1978 Fiat 124 Spider

This is the car that got me deep into auto detailing, paint correction, and vehicle restoration. It taught me both the value of salvaging original parts and knowing when it’s better to replace a component with something new.

I’ve learned everything about this car from scratch, which is the same process I used in my detailing business.

I’ll share a bit about the journey here to give you a feel for who I am, what I like to work on, and how my process unfolds. I love cars. I talk to them. I get to know them. This is how I’ll approach your car whether I give it a nice deep clean and wax or a more thorough compounding and paint correction.

Meet Fifi:

1978 Fiat 124 Spider
The Shimmer Detail Spider

Here is a side by side showing her engine when I first bought her and after a couple of years of chipping away. The bright red piece of metal is called a heat shield and is the same rusty one you see in the first photo, after de-rusting, sanding and painting.

I refurbished the original taillights by hand-making new wiring harnesses, meticulously sanding and shining the interiors, and gluing cracks in the lenses, and they lasted for almost 5 years. I finally gave in and replaced them with brand new assemblies as they weren’t watertight and I just couldn’t get them as bright as I wanted.

When I tackled the interior, I called in some help on the carpet replacement. These guys weren’t cheap but they were worth it.

When we spent a year in Pittsburgh, I needed special security, so I went with this guy. No one ever messed with Fifi while this guy was watching her.

I think I was three years in and a little over 100,000 miles when 4th gear starting popping out, which I’ve since learned is pretty typical for a Spider. So this was the makeshift solution to get her high enough in the air to create the necessary wrenching access I needed to drop the transmission. One of the first things to come out was the driveshaft.

Dim headlights were one of the early things I corrected on Fifi, as it was a little too scary driving her at night with that tiny vague circle of yellow in front of me. It was like driving by flashlight. The first order of business was a new complete wiring harness powered straight off the alternator. I then realized I needed to upgrade from the original 55 amp alternator and decided to go with this 95 amp model from the awesome guys at Auto Ricambi in Texas.

We’ve now moved to beautiful Sparta, New Jersey and among the first places Fifi took me were, the Sparta Glen, ActingAPart, and M&M Custom Exhaust and Auto Repair.

The glen has become a place I visit frequently to get rejuvenated. Acting A Part on Woodport Road is now a place where I teach adult acting classes, and M&M is a great local mechanic shop where I provide auto detailing in the third bay at 85 Main Street in Sparta.