Project Plumbing + Fiat Fumble + Happy Day - Mick's Workshop

By: Mick McCrudden

Mick is toiling away in the workshop and providing you with the car advice you need

Project Plumbing + Fiat Fumble + Happy Day - Mick's Workshop
The VK wagon build is making progress

Project Plumbing

Despite appearances, we’re making progress with the VK wagon build – you might recall it’s a Berlina which now has a 355 stroker in the engine bay, backed by a four-speed auto.

With a radiator built by Aussie Desert Coolers apparently on the way, we’re now getting into the nitty gritty of the detail in the engine bay. So I’m ordering bits and getting ready to make up assorted plumbing.

The first challenge is the power-steering hoses and I need a good range of connectors that allow me to tackle different angles for a good fit. I need to get the hoses running from the rack to the pump in what happens to be a pretty limited space.

Then, of course, we’ll be putting in plumbing from the oil cooler (which we’re incorporating into the radiator) to the transmission. 

There’s a fair bit riding on placing the radiator, as that’s when I’ll call the air-conditioning fella and get him to run us through placement of hoses.


Here’s a little tip for you builders out there: All the fasteners are AN6, so one spanner will be enough to deal with all the plumbing, including the fuel lines. In fact, I reckon about six spanners would do the whole car! That’s something you learn through experience.

One of the aspects we’ve been discussing is whether or not to eventually paint the car. I think we’ve decided to leave it. The paint is a long way from being show quality, but it’s okay and would respond well to a bit of a tidy-up and polish. The thinking at the moment is it will be a working car, so having something that shows a bit of wear will be just fine.

It’s going to be a nice thing when it’s finished, with power steering, air-con and plenty of power. Every time I work on it I get a strong urge to slam shut the workshop doors and keep it. Though Guido, who commissioned the car, may have something to say about that … 

Fiat Fumble

I read your article ‘Tiny Town’ (issue 487) and was surprised that you mixed up a Fiat 500 Giardiniera with a Fiat 600 Multipla.

The 500 Giardiniera is the station wagon version of the air-cooled two-cylinder 500 sedan, while the 600 Multipla is the people mover based on the water-cooled four-cylinder Fiat 600.


Don’t listen to Guido. It’s the 500 Giardiniera not the 600 Multipla.

The Multipla is quite a bit larger and a completely different product line to the Giardiniera.

The Giardiniera has the twin-cylinder air-cooled engine laid flat to give a nearly flat floor as expected in a station wagon, whilst the Fiat 500 sedan has the engine mounted vertically.

I have owned several examples of both 500s, which are fun little Italian cars to thrash along as you are not going very fast and amongst 500 owners, one can include a certain Michael Schumacher.

Barry Batagol

Mick says...

Ah yep, we got our Fiats muddled. Actually, I’m blaming Guido for this – he was the one who blurted out "Multipla" and no-one thought to challenge it. We’d have one of each, thanks …

Happy Days

I’m just catching up with your section in the November issue - oh, the memories!

Back in the day I ran HK Monaros, then VG and VJ Valiants, both motors you’ve built I’d have wanted.

Later, my first new car was a 1985 Skyline Silhouette which developed a very noisy diff not long after purchase. I became paranoid when every time I grabbed a service manager from any Nissan dealership I was passing, the car would then be as quiet as a Rolls! Only after trading the thing in frustration, did Nissan take ownership of what apparently was a common problem … no good to me then!

Finally, l don’t remember any column-shift car I’ve driven having a pattern shown – surely, if you have to look at the gear stick you shouldn’t be on the road.

Love the magazine.

Tim Fruin

Mick says...

The Skyline issue took a surprisingly long time to sort itself out, with people at first suspecting it was the components. It was, in fact, a fault in the assembly of the crown wheel and pinion, where it was set up too tight from the factory.

People went and changed bearings and went to all sorts of trouble, missing the real issue. Once it was corrected, they were a beautiful car. They all got recalled and fixed.

I know what you’re saying regarding column-shifts and if it’s a normal three-speed, I’d agree. But we have seen patterns shown on four- and five-speed versions.

How much for the Hotrod?

Here’s a puzzler for you, Mick. I’ve been offered a 1930s Plymouth-based hotrod project, which looks like it has the body largely done and has a second-generation 426 Hemi V8 in the nose.

There’s a fair bit of work in finishing it, but the basics seem to be there.

How do you go about valuing it?

Jim Cromwell

Mick says...

The answer is you can’t  – it’s the proverbial ‘how long is a piece of string’ question. What it will come down to is finding that middle ground that you and the seller can accept, as there really is no other reference point.

Much of the value will be tied up in that Hemi motor. They’re highly prized and in big demand.

One piece of advice on this for anyone who is considering embarking on a project: don’t add up the invoices. Never! Keep your head in the sand – it’s the easiest way to sleep at night. Doing a good job with a one-off build will cost money, which is probably more than the car is actually worth. That’s just how it works.

Another tip, work out in advance who has to approve the final product, whether it be a VASS engineer or roadworthy inspector or both. Talk to them about what you’re planning and get their advice in advance. It’s worth paying for the information.

Queensland is a much better place than Victoria to build and register a hotrod at the moment, as the rules are more sensible and avoid doubling up on inspections. Victoria’s regs are ridiculous.

In any case, good luck with it.

Beauty Benzes

Hi Mick. I’m currently looking out for a car and have kind of decided on a W202 Mercedes-Benz, so we’re talking about the 1990s cars. 

There are still a lot out there and I’m prepared to look at anything from a C180 through to a C280.

Do you have any variant that you lean towards? Oh, and some advice on what to look out for. 

Jamie Dorset

Mick says...

I like the 280s and think they’re a great little package. Both I and Guido have owned them and think highly of them.

The 280 V6 is lively (noticeably more so than the 240) and they’re a really great car.

One Achilles heel is if the ignition barrel goes, you’re up for big money to replace it via Mercedes-Benz – up to $2500! However, I see there is now a service being offered by a mob called Australian ECU Repair, which quotes more like $550.

Outside that glitch, they’re a great car and can be serviced by any knowledgeable mechanic, so they don’t have to cost a fortune to run. They’re bulletproof.

If you get good maintenance records with it, jump on it. Mileage isn’t the issue most people think it is and they put too much emphasis on the kilometres. By all means if you have two equivalent cars and one has lower kays, buy it. But don’t run away if it has lots of use, so long as it has been well looked-after. They’re a well-built car.

Zed Time

Mick, I’m hunting around for an older Nissan coupe, say 280 or 300ZX from the early eighties. There seems to be big choice of variants out there and my budget doesn’t run to an early 240Z.


If there is a flaw with the mighty Nissan 300ZX, it will be with the electricals.

Any advice on what to look for?

Darren Gilbert

Mick says...

I’ll confess I’m not so much of a fan of that era Zed car. The drivelines are bulletproof and the engineering is generally solid, but they came with issues to do with the wiring harnesses. 

Mechanically, they’re great, but some of the ancillaries can be a challenge. That’s one model I’d be tempted to let a sparky have a look at. Get the air-con checked out while you have it. 

Got a problem? 

Want some advice on a build or a potential car purchase? Heck, we’ll even tackle long distance diagnosis. Drop Mick a line at

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