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Sterling #022 -- Jonathan K.


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You know - you bring up another possibility that I briefly debated and then sort of threw away - but it's not impossible...

If the tank could be split, the baffles removed, and the inner surface treated and coated, and then the tank rewelded again, it would certainly be an option...

But for an hour to pull a tank, and probably $40 out of the yard, i might be money ahead to just pull another tank if I can find one. Fiero's used to be pretty common in the wrecking yards - maybe less so now.

There ARE options for repairing this tank - its just the baffle that is such a hassle.

I'll take a closer look at the Summit cells and see what they look like - but I think I'll be giving up volume. The Fiero tank is a tapered tank - kind of like a very elongated wedge...

(Heck - if this is THE worst problem that i run into during this project, I'll be laughing all the way!!)
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Cockpit width

(Hehe - don't ask where I'm sitting right now - but dang I love these Acer Aspire netbooks and a wireless network!! Lets just say I'm multi-tasking... Huh - and my wife doesn't think I can....:D)

So - picked up a new fuel tank today. Turns out (in case I didn't mention it previously) that there are two fuel tanks that came on the Fiero's - the 1984-86 was a touch over 10 gallons (10.2 or 10.3) and the 87 and 88 tank was 12 gallons. That counts, especially if you're running a V6.

I found a great guy named Joe Griegos who runs a business in Riverside called Inland Exotics - they basically build Lamborghini replicas on Fiero chassis'. (How cool to spend every day doing something you LOVE.) They've got about 12 customer cars in the shop in various stages of completion. Anyways - Joe had a nice clean tank out of 87, so hopefully tomorrow I'll have it back in the car, and have her running. (We'll see).

I have also discovered (to my great disappointment) that it is difficult, if not close to impossible to get a Fiero based 3800SC swap through the CARB with a manual transmission. Most of the guys into Fieros who are trying to do that swap in CA choose to go with the automatic tranny and paddle shifters. Turns out that the rub is in the fact that the 3800SC engine package never came factory mounted behind a manual transmission, and so finding a CARB referee who will give you approval is VERY difficult - and it really doesn't MATTER how well you test - they simply don't allow it because that engine and transmission wasn't a factory option - in ANYTHING. :mad:

The out that I have is that the first 500 specialty built cars in California each year (ie, Jan 2, plan on spending the day at DMV) are smog exempt. So I don't have to register as a Fiero, and I can go with a new specialty built title instead. In the long run, EVEN if I CAN get it through the CARB ref, that is probably the easier way to go, and never have to face the smog demons again, either...*kiss my butt*

So. The point of my post today was this. i took some time to climb in both cars and take some measurements today. The Sterling has a central tunnel width of 6 inches at its base (above the floorpans - not in the floorpans), and it tapers as it rises. The Fiero has a central tunnel width of 10 inches at its base, and tapers just slightly as it rises. But that 10 inches buys you a central mounted fuel tank - I think thats a huge deal, and I think you guys who are searching to place a tank (WHAT and WHERE) will understand where I am coming from on this.

OK - so what about cockpit width? Well this varies depending on position in the cockpit, but measuring roughly at the point where my hips will sit, I get 55 from door panel to door panel in the Fiero, and 48 in the Sterling. Good position behind the wheel either way, and plenty of windshield visibility. The thing about the Sterling is this - you can cut into the mounting sill as needed to carve out some space, and create a "pocket" in the outer part of the tub, under the canopy lip. This doesn't buy you seat mounting room, - but it DOES buy you elbow room. This is VERY doable. And honestly, depending on your welding skills, I'm not entirely sure that you couldn't channel the outer frame rail out a couple of inches, and buy some extra seat mounting room that way. Total net loss on the INSIDE is 2 inches (10-6 divided by 2), but you might argue that it buys you a little extra separation from your passenger.

If I can't find a good factory seat, then I would be tempted to pick up some aftermarket racing buckets and consider sectioning them in the middle, taking out whatever width I have to to make them fit. They might be a touch snug, but I don;t have big hips, and if I HAVE to make a compromise, that might be the place to do it.


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Who would have thought that a fuel tank could have so many problems???

So I sat down last night to put the new pump in, and lo and behold, my sending unit is probably shot too. I can see some light rust bloom IN the hard lines (ugh - NOT good), and the main outflow line solder-joint has cracked at the tank. I really don't want fuel vapors in the car, and it's probably not safe, and it CERTAINLY won't pass CA smog, as they do a pressure check of the fuel system (sigh).

So options -

rebuild sending unit - doable, but has rust in lines... so do I give them a dip in muriatic acid? Do I paint the unit? Do I rebuild the gauge sending unit?

Pick-A-Part - probably a better option - IF I can find the right car with an intact sending unit. Will cost me time when I could be doing other things - but hey - that's half the battle, right?

New is about $200 - if you can find one

Reconditioned I'm going to go out on a limb and guess is similar

Used - found one in Tucson for $50 plus $25 shipping. I think I'll just commit. Only downside is not being able to SEE the unit - i have to trust that it's as good as they suggest. That and the down time while I wait for it to arrive (sigh!)

I know - get used to it, right? This is just how it goes...*very frustrated*


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Ok. So - a quick update here...

Ordered the sending unit out of Tucson. A week goes by - nothing. At a week and a half, I call - oops - parts guy pulled it, but it's been sitting in back. Not shipped (sigh). Should be here in the next day or so, then back in the car. *insane*

Just to document ALL of the hassles - So i get the fuel pump for the Corvette and return the one for the Fiero. Well, wouldn't you know it, but the Corvette pump looks freaking IDENTICAL (I'm sure they're NOT the same, but WHY does GM do this??????) But what ISN'T the same, is the rubber grommit for the sending unit to the fuel tank. Sigh - back to the store to buy the Fiero pump again, so I can pull out the proper rubber gasket. Anyone know if those rings in the HELP section at Autozone - the ones designated for cooling system use that come in the multipack - are they safe to use with gasoline? Would they have worked instead? (Cuz you KNOW I'm gonna package this Fiero pump back up and return it with a rubber gasket of SOME kind, right???)*thumbs up*


New member
And it doesn't end....

So, the sending unit arrives, but its as bad as the one I have. All of the tubes have broken free of the soldered joints at the hub, and so now I'm left with the following choices:

- strip the unit of all the electricals (not easy because they are held into position with a "single-use lock-nut" type of connector - it slides on, but you have to bend the tabs to get it back off, so chances are good I will mess it up beyond reuse. BUT - that stuff HAS to come off if I'm going to take it to a radiator/fuel tank shop to get it resoldered (they basically use a torch - will burn up the wiring if it isn't removed.)

- go try and fnd ANOTHER unit - got one maybe two hours to the north of me for $40 for the tank AND sending unit. I might just take the excuse for a drive and go - if it looks good, I'll buy. If not, then there's another guy in San Diego stripping an 87 - he wants $200 for the tank and sending unit - a whole lot more money, but I have to go to SD next weekend for reserve duty ANYways.

- Pick-A-Part. I have the advantage of a BUNCH of them here in LA. But its hot, and I could easily burn up (ha ha - no pun actually intended) an entire day and find NOTHING. Also, likely that most of them have simply punched holes in the bottoms of the tanks to empty them (GRRRRR!!!!!!). On the other hand, I get to pull them, and if it doesn't meet spec, I don't have to take them. But I have to pull them. And that means I have to FIND one first. (Sigh) I can remember when time was less of an issue than cost...*whaah*

In other news, the saga of California registration continues.

- There's a rumor (and I have yet to confirm this) that CA SB-100 - the smog bill that allows the first 500 specialty built cars each year to be registered smog free - is limited to a single lifetime use. That means I could only register ONE car in my lifetime under this program.... All the more reason to keep this under the Fiero registration, as I have a Manta Mirage that I am looking forward to building next.*thumbs up*
- I could register it in New Mexico - i do own property there, and that MAY be the single easiest way to handle this. But that means get the car running, get insurance, get it CA registered and legal (ie, smogged) on its CURRENT drivetrain, then take a driving trip to NM, and go through the whole registration process again, just to turn around and drive it back to CA on NM plates, now. I know - I could bypass the CA registration and take it DIRECTLY to NM on a trip pass, or a trailer, but it just seems that I am going to face the MINIMUM hassle by just registering and titling it here, and then doing a re-registration in NM. Especially since I already know that I'm going to face at least a VIN inspection. Its just a whole lot easier to do that stuff when the paperwork is in your name...

Of course, i could bail on my 3800SC plan, but I LOVE this drivetrain for this car. I really don't want (or need) an LS1 - which would be a breeze, smog -wise, as they DID get offered with a manual transmission - and I SURE as hell don't want an automatic transmission. The 3.4 is a straight shot too, but not half the motor. And then if you go and turbo such a setup, then you're right back to ground zero again with the smog refs...*pbpbpbp!*

The funny thing is this - I am TOTALLY cool with the whole smog thing. I view it as something I do for my kids, and (someday) my grand-kids. I have NO problem running a cat and all of the required equipment. I don't particularly intend to hot-rod the motor. I just want to run THIS motor with a MANUAL transmission in THIS car... doesn't seem like so much to ask, does it????*very frustrated*


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Ok - a few more days, and a few more delays

I DID manage to get up north and pick up that fuel sending unit and fuel tank. Long trip (160 miles each way) but $40 for the both made it worthwhile, actually - especially after i had already spent the money for the one out of AZ only to find out that it would have to be rebuilt... At least this time I got to examine the part before I bought it! *proud*

So I've had that since Wednesday, but about 40 million things have gotten in the way, so its not installed yet - MAYBE tomorrow evening.... Im off on Reserve duty this weekend, so we'll see. Trying to keep the Mrs happy too - these drill weekends that's particularly hard, because she already feels neglected.

And, I, in a moment of sheer brilliance, about 2 weeks ago, decided that I had better get the lower garage cleaned out and get the floor refinished with epoxy, so I can get the GOOD tools (the mill, the lathe, and the band saw) inside before the wet weather gets here. I'm really blessed - we bought this house for lots of reasons, but I very specifically was looking for garage space. I have a 4-car attached garage, and a separate 2-car garage. The two car will make a GREAT workshop, and it has 110, 220, and good lighting with flourescent shop lights. But its an unfinished concrete floor, no insulation, and no interior siding. No heat and no AC. And not real tall (about 7 1/2 feet or so to the lower rafters), so I don't think I can install my 2-post lift and really get much function from it - rather I think I'm going to set up one bay as a work area (one car plus), and the other bay as a machine shop area. Got the electrician coming in Monday to lay in a couple more 110 boxes for me, and to place 220 at each corner. That'll give me plenty of access for the compressor, mill, lathe, and welder. Then I'll insulate and drywall, and epoxy the floor. The lift i think I'm actually going to install outside, on the side of the garage, plus/minus an RV-style awning to cover it from the sun/elements. Have to lay in some decent concrete footers, but it will definitely buy me more function and a LOT more shop space. Finally, I think if I've got it will insulated down there, i can probably make do with an 8 or 10K BTU heating unit (propane probably) and similar AC unit. Maybe a window unit - maybe one of those portable units - the BEST would probably be a mini-split, but we'll see...

Thank God my girlfriend isn't balking at the expense. I'm doing most of it myself, but the electrician will be a little chunk, and heat/AC is gonna set me back a bit, too. Still, I think I can get it all done for under $2500, and that will buy me a pretty sweet little workspace.

So right now the plan is to get the fuel system back together this week, get the car running, and then get it CA smogged and registered. Then I'll need to plan a long weekend trip to NM for a change of registration - and THEN I'll finally get to start chopping on her!!!! (But I might see fit to get the Sterling in its CURRENT configuration into the new shop to get the body off the tired old chassis, and get that out of the way.) Of course - this is ALL open to renegotiation...*idea didn't work*
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Progress continues...

Electician has done his thing and insulation is up (how much fun). Hope to drywall this week. Then epoxy the floor. Then move back in!

In the meantime, finally managed to get the fuel system back together. The Fiero hadn't been registered in 5 years, and probably hasn't run in the same period of time. Who woulda thunk that injection fuel hose could be so expensive? I picked up 2 feet each of 5/16 and 3/8 (figured its ALWAYS nice to have a little extra on hand) - that stuff is $7 a foot!!!! -confused* Have to be careful to set that aside and be sure the kids don't go looking for just any old piece of hose... Also discovered (to my dismay) that the sending units are ALL different from each other (I have THREE now) - even the orientation of the tubes as they exit the top of the tank, in relation to each other - and worse still, the angles they take as they exit from the back end of the tank. Still, I was able to get everything to match up ok. (It helped that one is 3/8, one is 5/16, and one is 1/4 - Papa Bear is the main fuel line out, Momma Bear is the fuel return line, and Baby bear is the vapor control system). The funny thing is this - the 3800 SC systems are returnless - so at some point I'm gonna have to alter the entire system. But one step at a time - I just want to get her registered and smogged, and THEN I'll start tearing into systems!

After I got the tank back in, I still had no power to the fuel pump, so I started troubleshooting (again) and found an incredible amount of JUNK on the fuel relay contacts (old electrical grease???). Cleaned those up, and I was in business - and the pump is audible, but not onerous. Car starts and runs - but some major issues - The IAC probably needs a serious cleaning (or replacement) as it idles at about 2100 rpm. But most importantly, it sounds like a rod bearing has gone south. Fortunately, I have a second 2.8 liter V6 on a cradle, so I'll just swap the entire drivetrain - and it doesn't really matter which cradle I rebuild... Of course there's the hassle of doing so, but the Fiero is probably one of the easier swaps, as the whole drivetrain sits on a cradle and can be swapped as a unit - and at least then I'll have a running, driving car (makes registration a WHOLE lot easier.) But that project will probably have to wait until I get the shop space finished. (Sigh).*thumbs down*

Oh - and thank God someone else is bidding on the other Sterling here in LA on Ebay - I need another one like a hole in the head*yipes*(But I am such a sucker for a deal...)
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2 months, but finally have things going back in the garage.
One bay for the "machine shop" and one for the Sterling as a working bay
I'll try and get some photos posted tonight.

And maybe this weekend I'll get that Fiero in the garage and start to swap the motor out...
Gotta get her in running condition so I can get it smogged, then registered - THEN I can start the fun!!

BTW - ceiling is too low to really accomodate a 2-post lift (or at least it wouldn't be particularly functional - could get the car off the ground maybe three feet - but that hardly seems worthwhile for the trouble to install the lift - and you certainly don't get to take full advantage of the capability of the lift. Anyone have or use a floor scissor lift? Have you been happy with that? Does it get in the way? Are you able to roll it out when you don't want it, or is it a semi-permanent installation?



New member
Work progresses!

So - I have finally got the Fiero in the bay, and have started pulling the old 2.8 l V6 and swap it out for the good one. Hope to finish that task this weekend, so that i can get official CA paperwork on this car. (Have to have a current smog to get the title - what a pain in the butt that is...)

These engines are nicely set up - a transverse package, with the transaxle and engine sitting on top of a cradle - you just unplug everything and then drop the entire rear half of the car out from under it. I think the new one should go back in very quickly.

So I have a question - the stock brake booster and master cylinder sit too high to allow the Sterling body to drop directly down over the Fiero chassis - here's a picture (not my car) to show what I mean


How do I setup a remote brake booster/master cylinder? Can this be done with a small slave cylinder type of setup? Do I need to build a mechanical linkage from the current location to a relocated master cylinder? Anyone seen this done anywhere, or know where I can find a good writeup to get me started in the right direction?



Honorary Admin
Jonathan! Good to see you back - I thought you had dropped of the face of the earth with work! Anyway, in terms of remote m/c's.... I've never seen one nor heard of an off-the-shelf system. Now.. that said, that's probably why that eBay car never sold - the logistics of wedging everything under the skin is just a little more than most people can handle. If the braking components are the only holdup at this point, then a little ingenuity is called for. Since I'm not familiar with what the Fiero is running for a booster and master, are they vacuum powered from the engine? Or is the system electric/hydraulic? From photos I just looked up it looks like it's the standard can style vacuum booster in very limited space.
The only option is to research smaller boosters if you want to retain the power brakes, or figure out how to relocate and fabricate linkage that keeps the right throw to the booster. Doing a quick web search I found this The Best in Brakes & Steering... which I wish I had done before I replaced my booster and m/c! I know nothing about the system or cost involved, but it appears it uses an electric pump to activate the booster. The website sucks, but hey, it's a place to start!



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cbs online's catalog in the "best catalog ever" thread has a remote master cylinder if that's what your talking about.


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Thanks for the help guys - those are BOTH valuable pointers.

I've been doing some searching on the net, and I don't know that it's going to be such a hassle after all. I haven't got to the point of actually chopping on the car yet, so I don't have a good idea of what the fitment is really going to look like - (I'm still hanger flying here... But its proves to be valuable thought fodder for those long drives.)

I've seen a couple of pix of some relocations in some BMW's (usually when they are trying to do a bigger engine/V8 transplant) - usually they just move it forward to the front of the shock tower, and then extend the rod. So I think ONE option is to move the entire booster setup and simply change the linkage (plus or minus pivots, depending on where its relocated to...)

I would like to keep the brake booster, but the electric one is a good option, and I really appreciate the link. I just need IDEAS right now, to help me think outside of the box, as I consider my options.

After looking at all the various problems again, i think the WORST problems are going to be as previously stated - seat fitment/driving position, and rear tire size (and the concomitant problem of maintaining cosmetic proportions). More to come...


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So my brothers coming into town next weekend - we may actually get to start whacking on the Fiero!!!

Seriously - I've been doing a LOT of looking/thinking/armchair engineering/dreaming - I have spent hours looking at Daves chassis (the custom tube frame) and the picture of the cutdown Fiero, and measuring my Fiero and Sterling. Unfortunately the other Fiero thread (the one with the pictures of the orange Sterling that sold out of San Diego) has been removed, but I have those photos on my computer, so I could go back and reference them. I've also been looking at Ricks pix of his custom frame for the Norm Rose Sterling. His appears to be largely Corvair based (at least the rear end) but otherwise looks a LOT like a flare vw pan. Rick - are you gonna weld in some side rails as well?

All of this leads me to believe the following. I think the Fiero chassis can be cut down far enough to get the Sterling body to fit. That said, the strength of the Sterling chassis comes from its space-frame structure, and taking out the doors and roof is going to necessarily weaken the remaining structure. My thought would NOT be to simply drop the Sterling body onto a flat cutdown pan, though, but rather to take that cutdown pan and weld square/round/combination of the two stock to build a tube frame that looks very much like Dave's custom tube frame. That means boxing up the pan as it sits, to tie the front and rear together, welding in a roll bar, and welding in mid-rails down both sides (which should give it back a lot of the torsional rigidity).

This gives me back the structural rigidity - at least in the ballpark of Dave's custom frame, and yet still maintains all of the stock mounts for items such as suspension. Remember - Pontiac actually did a pretty good job dialing in the suspension on the 88 Fiero - I may swap out for some tubular a-arms and sweet coil overs later - but for now the stock factory suspension is supposed to be very good.

If worst comes to worst, I've only got $500 into this Fiero - the transfer case alone is worth that. I'll justvfeel bad for having cut up a decent 1988 car.

My thoughts at this time are to sacrifice all of the interior including the dash/instruments/steering column. I actually would like to use some Miata parts. (they're cheap, easy to work on, easy to acquire, look modern, and actually fit the chassis fairly well - and I have several donor cars to work with. The wiring will all be basically redone as well, as I'm installing a 3800SC out of a 2003 Grand Prix.

The BIGGEST problem I face now is moving to Hawaii - and making sure I can get titles cleanly transferred. It would be a shame to move there after hacking on the Fiero, only to find that because I did it can no longer be recognized as as a Fiero, and therefore not titled as such. I have to say though - in some ways I'm grateful, as California is a giant PITA with regards to installing the 3800SC behind a manual tranny - it was never offered behind a manual transmission as a factory option, so by California law, there is technically no way to make it smog legal. Difficult catch 22. I was just about ready to haul it out of state and do the necessary paperwork in New Mexico.

I'm dying to try here guys - enough thinking already!!!
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If I were you Id get a hold of some companies that still make fiero based Lambo's to see what they do to the chassis to rebuild it prior to laying the fiberglass body back on. It might give you some insight as to what to do on your project.


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And reference the chassis pictures of Rick's car (Norm Rose's Sterling)
Envision the Fiero above as a belly pan, and box it in like the tube frame from Dave
And don't forget that this "pan" has the full tunnel, just like the VW, which does give it SOME structural rigidity (granted, not enough to make me happy, and I suspect not enough by itself to prevent flexing of the car)

Box in the lower edge of the "pan", tieing the front suspension to the rear
Add a roll bar to wrap up around that firewall (already conveniently built in, i might mention..)
Add the side-structure bars
And a cross bar to tie the upper mounting points of the front suspension to each other

Then what does Dave's chassis have that this one lacks? That whole rear suspension/engine.tranny mount setup sits on a removable subframe - 4 bolts and that whole setup drops out - so I would envision a pair of "trailing arms" off the roll bar to the rear portion of that unit - much like Dave's chassis. In fact - I LOVE Dave's chassis - I just am not prepared to dump the change on it *yipes*

(Dang!!! I need to find a program that will let me draw what I envision!!!)

What do we do to strengthen the VW pans? There isn't much to them, either.
I'm not diasgreeing with reinforcement - just the more I look at this the more I think its entirely possible.

(And I agree with you on the Lambo guys - have been lurking in the Lambo Lounge for a few months now)
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Ive been talking with another member here, about making a subframe sort of like Daves, using PVC as a template. Then it would be designed to bolt directly to the bug pan.
This way it would tie in the front/rear and center of the pan as a single unit.

Still in design phase though.


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PVC is a GREAT idea - can you bend it with a heat gun? It would be VERY cool if you could build a semi-rigid mock-up... And its certainly cheap to play with.

I haven't got enough detail on Dave's chassis to be entirely sure - but that LOOKS like a Mustang II front end. I don't know what he's done on the rear - I can't see it well enough to get much of an idea, and if he has posted the details, then I have overlooked them.

I had INITIALLY thought to use a VW tube pan that I got from Dave Barrett and graft a Mustang II front end onto that, and the Fiero rear subframe - essentially building a tube frame from scratch. But then you still have to work out the fuel tank, and the cooling system, so I'm trying to go this route with the Fiero instead. I may regret it - but it won't be for lack of effort.
BTW - that rapidly gets expensive, so I don't think Dave is so very far off in his price
Mustang II front end is 2K
VW tube frame from Dave Barrett was $800
Fiero subframe/suspension will EASILY set you back another grand

I'll be honest - I'm not thrilled with the height/width of the central tunnel - but WITHOUT it - where do you mount the fuel tank? I don't want it in the trunk space. In the front? Under the dash? I liked your idea of a fuel cell behind you, but then you lose some seat adjustibility. Also, the fiero uses some of that space for electronics (the computer).

Options for locating a fuel tank in a mid-engine design are difficult to say the least.

The Toyota MR2 also locates the fuel tank down the central tunnel.
How about the Lotus Exige/Elise?
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i like that chassis, I wonder if most of it would fit under a sterling body? It would be a cheaper method of getting started on a sub frame. Just the roll bar, rear, and front sections could be added to complete it.


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I'm borrowing these photos - they're not mine - but i DID speak to the then current owner when this car was for sale, and he DID send me these pictures, so i don't THINK he would object. The car was subsequently sold to a buyer out of Arizona - I don't believe that individual is on this board (unfortunately) and I don't know anything further with regards to progress on this car...

That all said...

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