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volvo p1800 into ferrari 275gtb spyder: v12, 5spd, tube chassis

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  • volvo p1800 into ferrari 275gtb spyder: v12, 5spd, tube chassis

    The Ferrari 275 model, especially the rare 1/10 gtb4 nart spyder, has long been a favorite of mine. After building a handful of bikes and modern import cars I've been itching to build something unique from the ground up. I decided to pursue my dream car, or a close approximation thereof. I wanted to tackle this project with a limited budget and use creativity to save on the work as well. I did not want to start 100% from scratch. I have a lot of posts following this one that will catch you up to speed on the project.

    The project began 2 or 3 years ago with reference gathering. After reading about a p1800 being used to create two 250gt lusso replicas for the tower heist film, I soon realised the p1800 coupe could be a suitable donor for a 275 as well. Unlike the tower heist car, which was a non functioning 1:1 model, my p1800 would be a complete driving replica. The donor would be used for the floor, firewall, dash, windshield frame, rear suspension pickup points/wheel wells, inner doors and door glass, and of course the vin # to make getting it on the road a simpler process.
    Here are a few photoshop pics that helped me figure out the volvo as a good donor. As you can see the two cars are proportionally very similar, even the windshield frame is close. The challenge that presented itself from early on was that the location of the volvo's greenhouse was pushed a lot further forward than the ferrari since it was a 4 seat 4 cylinder sports car rather than a 12cyl 2 seat gt car like the 275. You will see shortly on how I repositioned the front and rear axles in relation to the greenhouse.

  • #2
    The next step was to find a reasonably priced p1800 that I would not feel terrible about butchering. In October 2014 I came across an 1800 on a specialist site that was located at a metal recycler's yard just 30 minutes away. The price was fair at $1500, and the car turned out to be very solid. Someone had started a restoration on it which had ended at the disassembly phase. The body had been sanded for paint and surface rust had began to develop on the body panels. It was basically a rolling shell with an engine and trans and all the other parts had been stacked on a pallet and sat in the weather for 6 months +. This ruined pretty much all of the interior. This car... I did not feel bad about repurposing. I could also remove and sell what was left to help others complete their restorations of their p1800s and recoup my money on the purchase. Here's the car as found:

    Here it was back at my house finally. A little rust treatment and spray paint would hold it over until I could strip it down. I threw on some mitsubishi starion wheels so I could roll it around too.


    • #3
      With the donor secured I was still on the fence about the powerplant. I know I wanted something that would have a vintage feel and sound but a real ferrari powerplant was out of the budget. I looked into a lot of inline 6s- bmw and datsun L series, but this car would really not be correct without a 12. After going between a jag and bmw v12, the jag ended up being the easiest to secure and they are more available. When they are stripped down do they ever look the part too.
      I purchased a rough running 85 xjs for $500. I knew the motor was strong it just needed to be cleaned up, with new seals, water pump, that kind of thing. The fuel injection system will definitely need to be gone through as well.

      I got to work quickly removing the engine, ecu, wiring harness, and any other bits I thought I would need to keep.

      engine harness over 20feet long!


      • #4

        car sold for $450 to a fella in florida who says a coyote engine is goingn in there... good luck to him!

        this thing is darn filthy

        after a pressure wash it's a little cleaner

        new fittings welded on the oil cooler return and feed and air rail holes on intakes welded up

        oil pans cleaned, painted, and resealed. Front crank seal also replaced (not pictured). more work on the motor in a bit, but back to the actual car...


        • #5
          This point didn't really happen until about 6 or 8 months ago. Life was in the way and priorities changed, but I was sure excited to get into the tear down. The objective was to remove the engine, trans, interior and trim, lights and and what sheet metal I could to sell on and help recoup some money. I'm glad to say I'm pretty much broken even on the car at this point, and I have basically all that I need for myself. Here's a few photos documenting the tear down process. First I picked up some new wheels to roll it around on though. bolt on vintage appliance reverse spoke 14x7 wheels. They are in amazing shape and almost NOS. Picked up on craigslist for a few hundred and threw some cheap tires on there for mock up.

          I will figure a way to add those chrome spinners later. back to the tear down

          front clip, rear quarters, doors removed. This was done carefully and methodically, drilling out hundreds of spot welds to save the panels where I could. The car, floors included, are surprisingly rot free for an 1800.

          ahhh now we have a "convertible".


          • #6
            Since I decided to build a "chassis" underneath the unibody structure I had to plan out what I could remove and when (namely the inner and outer rockers and roof) to ensure the body did not twist.

            The first step was to weld in a new rear subframe. The factory one was stamped sheetmetal and incredibly flimsy. It was also too far forward and would be in the way of the seats for the shortened greenhouse.


            what I'm replacing it with

            welded (enough) into place for now


            • #7
              In order for the finished car to be a good approximation, I had to move the rear axle forward 10" effectively. Obviously with what's left of the car I couldn't just cut 10" out of the floor and push it back together. The way I approached this was to use that new subframe I welded in to my advantage.

              The inner and outer rockers needed to first be cut out so I could replace with 2x3 1/8" wall tubing. I cut the rockers approx 10" short so they would not hit the front wheels later on when the tub was shortened. I welded the back ends of these sections of tubing to the subframe which I had welded in place earlier. Then, I welded sections of angle iron on the flat areas where the rockers used to be, above and below the 2x3 tubing.

              This angle iron would keep everything square when I removed the 10" section of the floor.


              • #8
                This then allowed me to squish the front and back half back together. Ratchet straps came in handy here.

                closing the gap

                floor tacked back into place. added a little bead on the bottom of the a pillar where it touches the 2x3 tubing, and underneath as well. It's effectively 1 solid car again.


                • #9
                  Because the factory frame rails underneath are stamped, they would not provide enough strength for the vehicle. Another problem, the front axle sat 8" too far back if I wanted it to be close to the ferrari. Logically, I'd build some frame rails out of 2x3 that would tie back into the subframe and outer rockers. This would allow for extrra rigidity and I could place the front axle back in the desired location along the new rails.

                  I would start by marking and making some pie cuts to bend the rails for the appropriate 6" rise at 30 degrees.

                  wedge removed, prepped and beveled for welding

                  If you have never tig welded steel it really likes to push and pull with all the heat, so clamping to extra tubing was necessary


                  • #10

                    building 2 identical rails turned out to be very challenging and I had to "math" my way out of it.

                    In the end, I was successful; however.

                    next, I had to keep everything square, shim, clamp, as necessary so I could temporarily weld the two rails together to install on the car.


                    • #11
                      At this point, I had to go back to the body tub and remove the front and rear axles, front inner wings, and factory stamped frame rails under the car. This meant more plasma cutting, grinding, drilling spot welds, metal prep, to remove everything forward of the firewall.

                      This was pretty much as "little" of the car as there would be for the entire project

                      This will need to be later addressed. I will rebuild most of the firewall for bellhousing clearance anyhow


                      • #12
                        Next was removing the stamped rails underneath. So far this has been the dirtiest, grossest, job yet. so much dust, tar, rust flakes, metal sparks, and oil saturated chunks of undercoating got everywhere.

                        weld through etch primer for good measure

                        mocking up the main rails


                        • #13
                          Before welding the rails to the floor and rear subframe, I wanted to create the gussett pieces to weld the rocker tube to the frame rails themselves. The compound angles were challenging but I feel that I got the fit to be pretty decent

                          now repeat for the other side...


                          • #14
                            What a beautiful project...Bravo 275NART.Love the way you are thinking & doing things....


                            • #15
                              Now everything could have its final prep and be welded together

                              The frame rails have been left long intentionally. They will be trimmed later when the engine and radiator are mocked up


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