Fiat fresh-up five: finish line in sight

I keep having to steal time between ‘somewheres’ I’m supposed to be to work on the Fiat and I’m happy to report it has paid off.  The bell housing bolts, starter bolts, solenoid and other stuff I was waiting for showed up and last weekend I got to spend a few of those stolen moments installing it all along with the intake manifold and fuel pump, which I had removed to get access to the starter.  Way too much going on on the intake side of these Fiat twin cam engines!  Sunday I left the shop having turned the engine over with the starter – v e r y  s l o w l y I admit, but encouraging none-the-less. 

FIAT ONE ENGINEThis is a picture from this morning, about 1 hour before I started writing this post.  You will notice all sorts of funky stuff that I will go into later, but the important thing to take away from this picture is that it has the look of a car that runs.

My next stolen moment was on Monday evening.  I rigged up the cooling system -which is insanely complex compared to an Alfa, and had Aaron look to see if the alternator fan was hitting the lower radiator hose when I turned the engine over.  It wasn’t but bad news, the fan on the water pump wasn’t turning.  Turns out said fan had run into the second pulley groove on the crank pulley.  I removed the fan, found some bolts short enough not to dig into the body of the water pump when the pulley was mounted without the fan and decided that since winter is minutes away I could probably live without the fan for a while.  Engine turns over nice and fast now!

Next job was hook up the ignition system and check for spark.  I set the pulley and cam timing marks to TDC and made the rotor point to number 1, installed the cap, plugged in all the wires, layed the spark plugs out on the head and turned the engine over.  Sparks were being produced by all four.  I installed the plugs and turned it over again.  Nothing.  Fuel: check.  Timing marks set up right: check. I have to interject here that if you are familiar with Fiats you already know the problem.  I couldn’t get it to start so I went home and posted to a Fiat forum about my problems.

fiat dist oneHere is the cam mounted distributor.  Pay special attention to where the rotor is pointing.  This is taken right after I installed new points, condensor and rotor.  This is a dual point distributor that I converted to single.

fiat dist 2Now look at where the rotor is pointing.  Nothing in the distributor has moved between these two pictures, the rotor had this much free play because the keying mechanism -a notch on the shaft- was a different size than the receiving hole on the rotor.  I shimmed it which helped, but I couldn’t really tell if I had it in the right place.  I assumed I could account for it when I set the timing. 

The punch line for those familiar with Fiats was that Fiat engines are timed to the number 4 cylinder, not the number 1 cylinder like the Italian engines I am used to, so I was a full 180 degrees out.  Anyhow, I decided the free play in the rotor was unacceptible so I confirmed something I suspected: the blanking plug on a Fiat twin cam that fills the hole where the distributor lived on the pushrod versions of the motor (they share a more or less common block) could be removed and a pushrod engine type distributor could be mounted there.  Since I didn’t have a trustworthy rotor for the cam mounted distributor I installed the distributor from the 1438, which was good because it allowed me to use the Marelli plex electronic ignition that the car had when I got it.  The fit is very tight between the timing belt cover and intake manifold and only about 10 degrees of adjustment are possible so anything more than that means pulling the distributor and adjusting it in the splines.

Once I had this distributor installed I turned it over and an 8 inch flame lept out of the carb.  I fooled around with it some more but couldn’t get it to run.  On my way to that evenings fun it occured to me that when I timed the distributor to the pulley marks I forgot to see if the cam marks were aligned, which meant I had a 50% chance of being 180 degrees out.  Suddenly I was anxious to get back to the shop and check.

fiat exhaust sideHere it is with a plug in the cam mounted distributor hole.  I need to tie those wires away from the manifold.  Not much going on on this side of the engine.  You can just see the $10 section of exhaust pipe repair I got at Kragen that has done service in several of my engine swaps.

fiat intake sideThe tight fit of the distributor revealed.  One red spark plug lead because none of the blue leads were long enough to reach number 4 cylinder.  Busy on this side of the engine -the Spider this engine came from would have had the alternator over here too so the emissions airpump could be on the exhaust side!  Note dried out brake fluid hoses, I need to replace those soon too.

fiat coolant hosesHow many hose clamps does it take to make it not leak?  I think it’s 16, but of course when I put coolant in it it was leaking in three places so I guess I need more.  Aaron has promised me an electric fan.   

Yesterday afternoon at about 5 I got to the shop to check out the cam timing marks.  I put the car in fourth gear, pulled the distributor cap off, lined up the pulley marks, checked the cam timing and sure enough I was 180 degrees out.  I reset the distributor, hooked the battery back up and turned it over.  It fired right up but didn’t idle.  Once again I had somewhere to be so I dashed off with a grin on my face and a short to do list forming in my head.

1. Refill transmission

2. clean out the crud I saw in the carb float bowl

3. set the timng

4. adjust the clutch

5. tidy up the wiring

6. get exhaust welded up

7. test drive and make new list

I’m on my way!

This link is to the last Fiat fresh-up post.


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