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Lou Trottier says he didn't intend for a full nuts-and-bolts restoration of his 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS, but it is slowly approaching that status.Lou Trottier/The Globe and Mail

Thank you for all the interest in receiving regular updates on my 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS, which I have aptly, yet without a significant amount of originality, labelled Project 308. The name may not be very creative, but I have actually made significant progress since I last mentioned it. The biggest news is the paint job. After four months of being in the care of my long-time friend Lawrence Partap, owner of Lawrence Auto Collison in Brampton, Ont., it has returned to me with a brilliant coat of Rosso Corsa – also known as paint code FER300, or Ferrari red. It really is a marvellous sight.

During those four months that I was without the car, I still had my hands full with multiple smaller tasks. The toughest of which was the repairing of the two doors. The car had been completely stripped of all glass and every trim piece possible before it had been sent for paint, but Lawrence further asked me to come and remove the doors so he could get the best possible access during paint prep.

What initially appeared to be a relatively easy task turned into a nearly impossible mission. We were attempting to leave one half of the door hinge on the body of the car to allow for easier alignment when reassembling. This is done by simply removing a hinge pin that is supposed to just pop out with little force. No such luck, as every one of these four pins was completely frozen in place by years of neglect and lack of lubrication. We then switched gears and reluctantly unbolted the complete door hinges from the body, and I took both doors back to my shop to finish changing out the hinge pins.

My plan was to also repair the car stereo speaker holes that had been grossly enlarged at some point in its history to accommodate massive door speakers. After reading various owner experiences online regarding stubborn Ferrari hinge pins, I knew I was in for a task. What ensued was hours of torture.

The car recently got a coat of Rosso Corsa – also known as paint code FER300, or Ferrari red.Lou Trottier/The Globe and Mail

Sadly, working on a vintage Ferrari is sometimes no different than working on any other make, despite what people think about its pedigree. After successfully removing all door hinge pins, I set about fabricating and shaping sheet metal repair panels that copied the original speaker pockets and TIG welded them in place.

Currently, the car is sitting on my hoist with the complete rear chassis stripped of all components. Rear brake calipers have been rebuilt, and all suspension control arms have been sandblasted, powder-coated and bushings replaced. Even the rear chassis itself is receiving a treatment. It will be stripped and painted as I prepare to start bolting components back on, which will include new upgraded performance-oriented suspension springs and shocks.

I didn’t start out for this to be a full nuts-and-bolts restoration, but it is slowly approaching this status. Like I said in one of my first writings about Ferrari ownership – there is no such thing as a cheap Ferrari. Fortunately for me, this is a labour of love, and I don’t have to pay myself – otherwise I’d be in trouble.

Your automotive questions, answered

I just tuned in to your latest update/discussion on your Puma EV conversion. I have been trying to find a way to convert an old Austin Healey Bug-Eyed Sprite to electric. I have been searching for a shop in southwestern Ontario that can help with this conversion. Ideally, we can place my body shell and interior over an EV platform. Your discussion about using a wrecked Leaf as a donor car is interesting. Where can I get my hands on more information and a shop that can help out? (Regretfully, I am a bit mechanically challenged)

Geoff C

Thank you, Geoff. I do regularly receive correspondence about the conversion of classic cars to electric, further confirming to me that additional investigation into this field is warranted. Unfortunately, our Puma EV conversion is still on hold. The pandemic caused me to shift my technician resources to focus solely on keeping my business in the black. In other words, fixing cars pays the bills, while toying with an EV conversion does not. I think we are all feeling a bit optimistic, and that a return-to-normal status is just around the corner. At which point I’ll dive back into our conversion.

In regard to your EV quest, I don’t believe placing your Healy body shell on an EV platform is the answer. The amount of effort required to fit and piece it all together is cost prohibitive. The path I would be looking at would be to keep the whole car intact and substitute an electric motor in place of the internal combustion engine (ICE). Batteries and necessary electronics would be placed strategically throughout the vehicle. My Nissan Leaf donor idea is only to source all the required parts, but not to use the chassis.

The only shop that I am aware of in Ontario that does this as a business is Toronto-based Epic Car Conversions, but that is just from my internet-based research. I have had no dealings with them.

I own a 2007 Audi A8L with 190,000 km. The car has had no mechanical or electrical issues. I service it every spring at a German car specialist and recently spent $1,400 on new tires. I drive the car about 10,000 km per year. Every spring before returning from Mexico, I give thought to replacing it with a new car and when I get back, look and drive it, I second guess myself and wonder why I would sell it as it’s worth probably no more than $8,000. My question is, am I at risk of having a major repair issue that could cost more than the value of the car? There’s not a lot information about A8′s historical or common problems because there are so few around.

John H

I jokingly refer to older European sedans as “cliff cars,” meaning they are incredible to own, until they aren’t. There is always a moment when these sedans fall off a cliff and into a cesspool of financial misery.

Your question reminds me of a relatable story. Several years ago, another A8 owner came in looking for a repair estimate. The owner loved their car and wanted to keep it on the road as long as they could. They provided us with a laundry list of items to check. They didn’t tell us they were seeking a second opinion, but I could easily see they were shopping around, as the items on their list were far too obscure for the average consumer to randomly come up with.

After inspecting and confirming the car was in a general state of disrepair, we provided an estimate that was close to $8,000. I was sure that we had just wasted several hours of our life providing this detailed assessment. To my astonishment, they eagerly gave us a go-ahead. Cautiously, I took over from our service adviser and called them to express my concern that spending this much on a car of this age and value might be a waste of money. I strongly suggested that they would be better served to invest that $8,000 into a newer vehicle. They would hear none of it. They were fixing this car regardless of my warnings and they’d rather have us fix it as we would be saving them $5,000. Confused, I asked them where they had come up with the $5,000 savings number. They provided me with a copy of the $13,000 dealer estimate they had received two weeks earlier. So, John, I can’t specifically answer your question, but yes, it will most likely fall off a cliff at some point.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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