Fiat 600D Reader Resto

By: Ross Bogaart with Chris Thompson, Unique Cars magazine, Photography by: Lou Martin

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Ross Bogaart didn’t recognise this little Italian when he first saw it. Cue one of the longest rescue missions ever undertaken

Fiat 600D Reader Resto
It may be little, but the Fiat 600D has plenty of presence.

I was out walking my dogs and I saw this sitting on the side of the road in some long grass. I felt sorry for it… it needed a home. It appealed to me, even though I had no idea what it actually was when I first saw it. Most people haven’t got a clue. They think it’s a small VW.

At first it was in a million pieces, all of it packed up into boxes in the car. It had windows which protected it from the rain, but that was about it. It was just a shell. Before I got to it, it had the floor cut out and replaced with new metal. I’m led to believe a guy from Amberley Air Base who built bodies for the planes owned it. He did all that work and then gave up on the project. The next guy who owned it kept looking at it and procrastinating, but he just couldn’t get his head around it because it was too much work. I must admit, I was close to that too. I was just able to put my mind to it and get stuck in. The way I planned it was by writing a massive list of tasks and just ticking them off. And finally, here it is. The finished product.

The reason for building it is that it was going to be a bit of fun. Something different. Everyone’s got big V8s in Chevys and whatnot, but you just don’t really see little hot-rods. They’re just not around because nobody seems to build them. Maybe they can’t be bothered, who knows?

The Fiat has been completely modified. For a start, the guards have all been flared, sills have been lowered and it’s got a spoiler on the front. Interior-wise it’s been completely redone. Different gauges, massive stereo, the back seat’s gone purely because of the stereo. Plus, the motor protrudes into the back a little bit, so it wouldn’t have been very comfortable for anyone to sit in there.

I didn’t get the motor with it, all I got were the gearbox and diff and so on with the standard wheels. I put a Suzuki twin-cam fuel injected turbo engine in it, which I got from Suzisport. It’s been completely rebuilt because it was a project motor built for one of their cars that was never run. What they did was take an 800cc block and marry a 660 Cappuccino head to it with fly cut pistons to make it all work. There was a single cam that was hooked up to the gearbox, but the twin cam was more appealing to me.

I had to re-do all the brakes so it’s got Skyline brakes all-round. If you make something go hard, you’ve got to make it stop hard. Everything’s been done, every nut, bolt, bushes, you name it. The front end is completely as-standard, so it’s got a trans-leaf spring in the front which is very unusual. I’ve never seen that before on a car.

The start-up was a bit of a mystery. What was going to happen? It’s got the standard computer in it, I had a friend wire everything up for me, and on the start it fired up first try.

It’s taken me 12 years to do, as I’ve had numerous troubles with panel beaters. A mate of mine painted the car for me, and he’s done a really nice job with it. It’s a pretty nice paint job. It was mostly just trouble with panel beaters. It went away to one panel beater for seven years, and when I got it back off him he told me I was an impatient so-and-so. And I’d paid him to do the job.

Needless to say, that’s a story I don’t want to go into because it doesn’t make me feel very good. An MG down the back of the shop and, call me stupid, but the exact same thing happened with a different guy. I paid him, sent the car away, and got it back exactly seven years later. Once I got the car back from the panel beaters… well the rest of it took me about a year. I had to build or make almost everything for it.

I did get a friend of mine to make the dash. It’s fibreglass now, but I almost left it as a steel dash. I changed my mind because it was a bit dangerous… You kinda want a bit of padding in case someone hits their head onto it. I think it looks a bit better than steel, too.

The interior was done by Dave at Amax up the road from me, and I think he did a nice job. For what it was, I mean, because he had nothing to work with – no interior at all. He had to make everything for it, which was a big job in itself. The pedals are pretty much the same as standard, but I had to put a Suzuki master cylinder in with the Skyline brakes – something which I wasn’t sure would work without a booster. I didn’t know if it was going to pull up hard, but it does. It stops on a dime.

The wheels were off a Honda Prelude. I went for those because they’ve got that flat look which appeals to me, but I don’t know if it appeals to anyone else… But that’s it, isn’t it?

I love the look of the car… It’s just a real head-turner. There’s just nothing else like it around. I mean sure, you’ve got all the big boys, but I’m into little cars. It’s just a bit too small while I’m getting in, and then it’s pretty bumpy for me to drive. I’m 57-years-old and not getting any younger.

It also corners like a bitch… it actually scares you because you come into corners too hot since everything’s so stable. All the weight’s on the back so, if I could keep it, I’d probably lower the front end a little and put a bit of weight in the front.

The other issue was the spare wheel – I couldn’t buy one for it, and I couldn’t fit one into it. The fuel tank is in the front, so I had to get a space saver. It’s quite an interesting fit.

When I wanted to get it mod-plated I didn’t know what to do, because everything’s been changed. When I approached the engineer, his eyes went like saucers.

Still, he took photos of everything and eventually gave it the thumbs up and put a plate on it.

My son went to register it, but Main Roads had never heard of it. They tried to look it up but nothing was there, so they had to make a completely new listing for that car. It’s the only one I know of in Queensland that’s been registered. There are a few others around, one guy has about eight but I don’t know him personally. His are all in pieces, but he sells nothing. Apparently one’s a rally car which he doesn’t rally, and one’s a road car which he doesn’t drive. Or so I’m told. This is the reason I’m putting mine up for sale… Because I don’t drive it. It’s just a bit uncomfortable for me, so I’m going to let someone else enjoy it.

This little thing, when you drive it down the street, turns everybody’s heads. They’ve all got thumbs out the windows and everybody gathers around it when you pull up. I didn’t do it for that reason, I just like little cars, but it’s a nice plus. It’s a good feeling.

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