By Mike Peake
I AM THE GOD OF OLD CARS!
OK, maybe not but let me enjoy my minor triumph while I can. (Did you see what I did there?) It would appear that I gave up too soon after fitting the big end shells to the Triumph 1500TC engine in Gar Cole’s Morris Minor automatic the Saturday before last.
Those of you that didn’t lose the will to live halfway through my last blog will know that we left the car with the new shells fitted but an engine that wouldn’t turnover. We guessed that maybe Gar had been sent oversize shells in error or I had messed something up. So we went to the pub in disgust to hatch a cunning plan. The plan was that Gar would buy some shells from a reputable Triumph spares dealer instead of eBay and I’d come back up and fit them when we could. (and I could secretly check to see if I had messed it up but not tell anyone and blame the shells anyway.)
Well, it would appear that Gar is not a patient man and having listened to “a bloke down the Pub” who said “Oh they’re always really stiff when newly fitted”, decided to have another go at starting Nelson. Using his Christmas cracker grips and a recovered hand, he managed to turn the engine over a couple of times noticing that it was starting to feel freer. He then tried to start it on the starter… but his battery was flat. After charging, he had another go and after 3 or 4 turns….
Needless to say I was incredibly relieved by this success. I’d spent the last week steeped in self-doubt and worry that I had broken Nelson. So, although a bit disappointed to be absent during my moment of triumph (they are quite rare as you know), my heart soared at the news and I feel that my self-deification above is entirely justified. Especially now that Nelson has been out on a proving run and still hasn’t fallen apart. Therefore, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve fixed it. If it does fall apart in the future it will be an entirely new fault and absolutely nothing to do with me.
So, Should anyone else be mad enough to ask for help, please don’t be offended if I don’t. I’m not sure my nerves could take working on someone else’s car ever again. Oh who am I kidding? I’d be elbow deep in your engine before you finished asking! Even if the fault is with the diff.
As if that success wasn’t enough justification for my instant elevation to the pantheon, Poppy’s ignition woes are also a thing of the past. The condenser and LT connector that I ordered from the Distributer Doctor promptly arrived and were quickly fitted. Poppy is running better and smoother than she has for a while and I was finally able to take her out in the sun and test the alternator conversion too.
All was well. In fact, all was more than well. For years I have had an annoying little rattle on the engine that I have never been able to locate and has lead me to check tappets far more than I needed to but now I’ve found it. It was the dynamo! It’s gone now along with the dynamo.
Poppy is now my daily driver while I bask in my awesomeness as a weekend mechanic.
So that was a short blog with nary an incompetent bumbling fool in sight. Maybe I can even consider a promotion from “Bumbling Incompetent Fool” to “Over Enthusiastic Amateur”? However, The Gloucester Steam Extravaganza long weekend is only just over a week away so I’m pretty sure normal service will be resumed very shortly.
By Mike Peake
Wayhay! The good news is that despite the temptation of G&T in a sunny garden, Friday afternoon found me getting sweaty at the lockup - my alternator conversion is complete and my little red warning light is glowing no more!
The bad news is that the new coil didn’t solve the “missing under load” issue Poppy has been having. As I’ve already changed everything else on the ignition side, I am led to conclude that we may have fallen victim to the poor quality of modern condensers.
Several people have recommended the “Distributor Doctor” and a quick look at their website gave quite interesting reading. Apparently they have done significant testing of these “cheap modern condensers” and found them seriously wanting. They only have 1 to 1.5 meters of internal winding and very poor bonding. The original Lucas spec was for 3m of winding. Distributor Doctor manufacture to the original Lucas spec and don’t cut corners. Or so their blurb says.
Well, this and the recommendations by others has convinced me to give them a go. I am sure that they will be considerably more expensive than the competition but if they work and last, it will represent a saving in the long run. If this doesn’t work, Poppy will go electronic! (I have not been paid by DD to say any of this. Which is disappointing!)
Poppy has been fully apprised of the situation and has reluctantly agreed to wait for even more new parts.
I was due to help Gar with Nelson on Saturday so I went home and packed the CR-V with everything I thought I would need. This included my Father-in-Law’s prized socket set which is on permanent loan, a torque wrench that I won as a prize for star letter in Practical Classics. A set of ramps that I was given by the friend that I helped build Anita’s Mini 26 years ago (he vowed never to work on cars again after that), a mechanics creeper given to me by a neighbour who was clearing out his garage to move (I have yet to use it), axle stands and a trolley jack that I actually bought myself - and of course my Po suit.
I set off for Gar’s at 7 o’clock Saturday morning and arrived at a very presentable 8.45AM. I parked on his drive and changed into my boiler suit/Po costume, unloaded my ramps and creeper all before Gar came out to say hello but he promised me he wasn’t asleep.
We then discussed our respective roles in the project. It was decided that I was chief bumbling fool and Gar would be the apprentice bumbling fool. Nelson was then driven out onto the drive and up on the ramps where we made a discovery. Nelson is somewhat higher than poppy and I was able to fit comfortably underneath without getting wedged, even on the creeper. The oil was drained and sump and spark plugs removed all without any bumbling or drama, so we had a celebratory cup of tea.
I was soon back under the car and needed to position the crank so I could get to the cap bolts. We tried doing this by flicking the key on the starter but the engine turned over too fast and we were getting nowhere. The crank shaft pulley nut was too big for any spanners we had and there was no room to get my new super socket on, so Gar got out a pair of grips that he must have won in a Christmas cracker. After considerable fiddling and twisting we eventually got the crank so I could work on pistons 1 and 4.
It was about now that I discovered a couple of disadvantages of the Mechanics creeper. Whilst turning onto my side to better positing myself, I fell off the creeper, tipping it up and sending all the sump bolts that were carefully stored in the tray across Gar’s front garden. Deciding to find the sump bolts later, I got back on the creeper which was actually remarkably comfy with its padding and head rest.
The socket was fitted to a cap bolt and pressure applied. Nothing happened. I repositioned my grip and applied significantly more pressure. This had zero effect on the bolt but me, now being on wheels, shot out from under the car and crashed into an inconveniently thorny bush.
Bad words were said, the creeper was kicked and verbally abused and discarded to the side of the drive.
I went back under without the creeper and soon had the 1st set of shells out. They were showing significant wear with plenty of copper visible.
The new shells, which had been soaking in oil, were then fitted and the cap bolts torqued to 45lb ft as instructed by Mr Haynes. I don’t know about you, but I do become slightly paranoid when working on someone else’s car, therefore I double-checked that it was all fitted correctly. Then I triple checked, quadruple checked and if I could remember the term for checking a fifth time, I did that too. All looked good so I moved onto piston 4 and repeated the process along with my quality inspection regime.
With the big ends of pistons 1 and 4 done, we had a celebratory cup of tea.
I was soon back under the car and we needed to reposition the crank again so I could get to pistons 2 and 3. Gar’s hands hadn’t recovered from his last attempt at squeezing them between the block and the radiator, so we had another go on the starter motor and got very lucky. I could get to the cap bolts. I did notice that the engine was slightly slower than last time but didn’t think anything of it. The remaining shells were fitted and torqued up and checked repeatedly. Everything was rosy so we had a celebratory cup of tea.
I was fed up of the view from under the car so I sent the apprentice bumbling fool under to remove the old sump gasket from the block. This turned out to be a bit of a pain of a job. Several implements were tried from a flat head screwdriver to a Stanley knife before settling on a wood chisel. Whilst Gar was swearing at the old gasket, I refitted the spark plugs. Then I relieved Gar under the car and continued swearing at the old gasket but we eventually had it all removed and the new gasket and leak free sump was in place.
We were both really rather pleased with ourselves and made comments like “that’s going to be a short blog” along with plenty of congratulatory back slapping. Before having a celebratory cup of tea though, we decided that we would fire Nelson up. So Gar got in and turned the Key. Nothing happened except I was starting to panic. Maybe the battery is a bit flat we thought so tried again with Gar’s booster pack. That didn’t work either. So we tried turning the engine by hand but that effort failed too.
The engine was properly stuck and would not turn over at all. We were a little dejected. Foolishly, Gus Brooks had said to phone him if we needed any advice. So, with bottom lips a trembling but resisting full blown tears we placed a call to the all-knowing Super Enthusiast Man.
“You pair of blithering idiots! “ he said. “You should have tried turning it over BEFORE you put it back together!” Gar and I shared a sheepish look. “Well unless the shells you’ve used are oversize, you must have pinched something together or done it wrong somehow. Whatever the case, you’re going to have to strip it down again!”
We thanked Gus for his advice and waited until we’d hung up before breaking down in tears on each other’s shoulders. When we’d pulled ourselves together, we had a bit of a think about our Guru’s words of wisdom. Because of my paranoid quality regime, I was fairly sure I had put them in correctly. Gar got the e-Bay listing out and checked that he had actually ordered standard shells. He had. The listing said “Standard size Heavy Duty”. However, it was eBay. He may have been fobbed off.
Thinking back about the job, I recalled that the engine had turned over slower after completing the first two pistons and was seized fully after the remaining two were done. This gradual tightening would suggest that the shells were slightly over size. I ran my theory past Gar and he agreed but did add, “Unless you messed up on all of them!” Well I had to accept that, given my history, this was a distinct possibility but I am confident I did them properly. (I reserve the right to retract that statement when we take it apart again.)
So, Did we knuckle down and take it apart again to see what the problem was? No. We went to the Pub! We’ll have another look when shells from a respected Triumph dealership turn up.
To be continued…
by Mike Peake
Wouldn’t you know it! As soon as we get back from South Wales, the weather turns into the best summer since 1976 and I can’t enjoy it properly because Poppy is having a strop!
Well 3 strops to be precise. 1st, she isn’t charging despite new brushes in the dynamo and a new voltage regulator/control box. 2nd, she’s missing under load again despite the points, condenser, leads, cap and plug change, and 3rd, I have two crankshaft pulley nuts roaming the roadside wilds.
I know, I know. “Easy 5 minute jobs” I hear you greasy-knuckled folk say! Well not to an incompetent bumbling fool with work commitments, a business trip away and a family that insisted I spend some, what they called “quality time” with them. Oh and lead time on parts and then the lead-time on parts that I didn’t realise I needed and forgot to order.
Well my new crank shaft pulley nut was the 1st to arrive along with my 2nd hand 1 & 7/16” socket from flea bay. (Boy! It’s a bigun! As the actr…ahem well never mind). This was when I discovered my 1st problem. The square hole for the socket drive was really, really big. Bigger than the biggest drive I had. So I resorted to a tape measure and it turned out that I needed a 3/4” drive and I only had ½”, ¼” and 3/8”. I briefly flirted with ordering an expensive ¾” ratchet drive, but as this is the only job I would use it for, I opted for an adaptor, again off flea bay. However, Poppy had been outside on my drive in the sun for a whole week and her paint was fading faster than my will to live when forced to watch this powder puff ball World Cup. So I risked the trip to the lock up with the nut just hand tightened and I’m pleased to say it made it.
Next to arrive was the adaptor and my new coil so I was back at the lockup with all the tools I would need and incredibly, the right ones for the job! 1st job would be to secure the crank shaft pulley nut. The socket and adapter were fitted together and placed onto the nut. This was when I spotted the 2nd problem. There wasn’t room for my ratchet. The radiator and the chassis cross-member were in the way.
I was just starting to get grumpy and think that maybe I’d have to buy that expensive ¾” ratchet, when I spotted the gap between the cross-member and radiator. I couldn’t be that lucky could I? Well actually, and unbelievably, I was. The extension fitted through and slotted straight into the adaptor and I was tightening away like mad. Except I wasn’t. The engine was turning and not the nut. So, I put it in 1st gear and tried again. The engine turned over and the car moved backwards. So, I chocked the back wheels and I’m sure you’ll be as pleased as I am that t he crank shaft pulley nut is now fully tightened.
I also fitted the new coil but couldn’t test it as I hadn’t sorted out my charging issues.
Oliver Truewhisstle purists, look away now. OK, I tried, I really did. I replaced the brushes in the dynamo and a couple of hundred miles later the charging light came back on so I replaced the control box. That didn’t cure it either, so I decided to convert to an alternator. Sorry about that but as I now run halogen headlights and a 12v socket for all sorts of charging and I’ve spent hours with a multi-meter but I’m still none the wiser as to what the fault could be, I’m cutting my losses and feel that the alternator is the way to go.
I was lucky enough to be gifted a brand new Lucas alternator by a very good and generous friend ”in the trade” and it is very gratefully received. So I set about the task. The dynamo was removed and I was going to use the pulley and fan from that on the alternator. However, the gods were not smiling on me at that moment as 1. I couldn’t get the nut undone and 2. They wouldn’t have fitted anyway as the shaft on the dynamo was much thinner than the one on the alternator. I found the correct parts on Amazon and ordered them but another weekend of glorious weather passed and my car still wasn’t fixed.
While I was waiting for my new parts I had a look at the new wiring requirements. The interweb advised that I needed to join the warning light wire to the thinner of the 2 wires coming of the alternator, connect all the wires that had brown in them together and disconnect the earth entirely.
The warning light and earth were sorted very quickly but the biggest problem was going to be joining all the other wires together. Well the blogger I was reading had just twisted all the wires together and covered the ends in solder and insulation tape. A perfectly adequate and functional fix but looked a bit, well, untidy. Fortunately though, James Paddocks have published the fitting instructions on the page for their alternator conversion kit and the solution they were proposing seemed much tidier.
By joining 2 of the connections on the control box together, it magically becomes a connection box. So it was time to get out my trusty soldering iron that had been my Granddad's . (The bus Inspector not the driver.) This soldering iron is older than me and possibly older than my Dad but it has served me well through all my physics and electronics club days at school and had even helped me repair the voice box in my eldest daughters Woody doll.
However, it would appear that the piece of solid copper mains wire that I was using and the metal of the connectors acted as a much bigger heat sink than anything my trusty iron and I had attempted before. The job was done and the multi-meter confirmed that the connection was good but they are 2 of the ugliest solder joints I have ever produced and I’m really quite ashamed of them.
It’s a good job they will be well hidden when the box is back in the car. I could have splashed out on a beefier iron and got a neater finish, but it would have felt as if I was being unfaithful. I did briefly consider getting the blowtorch that I use for plumbing but decided that the plastic housing may not have coped. As I said though, job done but i'm not showing you a photo. Doing it this way should also make it a bit easier to fit a fuse box in the very near future.
My new pulley wheel and fan arrived along with a couple of spacers so I set about putting them together. Easy job eh? Yes, I thought so too. The problem started with this little tiny “D” shaped key thing that you are supposed to balance in the slot of the alternator shaft which is supposed to then lock all the spacers fan a pulley wheel via a slot cut into them. Well it turns out that this tiny “D” shaped key thingy, whilst looking and feeling like metal, is actual a new super bouncy material developed by NASAl. I discovered this fact when I dropped it. It took me a good half hour to find it across the other side of the room to where I’d dropped it.
Attempt 2 was then made. Key was balanced, 1st spacer slotted onto shaft and key. Fan slotted off shaft and key. Pulley wheel … knocked the key out. After another half hour of searching, the reason the pulley wheel dislodged the key was discovered. The slot in the pulley wheel for the key was too small! Many rude words were said and doubt was cast on the quality of modern parts.
I considered sending it back to the vendor with a strongly worded letter. However, I reckoned it could be sorted with a couple of minutes fettling with a needle file. If only I had one. … My father in law had one so I took it round there and watched him sort it with a couple of minutes fettling with a needle file. Another couple of minutes and it was all assembled and ready to be fitted to the car.
By now it was about 11am on Sunday morning and 30 degrees so I had a decision to make. Do I spend an hour at the lockup getting sweaty or do I sit under the umbrella in the garden with a large G&T?
I’ll do it one evening this week. I promise. I’ve got to because, now don’t laugh, I’m spending next Saturday helping Gar rebuild Nelson’s bottom end! What could possibly go wrong? I know. Even after reading my blogs he still wants me to help!
Keen to read more?
Filter by Author
Filter by Month