Author Topic: Autobianchi Bianchina Cabriolet  (Read 1860 times)

Big Al

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Autobianchi Bianchina Cabriolet
« on: July 09, 2016, 07:52:48 AM »
Not the first thing to think of as a RUMcar candidate, as its pretty much a Fiat 500 underneath. But its a rare form, especially in RHD.

Having cleared a lot of stuff up, I can now get in the garage. Not only that I think I have an entire 500 interior coming to use as a resource to get the interior on its way to being right. THe seats should fit in a way the 126 interior doesn't. If so I can then look to buy a correct new set of seat covers to match the style of the car. Got tempted into discovering why the Autobianchina refused to have drive on one wheel. Looking at what I had as evidence, a loose drive-shaft, and a quick look at the book, I assumed it was an incorrect drive shaft. But before getting into loads of work. it was sense to pull that side drive-shaft outer assembly apart.

So off with the bolts holding the splined drive union to the ali cushdrive. Very new so someone had been in here. The first issue immediately revealed itself. No internal pressure spring. No grease on the joint. It was, however in reasonable condition still. Turning the wheel free of the drive shaft, and the brakes were binding. I could not get the handbrake mech to back right off. So a strip to access the brake internals was undertaken. New parts but the handbrake lever fouls the top return spring. Cannot see how to get round this at the moment, but I do wonder if the handbrake sets have been swapped to the wrong wheels, as they just do not look to be set correctly in the set up.

Turning the now free hub, I could gauge the state of the wheel bearing. Noisy and with a little play. I knew what I would find here. I was correct, on taking the assembly apart, the old bearing had been incorrectly fitted. Unlike most taper bearings, which you mount, tighten to a pre-load, and then back off a prescribed amount, the Fiat bearing is supplied with a deformable centre spacer. Once over tightened this offers no more adjustment. Every Fiat 500/126 I have had has had these bearing mal-fitted, except the CC Zero. It is a simple error that immediately pinions the cars abilities to handle, and cruise, efficiently.

So all a bit of a mess really, for what looks to be a rebuilt car. But totally in line with the way it has been put together, which I think was either for static display, or to show it as a complete car. Onto eBay to order a pair of bearing kits, two new thrust springs and two new dust covers. I am assuming the other side will exhibit the same sort of issues. It remains to work out quite what has happened to the handbrake set.

So stuck there, I returned to finish off sorting out the engine installation. To recap. Its a 126 engine with some sort of pepped up head. Its running a standard carb still, but with different jets. I rebuilt the dizzy and had a great deal of hassle retuning the car, to get it running. In the end the answer was a Hall effect contact-less kit. At the same time I moved the new coil away from its standard position right next to the exhaust on the right hand inner wheel arch, to the other wheel arch. Rerouteing the cables ad adding in the feed for the Hall effect. Then I had great difficulty in gaining a set of copper cored HT leads with separate ends. Eventually achieved by sourcing cable in length at Oakley Poke Autojumble. I scrapped some old leads for ends. Once done the engine ran beautifully, for a 126 lump. However in the course of doing other jobs one new lead managed to get draped across the exhaust, and got melted. So this was the task remaining here. And to fit the Spark Plug rubber bungs to keep the cooling air in the cases til its exhausted out correctly. These engine have a tendancy to run hot if they can. I had already removed the obligatory cheap in-line filter. A course of much feul starvation on cars like these.

So with the new wires and parts fitted the engine ran up and sounded better than ever. The eventual plan here is to actually replace the Fiat engine with the superior flat twin from Steyr Puch, re-enginered to use, probably, 750cc barrels. This will need a few other mods, hopefully I can find a better cam set. There is a fancy exhaust to help. This might well up the available HP to at least a third more that the Fiat 650cc unit in a smoother, better reving engine. So I do not propose to do anything to the Fiat engine more than I have to.

I still cannot find any boot lock striker plates. A stupidly small pair of parts to keep the car off the road, but without sight of one, I cannot even make an alternative. The other issue is to get the windscreen, hard and soft tops to fit correctly. This means a visit to a specialist. As done right all should fit perfectly, a task that is probably beyond me. Clearly if the car is on the road, that is easier to achieve. Need to re-find the seat belts too.

But before we get there I think it will be prodent to check the front wheels, suspension and steering have been bolted together correctly, and not just to look good. If I can get this all done the car might make the Wem National.

Messerschmitt set, Goggo Darts, Heinkel 175, Fiat Jolly, Autobianchi, Fairthorpe Electron Minor, Borgward, Isuzu Trooper
Citroen BX 17TZD & GTI 16v
Held - MG Magnette ZB & 4/44
For sale - Vellam Isetta, Bamby, AC Type 70, Velorex, Church Pod, Reliant Mk5, KR200,  Saab 96, Bellemy Trials, Citroen BXs

Big Al

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Re: Autobianchi Bianchina Cabriolet
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2016, 06:46:05 AM »
Quick turnaround on eBay saw the parts needed arrive. The rear wheel bearing change was reasonably straight forward, with lashings of grease. The set removed showed evidence of water ingression. They had also clearly become overheated, probably due to the excess pressure applied by over tightening. Either way, the change was needed. The interesting element was that the hub was a late one, so not the original Autobianchi one.
I was not happy with the new thrust springs. My memory has them fit inside the hole in the stub axle. Thus the spring is captive and cannot slide sideways and get both jammed, and lock up, the sliding spline. The new ones are bigger. Methinks Mr Wrong-Parts has been busy selling crap. The new dust caps are spot on. So two probs to solve as the handbrake mech still defies fitting where it does not foul the return spring. Since this is a later hub assembly, I am now wondering if our original re-builder has mixed up the parts and used the wrong handbrake assembly. He was clearly a twit.

The 500 interior parts found in a local loft had been collected. The coconut style floor mat fits perfectly and looks 10 times better than the cut into three grey 126 carpet set. It removes the need for the miss matched front inner arch trim. I need to come up with a smart way of fixing the sides of the mat down, as the later mats were cut narrower than those for the Bianchi, then being covered with a sill trim. Since the door of the Bianchi is some 4 inches longer, and the sill trim of a different design, with the carpet set tucking around the flanges under, so flush, with the rubbers and edge, there is a gap where neither system exists to hold the mat in place. I think an ali extrusion with a hard rubber insert might be the answer, especially if I can find some red infill.
The rear seat is less of a success. It looks great in black, but the fit is a bit tight. Interestingly the 126 back squab is a better shape for the car, than the true 500 item (the 126 seat squab is completely wrong, and unusable). So I need to do a bit of research there. The rear quarter inner trims are completely different to the 500 as the Bianchi cockpit is shorter and more rounded, the door considerably longer. The original trim set was destroyed by fire. Pity it was not kept for reference, though. It would be handy to have the shapes and mounts to copy.
The seat belt mounts now line up with the interior. So that becomes a more simple task. I just hope the front seats come my way as the dirty grey patterned cloth 126 ones are a damned nuisance. Both seat frames are iffy, and they are not a perfect fit on the runners, nor in the car, for they get in the way with the excess stuffing and head rest. Comfy in the driving, but just not right. Folding forward they currently push the windscreen out!

A look at the bonnet catch mech has found another botch. So that whole arrangement needs to be pulled off, and the lever removed to return it to a pull action, The lever otherwise would be behind the correct interior. The result should, again, offer a simpler, period, smaller fitting to match the style of the car.

Once a set of interior and cards has been settled on I can think about ordering a set of colour matched period seat covers from Italy. It will greatly improve the overall look of the car for not a huge amount of money. Certainly butter than a hotchpotch of parts that do not really fit.
Messerschmitt set, Goggo Darts, Heinkel 175, Fiat Jolly, Autobianchi, Fairthorpe Electron Minor, Borgward, Isuzu Trooper
Citroen BX 17TZD & GTI 16v
Held - MG Magnette ZB & 4/44
For sale - Vellam Isetta, Bamby, AC Type 70, Velorex, Church Pod, Reliant Mk5, KR200,  Saab 96, Bellemy Trials, Citroen BXs

Big Al

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Re: Autobianchi Bianchina Cabriolet
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2016, 06:46:53 AM »
Sadly this project has hit the buffers. Mr Botch has created to much work to get done with all the other things I have to do.

All was revealed when the other side rear wheel bearing was changed. This was as easy as it can be with the exhaust stopping your second arm getting in simply. It showed the same symptoms as the first, and was a bitch to undo, far to tight. The brakes looked the same, untouched, as the others do. I cannot see anyway of routing the hand brake mechanism so it is not fouling the return spring. I pulled the official Fiat 126 Manual to see if it offered any extra info. The picture of the assembly showed it to be the same, but theirs was lined up, with next to no space round it. So is my set up a product of wear in use on a bit of rubbish design? I think a custom made bracing bracket will resolve the issue as I can bias the further link to be further in toward the backplate, giving some extra clearance. Such a simple solution, why am I looking at crap?

The real problem was the state of the drive shaft. It has half a spline drive left having been assembled without either a retaining clip, nor a thrust spring. The drive flange is even worse, as a result, being softer steel. No grease in evidence either. So the thing has eaten itself! Now as an Historic Fiat 500 type this car is on 19 mm drive shafts. It would seem that half the Fiat world is unaware of this, assuming everything is the later 24 mm. To add to the mix there are 18 mm and now modified 25 mm units. So it would seem that you need to know what your buying, as the sellers do not know what they are selling. But the trade has no 19 mm items. They have conversion kits to 24 mm or 25 mm, at a price. I am reluctant to bother as I have plans to change the gearbox to suit the replaced engine.
That leaves me with trying to find a spring and drive flange for the existing set up. I have a very good spare shaft complete with spring clip. However to fit it means taking the gearbox apart. As does the modified answer, mentioned. plus all that extra money. I do not have the time to do that job with all the other work I have to do. So once again a car has to go into mothballs as I have inherited a serious, or time consuming, problem. To add insult to injury the front seats I was after have been sold to a snipe bid. So I think that kills the chance of the Bianchina being on the road this year.

Nonetheless the car has its initial set of seat belts fitted, courtesy of Oddingley. There is a heck of a choice. Its not a car designed for seat belt use and it promises to be a tedious requirement. To be honest its the sort of car where I would prefer to take my chances of being thrown clear, in an accident. But of course we are not allowed to make such adult choices these days, Brexit or not.
Messerschmitt set, Goggo Darts, Heinkel 175, Fiat Jolly, Autobianchi, Fairthorpe Electron Minor, Borgward, Isuzu Trooper
Citroen BX 17TZD & GTI 16v
Held - MG Magnette ZB & 4/44
For sale - Vellam Isetta, Bamby, AC Type 70, Velorex, Church Pod, Reliant Mk5, KR200,  Saab 96, Bellemy Trials, Citroen BXs

Big Al

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Re: Autobianchi Bianchina Cabriolet
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2016, 07:46:25 AM »
Just a note to say I have a bit of luck. An ebayer turned out to have some misc old stock Fiat parts he coukd not positively ID. So I sent him details and spec. Turns out he has the drive parts I want. Price was half the going rate of the more modern version, so I bought a full pair of drive shaft elements, from diff to cushdrive, save I need one thrust spring. I actually only needed the one side flange. I am waiting to see if he has any more as I might buy for the shelf.

Got a bit on at the moment, so it will be a while before anything gets fitted, especially of the gearbox has to come out. Its suggested it doesn't, but the method is unclear.

For a common classic car I find the lack of expertise, both privately and by 'specialist' trade to be on a low level. Half the trade do not know what my car is. I go back to when I had the Weinsburg. None of them I contacted had heard of it. I have to say, there is a gaping opportunity there for anyone with a bit of umph about them to clear up. Do Fiat 500 and their derivatives properly. (Funnily enough the most knowledgeable guy I found specialised in 850 Sports and the larger specials based on 124/125 etc etc. He had very little in the way of 500 parts, but did know his stuff).

So will this car make Wem?

Messerschmitt set, Goggo Darts, Heinkel 175, Fiat Jolly, Autobianchi, Fairthorpe Electron Minor, Borgward, Isuzu Trooper
Citroen BX 17TZD & GTI 16v
Held - MG Magnette ZB & 4/44
For sale - Vellam Isetta, Bamby, AC Type 70, Velorex, Church Pod, Reliant Mk5, KR200,  Saab 96, Bellemy Trials, Citroen BXs