January 19, 1995: Yes, we've been enjoying the car. Perhaps too much. In order to not let her get musty and unused again, we got into the habit of driving her up into the coastal range once a week. There are a few very nice twisty roads up that are great fun to drive.
Unfortunately, they're narrow roads, and people drive down them, too. That, combined with a little dampness, old XWX tires, lack of caffeine and just plain bad timing led to a small collision with a Volvo. No one was hurt, much sheet metal was bent, and both cars were towed away. Oh well ... now she'll get the paint job she deserves!
The first step was to put the car on the frame rack and pull things as square as possible, just to see what the real damage was. Carlos, pictured here, did a masterful job of making the sheet metal as good as, or better than, when it left the factory.
This is what the corner looked like after it had been pulled free of the wheel. The cast magnesium wheel broke - the fender was pressed in on the tire, apparently stopping it from turning, causing the bead to become unseated and the rim to hit the ground, whereupon portions of the outer lip just cracked right off. What you see here is the spare.
March 1995: The insurance company is being very cool, and has agreed to the entire ransom demand, err, estimate from the body shop. And since the front end is being completely redone, it seems the right time to do the whole car. So we're stripping off all the trim, sanding her down to bare metal, and doing it right.
April 1995: Slowly but surely. It looks like almost all the parts have been found. In particular, a NOS replacement fender, and a NOS wheel! The front corner straightened pretty well. Nonetheless, two sections had to be taken out of the replacement fender to get it to fit right. It was amazing to see that even though this was a relatively high production car (300 or so were made), the fenders were made up of small sections, welded together over a buck. They aren't stamped. So every one is a little different. If you look carefully, you can see the weld lines in the car - the fenders are made up of small rectangular sections, each about 4x12 inches.
Here's a large view of the repaired corner.
Here you can see the repaired section; the vertical weld seam where the new fender was attached is pretty obvious at the right. Unfortunately, the light from the flash pretty much obscures the details of the two sections that were taken to make it fit, as well as the edges of the rectangular panels.
A front view of the repair. Again, the seam is pretty obvious. You can see the section cut that was taken straight back at the top of the fender, and barely see the one that's at the outer horizontal. Also note the chunk of lead on the top nose section, directly above the fender mount - the last repair was smooth, but not a very good pull ... we've done better this time.
May 1995: She's completely bare of paint now. The body is in really good shape; no rusty patches, a small amount of very light surface rust. Quite straight, with some lead repairs in a few places (we know she's been hit once before). Everyone is amazed.
One of the rear quarter panels after sanding. No really noticeable dimples. Again, it's almost impossible to make out the fact that the whole section is made up of relatively small rectangular panels that have been welded together and formed.
June 1995: Still missing a headlight trim ring and a lens. All the repairs and welding are done. To take proper care of the metal, she's been etched and primed, and they're busy blocking her out and aligning the panels. The goal is to use even less filler than the factory did (these cars were all lightly skimmed with filler before painting).
July 1995: She's in her final primer coat now. We went up a few days ago and approved the color mix...
August 1995: Well, she won't be done in time for the Historics. But she is quite lovely. Blue paint is one, being baked in the sun and color sanded. Engine compartment has been cleaned up and painted. Doors and glass are still off, there's some damage to one of the leather panels that needs to be repaired, and the black trim at the bottom of the car needs to be done, as do the wheels. We're going to be paranoid as hell driving this car when she comes back!
We just can't find the right headlight trim ring - have tried three different sets that fit, but reveal just a bit more of the paint. So the current plan is to take one of the wrong size, cut it, weld in a little metal, and chrome the whole thing. Who knows what was on the shelf the day they built her!
September 1995: She's all together now, but will have to come apart again to do some final chrome work and to refinish the wheels. The paint is polished and buffed and gorgeous! All the seals and glass and engine bits are in place; they drove her from the last work area to this, so we are now sure that the engine wasn't damaged in the accident. The only missing bit right now is the headlamp trim ring; the ring material does not lend itself to cutting and welding, so we're going to find a matching pair, even if they don't match the original one. Soon, soon.
October 1995: STILL not done. Now waiting for chrome: the rear bumper doesn't match the nice new front bumper, one of the replacement front parts was in lousy shape and needed to be rechromed (imagine that, it had deteriorated after 25 years in storage) and, since we're doing all the other cosmetics, the wheel centers and knockoffs are getting shiny again, too. She'll be great, but it's hard to be patient.
More delays: the chrome came back, but was not up to the promised quality. So it goes back to be done again.
December 1995: We are still waiting for the chrome. I get the feeling that we have dropped down in priority behind cars that have come in after us. We went over to visit the other night; the chrome has not arrived, and essentially nothing has been done since our last visit (in October), except that the wheels have been painted (and look gorgeous). We went over the car carefully, made up and presented a list of things still undone; my hope is that they will try to get some of this work done before the chrome returns, but my guess is that they will not. She's not going to make it home for Christmas. When we first started talking about the accident among local FCA members, someone said "Jeez, you touch anything on a Ferrari and it takes a year." I thought for sure they were joking.
January 1996: Don't ask.
February 1996: We've been moving all month, and I've had too many crises to manage without adding being upset about why work on the car has been stalled since November. So I haven't asked, and you probably shouldn't, either.
March 1996: We're all moved (though hardly moved in) - finally time to try to get this project unstuck. I called up and got better news than I had hoped for: the chrome is back and looks "as good as I could have possibly hoped for", the wheels are done, the grille is out to be polished. I'll go up and look in a day or two.
Wow! The wheels are on and look fabulous. The grille shines like never before - they took it apart and polished the pieces individually. I'm not completely crazy about the reassembly, but it's good enough for me not to fight with them about it - some day when I'm really bored I'll take it apart and do it myself. Rather than try to straighten the front undertray, they made a new one, out of heavier material; this will be a win in the long run, even though it's not original.
April 3, 1996: We got The Call! Found a message on the answering machine saying that the car is ready to pick up. I'm dubious that it's really, completely done, but we're headed up to take a look and see just what is left... yup, no big surprise, the car is still at the shop. It is much closer, but there's still a page-long list of things that need to be done. I leave him a list like this every time I visit, and he doesn't seem to have figured out that I'm going to go over the list the next time I look at the car!
April 22, 1996: After a year, two months and three days, 9161 is finally home and sitting in our driveway instead of at the body shop. Everything on the list was done perfectly! I drove her home very gingerly this morning; she's in the driveway instead of outside my window at work because the battery is all but flat...
She has to go back to get her headlight trim rings (not back from the platers) and a few other niggardly details, but we all (body shop folks, too!) wanted to get her home and out of the shop.
September 18, 1996: She's been back to the shop for headlight rings and other details. This involved missing the Monterey Historics again, which is too bad - but then, even if we had rushed to get the cosmetics done, I wouldn't have had enough confidence in driving the car to drive her down.
There are (sadly) some things about the car that aren't perfect, but aren't worth making so. For example, there's a paint flaw (a small crack) in the hood just above the "safety hook". It's not very obvious, it's down in the color coat, and any repair would inevitably be quite obvious. A few pieces got lost in the process - we're still looking for them or replacements. Given how long the car was apart, this is not a big surprise...
Slow checkout drives await, fluid changes and so on, but at least she's where we can get to her. Now to try to work on the balance of time; she's been in the shop longer than we owned her before the accident.
The unfortunate thing about the new paint is that we are now exceedingly paranoid about the car. We bought a driver; we've turned her into something closer to a show car. In a sense, I am looking forward to the first ding so I don't have to worry about it any more. But until then, she will be babied, but just a bit!