It’s been over two years since my last blog update and four years to the day (November 1) since I proudly posted on FaceBook that I bought this car, my first real Alpina. I say first because I now also own a 1981 B7 turbo e12 (www.alpinab7.com). I bought the B7 largely because it is just such a cool car; but, I also partly bought it because this project had stalled to a point that I wanted a cool vintage that I could drive while trying to get the e21 back in on the road.
The pandemic has helped many car enthusiasts, including me, by giving them time to wrench on their project car. Happily, most (if not all) of the attention was focused on getting the B7 in better shape. The car was not well-cared for over the years and, while it was a decent driver-condition car, it needed a bunch of TLC. And the pandemic kept me at home where I could order parts on-line and wrench on the car, giving it the much-needed attention.
The pandemic, however, did not help this project. Stu’s shop was negatively effected by the pandemic, losing mechanics (not because the virus) and forcing him to focus on his day-to-day business and not follies like restoring old Alpinas. He does, after all, have a shop to run, customers to keep happy and on the road, and bills to pay with normal, more profitable work. So, the C1 was the neglected red-haired step child. The C1 had been painted but not reassembled (Stu sold his body shop and the car was moved to the main shop, but mostly sat, waiting for Stu to have free time to put it back together).
I got to a certain point with the B7—sort of a go big or go home point, where the car should just be driven as-is or take a big step in restoration. Regardless of the path chosen, I passed the point of tinkering on it in my garage, as going “big” meant it taking it back to the turbo specialists who would make the fuel injection more reliable—a job way, way above my pay-grade. At those cross-roads with the B7, I turned my attention to the C1, which began with a call to Stu.
I figured the best way to get this project going forward was for me to go up to Sacramento and start assembling the car myself. Before I could make that suggestion Stu says “you should come up here and do the easier stuff yourself and help me do the harder stuff.” I jumped at it and we made a plan. That was a few weeks back and I’ve gone up three times (so far) in the past two weeks.
Our first job was putting the “new” dash in the car. The original dash had been sent to Just Dashes for repairs, which looked great but the fit was tight. With me, Stu, and his 18-year-old shop helper pushing and pulling, we got it in.
Stu worked on installing the new the headliner.
The three of us put in the windshield.
And I bolted up the valance panel.
Much of my time was spent organizing the parts taken off in disassembly, which took a good amount of time. The guys at the body shop took it apart assuming they’d be putting it back together immediately so the disassembly was not organized in anticipation of a multi-year project. Finding everything more than two years later was (and continues to be) a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. While searching for unlabeled, haphazardly placed parts is not particularly fun, the project is: all my past restorations have been mechanical or interior work. Reassembling a car striped for paint is a new experience. And a good portion of the satisfaction of a project for me is the connection, the bond, one gets with a car when restoring it. And I’m feeling a special bond with his project, with its new (to me) challenges; challenges akin to building a car anew.
Our plan is for me to keep going up to Sacramento until we get the car to a point that it can be put on the back of a trailer, driven back down to my house where I’ll finish the work.