Mike: The knob you were puzzled about is indeed the hazard light switch. Either it is a german speciality or an aftermarket installation, probably by one of the former owners. You need hazard lights to be roadworthy in Germany (your car, that is), no exception...
     
  18. lbird

    lbird Karting
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 24, 2012
    222
    Germany
    #16 lbird, Aug 6, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
    Next post and another milestone has been achieved: The shell has been moved to the blasting shop, where the whole underbody will be treated with mild sandblasting to remove surface rust and the more sensitive areas will be iceblasted. I will post before and after pictures at a later stage. Just one word of advice, if i may offer that: Do not be deceived by the otherwise rust free appearance of a car and leave the heat deflection mats on the bulkhead. We removed them all and although the car has not done many miles, on the drivers side was a spot rusted through and needs a small metal patch welded in. Pictures of this are attached, it is the area below the braking pedal lever.

    We removed every bit of removable stuff of the car, and scratched our heads more than once.
    As i have mostly dealt with english or german cars, it is very "surprising" to see how the italian guys handled things when they handbuilt a vehicle. A 911 for example is a very clean thing to take apart and put together, everything seems well thought out and easy to remove and attach again.

    The italians: Not so. I think they never thought that somebody may be that stupid to try to take their car apart. And even more the notion to put the car together again was very far fetched. I found screws with welding points at the end and other fantastic stuff. I think everybody of you guys knows what i am talking about. Funny to talk about but not that funny when you have to work with it.

    I want to recommend the jig a friend of mine built for the treatment of the car. Very easy to weld together, tailor made and the best part is that you can turn the car approx. 60 degrees to either side until the sill touches the frame (which you can cover with a rubber mat). The turning axle is right under the car underbody, and the car can be lowered 50 cm directly onto the frame of the jig for transport when you remove the turning joints. That makes blasting, welding and painting very very easy without wheels on the car.

    And finally i need help: As you can see by the pictures my trunk and hood still sport the original cover in an excellent condition, including the rubber seal. I don't want to destroy this, because it is not easy to reproduce at all. I will try to carefully remove that and then treat the metal parts to chemical removal of rust and paint.
    Can somebody tell me how this is attached to the metal? Probably glued on? Are there established procedures to remove this without too much damage? Any help is appreciated big time!
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
     
  19. ulf rickard

    ulf rickard Formula Junior
    Rossa Subscribed

    Sep 28, 2009
    418
    Sweden
    Full Name:
    Ulf Rickard
    I really enjoy your posting, it is a beautiful model from Maserati and looking at your work is much appriciated .. keep on posting
     
  20. lbird

    lbird Karting
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 24, 2012
    222
    Germany
    #18 lbird, Aug 10, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
    Next part: A first look of the engine.

    The rest of the car seems to be a really good base for a restauration. I am not totally convinced of the 4.7 engine from Mexico #204 yet. The engine looks pretty sorry before cleaning. It does not turn over, mice have been living in there (pretty of room in 8 cylinders, i guess) and there are a lot of water traces visible where normally no water is.
    My engine man (who has a lot of experience with these kind of engines) is still positive to get the engine going again, i have my doubts.
    The butterfly valve shaft on one of the carburettors has rusted through, this does not look funny.
    But we will see how all of this looks after a nice long cleaning bath. The engine will be dismantled and put into an engine "dishwasher" for a couple of days. After that a final assessment will be made if the block, crank and heads are ok (crossing my fingers). All other internals will be renewed anyway...
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
     
  21. AM1220552

    AM1220552 Karting

    May 25, 2012
    132
    Great to see that you are saving this Mexico, she deserves it!

    Kind regards

    Kim
     
  22. PSk

    PSk F1 World Champ

    Nov 20, 2002
    17,673
    Tauranga, NZ
    Full Name:
    Pete
    Subscribed.

    Funny that Ferrari and a Maserati both numbered #854 are being restored at the same time! Okay yes the correct chassis number for the Ferrari is #0854 ... but ...
    Pete
     
  23. lbird

    lbird Karting
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 24, 2012
    222
    Germany
    #21 lbird, Aug 13, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
    A little update on the engine of #204: It has been stripped and cleaned at the engine shop today. There is good news and bad news, like always when you open up old machinery.

    Let's start with the bad news: The car was driven for a while with a defective head gasket, which resulted in some material beeing burned of on one valve. That is manageable with some welding. Because of that shot head gasket water has entered the engine on the front two cylinders and stayed there for quite some time. The pistons were badly rusted together with the liners and had to be extracted with brute force, but without further damage to the liners. That is the reason why there are only 6 pistons visible on the picture, the other two are not presentable anymore.

    And there were certainly experts at work at the engine before: The conrod screws were homemade on a lathe, and even better they were fixed by lots of loctite...

    But now finally the good news:
    All measurements show standard values, so the block can hopefully be honed for oversize pistons and the crank to the first undersize measurement. The heads look surprisingly good except one point were the head gasket failed.
    So the only writeoff so far are the carburettors. A replacement set is available and will be checked out asap. The distributor looks ok and is already sent away for refurbishment.
    The block and all aluminium parts will go for glass bead blasting tomorrow, if the honing went ok and the measurements still signal the green light for oversized pistons on the first two cylinders. Wish me luck!
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
    Image Unavailable, Please Login
     
  24. emsiegel13

    emsiegel13 Formula Junior

    Oct 9, 2007
    267
    Grayslake, Illinis
    Full Name:
    Elliot M. Siegel
    Be very careful of glass beading the block as even the smallest amount left anywhere that can be recirculated in the oil or water system can cause future problems. Meticulous care needs to be done in masking off areas where glass beads might end up being around after blasting. Far better would be to blast the block and heads with baking soda as any residue that remains can be washed away with water to leave everything complete clean. The valve covers and other parts that have no passages can be done nicely with glass beads but beware of using glass beads anywhere there are water or oil passages.

    Elliot
     
  25. Mexico074

    Mexico074 Formula Junior
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 14, 2008
    944
    Harriman, TN USA
    Full Name:
    Michael Demyanovich
    Hello lbird...

    Interesting about your engine! You may have mentioned this before, but is this a 4.2 or
    4.7? Also, if I understand correctly, you plan on using oversize pistons on two cylinders,
    is this correct? If the block and the liners are ok, as well as the crank as you sort of
    indicate, why not just have them nicely polished? Is shaving the crank journals to one undersize really necessary? Is having 2 oversized pistons the only solution?

    Perhaps I missed something, but I think more info on what's wrong with the block and crankshaft would be interesting to know...

    Mike
     
  26. lbird

    lbird Karting
    Silver Subscribed

    Aug 24, 2012
    222
    Germany
    No, of course all pistons will be renewed and have the same (oversized) size. All the liners have to be honed, but the first two cylinders will determine the piston size. Polishing will definitely not do the trick. The block will be honed accordingly. The engine is a 4.7, by the way.
    The crank is basically ok, but needs to be machined and balanced anyway.

    @Elliot: We will be extremely cautious to remove all blasting residue. I will ask my blasting shop if they use baking soda as an alternative, but until know glass beads never caused a problem when everything is cleaned properly afterwards.
     
  27. PSk

    PSk F1 World Champ

    Nov 20, 2002
    17,673
    Tauranga, NZ
    Full Name:
    Pete
    I'm probably miss-understanding but I would never weld a valve ... just bin it and replace.

    Also why do you think the conrod bolts are not original?
    Pete
     

Share This Page