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lou's garage

My original plan for the car was a complete paint job and then a quick going over to get it back on the road as soon as possible, but I have now accepted the reality that every single part of this car is going to have to be removed and refurbished.Lou Trottier/The Globe and Mail

The bulk of my career has revolved around performing all manner of regular, retail automotive repairs. In other words, vehicles arrive in the morning and hopefully leave at the end of the day, fixed. However, careers and visions can shift over time. Perhaps it is age. Or maybe it’s an unwillingness to be held to a never-relenting timetable. Lately, I can feel a change in my priorities and my preferences for which tasks I wish to perform daily. While I have on occasion dabbled in minor vintage car and restoration style repairs, restoring my 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS would appear to be the catalyst for sweeping changes.

No, I didn’t warm up with something a little more common, or less discernible. I had to go full-in with a Ferrari restoration. Good or bad, I thought it would be interesting to provide updates here so everyone could join me on that restoration journey.

So, how’s it going so far? My initial thought as I try and explain how it is progressing, is how does one quantify the value of finicky? During the mid-to-late 70s’, Ferrari was attempting to migrate away from exclusively hand building their vehicles and instead install a production line. While it’s clear that the transition was eventually successful, there were certainly growing pains along the way. For example, chassis components on my car are not perfectly symmetrical from side to side. This lack of symmetry means that the body panels that are fastened to them are also not truly identical in their attachments. The rivets that hold underside panels in place have a somewhat arbitrary placement because no jig was used to guide the rivet drill holes. It’s almost like it was done on the fly. I only mention these things because I happen to own a Porsche that is dozen years older than the Ferrari, yet it is revolutionary for the time in its design and construction. I now fondly think of the Ferrari as a piece of rolling art and the Porsche as an exercise in engineering.

Most of the underside of the Ferrari has been cleaned, corrosion-treated and repainted.Lou Trottier/The Globe and Mail

My original plan for the car was a complete paint job and then a quick going over to get it back on the road as soon as possible. I have now accepted the reality that every single part of this car is going to have to be removed and refurbished. Since my last update here, every piece of the suspension, including all bushings and brake components, have been completely rebuilt and are happily back in place on the car. Most of the underside has been cleaned, corrosion-treated and repainted. It’s now considered a “roller” as I have it resting back on its four wheels and tires. Next up is the cooling system refurbishment, after which I’ll start on the interior of the car.

What I’m not in love with, however, is the cost of the parts. Once you move past the most common parts like brake pads, you’re met with specifically-manufactured-by-Ferrari parts, and the Ferrari pieces cost at least four times the amount as the same piece on a Porsche. That said, I don’t care because I’m loving every minute of it. I have given up on the idea of an estimated completion date. This isn’t a financial investment, but a delightful and inspiring personal adventure.

Every piece of the suspension, including all bushings and brake components, have been completely rebuilt and are happily back in place on the car.Lou Trottier/The Globe and Mail


Your automotive questions, answered

Hi Lou,

We recently purchased a new Subaru Outback with all the bells and whistles. This is the first car we have bought that wasn’t a mid or low-level model. We really like the Outback and it’s a pleasure to drive. However, I sometimes wonder about the level and complexity of all the technology that is fitted to a modern vehicle. I appreciate that many of these new features are safety improvements although some can simply be considered creature comforts. One example is heated seats. In previous years there was a button that had " Off, low and medium” Pretty simple. Now I have to go to the main display unit and scroll through to make my choices which takes more attention and steps.

I often wonder how some people deal with all the complexities of a modern vehicle. I am a reasonably technically minded person and worked in a technical field until I retired. I can’t imagine how people with little or no technical ability manage dealing with some of the tech in a new vehicle, Even after all the time I have spent trying to understand this vehicle I still get dings and alerts while driving that I have no idea about. Trying not to be a Luddite but it’s hard at times.

Fred S, Nanaimo B.C

Thanks Fred,

I completely agree with you. The controls on most brand-new vehicles are becoming increasingly cumbersome to digest. At the same time, I also know that this is not going to change any time soon. Manufacturers compete against each other trying to win over a sale converting you to their brand. I imagine the theory being to throw as much tech as they possibly can at a new vehicle, thereby beefing up their sales brochure so they don’t get left behind by others.

However, just like our cellphones, smart home thermostats and speakers, we will soon be able to speak to our vehicles to manipulate and control those secondary tasks that are currently taking our eyes off the road.


Hi Lou

I have taken to driving my 2008 Lexus RX400 in low gear as most of my driving is low speed in traffic and my supposition is I’m saving my brake pads by using my engine brake. Is this correct and am I harming the engine/transmission??

Tony B, Vancouver

Thank you, Tony.

Your Lexus transmission typically has a longevous life and I doubt you are hurting it, even though it was not designed to be operated continually in low gear. It has been my experience that two different customers driving the exact same vehicle can expect vastly different brake life. With that in mind, driving style is far more important than the use of engine braking in passenger vehicles. Leaving ample space between you and the car in front of you and not racing to the next street light will usually make the biggest difference.

But to answer your specific question, yes, technically you may get a few more kilometres of brake life using your technique. I would also suggest however that you are losing any potential savings due to poorer fuel economy. Your transmission control module is designed to switch gears so as to keep the engine revving in its optimal fuel/power range. By keeping it in low gear you are preventing that from happening and thereby hurting fuel economy.


Some questions have been condensed. Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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