by John Babos



The Lighter Side of Owning a Ferrari

The Ammeter Adventure




A while back during one of the clubs events, I was talking to Dave Helms from Scuderia Rampante about our little Dino.  Dave mentioned that he came across a few Dinos in his lifetime that burned due to an underrated ammeter.  He suggested that if I had some time in the future, I should maybe check the ammeter out and/or have it upgraded.  So a few months later, the weather turned into a cold cloudy misty day, there was nothing on the television (Crystal and I have “Peasant Vision,” just the major networks; no cable or dish. It’s not that bad really. I never grew up with much television so I didn’t become dependant upon it.  However, I did miss many of the classics like “Leave it to Gofer, and “Milligan’s Island”). So, I thought I’d go into the garage and remove the ammeter, perform a quick inspection and assess whether or not to replace it.  I guessed it would take about an hour to remove the steering wheel, release the four thumbscrews on the dash, unfasten the ammeter, drink a few glasses of wine and work in some meaningful interruptions.

            The Dino steering wheel is attached to the column with six allen head screws that would have to be removed.  The first four came out rather easily, but the heads on the last two were stripped.  The allen wrench turned without success, the holes were rounded not allowing the bite required to loosen them.  After a few minutes I thought I would jam a larger allen wrench into the hole, creating the force I needed to release the screws, but that just made the holes worse.  After a few minutes of unabated four letter words I decided to step away for a while, drink a glass of wine and wait for the solution to present itself.  And sure enough the idea came to me.  I would use the Easy-Outs I purchased from ACME Freight a while back.   I drilled an ever so small pilot hole into the stripped screw head, inserted the Easy-Out and twisted.  Then I twisted a little harder.  Then I twisted even harder still. And then I twisted harder still again. That’s when the snap of the breaking Easy-Out resonated throughout the garage.  At that point I spewed forth a string of vulgarities that flowed from my garage out into my neighbor hood and as far as I know is still headed east.

            I knew that the broken Easy-Out was super hardened steel but I decided to try to drill the metal fragment from the screw.  After about twenty minutes of smoke I realized that my drills weren’t going to do the job.

            My next door neighbor Dick is a machinist, so I figured I’d ask him for advice.  Grabbing a beer out of the ‘frig, (nice gesture on my part), I headed over to Dick’s house which is about a quarter of a mile away. When Dick saw me he said he heard my cursing over his milling machine and asked if I was working on one of my Ferraris again. I gave him the details, offered him the beer and listened while he told me what to do.  He suggested I use his acetylene torch, heat the allen head screw for a few minutes then pound the remains of the Easy-Out with an eight pound sledge.  I told him this was a delicate operation on a rare Dino steering wheel and column and that wouldn’t do.  He thanked me for the beer and escorted me to the door with a “Good luck. Let me know what happens.”

            I was then four hours into the job, the steering wheel wasn’t off and I was at a loss.  With my mechanical ego in hand I decided to just quit for the day and think about it for a while. Heck, I would ask one of my fellow rocket scientists what to do, surely they would know.  So the next day at lunch I posed the problem to them. Neil, a renowned chemical engineer suggested that I perform a spectral analysis on the differences of the metal constituents, apply Hydrofocaloniate acid in precise droplets to the remnants of the Easy-Out, wait a week and remove the steering wheel. He also added that the acid was extremely toxic as well as corrosive and with the correct paper work and EPA safety inspections, I could probably get the permit needed to purchase the stuff sometime during the following year. I thought I better ask Jim, a renowned mechanical engineer.  He suggested that I just drill out everything around the hole, break off the steering wheel from the column and get a new one on Ebay. Yeah, I told him I’d consider it.  Dan, a renowned physicist suggested that I use the concentrated beam of a Borine-Xenon Chemical Laser and disintegrate the remains of the Easy-Out.  The Borine-Xenon Chemical Laser is still in the theoretical stages but he assured me a prototype would be available in the next three years however,  I would have to plug it into a 44.87899 Giga Watt power source.  I thanked each and every one of them and recalled how everything looks like a nail when you’re a hammer.

            Later that day, Crystal saw me sitting in the Dino, staring at the steering wheel and looking like I just lost my best friend.  When I told her my dilemma, she said, “I have a high speed flex-shaft with hardened precision diamond bits that I used to cut and facet gemstones back in my jewelry days.  Why don’t you try that?”

            “Well why not, what have I got to lose?”  She set the high speed device up and with a magnifier I watched as the hardened steel from the Easy-Out vanished.  Within minutes the steering wheel was off and a few minutes later so was the dash.  All of my second thoughts about whether I should have even started this adventure were put to rest when I noticed the charred residue and melted plastic heat wrap on the rear terminal of the ammeter.

            I sent the ammeter in and thanked Crystal again for her advice.  I told her I would have the Dino’s steering wheel back on the column in about three months, the time needed to replace the two special allen head screws.  I told Crystal that I spoke to numerous hardware suppliers and though they didn’t have the special Dino black custom threaded pitch allen head screw in stock they would manufacture a lot of 10,000 for me. Crystal suggested I visit the old hardware store on Broadway.  The store where everything is loose in bins and dust abounds everywhere.  It’s the kind of hardware store that would close before they would acquiesce to blister packs.   Just to humor her I made a visit to the store.  An old man approached me and asked if he could help.  I thanked him and told him probably not.  I mentioned I have this very, very rare allen head screw from a very rare and classis Ferrari and his establishment more than likely didn’t have anything like that.  When I showed him the screw, he studied it for a while, nodded and pointed me to a dusty old bin with hundreds of pieces of screws, nuts, bolts, nails, washers and what looked like toaster coils.  And nothing was labeled. As he pushed his arms into the bin up to his elbows he looked like he was trying to catch fish in a barrel and darn if he didn’t find 10 allen heads screws that perfectly matched the two that were stripped and ruined.  And when I was charged 8 cents apiece I couldn’t have been happier. I thanked the old gentleman and went home with my treasures.

            The ammeter that was sent off was refurbished and the steering wheel and column are now original again.  So alls well that ends well and the credit goes to Crystal. And to think, from the mouth of “babes.”  Later that day, as I toasted Crystal with a great bottle of Champagne, she handed me an ad for a 4 carat VVS1 Color E diamond which as it turns out is $500 cheaper than the lot of custom allen screws. You got to love a woman that’s always thinking.          



The Ammeter Adventure Part 2 by john babos



It turns out that it was great advice to inspect the ammeter in my Dino.  There were serious thermal issues with one of the terminals.  Two inches of heavy gauge wire and the spade attached to the terminal were essentially destroyed. It’s hard to ascertain how much longer the electrical integrity of the system would function and if catastrophic consequences would have resulted, but I’m certainly glad I performed the inspection.  My Dino is an early 1972 with about 40K original miles, driven about 2K annually. If you think your Ferrari has any commonality with mine, you may want to consider a simple inspection.  Feel free to email me.