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…
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