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Rob Pearce


Latest Entries-

They Think The Welding's All Over...

Wiring and Trimming

Long time no report...

Strike a... plate? And it all hinges...

Feel the Heater part 2

Feel The Heater, part 1

Oooh, shiny!

Wind up

A day in the garage

Minor works

Toby goes home

Under Pressure

So where did those seven months go?

More engine building

Another engine (re)build post

More engine rebuilding

A strip of the old block

A Sad Day for the Increasingly Innacurately Named

Back to bonnet

Let there be interior light

Slightly delayed Round Britain Report

RBRR Preparation (Nearly) Complete

Duxford Triumph day

RBRR Preparation - Plan C

RBRR Preparation - K-Seal verdict

They Think The Welding's All Over...

... hopefully it is now.

In theory, when Toby went off to the painter back in July 2015, there was no further welding to be done. Granted there were some questions raised about needing to adjust door gaps but those were mostly resolved without further welds. Certainly, when he came back all nicely painted, there surely was nothing left to do with a MIG.

Except for one thing.

Now that the dash top is done, I turned my attention to cleaning up the windscreen frame, which hadn't been painted as it's not body coloured on the 1970 model year. Once I'd taken the glass out and had a go with the scotchbrite disc, I found rust holes on the back of the pillars.

Most of the windscreen surround on the early Spitfires seems to be fairly rust free - certainly less troublesome than the later models - but on Mk3s there are gutters formed by spot welding an extra bit onto the back of the A-pillar. This creates a moisture trap and promotes rust, just in that one place.

Toby's wasn't in bad condition overall but there was that one bad bit. So I had to cut it out and weld a patch in.

The welding wasn't very tidy. I didn't want to replace too much so there's a certain amount of welding rust going on.

Once ground back down flush it isn't too bad.

There's a bit of filling needed and I had no intention of trying to recreate the original step where the offending gutter panel ended. Instead, I opted for making it smooth and flat.

For durability, I did the bulk of the filling with "lead loading" a.k.a. body solder. This is a tin/lead alloy and is properly waterproof, unlike normal filler.

Body solder is awkward to use, though, so I did end up with a thin skim of "meta-glass" filler (which uses aluminium powder instead of chalk) to get the full shape.

With a coat of etch primer on, the remaining imperfections are visible, so I'll need to apply some fine grain stopper and more primer to get the final finish.

posted by 15th December 2017 10:31pm gmt

Wiring and Trimming

Since the last report I've been working on the wiring. Like the steering column, this has necessitated some other progress on the stuff behind and around the dashboard.

Mk3 Spitfires have a small wooden dash set in the middle of a steel panel. The panel, however, should be covered in black plastic. That was knackered and is no longer available, so the alternative is to glue vinyl onto the panel.

It's not a simple task because the panel is a complex shape. I used a very large number of small bulldog clips to hold it in place and a heat gun to persuade it to stretch and form.

Next I turned my attention to the dash top crash pad. This is made of expanded foam but again, covered in a thin plastic moulding that's not available. Again, the fix is to glue vinyl over it.

This is much easier on a later Spitfire (indeed, the vendor of the "kit" only sells it for the MkIV/1500) because they don't have that bit that juts out in the middle.

My end result was nowhere near perfect but it's tolerably OK.

Now I can get on with the electrics...

posted by 06th December 2017 8:19pm gmt

Long time no report...

but work continues on Toby.

This weekend I've been preparing to put the steering column back in, so that I can manoeuvre him around a bit. Before doing so, I decided to clean it up a bit.

The bottom coupling was serviceable but filthy. I decided to clean it up properly. For that, I had to dismantle it. In this photo I'd already removed the lock wires from the bolts, ready to start undoing them.

This is what it looks like when you take it all apart. There's two ends bolted "through" a central disc, with a rubber grommet each side to allow a bit of play. The bolts are tight to the end castings and wired for extra security.

After degreasing and blast cleaning, I electroplated all the metal bits, then reassembled it all. There's a bit of bad plating on the left end here - actually a problem I've been getting a lot with this plating kit, always on the lowest bit of the part being plated. I'm probably doing something wrong.

Just for completeness, this is the full steering column assembly in bits. The outer has been painted with chassis black, as has the cable duct (above it in the photo). The two parts of the inner column were degreased and their exposed bits painted matt black with a rattle can. Along the bottom are the upper support and clamp, the lower support, and the coupling. The two bits in the middle are the clamp that holds the inner column together and allows it to collapse in a crash.

posted by 08th October 2017 5:22pm gmt

Strike a... plate? And it all hinges...

Yeah, bad puns in the title.

I've managed a few days in the garage over the last couple of weekends. After all the work on the heater I haven't been able to fit it because I'd need to open the bonnet. That's not possible because the hinges aren't in a fit state yet.
A bonnet hinge hole in the middle of drilling
The Mk3 Spitfire bonnet hinges on a pair of extension pieces bolted to the front of the chassis. These have a 9/16" bore tube across at the front, into which a sleeve fits. That sleeve in then bolted into slotted holes in the bonnet frame. The slots allow for reach adjustment (slots in the extensions allow for height adjustment) and the sleeve takes the clamping load so that it's free to rotate in the outer tube. At least, that's the theory. Toby's had rusted solid on both sides. On one, the bolt was rotating in the sleeve. On the other, the bolt was rusted solid as well, and the frame was loose on the bolt.
So, I've had a couple of goes at drilling that out, progressively. The photo above is near the end of the process, before I moved up to the 14mm drill bit. I've taken some video of that, which I may make public once I've done a bit of editing.
One of the bonnet hinge brackets cleaned up
Once drilled out, the extension pieces got the usual clean-up in the blast cabinet and a bit of scotchbrite disc for the stubborn stuff. Then they got a couple of coats of primer:

Because there was some pitting, I applied some stopper to smooth them

And finally two coats of chassis black. Of course, they were originally body colour but then so was the chassis, which has turned black because it's powder coated and there's a limited range of colours available.

This is all very well, but actually there's a bit of a problem with the alignment of the bonnet frame.

This is partly my fault but largely down to repair panels not being the perfect shape. I had tried to keep the alignment good by bolting the frame ends to a jig but made the mistake of welding things in with bolts under tension. This is where the problem is:

The fix will have to be to add a spacer between that closer panel and the frame tube. They shouldn't need to be huge so I made up a couple from 1/4" aluminium bar.

In the mean time, I've also been cleaning up the door lock striker plates. The locks have been on for a while (since the middle of January in fact) but with nothing to lock to.

That's largely because the striker plates were in need of cleaning. Not only were they covered in over-spray from a previous paint job (well, not so much 'over', they clearly hadn't been removed for the respray) but...

... they were quite corroded, too. So they got the usual treatment: blast clean, wire brush, scotchbrite... and electroplating.

So yesterday, I fitted them and adjusted everything so that the doors latch shut properly.

I'm quite happy with the driver's side, although a slight tweak to the hinge may help. The passenger one is stiff to release, which I think is because the door sits slightly too high on the hinges. Some fettling may be required.

posted by 26th March 2017 6:02pm gmt

Feel the Heater part 2

This week I've been continuing with the work on Toby's heater. I finished dismantling it, by removing the matrix from the main box. I said last time that I planned to "get it refurbished", which potentially could have included a hundred pound bill for re-coring. However,

it actually wasn't too bad. I pressure and flow tested it and, apart from a relatively small amount of rusty silt emerging, it's absolutely fine. Sure, the fins are a bit wonky but they're all intact. The money can be better spent elsewhere.
So, I turned my attention to the main body of the heater box. I blast cleaned and primed it with etch primer:

Then I gave it a couple of coats of the Eastwood chassis black, satin finish:

After this, it was ready for the matrix to go back in, padded with strips of new foam rubber. The original assembly was with a narrow strip of beige foam but I used black, stuck to the box.

Then it was back to the motor mount side. There was originally a part number sticker on this, which I had peeled off intact, albeit with a few nicks acquired over the years. For completeness I stuck this back on:

Then I re-fitted the motor and the fan, adjusted the position, and reassembled the casing with new self-tapping screws:

There are a couple of finishing touches still needed, including the original spec. black tape over the slots for the pipes.
Meanwhile, I also applied some coats of satin black to the cleaned-up screen vent finishers:

posted by 19th February 2017 5:48pm gmt

Feel The Heater, part 1

Following on from the last instalment, I've taken a break from plating things and turned my attention to the bits that have to go into Toby's awkward places, like behind the dash. In particular, I dug out the heater.
I'd already cleaned up the screen vents so here's a photo after a coat of chassis black. It's a bit glossier than I'd hoped. I may need some other satin black for a second coat.

The top part of those emerges through the dash top with a finisher piece. These were also in need of cleaning up:

The top one here is as it came off apart from a bit of blasting from being in the cabinet at the same time as the lower one, which has had the first pass but needs to go back in for a bit more blasting.
Then I started dismantling the heater unit itself. The box comes apart by undoing half a dozen self-tappers:

This is the rear panel, depending on your definition, that has the fan motor attached. It's the bit nearest the back of the car, anyway, which is most exposed to access. You can see there's a bit of surface rust near the bottom. The wings either side are where the footwell vent flaps open.

And here's the main body, the part that bolts to the bulkhead with an intake from under the windscreen. You can see the footwell flaps and the tubes for the windscreen demister hoses above them. The bottom panel is a bit rusty and the matrix looks like it's seen better days too. Given how inaccessible this is once fitted, I think I should get it refurbished now, while it's easy.
First, though, I started on the easy panel. The fan comes off the motor shaft if the centre nut is loosened. Incidentally, this seems to be an aluminium nut onto the plastic fan. I cleaned and plated it, of course.

This is the outside of the back panel after blasting.

And here's the inside view. This wasn't quite finished - some rust and old paint remained when I took the photo, as you can see.

Once happy with the blasting, I gave it a coat of etch primer in my slightly makeshift spray booth. Yes, it is just a cardboard box, left over from the last house move.

Then I gave the inside a good coat of chassis black. It's not actually fully dried in this photo. I'll do the outside when I next get out there.
Incidentally, for pieces of this size I would sometimes use a rattle can but sometimes, as here, I use a cheap modeller's airbrush with a small compressor I picked up off Freecycle a few years back. The airbrush is best for really small (I use it on model railway buildings, for example) but copes with this. It has two sizes of bottle - the small one doesn't quite hold enough paint for one coat of the heater panel, the larger will do that plus two screen vents.

posted by 05th February 2017 5:35pm gmt

Oooh, shiny!

There's a chap on the Club Triumph forums who's been writing about his GT6 restoration. Recently, he's done the handbrake cable, like I've recently done Toby's. However, this chap bought a nickel/zinc plating kit and treated all his bits with it. The results look good so I bought one myself...
After a quick practice on some scrap, I started with the handbrake lever. I'd had the body of it powder coated but the ratchet mechanism was all as it came off.
Handbrake ratchet bits, as removed
I cleaned them up in the blast cabinet, then with some sandpaper. I probably should have used the Scotchbrite wheel on the drill but they weren't to hand. Then I plated them, and clear/blue passivated.

I'm quite happy with the results.

Next, I started to assemble the mechanism, as a trial. It's not possible to assemble it off the car, like this:

You have to build it up in situ. Which can be a pain, especially as the cable bracket clevis pin is inaccessible once in place. Still, got it all together and it looks good.

Then I turned my attention to some other bits. The windscreen vents from the heater system needed a clean-up

so I blast cleaned and primed them.

Once that's dried properly I'll give them a couple of coats of satin black.

While I was at it, the end stops for the door drop glass looked a bit sorry.

First, the felt pads had to come off. This revealed a fair bit of rust

So they went into the blast cabinet and got a good going over

In the past I would have then painted them but I thought I'd give plating a go. A decent layer of electro-plating ought to be more resilient than paint, after all. Of course, with all that pitting they're never going to shine but they can be plated. For these, as they're not visible, I chose the yellow passivate. I think I may have over-done that...

I may still end up painting them, too, but it may be overkill. Mind you, they do seem to rust more than most of the bits inside the doors, so maybe not.

posted by 15th January 2017 9:23pm gmt

Wind up

Some while back, when Tessa was back running and driveable, I decided it was time to put the roof up for the winter. Naturally I went to wind the windows up. The passenger one was stuck, unwilling to move. I applied a bit more effort to the handle... there was a crack and the handle went loose.
Having dismantled the door and pushed the window up (where it stayed quite happily all by itself because the glass was jammed in the runner), this was what I found:
Broken window regulator pin
The regulator control arm is held on the winder sector by a rivet, which had snapped. This should be quite easily repairable, or bodgable with a dab of weld. However...
Two passenger door regulators
... I had a spare regulator mechanism. This was among the box of bits that came with Tessa, along with a left-hand door shell, so presumably there was a whole spare door that had been acquired some time. Coincidentally, Toby also had a spare left hand door.
Today, having replaced the offending felt bit in the front runner, and confirmed that this made the glass slide freely, I set about reassembling the door. What a pig of a job! The regulator can't be inserted through the tiny narrow gaps unless the quarter-light frame is unbolted and moved, but then you have to re-fit that and readjust it, which involves fitting a bolt through a "tie-rod" and bracket into a captive nut that isn't where you want it, through a one inch hole into a space you can't get your hands into unless you're built like a ten-year-old, and which you can't see into at all, all the while fighting gravity which wants to chop your arm off with the glass.
However, I managed it.
Regulator mechanism installed
The glass is now correctly sliding up and down in response to the winder.
Job done

posted by 08th January 2017 8:41pm gmt

A day in the garage

In amongst the hubbub of the Christmas season, I managed a couple of days in the garage working on Toby and Tessa.

Toby had returned from the painter without a handbrake cable. This was mostly my fault for not having the correct one in stock (I had two; one for a Herald and one for a 2500). Which was especially silly given that I'd assembled all the suspension with the body off, and that would have been the right time to fit the cable, as I discovered...
Compensator sector cleaned
First I cleaned up the compensator sector. This is the bit that the rear cable runs through so that the intermediate lever can pull on it when the driver pulls the handbrake on. Sadly I don't have a 'before' photo - it was caked in grime.
Compensator sector painted
I painted it in matt black, with a brush, because the can of satin black was hiding.
The next task was to fit the rear handbrake cable. As I mentioned, I really should have done this much earlier, because it needs to be fed through the guides on the chassis:
Rear cable in chassis guide
This doesn't look too hard to a casual observer, but the ends of the cable have a solid, threaded bit, about three inches long, which is somewhat longer than the radius of that guide. It is impossible to feed this through in one go. You need to feed it through one hole, pull plenty of cable into a loop, feed the end through the other hole, then pull it so that the loop of cable un-loops. On a bare chassis, that's mildly awkward. With a diff in place it's much harder, especially on the side not shown in this picture, where the body of the diff is right up close. With the half-shafts and UJs already fitted, working from underneath... it's impossible. I had to undo the right-hand UJ flange and pull the half-shaft out of the way. Even then I really struggled. But I managed in the end.
Handbrake cable attached to hub
The other thing that would have been far easier while it was a bare (or, in this case, rolling) chassis... was attaching the cable ends to the levers on the brake drums. As you can see from this photo, the body and radius arm really get in the way. Actually, I hadn't completely fitted the radius arm until after the cable, so that wasn't too bad. The problem I did have, and haven't yet sorted, is that the clevis pin doesn't quite fit through the brake lever. The pin is new and, I believe, correct. The lever is old but had been blast cleaned and painted some years back when I built the rear axle up. Again, if I'd done the handbrake cable then, I could have drilled out that hole far more easily.
Compensator sector in place
With the rear cable in place, it was time to fit the compensator sector. Unlike the chassis guides, this will slip over the middle of the cable, then over the intermediate lever, ready for the clevis pin to drop in. Yeah, likely story.
Actually the pin did drop in reasonably easily, as long as I simultaneously applied enough tension on the rear cable to line it up, while working with hands poking through the tiny gap between chassis and propshaft and entirely by feel because the pin goes in from above. In this case, though, I can't say it would have been easier on a rolling chassis, because the lever attaches to the body tub.
Radius arm bracket loose
With the handbrake cable done, I fitted the radius arms that transmit acceleration and braking force from the rear wheels to the body. The brackets on the body tub should have shims behind them to set the toe angle. I have those somewhere but they need cleaning and/or renewing. Also, the final assembly with the correct number of shims will need to be re-done after measuring the tracking, to get it right.
That was enough down-in-the-pit time, so...
Door latch
I then fitted up the door latch mechanisms. I'd already fitted the external door handles and lock barrels but I actually had to remove both handles because they had been supplied (new, from a supplier on the bay of E) wrongly assembled. The push button has two bolts fitted, one to hold it in place and one with a lock nut to press on the door release pad on the latch. These had been swapped over. That's fairly easy to fix but it did seem they were ever so slightly different threads and weren't all that happy going in the right holes. Hmm...

posted by 07th January 2017 12:45am gmt

Minor works

I didn't manage much on the cars this weekend, mostly because of I's birthday. However, Tessa got her MOT on Friday, despite suffering a total electrical failure mid-test (fixed by waggling connectors) and then deciding to pour petrol out of the air filter on the way home.

Toby only got a bit of making way. When he came back from the painter, he had been stuffed full of the bits and pieces I'd sent down with him. As the photo shows, this was quite a lot. The seats and door innards were included because I'd (rashly) thought the trimming might get done at the same time. That wasn't sensible because, as the trimmer pointed out, I will need to assemble the mechanical bits far enough to get an MOT before the interior is done, otherwise things will have to come out again.

All of those boxes of bits got taken out and put on the side, waiting to be tidied away somewhere. In among them, as you may be able to see, is the front valance (painted and wrapped in bubble wrap for protection), which will need to be fitted using the brand new brackets that are also among the pile (but annoyingly didn't get painted).

I've also removed the boot lid. This is a new panel that got dented in transit and had to be rectified because the supplier wouldn't accept a delivery condition complaint more than one day after the delivery. The painter hadn't opened the box for several weeks. Oh well. He'd fitted it for transport using the original hinges but not the reinforcing frame because he realised after painting that there's "a problem". Well, the first problem I noticed was that he'd swapped the hinges - yes, they ARE handed - so that it wouldn't hinge open. Having unbolted it I checked the frame fit and the only problem I can see is that one of the attachment holes hasn't been drilled in the boot lid. I think that may have been a change in production - very early cars only had four of the five attachment points.

It's been a long road to this point. I'm hoping I can make better progress from now on.

posted by 04th December 2016 9:00pm gmt

Toby goes home

After a long gap with no updates... there's a reasonable bit to report on the cars front.

The GT6 has been doing sterling service as our chariot for 12-car navigational rallies, and as second reserve for the Round Britain Reliability Run, which meant it's done it four times now. The only glitch this year was the windscreen wiper cable snapping, leaving the passenger side wiper non-functional. As the weather was mostly lovely, this didn't matter too much.

Tessa got evicted from her damp and dismal garage so that it could be demolished. She had to live under a friend's carport, unattended and undriven. It didn't help that she had persistently exhibited a hot fuel problem that left me stranded a couple of times. I traced that to heat in the fuel pump and fitted a cheap electric pump. That caused the front carburettor float valve to leak, resulting in fuel pouring out of the air filters. Trying to fix that caused her to run on only three cylinders and I didn't have a chance to dig deeper until I could get her home.

That brings me to the reason for demolishing that horrible garage (apart from its general crapness). The long process of sorting out a new garage finally reached the point where the builders started work. That was in late July. By the middle of November it was finally... almost finished. Close enough that Tessa and Toby could both finally come home. Toby should have been first but the chap who was doing the work got even slower when it came to painting. Still, on Friday he finally finished and Toby was brought to his new home, where I can start the process of reassembly. Shiny Toby

posted by 27th November 2016 9:36pm gmt

Under Pressure

I've managed a bit of time on Tessa again this weekend. I'm still in the process of sorting out the brakes (didn't post about the new wheel cylinders and calipers but she's had them, just need to persuade the stupid thing to bleed properly). In the mean time, though...

When I built the new engine, I removed the rather horrid capillary temperature sender, and put back the original spec. electrical one that actually fits. Unfortunately, that meant replacing the gauge, which was a dual water temperature and oil pressure job. And that meant I'd lose the oil pressure gauge (she already doesn't have a lamp). So, an extra gauge is needed.

First, the very thin copper pipe, which turned out to have different fittings from the new (second-hand off eBay) gauge, had to be replaced with the stuff I'd bought (off eBay) just in case. This was a kit for a Mini, but most BL cars used similar bits.

Then I had to make up a panel for the gauge to fit in. Pods that hang under the dash are available, in nasty black plastic and at non-trivial cost. All the ones I found were ugly. So I got my box of scrap materials out. I had an off-cut of plywood, a bit of thin steel sheet, a section of vinyl cut from the back of a pair of Spitfire seats that needed re-covering and some tools. Cut the wood, make a hole in it, apply some varnish. Then cut a strip of steel, drill a few small holes and bend to shape. Glue the vinyl to the edge of the wood, add a layer of padding foam and tack the steel around it with a few nails. Then fold the foam and vinyl out over the steel and round the back. Staple in place and voila!

The position I chose gives decent visibility from the driver's seat when steering straight ahead. It also clears my knees OK. Which is useful.

posted by 14th May 2016 11:36am gmt

So where did those seven months go?

Hmm... seems it's a good while since I posted what should have been the penultimate episode of Tessa's engine build. Life got in the way a bit, what with moving house (and losing the lovely workshop) and everything.

Tessa's engine went back in, eventually. The flywheel had to be changed because the bolts are bigger on the later crank. And then the fuel pump had to be replaced because it's moved (as I hinted at back in April). I've written a bit more about that for Club Torque so I won't repeat it here. Once assembled, though, she wouldn't start and it was less than a week before moving day. The plan of driving her up the road was scuppered. I borrowed a trailer from a work colleague (very decent chap) and a friend from church towed her up the hill.

Meanwhile, Toby was trailered to a little garage in Chesterton where he's getting the next few bits of his rebuild done. It was supposed to be just the painting and trimming but fitting up the doors has shown some anomalous profiles.

Once things began to settle down, I had a poke around. Tessa's inability to start turned out just to be a weak battery. Given a full charge she fired up first time. She then passed her MOT too.

That was in late August. Since then, the GT6 has done another navigational rally (in Essex) which was good fun. And I treated it to a more sensible ratio diff (the old one was a Herald 4.11 instead of the correct 3.89 but I opted for a late Spitfire 3.63 for better cruising).

And then everything went down the tubes. Tessa's garage is damp so I put her hood up and tried to close both windows. The passenger side one was stuck and my efforts actually broke the winder gear. I had to strip the door and partially remove the quarter light frame just to move the glass up to the closed position. The winder mechanism is dangling loose because in that state it's nigh on impossible to even detach it. But at least with the windows up she's drivable. Except that when I set out to pop into Cottenham for some shopping, I discovered she had no brakes. All the fluid had leaked out.

A week later, when the GT6 was going in for its second change of diff (the first having proved unbearably noisy), it too had nasty spongy brakes... because it too had leaked most of its fluid.

And then the other day, having topped up the brake fluid, we took the GT6 out for a Christmas card delivery round, and the garage door broke. The last time that happened (and in my experience it always happens - up-and-over garage doors just always fail) I replaced the broken one with a pair of side-hinged wooden doors. That's not an option here, though, because the drive slopes down toward the garage so there's no clearance for outward opening. Grrr...

posted by 22nd December 2015 9:35pm gmt

More engine building

No, it's not a rebuild any more. With so little of the original engine left it's a new build!

Anyway, with the crankshaft, con-rods and pistons installed, the oil pump went in. It was tight. That surprised me because the bush the top end of the shaft sits in was transferred from the old block. I think it just got very slightly distorted in the process of removal (needed to be drifted out). A bit of rubbing down and deburring (which is hard in situ but easier than drifting it out again) sorted that. So next up was the engine front plate.

When I got the gasket set I noticed there were two front plate gaskets. Initially I'd wondered if this was a mistake but on closer inspection:

This being a blog, not a puzzle book, I've marked up the answers to the "spot the difference" challenge. The one on the left is the early type, to suit my old engine. The one on the right is the late one.

In fact, the two extra holes along the bottom are for additional mounting bolts that fit the late version of an aluminium filler piece. I was re-using the old one, so my early type front plate is correct there. And the squashed D-shape of the big hole is OK too - making it circular was a simplification. The problem is the much less obvious difference in clearance between that big hole and the bolt hole above it. This is where it fits :

Actually, that photo was taken after I'd fixed the problem. The early front plate is machined to clear the early crank journals. With the later, larger crank it would foul. So I had to modify it :

Having ground off a few millimetres it then cleared the crank :

From there it was a simple reassembly. Surely?
Well, the timing gear went on fine :

I timed it up by the "valves at rock" method - set the crank at TDC and turn the cam until the valves for that cylinder are on overlap, which happens as the exhaust closes and the inlet opens, so the tappets are both slightly lifted. I then confirmed that the larger timing gear had a spot mark correctly aligned. The small one doesn't seem to have a mark.

Then the mounting brackets and lifting eyes went on :

Finally it was time for the flywheel and pulleys, but that's another story. Oh dear.

posted by 02nd June 2015 07:11am gmt

Another engine (re)build post

I left off last time at the point where I was ready to move the crankshaft from my slightly cracked engine block, number HC932E, to the replacement block, number HC5616E. Both the same type, both quite low numbers, should be fine, yes?


Engines from number HC5000 onward are the later type. They have larger main bearings - 2.3 inch journals instead of 2.0 inch. Clearly that difference is way too much to cope with in bearings, so I had to source a replacement crankshaft, of the later type.

No luck on eBay this time (there was one in America but the shipping cost would be prohibitive) but TRGB were able to supply one from an engine in their dismantling yard. This wasn't a cheap option, as it was to be reground too. It also took a long time - four weeks in all - for that machining to happen, and then they were struggling to source the big-end bearings. I went to collect the crank and main bearings anyway, and realised they'd sourced early type bearings. This error was the cause of the sourcing trouble - they had a full set of the correct late bearings (albeit only the cheaper type) on the shelf.

Why this didn't ring alarm bells, I don't know, but it didn't.

So I got the crank home and fitted it. Compared to the early type :

the later one is quite a lot meatier :

And that's the problem I should have predicted. The big end journals may be the same diameter, but they're a different width. The early con-rods don't fit the later crank. I needed a whole new set of con-rods, too. Again, TRGB came through :

But something looked a bit off about those pistons. Here's the type of piston and con-rod from my old engine :

And here's a critical measurement :

Now here's that same ruler setting against the new con-rod :

Argh! It's wrong! Those are 2500 (probably TR6) pistons!

Well, yes, they are, but after a bit of research and some re-measuring, it's also clear that this isn't a problem. The whole reason Triumph arsed about with all this stuff in the first place was to simplify production stock levels, by commonizing parts. In this case, the crank can't be common between the short and long stroke engines, but the con-rods are. The 10mm difference in the journal's height at TDC is compensated by a 10mm difference in the position of the little-end gudgeon pin relative to the piston crown. Here's a comparison of the pistons :

And here's the two different con-rods together, from which you can see they're the same length :

And here, for reference, is the reason the early ones don't fit the late crankshaft. Early is on the left - note the extra width :

So that's good. All I had to do was remove the gudgeon pins (fortunately floating type so it's only circlip pliers I needed, not a hydraulic press) and swap the con-rods. And, of course, go back through all the hassle of fitting pistons into the block.

posted by 30th May 2015 09:09am gmt

More engine rebuilding

(Yes, this is backdated. I should have posted it in April but...)

Having dismantled Tessa's engine, I set about preparing all the bits to be installed in the replacement block.

First up was some blast cleaning and painting of the various ancillary brackets. She's had an alternator fitted, so has the big cast bracket for that (instead of the folded steel one used for dynamos). Then there's the fan belt tensioner bracket and the two lifting eyes, plus a blanking plate for the block breather.

The block and cylinder head had been off to Ivor Searle for cleaning up.

This also meant everything came out, including the core plugs and oil gallery plugs.

Before going any further I treated them both to a coat of matt black engine lacquer. It's a bit too matt, so I later gave them (and other bits) some satin.

At this point, I noticed a minor difference between the two blocks. The new one doesn't have the crank breather hole that needed a blanking plate on the old one.

I didn't immediately realise the significance of this, after all, the breather isn't used so who cares?

Next job was to fit new core plugs and other seals.

The core plugs were fine, but the oil gallery plugs - taper thread screws - were very reluctant. I had to re-tap some of the drillings, which wasn't easy because it's not obvious what the correct thread is. There are 3/8UNF, 7/16UNF, something that looks about 1/2" but turns out to be 1/4NPT, and a 3/4UNF. That last one is a problem because the plug is aluminium and the currently available ones aren't tapered. It may be they're not supposed to be, but in that case they'd need a head for the copper washer, and the one I got from TRGB definitely doesn't have a head.

Meanwhile, the sump pan and the front and back plates needed to be cleaned up, degreased and painted.

Since I was, by now, doing quite a lot of work and spending a lot of money, I decided to treat the inside of the block to a coat of "Glyptal". This is a non-porous paint that encourages the oil to run back into the sump rather than soaking into the casting. It's also red.

Similar treatment was given to the head.

Next, I removed all six pistons from the old block and put them in the new one.

It's essential to keep the bearing caps mated to the same con-rods, so I placed them in order as I went along. The pistons are +.020 because the old block had been rebored, so I'd had Ivor Searle rebore the replacement block the same. Fortunately it hadn't been done before, so this was more than enough to remove the surface rust on the bores.
And here's a view from below:

Next job is to transfer the crankshaft. At least, that's what I thought...

To be continued...

posted by 27th May 2015 9:56pm gmt

A strip of the old block

There's something missing from Tessa at the moment. See if you can spot it:
Look, no engine!

OK, that was a bit easy. As mentioned previously, her existing block is cracked in a couple of places, and her head gasket has blown yet again, possibly due to overheating as a result of not keeping the coolant in. So the replacement block I bought off eBay is at Ivor Searle being cleaned and machined. It had a little rust on the bores so needed a rebore, but since the pistons in the existing engine are +.020 I would have had to get it bored anyway.

So, while I wait for the "new" block to be ready...
Block on bench
I've removed the old short engine from the car and put it on the bench. I like my workshop. I will miss it when I move (at least until I get another one built).

Apart from the cracks and head gaskets, there's very little wrong with this engine. The clutch driven plate even has life left on it. Of course the real test, once it's dismantled...

Innards of an engine bottom end
... is to check the bearings. The oil pump looks good and fairly clean, so I whipped some of the bearing caps off...
Bearing shell
OK, the photo actually looks a bit worse than the "flesh". There's a tiny bit of scoring but the bearing surface is clean and smooth. It probably hasn't been in there all that long. Except that I know they haven't been done in the 12 years I've owned her.


... the bits I've removed have to go somewhere, so the boot is getting a bit full.

posted by 22nd March 2015 5:26pm gmt

A Sad Day for the Increasingly Innacurately Named

When Douglas Adams published "Mostly Harmless", the cover included a note declaring it to be "The fifth book of the increasingly inaccurately named Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy". Today, I'm feeling similarly numerically challenged.

Of course, I've been suffering an out-by-one error for quite some time, since I sold the Stag. But now I'm out by two. Six-old-cars now only owns four old cars.

GoneHarry the PI estate joined my fleet in November 2005, when I needed something big enough to transport a computer monitor (albeit a complete beast of a 22" CRT one). Later, his tow hook came in very handy for retrieving Toby the Spitfire, and even for moving more than a car's worth of equipment to LiveWires one year. Being a fuel injected 2.5 litre of 1960s design, he was never economical but he was very comfortable on long journeys.

Sadly, 18 months ago, he was too rusty to get an MOT. I set out to fix that, repairing the driver's footwell, the sill and crossmember, the wheelarch, even starting on the passenger side. But with Toby still a major project, and Spike the Toledo dying, and even Tessa having a crisis, I was never going to be able to fix them all. So one of them had to go. Since I now also own a boring, reliable, modern car which is big, comfortable, ideal for long journeys and has a tow hook, and because Harry needed panels that are hard to come by, he was the one that had to go.

I had owned Harry for exactly nine years and nine days. Now he's off to Manvers Triumph, to be rebuilt for a customer who's keen to own a genuine, still injected, PI estate with original Lucas bits. Harry is such a car, so I wish him a long and happy life with his new owner.

posted by 21st November 2014 3:53pm gmt

Back to bonnet

With all the Round Britain stuff now properly out of the way, and before the start of the writing madness in November, I took the chance this week to make a bit more progress on Toby. When last I did any work on him it was the nearside wing being fitted to the bonnet, and there were a couple of issues with fit.
Right Hand Wing In Place
On the driver's side I took a different approach to the order of fitting up. I tried to clamp all the panels in place before welding any, but that's not practical. However, I fitted the sidelight panel and D-plate before the wheel arch and wing.
Side Light Fit, better on this side
That did mean that I got the fit of the sidelight panel and the front edge of the wing quite a lot better. It's not perfect but it's very acceptable.
Wheel Arch And Brace
Then the wing to wheel arch was the last bit of that structure to be committed to, followed by the rear bracing strap. The fit of this is no better than the other side, partly because they're not right - they're actually Mk4 parts, which is close enough for rock and roll, but certainly not for concourse!
Headlight panel fitted
The final step on the wing is the support panel for the headlight bowl. This might have been easier if the wing was the same length as the bonnet top! In this case, the new wing may actually be the one that's right, as the right side of the bonnet top turns out to be in fairly poor state under the filler. Probably accident damage in the dim distant past.

posted by 02nd November 2014 10:37pm gmt

Let there be interior light

In the weeks since its third successful Round Britain Run, the GT6 has had more than its usual share of attention. The first thing was that its MOT runs to mid-November, so a fortnight after RBRR was the earliest convenient date. Clearly the dodgy indicators needed fixing... or at least coaxing into temporary life while I wait for the replacement flasher to arrive. I made the mistake of ordering a couple of other things at the same time, one of which is not a stock item, and the Coventry-based supplier are holding the order back to be sent in one parcel.

Never mind. The flasher worked for the test - just - and the MOT man was satisfied that I will sort it properly fairly soon. He had a similar attitude to the three questionable wheel bearings, including some quite bad play in the offside rear. That definitely does need sorting, and being a Rotoflex car it's a bit of a pain. It's also going to involve dismantling the axle, so I plan to replace the incorrect diff while I'm at it, albeit probably for another incorrect one, but the other way.

While looking for the flasher unit, however, I'd rediscovered the empty bulb holder dangling under the dash. A bit of reading up revealed that this is supposed to illuminate the ignition switch (which is way down in the footwell) when the courtesy light is on. Given that both door switches were dead, and the tailgate switch appears now to have joined them, this hadn't really mattered, but I decided to make up a bracket for it anyway. I also bought some replacement door switches (the wrong type but they fit fine) off eBay. In the process I discovered that the roof light wasn't working any more. Even worse, with the doors closed the bulb in the footwell light glowed very dimly.

The bulb in the roof light was good, and removing it stopped the dim glow. That gave me a hint, and a quick test confirmed that the purple wire (fused permanent positive) in the roof light was actually at ground potential, intermittently connected to ground.

I had a strong hunch about what had happened. When I removed the boot floor and side trim, my hunch was proved right.
Roof light wiring behind left hand trim
The three wires here are the courtesy light switched ground (intact but missing some insulation), the rear screen demister feed (missing most of its insulation) and the fused positive (completely stripped, broken, in two pieces). What the photo doesn't show is that they were buried in leaves and scraps of trim - a mouse nest.

To replace that section of the loom properly would need the roof lining to be removed, and I'm definitely not going there. Fortunately I was able to get in there enough to repair all three wires without shortening them too much. So now, for the first time in the twenty years I've owned it, the GT6 has a working courtesy light.

posted by 24th October 2014 10:16pm gmt

Slightly delayed Round Britain Report

After all the preparation and changes of car, this weekend just gone was what it was all about - the Club Triumph Round Britain Reliability Run.

Roger and I had arranged to meet near his work around Friday lunch time, to have a look through the road book and then get to the start in good time. Somehow that didn't quite pan out, and we ended up reaching Crews Hill rather too late to get dinner before the off. This was to be a pattern for the whole weekend!

Cars At Start
The Plough car park was quite densely packed, with 104 Triumphs all ready to tackle the run. Some were very nicely prepared, some were rather tatty. That's not a criticism - as Dave Langrick (one of the organisers) commented, my GT6 was a bit scruffy when he photographed it on the 1994 run.

So we set off, in batches, along the windy road to the traffic jam. The run begins up the A10 on a Friday evening, so the traffic is always bad. We took a while getting out of the jam, with Roger driving and getting used to the car. We hadn't had time to fill up before the start, chose not to do so on the outskirts of Enfield, and missed a couple of sensibly cheap options around Huntingdon. But we were making good time and the fuel gauge was staying up, so after a while I figured we'd make the control stop at Blyth services on that tankful. We got there somewhere in the middle of the time slot, and not quite empty.
At Blyth

Now, the important thing with the Blyth stop is to make sure you stick to the ten minute schedule. If you delay, then you start to fall behind. Trouble is, we hadn't eaten and, while getting some food, I bumped into Francis Moll (who had been helpful and friendly back in 1994 on my first RBRR) and got chatting. Oops.

Leaving Blyth the A1 was good and clear and we made good time... for a bit. Then it all came to a grinding halt. Big traffic jam. Later there were big roadworks. Finally we turned off onto the A68 and got some speed back up. That's a fun bit of road, though hazardous if you're not careful. I enjoyed the drive.

At Carter Bar, right on the end of the time slot by now, it had started raining. Not desperately badly - that waited until Roger was driving again - but unpleasant. We still made a decent pace up to Jedburgh, where we fuelled up and swapped, but then the rain really came down in earnest. Our pace suffered, and we were really rather late getting to Edinburgh Airport. We should have kept the stop short, but we wanted coffee and the Costa in the terminal had only one "barista" on duty. The queue was nearly half an hour.

Leaving there, Roger's sat nav didn't want to load up. The organisers recommend not relying on these devices, and I mostly agree. In this case, Roger didn't want to drive off without it, despite my confidence in being able to navigate us to the next stop.

The weather improved quite a bit for my stint up the A9 and we'd recovered a bit of time by the Skiach services control. Roger drove from there in the early morning light, on lovely scenic roads, and we got to John O'Groats only a bit behind schedule. There we had a decent breakfast - the bacon and eggs were good, the sausages OK, the coffee rather poor.

At John O'Groats
After the compulsory photo by what used to be the Last House, the route takes narrow roads through fabulous scenery. Since I was driving, and since I know the car very well and those roads moderately, we made a good pace, but when a 2500 overtook us I decided not to attempt their pace. After a while, we caught up with them anyway, because they'd caught up with the "bunnies" (two sisters in costume) in a Herald coupe. This looked like being another delay, since they were taking the single-track roads at a very safe speed, far below the road book's average. However, once onto wider roads they picked up the pace and got quite an impressive bit of performance from the Herald.
Scottish Scenery 1

By Conon Bridge we were on time again, and a light lunch was much appreciated. But then Roger took over driving and the rain came down again. At Glencoe village, we stopped at a little cafe, where we had a really nice cup of coffee - definitely the best of the weekend. It did delay us a bit, and the roads from there to Sterling are busy with local traffic, spattered with towns and too windy to overtake, so the road book's 50mph average isn't achievable. Most of the teams were late at Morrisons, though, so we weren't alone.
Scottish Scenery 2Scottish Scenery 3

From there, it's mostly motorway until Wales. In the established pattern, the bit I drove was dry but Roger's bit was raining. Still, empty motorways are definitely good for more than the 55mph average in the book, and we made up time. We also had our only 'mechanical issue' - the indicators packed up.

Then I took the windy Welsh roads. The first stretch, to Newtown, is fairly major roads and quite quick. Then it gets fun, although we had a TR4 and a Spitfire in front of us, and their pace was slower than I would have done. In fairness, the TR4 was one of the international teams and not so familiar with driving on the left, so their pace was perfectly sensible. After the Sugar Loaf control, though, I managed to get out ahead and picked up the pace. Slightly to my surprise, the other cars followed and mostly kept up.

In Builth Wells there were roadworks and some confusion with the barriers. I'd seen a car emerge from the road that we wanted, so I drove down there, followed by the Spitfire and TR4, only to find the road blocked off and full of drunk people... and a policeman. We got some funny looks as the Spitfire and I turned around, and the TR4 reversed back out the way we'd come. Then we followed the diversion signs (wrong way down a one-way bit) like we were supposed to.

At Gordano we swapped drivers again and, surprise surprise, it began to rain. I slept for the whole of the M5 and some of the A30. When Roger pulled over because he was flagging, I took a 40 minute stretch until my eyes got tired, then pulled over and we swapped again. I woke up again in Penzance, too late to tell Roger not to bother with the coastal bit, and checked the road book for timings. That's when we realised the sat nav itinerary had omitted one of the control stops! Oh dear.
Land's End Car Park
If I'd thought the queue for coffee at Edinburgh was long, the one for breakfast at Land's End was interminable. When we finally got our breakfast it was nice enough - more sausages than at JoG and of similar quality, but the undrinkable sludge that claimed to be coffee was possibly the most disgusting muck I've ever encountered.
The Renown at Land's End
As we left Land's End, I checked the oil and found it low. So when we stopped for fuel I bought some more and topped it up - by nearly four litres.

The road book again expects a 50mph average along the A30 and A39. In places, where the A30 is dual or has an overtaking lane, that's reasonable, but for most of the way it's only achievable in theory. With the addition of a road closure due to an accident (apparently some motorbikes, although we didn't see the actual scene) to find a detour round, we were back to being late at Bude. It's a nice spot for a stop, but it does mean the route does seemingly silly figure-eights.
At Bude

On Dartmoor, we found ourselves behind a bit of a convoy of Triumphs, with the 1950 Renown at the front. It was rather a lovely sight. After a slightly longer stop than intended at Badger's Holt, we carried on to Pimperne (late again) for tea and cakes. Very nice cakes. Too tempting.

Pimperne to Didcot was again slow because of local traffic, and reports of problems on the Oxford ring road persuaded us to take a different route after there. On balance, I think the Abingdon diversion was the right move, but seeing the heavy traffic on the M40 as we crossed, we made a bad choice in deciding to take the A40 instead. It may have been relatively empty but it has a lot of 30mph stretches, where the M40 was busy but moving. So we were running very late and near the back of the order by the time we joined the M25. We did pass a couple of stragglers, and the Renown, before getting back to Crews Hill nearly an hour after the end of the official slot. Still, it's not a race and the marshalls are tolerant on timings so it still counts.
We Finished

As to the car's performance, it did very well just as I'd expected. The odometer reckoned 2135 miles instead of the road book's 2027, and the speedo had consistently shown higher than the sat nav. In light of my recent observation of the wrong diff number (a GE prefix, which is Herald 13/60) these discrepancies are suspiciously close to the 5% difference between the Herald's 4.11:1 ratio and the GT6's 3.89:1, so the 30.8mpg average was probably only 29mpg. That's a little disappointing but much better than the 21mpg I got on the tankful before RBRR.

posted by 10th October 2014 10:59pm gmt

RBRR Preparation (Nearly) Complete

The Round Britain Run is nearly upon us! Tomorrow is departure day, so today was the last prep day for any work on the car. Since my last posting, I'd done one thing, which was to readjust the headlights so that they actually illuminate the way ahead, rather than the bit of road you're already on.

Today's first job was to realign the steering wheel. This has been a minor niggle for me for some time, but for my co-driver's benefit I thought it should be set so as not to hide the speedo in a straight line.

Next was to provide a power socket for a sat nav (since we will actually have one this time). The GT6 never had a cigar lighter, but a simple bracket and a bit of wiring allows a cheap aftermarket one to fit.
After-market cigarette lighter in passenger parcel shelf

While doing these jobs I had a moment's reflection on the condition of the driver's seat base.
Old and torn seat squab

To be honest it should have been refurbished when the bodywork was done, twelve years ago, but it wasn't. However, I have some slightly tired, and wrong coloured, seats ready to be refurbished for Toby. These are not the same as the GT6's ones, but the squabs are compatible. Also, the "wrong colour" for Toby happens to be the right colour for the GT6, so I cleaned up the driver's base and swapped it in.
Toby's 'for rebuilding' seat squab fitted

Finally, I gave the car a wash and polish, then stuck the stickers on.
Stickers applied
The instructions state that the charity's stickers go on the rear wings. There really isn't anywhere flat enough on the rear wings of a Mk3 GT6 so that's the best I could manage.

So the car's ready; not so sure about the drivers...

posted by 02nd October 2014 9:14pm gmt

Duxford Triumph day

Now that the GT6 has had its service, a decent drive out was called for to identify any remaining issues. To that end, we decided to pop along to the Triumph day at Duxford. This was organised (this year, at least) by one of the TSSC local areas, so there was a certain bias towards that club rather than the many applicable others. Still, it brought out a decent selection of cars.
A selection of Triumphs at Duxford
Among the more interesting examples, there was a pre-war Dolomite in a rather nice two-tone blue. There were cars in better-than-showroom condition, and some rather tatty works in progress. There were some typically '70s ghastly colours, and some very pretty examples. There were also a few of the other Round Britain teams there.
The other good thing about this Triumph day is that the entry fee includes access to the whole museum, for less than the normal museum entry price. And to top it off, it was a flying day and there were two Spitfires in the air. Sadly, my camera's not really good enough for photos of aeroplanes in flight.
As to the GT6's remaining issues, there's nothing significant to report. The gearknob cap (with the overdrive switch) is loose and rattles very annoyingly. The handbrake is a bit weak. The 'temporary' roof panel that I cobbled up twelve years ago is still a nasty hack. The cabin temperature gets a bit hot when driving any distance. But these are all long-established niggles that didn't cause a problem last time.

posted by 29th September 2014 07:16am gmt

RBRR Preparation - Plan C

So with last weekend's problems on Tessa, and the consequent switch to plan C, today was the first time I did any preparation for the vehicle were actually going to be using.

First I had to swap the cars around a bit. The GT6 lives in the old garage, which is warm and cosy but very small. To work on it, I wanted it in the new garage, preferably over the pit. But Spike, the dead Toledo, was over the pit. So I had to push Spike out and round, then drive the GT6 into the new garage, and then push Spike into the old one. It's a good thing I don't live on a hill!

That done I set about giving the GT6 a good service. It doesn't get driven much, so it hadn't done very many miles since it returned from mum's almost two years ago, but it's really not good that it hasn't been serviced since. Especially as all I'd done that time was change the oil, not the filter nor the plugs, and the oil I'd used was cheap stuff. So today it got new "Comma Classic" oil (the Penrite is not suitable for it) with a 'new' (actually quite old but unused) TJ filter, six new plugs, a change of coolant, some EP90 in the trunnions and a top up of the diff.

Once I'd done that I fired it up and checked everything. At fast idle (~2000 RPM) the oil pressure is showing 80PSI cold. That's why I say Penrite isn't suitable. It's almost tempting to use modern 5W40, but the pressure gets sensible once warm, so really I'd want 5W50.

Tomorrow it gets a bit of a run out, then it's ready for a polish and the stickers.

posted by 26th September 2014 4:59pm gmt

RBRR Preparation - K-Seal verdict

Last time I posted, I was giving it a shot at a temporary leak repair on Tessa, using a product called "K-Seal". I added the gunk to the radiator as directed, and drove the car around to get some heat in the system. In theory this should have sealed the leaks.
Well, as you can see from this photo, there is a smudge of yellow just near the earth strap. This is K-seal's attempt at sealing the crack in the block. It's not very impressive, to be honest, as there are still droplets of water all along the crack. Much more telling, however, is the sheer amount of wetness everywhere else in the photo!
This alternative angle shows the size of the yellow patch. It also shows quite a lot of pink powdery crud around the water pump housing and the top of the bottom hose, not to mention the lifting eye.
And here we see that the pink crud has even landed on the bypass hose (yes, I know it's supposed to connect to the manifold, but the union's missing at the other end so her previous owner bypassed it).
The evidence, then, all points to a much bigger leak from the front of the head gasket, which is spraying onto the back of the water pump housing with enough force to bounce out in all directions. I'm actually fairly sure this is a bigger leak from there than it was before I started. Also, the pink crud - which I assume is pink because the unconverted K-seal is pink and the antifreeze is red - contains a speckling of copper-coloured glitter. There are quite a few substances that might give that effect, but since the head gasket is made partly of copper, that seems a likely candidate.
My verdict on K-seal, then, is that it doesn't work, at least not for any leak you'd ever worry about. Also, the jury is still out on whether it might even be lethal to 1960s-style copper-asbestos head gaskets (which no modern car has anything remotely like). So if you're a classic car owner and are considering this product, DON'T.

posted by 23rd September 2014 07:31am gmt

Views expressed here are personal are not necessarily endorsed by Club Triumph

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