I acknowledge I’ve completely dropped the ball on keeping the old blog updated – a multitude of little things got in the way including but not limited to the ongoing pandemic, having another baby and accidentally depositing this beautiful selection of additional project cars on the driveway (note – I’m definitely not having a mid-life crisis).
Whilst the blog has stood very still, the progress on the Triumph has continued – albeit at a slower pace than I would have liked. In something vaguely resembling my best guess of chronological order, here’s what’s been going on.
With the engine out of the car it seemed like a good opportunity to address the perished steering column rubber coupling. As luck would have it, a few parts orders ago one mysteriously turned up amongst some other bits and pieces. I hadn’t ordered or paid for it but I popped it up on the garage shelf just in case it came in handy one day. That turned out to be good forward thinking on my part.
Here’s a reminder of the offending article in-situ:
And here’s what it crumbled to upon removal. Probably due a replacement then…
I’d read that fitting the new coupling was much easier if it is first compressed with a large jubilee clip. Luckily I had such a clip in the shed, leftover from some long-forgotten project car or another mechanical folly of mine no doubt. Getting the bugger on and bolted up was tricky enough with the coupling compressed, I can’t for the life of me see how it would have been possible without it…
Eventually, and with much faffing and a generous helping smattering of adult words later, the new coupling was fitted. I wire-locked the bolts as per the original and stood back to admire my handiwork.
Time will tell how long the new one will hold out – I don’t have much faith in modern bonded rubber components but hopefully I’ll get lucky this time. I’ll definitely keep a good eye on it due to the critical role it plays in the steering department.
In hindsight I should have also ordered a polybush for the steering column where it passes through the bulkhead to fit whilst the steering column was split. However, in order not to delay finishing the job by another couple of weeks whilst I waited on parts to arrive in the mail I deemed that the existing one looked fine – plus with the limited miles I’ll be covering it will probably last for many more years yet.
Feeling in the mood for some more steering-related improvements, I turned my attention to various other degraded components at the front of the car. First up were the track rod ends which had split boots and looked potentially to be original to the car. Rather than forking out (no pun intended) for a ball joint splitter, I used the ‘undo nut and hit the side of the steering knuckle with a hammer’ approach with good success. This worked pretty well – one side did need a little more persuasion than the other but did eventually succumb to my manly hitting technique (especially when I got a second hammer involved).
And here’s the obligatory old vs new shot for comparison. It’s always satisfying putting shiny new bits on…
Although I’ll be sending the car for steering and wheel alignment before it gets used in anger, I did my best to keep the tracking unchanged by both counting the number of turns to remove the old track rod ends and also taking a measurement of the distance between the end of the visible threads on the track rod end and the centre of the ball joint on each new end.
Whilst the track rod ends were removed, I also changed out the perished steering rack gaiters for new ones. Well, that was after cursing the supplier for sending me the wrong parts only to realise after quite some time that I was erroneously trying to fit the shock absorber gaiters instead. After retrieving the right parts from my stash, the replacement process was pretty simple – I cut off the old gaiters, cleaned up the steering rack, applied a quantity of grease to the inside of each new gaiters as per the workshop manual, as well as some to the rack, slid the new gaiters over the track rod end and rack and then buttoned them up with cable ties. Job done.
Comparing the old and new gaiters was like comparing chalk and cheese. Literally. The old one had hardened to the point that it was more like a rigid plastic than rubber whilst the new one was soft and supple, just like me.
Here’s one of the new gaiters fitted:
And here was the view from front and centre after buttoning everything back up. Note the anti-roll bar and drop-links still haven’t been replaced at this stage. It’s on my to-do list…
But wait! The fun doesn’t stop there! I’ve also made some solid progress on the engine front. I’ll cobble together an update of that in the next few days. Watch this space…
Nearly three months has passed since my last post and to be completely honest virtually bugger all has been occurring in the garage department. I’d like to use the convenient global pandemic/economic meltdown excuse but in reality I’m just very easily sidetracked and am juggling a number of unfinished (and sometimes unlikely to be finished) projects around the house and garden – most of which Mrs Rusty ranks as much higher priorities than the Triumph.
One such higher priority was the construction of a large timber fort/slide/swing contraption for Miss Rusty Junior to play on that takes up half the usable space in the garden – this seemed like a completely frivolous use of time/money/prime lawn area until shortly after its completion we found ourselves essentially trapped inside our own property bounds by global events, now it feels like a blessing.
Back in ye olde days of yore (i.e. a few weeks ago) when we were allowed to gallivant freely around the Australian countryside I treated the wife and child to an enjoyable few hours at the 2020 All British Day in Echunga . The South Australian Triumph community was well-represented with a healthy selection of 2000s/2500s, Stags and TRs on display, as well as the odd GT6 and Dolomite.
Also present was a rare 1969 2000 MD – an Australian market triple Stromberged, wire wheeled model of which 48 were built and far fewer remain.
A few non-Triumphs caught my beady little eye including a beige Austin 1800 ute – a quintessentially Aussie version of a car my parents once owned and in which yours truly was transported home from the maternity hospital after being birthed unto this world:
A lime green Mini Moke happily rubbing shoulders with an S-Type Jaguar:
Plus two of my automotive guilty pleasures – a gold Rover SD1 3500 V8:
…and an awesome Morris Marina Coupe with Starsky & Hutch-esque go faster stripe:
I would consider either of these BL icons a fabulous addition to my driveway. I’m sure Mrs Rusty would argue otherwise.
So that’s a little update on the state of British cars out and about in South Australia, but what about the state of British cars inside my own garage? Well, picking up from where I left my last blog post, I continued the strip-down of the engine block – the pistons and crank were removed, as were the front and back plates, the oil pump and whatever other bits and pieces also remained. I then bundled the whole lot into the wife’s my car and dropped it off to J.H. Southcott Engine Reconditioning & Machining Services in Richmond.
This being my first foray into completely stripping a Triumph 6 cylinder block I was a little surprised at the sheer heft of the crank – it’s a big old lump which you don’t want to be lifting with greasy hands…
The machine shop promised to hot tank the block and then take a look at the crank and camshaft to let me know what work will need doing. A few days later they called to confirm that a +0.020″ overbore and a crank regrind of -0.010″ would suffice. The jury’s still out on the camshaft – their initial thoughts were that it was borderline as to whether the hardened surfaces had been compromised, they are going to take a closer look and get back to me on that one. A new one might still be on the cards.
I have placed an order for the appropriate pistons, bearing shells and an assortment of other engine parts from Chris Witor in the UK – as to when they might find their way to Australia given the current lack of international air traffic is anyone’s guess.
In the meantime I have busied myself with starting some of the jobs which are easier with the engine removed – such as renewing some suspension/steering parts and replacing a few bushes whilst I have the access. There will be more on this in a later post. I’ve also taken the opportunity to clean up the engine bay a little – given that it was covered in oily deposits from various leaks in the original engine.
Here’s the nearside inner wing before my half-arsed scrubbing efforts:
The nearside before:
The cross-members and steering rack before:
I’m not in any way aiming for concours under the bonnet (or above it for that matter) but cleaning off the bulk of the thick oil and grease deposits will mean that I should no longer get absolutely filthy every time I go near the car, nor should it smell quite so badly of hot oil after a long run. It’s a shame the offside wing and chassis rail have been damaged by brake fluid spilled over the years, I might see if I can do a quick touch up job on that with a vaguely-matching rattle can before I refit the engine. Otherwise it can remain as honest patina.
The old engine must have had quite a leak (or several of them) – the congealed oil was getting on for 10mm thick in places, especially around the engine cross member and offside engine mount, another good reason to be replacing the lump.
Whilst the engine mounts don’t actually seem too bad, various other rubber components have fared less well to their extended dousing in the black stuff – particularly the offside anti-roll bar bush which literally melted off once I removed the mount. Luckily I have some polybushes to replace these:
The anti-roll bar itself has cleaned up well. I might give it a quick coat of satin black if I’m really stuck for something to do, most likely not though as it’s quite presentable as it is:
Turning the steering to full lock to remove the anti-roll bar also gave me another insight into the less than healthy state of my bonded rubber steering joint coupling. This will be replaced before the car sees the road again:
So all in all, despite the large number of photos in this post, not a huge amount of actual work has taken place in terms of getting the beast up and running again. Hopefully the coronavirus situation won’t delay the arrival of the engine parts for too long and the machine shop can get on with doing their bit and I can start on the rebuild. In the meantime I have a fence that needs painting and a sash window that needs repairing. There will be no rest for the wicked…
Much to Mrs Rusty’s dismay, I have taken the opportunity provided by the Christmas break to lock myself away in the garage poking over my partially-dismantled engine and coming up with a plan of action which balances my desire for a solid, functioning power unit with the fact that I don’t want to spend obscene amount of money in the process.
In order to completely assess the situation I continued the strip-down, starting with the removal of the rocker gear. This is attached to the cylinder head by six nuts and simply lifts off as a unit once these are removed.
With the rocker gear out of the way the pushrods could then be extracted – in true Wheeler Dealers fashion these have been pushed through an old piece of cardboard to ensure they stay with their designated cam followers and rocker arms.
Next on the list was the head removal. This is secured to the block by fourteen nuts/studs and by all accounts removal could have gone one of two ways for me – either lifting straight off or putting up a week-long fight which would involve heat, WD40, various pulling contraptions and lots of naughty words. In the end I was lucky – the nuts were undone in the opposite order from the tightening sequence listed in the workshop manual and with a couple of moderate taps from a mallet against a block of wood it came free. At this stage I also removed the cam followers, storing each in a separate, labelled bag to ensure they can be returned whence they came.
The head itself is a bit of an unknown quantity at this stage – it’s certainly a bit coked up and will at best need a strip down, clean and reassembly but I’ll make further judgement on this a little later down the track. Hopefully there is no cracking between the valve seats. It may be that after doing the rest of the engine work I want to send the head to a professional for attention but I’ll see what the budget looks like when we get there. If the worst comes to the worst and I’m poor and miserable then I can use it as-is in the interim and attend to it some time after the engine has been refitted.
Incidentally, the head is part number 219021 which is identical (except for the EGR port being drilled for the Australian market) to the 219016 head which is widely considered to give the best inlet flows of any of the standard Triumph 2.5 heads.
As fun as contemplating head work was, the block would be the ultimate decider in the level of work that would need to go into the engine. I was hoping that the bores would be in good enough condition for only a hone to be necessary but sadly that didn’t look like it would be the case – a couple of them having noticeable vertical scoring meaning that a full re-bore would be on the cards.
Cylinder number 6 was the worst of the bunch:
Followed by cylinder number 3 (on the right in the below picture):
At least this has helped me decide on what needs to be done in terms of machining – I’ll get the block re-bored and decked if necessary as well as having the main and big end crank journals ground. Hopefully I can get away with 0.020″ oversize on the bores and 0.010″ undersized on the crank but I’ll get it inspected by the machine shop before ordering any bearings and pistons in case we need to go one size further on any of those.
The only other unknown with the block at this stage was the condition of the camshaft – the first step in its extraction from the front of the block being the removal of the timing cover, which is held in place by an assortment of bolts and large screws.
The upper timing chain sprocket is attached to the front face of the camshaft by two bolts which can be removed only once the corners of the securing tab washer have been bent back. The sprocket can then be removed along with the timing chain, revealing the camshaft retaining plate. Before removing the plate I checked the camshaft endfloat by measuring the gap between the retaining plate and the corresponding bearing surface of the camshaft with feeler gauges. The tolerance for this according to the manual is 0.006″-0.008″. Mine came in at 0.007″ so was fine in this respect. These are available new from Chris Witor and other suppliers so can be replaced if worn beyond acceptable limits.
Once the retaining plate has been removed, the camshaft can be withdrawn from the front of the engine – although the distributor drive needs to be taken out first. The workshop manual conveniently glosses over this step so my first attempt left me momentarily confused as to why the camshaft could not be freed as easily as it promised. I eventually figured it out, after which there was much rejoicing. It’s worth remembering that the camshaft should be withdrawn carefully to ensure that neither the lobes or the bearing surfaces are damaged by each other during the extraction process.
The camshaft in my engine is part number 307621 which is the stock-standard cam for the 2500 TC and S. It’s in fair condition considering its age, although does have light wear marks to some of the lobes and bearing surfaces, as well as some very minor pitting to two of the lobe tips. Its condition annoys me somewhat as it falls into the territory of neither being completely buggered or in perfect condition. My heart says if I’m going to the trouble of rebuilding the rest of the engine I should replace it, whereas my head is telling me to save the money and reuse it. Stupid boring head.
If I were to replace the camshaft there are various options including the 2.5PI standard item (part number 308778) which seems to be one of the most popular choices of OEM Stanpart cams for improving mid-range power without adversely affecting low-end torque. Chris Witor also does a reprofiled higher inlet lift variant of this camshaft which promises to get the most out of the twin HS6 carbs (especially when combined with a slight skim to the head to increase the compression ratio to 9:1), but this isn’t a cheap option at $700/£350. Newman Cams may also be able to grind this profile from a blank for less so I’ll follow that up with them as well.
But, I’m also mindful that straying away from a stock cam could easily open the door for more expense which I can’t really afford such as a gas-flowed head, 6-3-1 manifold with sports exhaust, 123ignition with an ignition profile to better suit the cam etc etc.
For now there are just the pistons and crank left to remove to complete the strip down, as well as a few other odds and sods such as the engine front and back plates etc. Then I’ll do some research into stocking up with rebuild parts and tracking down a decent local machine shop where the wallet-emptying fun can really begin…
Finally, after a few weeks of life getting in the way of classic car fiddling I’ve found some time to get down and dirty with the beast – picking up where I left off last time with the engine removal.
I’d already removed some of the ancillary bits and pieces – air box, carbs, manifolds, coil etc and removed and labelled all of the wiring to the block. Next in line for attention were the power steering pump and air con compressor – the former would stay with the car whilst the latter was too big to be removed with the engine in-situ and would be lifted out with the block.
The power steering pump is secured to both a bracket on the side of the block and to the front engine plate. After freeing the pump from these fixings I tethered it to the suspension turret to prevent undue strain on the hydraulic pipes and hoses.
Nestled in under a slightly modified (i.e. butchered) battery shelf, the AC compressor is too big to extract from the car with the engine in-situ and was therefore disconnected from the rest of the system by undoing two hoses (I guessed correctly that the refrigerant had escaped long ago) and a couple of electrical connections so it could be lifted out attached to the block. I was initially in two minds about whether to keep the AC system or not, given that it takes up room in the engine bay, doesn’t work and will most likely be expensive to fix. However it would be a great asset if working and the retro interior unit looks good so I have decided to reinstate it as is (i.e. not working) in the short term with a view to recommission it at some point in the future. I have temporarily sealed off all of the hoses and connection points as best as possible to keep the system clean and hopefully moisture-free whilst it is disconnected (not that moisture’s a massive issue in the South Australian summer).
Learning from my previous experience of extracting a 2500 engine from above, I removed the clutch assembly, flywheel and bell-housing mounting studs from the rear of the block, as well as the cooling fan from the crank pulley. The radiator was also removed and stored safely (incidentally a sticker on this showed it had been re-cored fairly recently – probably only a year or two before the car was decommissioned – and looks to be in great shape). This reduces the length of the block as much as possible and means that the chances of fouling on the bulkhead or slam panel during removal are greatly reduced.
Thanks to this preparation work, lifting the block out was relatively pain-free – it was connected to my engine crane via two one-tonne lifting slings and after the engine mounts had been unbolted it was liberated from the car with only gentle maneuvering around the bulkhead and steering rack required.
With the engine out I’m going to take the opportunity to address a few little issues in and around the engine bay. One urgent issue that will definitely be rectified before the car returns to the road is the replacement of the rubber steering column coupling which is well on its way to becoming a useless collection of smaller chunks of rubber and metal. As luck would have it a supplier erroneously included one of these in a parts order I made a year or two ago and it’s been sitting on the shelf in my garage ever since so that will be a quick and free solution to a potentially dangerous problem. There’s apparently a bit of an art to fitting these involving a large jubilee clip so I’ll brush up on that before I get stuck in.
The engine mounts don’t look too bad so in the interests of keeping costs down I’ll probably stick with these rather than take a gamble on some new ones which may or may not last more than a few hundred kms.
The offside chassis leg, whilst very solid, has suffered from paint blistering where brake fluid has spilled down onto it over the years. It’s currently protected by a nice film of oil and grease but I’ll try to tidy this up before the engine is reinstalled. I’m not aiming for concours, especially under the bonnet, so I’ll try to match the paint up as best as possible and do a quick tart up with a rattle can for now.
Having decided that I’d procrastinated long enough by digging around my newly capacious engine bay it was finally time to turn my attentions to the engine itself. As I’ve written before, I have a replacement block which I was planning to drop into the car with minimal work other than the replacement of the thrust washers. However, given the hassle of removing the engine in the first place and the fact I’d rather not have to go through the process again anytime soon I decided to stick it on an engine stand and have a little poke around in its innards to see what condition it was in.
First things first – to avoid making even more of a mess of my already saturated garage floor I lifted the block on my engine crane, using an engine leveller to tilt it down at the flywheel end. This allowed me to remove the sump plug and the coolant drain plug and make sure that the block was as fluid-free as possible before turning it upside down on the stand.
I then removed the flywheel and attached the engine stand’s mount to the backplate of the engine using grade 8 high-tensile fittings…
…before lifting the whole assembly and fitting it onto the engine stand…
So far so good – it hasn’t fallen off yet despite me giving it a really good wobble before unhooking the crane. It’s just a cheap and cheerful stand from Super Cheap Auto but it’s rated at 450kg and seems to be doing its job well. It’s a little stiff to turn over single-handedly but it’s not impossible, even for a skinny-armed guy like me. Hopefully the back plate won’t get bent with the weight of the engine hanging from it but I’ll check it with a straight edge when it comes off and swap it over for a spare if there’s any doubt.
With the engine spun over on the stand whipping the sump off was easy – it looks fairly good in there on first inspection and isn’t too sludgy…
My first port of call was the thrust washers – there are two on the 2500 engine, either side of the fourth main journal of the crank. Whilst the end float was measured to be within spec at about 0.006″, the problem here was obvious – one (the front-most, which takes most of the load when the clutch is depressed) had started to break up. The crank bearing faces seem to be OK – there was some very light scoring to the front-most one where the bearing has broken up, but nothing that was able to be felt with a fingernail. Both of the existing thrusts are standard size so when rebuilding I’ll experiment with adding one oversized one to the mix to try to bring the end float down to the lower end of the tolerance range.
Taking off the main bearing caps for inspection produced some mixed results – the bearing shells themselves are aluminium-tin which do not show any copper as a wear guide but they looked generally OK, if not a little tired with some light scoring in places…
The crank journals themselves also looked passable – again some light scoring but nothing that could be felt with a fingernail. At this point it looked as though a new set of standard size bearing shells might be all that was needed to inject a good few more years of life into the lump…
Sadly the big ends were a different story – both the bearing shells and the crank journals had deeper scoring than on the mains with undulations able to be felt with a fingernail on most of the journals…
…whilst the bearing shells weren’t in much better shape either…
So at this stage my simple refresh had grown in scale from chucking in some new bearing shells to including a crank regrind. Seeing as I was now edging into rebuild territory it got me wondering how far to go with the engine work. I saw my options as follows:
Do the bare minimum – chuck in new bearing shells and thrusts and reassemble as-is. It’ll probably go on happily for years given the fairly light use it will get from me.
Do a half-arsed job – get the crank ground and fit new bearing shells and thrusts. Leave the block as-is.
Go full monty – strip it down completely, get the crank ground and the block re-honed/re-bored with new bearing shells, thrusts, rings and/or pistons as necessary.
In hindsight I’m kicking myself for not carrying out a compression test on the engine whilst it was up and running in the parts car – but the unexpected arrival of this car and the need to remove the other one from my driveway as quickly as possible unfortunately meant this wasn’t the best use of my time.
In order to get some sort of idea of the condition of the bores and rings, prior to removing the head for a visual inspection I decided to run a leak-down test on the engine. I acknowledge that the results of such a test might not be 100% accurate given that a) the engine hasn’t run for a while and b) the test is ideally carried out on a warm engine, but given the circumstances I decided it was better than nothing.
The test involves setting each piston in turn to TDC on the firing stroke (i.e. both inlet and exhaust valves are closed) and then feeding compressed air into a cylinder at a known psi with a second gauge showing the leakage in percentage terms from that cylinder.
Four out of the six cylinders showed a leakage at around the 50% mark (not so good), with cylinders five and six showing a lower figure of around 30%. Given the fact that the engine’s been upside down on the stand for a week now and only cylinders 5 and 6 show any oil dripping out of the spark plug holes I suspect this is more to do with oil passing through the rings from below and improving the results for these two cylinders as opposed to them being less worn than the other four (i.e. essentially the results show the difference between a wet test and a dry one).
Given the obvious hisses coming from both the dipstick and, more prominently, around the cam followers I came to the conclusion that the air was escaping past the piston rings – either due to worn/stuck rings and or worn bores. Ideally I’d put the engine in the car, run it for a while (including giving it a couple of good Italian tune-ups) and then carry out compression and leak-down tests to get a more accurate idea of its condition. However, the thought of putting it all back together again only to potentially have to take it all apart again in a few weeks fills me with dread. I’d quite like to drive the thing.
So this leaves me thinking that the best (albeit most expensive) course of action is to go full monty on this bad boy – strip the block down, get the crank ground and the cylinders honed or bored as needed. Fit new pistons and/or rings, new bearing shells and thrusts, a few new seals and gaskets etc. Given the fact that it will be mated to a rebuilt gearbox it should mean the drivetrain will be largely sorted for the foreseeable future.
I’ll have a look at the cam shaft when the block’s stripped and make a decision about that at the time, the same goes for the oil pump. I’ll also have a think about the head – worst case scenario I can clean it up, give the valves a quick lap and run it as-is for now with a view to getting it rebuilt with hardened valve seats when funds eventually allow. But then again my mission has had a habit of creeping slightly of late…
No one likes doing the same job twice. I, especially, don’t like doing the same job twice. And yet here I am doing the same job for a second time running. A large part of me just wanted to say sod it and send the car to a mechanic to do the gearbox and engine swap, but the increasingly miserly aspect of my personality couldn’t look past the cost of doing so, as well as the fact that I’d be missing out on the opportunity to be able to say that I’d done it myself. Plus, nothing helps you learn more about your car than pulling its innards out.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to removing the engine and gearbox from a Triumph saloon – the first being to raise the car on axle stands, remove the engine and suspension cross-members and then drop the two as a single unit before sliding out from under the car. Whilst almost universally accepted as the easiest option I’m reluctant to go down this path because: 1) by my calculations the front of the car will need to be raised at least 700mm for the engine to clear the front valance and I don’t think my existing axle stands will have the required height for this and 2) I need the car to remain mobile whilst I undertake any engine rebuild work required and don’t really want the hassle of refitting the suspension in the interim.
The second school of thought is to remove the engine and gearbox as separate units – the gearbox from below and the engine from above. I’ve done this before on the parts car and it worked well. That said, when it comes to refitting, I may still investigate the option of installing the two as a unit from beneath, given that I won’t have gravity on my side when it comes to refitting the gearbox.
So I headed down the now well-trodden path of pulling the gearbox – starting with the removal of the exhaust system. This has to be removed in two pieces as it passes through the chassis at the rear of the car – therefore the rear section has to come off first, followed by the middle and front sections (I removed these as a single unit to avoid having to split them). The rear section is attached by two rubber mounts along its length which, once removed, allows the unit to be tapped out of its joint with the middle section with the assistance of a large wooden adjusting mallet. The front and middle sections are fixed at the manifold as well as a bracket near the gearbox cross-member. Once these are undone the pipe can be dropped and removed from the car.
With the pesky exhaust pipe out of the way, the real fun of gearbox removal can begin – the first step of which is to unbolt the propshaft from the output shaft flange. The four bolts can be undone with a 9/16″ spanner and matching socket, although the prop will need to be rotated at least once to gain access to all of them. I found the easiest way of doing this was to undo the two bolts which I had access to and then lift the back of the car enough to turn a rear wheel to bring the other two round to an accessible position. Once all bolts have been removed, the front end of the prop can then be lowered to the ground and slid aside for access.
With the prop and exhaust dealt with, the next step is to remove the gearstick, which is done from inside the car. This is held in place via a metal cup attached to the gearbox selector housing. To remove, the trim panel around the gearstick needs to be gently unclipped (a proper trim removal tool comes in handy here) and the single bolt holding the cup in place removed. Then, with the wiring for the overdrive switch unplugged, the cup is pressed and turned to release allowing the gearstick to be withdrawn from the car. Now is a good time to check the anti-rattle plunger and spring are still in place and order new ones if not.
The final preparatory steps before dropping the ‘box are to remove the speedo cable from the gearbox and unplug the wiring from the overdrive solenoid and inhibitor switch, as well as the reversing light switch – making sure to note the correct locations of the wires to prevent headaches when you eventually put everything back together again (potentially decades later in my case).
The gearbox is held in place by a mount at the rear, as well as somewhere in the region of 500 bolts between the bellhousing and the engine backplate (actually it’s around the 15 mark, including three studs, but it feels like an awful lot more when you’re lying on your back trying to remove them in the dark). The fixings at the top of the bellhousing are only really accessible with the gearbox dropped so we’ll deal with that first.
Dropping the gearbox involves removing the supporting cross-member from the car. As it is preferable for the lowering process to happen in a controlled manner (as opposed to very quickly and via your face) the cross-member first needs to be supported with a jack. If your head’s underneath it then I’d go all-out and chuck in an axle stand as well. With this in place, the four bolts holding the cross-member to the car can be removed, being careful to retrieve and set aside the myriad of washers, bushes and spacers that will follow. Mine are all very new but you might want to consider replacing the bushes and rear ‘box mount if they’re in poor condition. The jack can then be lowered slowly to drop the gearbox down as far as it will travel (i.e. until the cylinder head rests against the bulkhead), at which point the cross-member and mount can be unbolted from the ‘box.
It’s worth being a tad vigilant at this point as the process of lowering the gearbox will tilt the engine backwards and present a small possibility of the radiator top hose over-extending, or the lower fan blades coming into contact with the radiator (or both). It’s also worth being mindful of the brake pipes which run across the bulkhead to ensure they are not going to be crushed by the engine in the reclined position. Luckily, mine was fine on all counts.
With the gearbox lowered, all of the bellhousing fixings become accessible, or at least as accessible as they’ll ever be – these can be removed with something varying from complete ease (in the case of the lower ones) to real hassle involving multiple socket extensions, psychic ability and unhumanly bendy arms (in the case of the top ones). Two of the bolts hold the clutch slave cylinder mounting plate in place – this should be moved aside and supported with wire or similar to prevent undue stress on its hydraulic line. On a safety-related note, it’s a good idea to leave a couple of the bellhousing bolts in place and finger-tight until you have properly supported the gearbox for removal to prevent it from slipping off and damaging itself or you (or both).
Having removed a 2500’s gearbox before using only a trolley jack, I had procured a secret weapon this time round to allow for easy removal – a transmission jack adapter. This nifty piece of equipment turns a standard trolley jack into a transmission jack, great news for skinny armed folk like myself. As well as forming a secure cradle to support the ‘box, the adapter also features a tilt mechanism, which looked like it would make removing the gearbox and then aligning it upon refitting a bit of a doddle.
However, my optimism was annoyingly short-lived as it soon became apparent that the overall height of this unit was too great to allow the gearbox to be dropped from the car completely. In fact, even at its lowest height the top half of the gearbox remained well within the confines of the gearbox tunnel, leaving no options for rolling it out to the side or similar.
Not to be deterred, and with a celebratory cup of tea at the front of my mind, I shifted my strategy towards a two-stage approach, using the jack to lower the ‘box onto an interim support of a timber beam securely lashed to the wheel ramps and a second jack positioned at the rear mount point. Two of the supporting lugs on the transmission jack adapter could then be removed, allowing it to be slid out to the side and out from under the car.
The final step in removal involved using the jack to lower the rear of the ‘box onto a bespoke cushioned surface (some bags of garden mulch and potting mix). One side of the timber beam could then be unlashed and slid down the wheel ramp to bring the front end of the box down to ground (or mulch) level. Not exactly textbook but it worked – the only damage being a small tear in one of the bags of mulch, which I’ll just have to learn to live with.
So the old gearbox is out. I haven’t yet had the time to inspect the release fork pin to see if it confirms my suspicions that it’s broken – but on initial inspection the release bearing is certainly past its best, having worn a considerable groove in the pressure plate fingers.
I have all new clutch components to fit to the new gearbox so I’m not too concerned about any of the existing clutch mechanism at this stage, but it will still be interesting to find out what’s been going on in there.
The next step is engine removal. I’ve made a small start on this in the form of ancillary component removal and labelling of wiring but the bulk of the work will have to wait until next time.
In my case I also have to worry about the power steering pump and air con compressor (defunct) which were not part of the equation when pulling the engine from the parts car. However with the radiator, flywheel and viscous fan removed I think there should still be room to remove the engine from above. Otherwise it will be time for Plan B – which doesn’t exist yet.
Blimey. All I did was blink and seven months passed by. Well to be accurate I got distracted renovating a bathroom and, because of my well-documented inability to focus on more than one task at any given time, work on the Triumph pretty much slowed to a stop. However, the stars are gradually aligning – spring finally seems to have arrived and Mrs Rusty is overjoyed that we once again have a functioning toilet so I’m sensing an opportunity to sneak out of the house whilst she’s not looking and have another poke around in the oily depths.
Before I go any further I should probably add a small update on my previous post – despite my best (some may say heroic) efforts, the Triumph didn’t make it to the All British Day. Once I had finished faffing around with the cooling system I made a last-minute executive decision to try to sort out the clutch which bites about 5mm from the bottom of the pedal travel and makes the car a bit difficult to drive. The day before the event, and in the hope it was a hydraulic problem, I swapped over the known good master cylinder salvaged from the TC, fitted a brand new 7/8″ bore slave cylinder procured from Chris Witor and bled the system thoroughly but this had no effect on pedal travel. I presume that the problem is inside the bell housing – most likely the tapered pin securing the clutch release fork to the cross shaft has sheared and needs to be replaced. It’s a gearbox out job then. Luckily/annoyingly I’ve been there before…
I feel I’m about to experience a case of Déjà vu…
As I hadn’t driven the car a long distance before, and I had no idea whether the problem would get worse as everything warmed up and leave me stranded with no clutch, I decided to take the modern to the All British Day instead (yep, I’m a coward like that). On the plus side this meant I could go with family in tow, making me much less of a Larry-no-mates than I would have been solo. The ABD was great fun, so many cars (including a great display of Triumphs) to see – and I could tell by the look of general ambivalence on her face that the wife loved it too.
Yellow Stag anyone?
So, whilst I haven’t had a chance to do much actual work on the car, it has needed to be shuffled around my vast estate a few times to make way for plumbers digging up my driveway and this has drawn my attention to the less-than-healthy condition of the engine. It knocks a bit when starting from cold (they all do that sir) and it enjoys spraying my driveway with a fine mist of oil from the exhaust pipe each time it runs. I’ve had my suspicions about the existing lump since I bought the car – the oil was black and filthy, the filter canister contained no paper element and the valve gear was caked in an appetising layer of black sludge (I did buy it from a breakers don’t forget). Out of morbid curiosity I’ll run a compression test and, if I’m feeling really fancy, might hook up my oil pressure gauge just to see what’s going on but seeing as it’s not the original block supplied with the car from new (the engine number is from a PI) I have no particular concerns about swapping it over for something a bit less crap.
I have my suspicions about this particular lump of iron and sludge…
As luck would have it, my garage floor is still adorned with the 2500 lump I removed from the TC prior to it ‘moving on’. Whilst I don’t know much about the history of this engine it has a nicer aura than the one that’s currently in the car. When it came into my ownership the oil was clean, the filter element was new and the valve gear was sludge-free. The block and head also seem to be sporting various new gaskets, new freeze plugs and a fresh(ish) coat of paint which makes me wonder if it has been rebuilt at some point in the past. Annoyingly I didn’t run a compression or oil pressure test on it whilst it was up and running in the TC but it didn’t knock from startup or spray oil from the exhaust and has no discernible fore-aft play in the crankshaft so my money’s on it being a safer bet in the long run.
The TC giving up its innards.
So, seeing as the gearbox is going to have to come out to fix the clutch I thought I might as well go the whole-hog and swap the engines over at the same time. I also have that newly-rebuilt OD box sitting all seductively in the corner of my garage which might as well be put to good use and swapped in too.
So, that’s the to-do list sorted for the coming weeks then, but what about more immediate progress? Well, to give myself an ‘ooh, something is happening’ ego boost I decided to start small and swap out the front wheel bearings. Having been off the road for 10 years or so, the bearings needed to at least be stripped, cleaned and re-greased so I thought I might as well go the extra mile and fit new ones. The replacement Timken bearings were sourced from Chris Witor a couple of parts orders ago and have been sitting on the shelf in my garage ever since.
Ready and waiting to go.
The replacement process begins, as with all good stories, with the jacking up of the front of the car and securing it on axle stands. The brake caliper needs to come off first – it’s technically held on with two bolts but removal and refitting is much easier if the bolts holding the strut to the vertical link are loosened slightly too. Once they’ve been slackened, the caliper can be unbolted and suspended from the front coil spring by a length of wire to avoid any tension being put on the brake flexi hose.
Just hanging around.
To remove the hub itself the dust cap needs to be levered gently off of the centre of the hub, exposing the castellated hub nut. The split pin securing the nut to the stub axle can be pulled out with pliers, after which the nut can be removed leaving the hub free to be pulled straight off. This process may or may not leave the inner bearing roller and/or grease seal attached to the stub axle – if so they can be pulled or gently tapped free. If the bearing rollers have remained in the hub, they can be pulled out leaving just the races, which are a press-fit in their seats. Each race can be tapped out from the opposite side of the hub through the two small notches that BL kindly machined – I have a handy box of long carriage bolts stashed away for such purposes.
Removing the old bearing races.
You’ll probably find it cleaner and easier to see what you’re doing if you remove as much rancid old grease as possible from the hub assembly first – especially if a previous owner or their friendly mechanic has stuffed the cavity full of the stuff as is often the case (and by all accounts completely unnecessary). A few bold taps of the hammer, alternating between each side of the race should see it pop right out. Be bolder if not. Repeat for the other race et voilà – the disassembly process is complete. Enjoy a pat on the back and have a beer.
Here’s what you hopefully be looking at…
Despite having new bearings to fit, out of curiosity I cleaned off the old bearings and their races to see what condition they were in. Whilst not showing heavy wear or damage, the races showed some signs of light scoring and heat-related discolouration so their replacement was definitely due. The grease also smelled a bit burnt and around the bearings it had a very low viscosity, resembling more of a heavy oil than a grease. Whether this was age or heat-related deterioration, or the wrong type of grease had been used at some point in the car’s maintenance history I don’t know, but it felt good to be cleaning it all out.
Probably about time for replacement.
The first step of reassembly is to drive each of the races into its seat in the hub. There are several ways of doing this – you could use a hydraulic press (easiest, but I don’t have one), you could drive it in with a suitably sized socket, or you can drive it in with a punch of some description. Whichever method you choose, the aim is to ensure the race is fully seated in the hub without inflicting even the slightest damage to the surface on which the rollers will run. Being the daredevil maverick I am, I chose Option 3 and used the same non-hardened carriage bolt that I used to remove the races to drive them home – tapping the races progressively into the hub, working around the top lip in a 12, 6, 3, 9 o’clock pattern. This has to be done extremely carefully as it would be very easy to slip and scratch the bearing surface rendering it scrap. Taking it slow and steady I got away with it – the obvious change in note of the hammer tapping the race being the signal that they had bottomed out in their seats without a single slip, scratch or bludgeoned finger. Another celebratory beer? Thank you, but not whilst I’m working with tools…
The next step in the assembly process is to pack the new bearing rollers with a dedicated wheel bearing grease – I used a Timken grease as presumably they are best placed to know the lubrication requirements of their own products. Again, there are a couple of options here – you can buy a fancy bearing packer contraption or you can do it the fun, messy way. I chose the latter of course – this involves placing a nice big blob of grease in the middle of one palm and with the other hand biting away at the blob with the outer edge of the bearing roller until fresh grease is pushed through and out of the other side (see picture below). This is repeated progressively around the circumference of the bearing until it is fully greased. I then also run the grease around the rollers with my fingers to ensure they are covered. The races installed in the hub also get a coating to avoid dry spots.
Next the grease seal needs to be fitted to the stub axle – I went for the decent ones with leather inserts available from Chris Witor. These can be a bit tight and therefore tricky to fit, but a very light smear of grease and some gentle persuasion with a small hammer around their perimeter saw them sitting where they should be.
At this stage the inner bearing roller can be slid over the stub axle – it might need a careful tap if there is a small lip for it to slide over (although if there is significant wear to the stub axle it might be time to consider a replacement) but I am reliably advised that it shouldn’t be an interference fit. Once the inner roller is in place, the hub assembly and outer bearing can be installed, followed by the large washer and castellated nut (although don’t fit the split pin just yet). Give both sides of the brake disc a good going over with some brake cleaner to remove any wayward grease and re-attach the brake caliper (don’t forget to tighten the strut to vertical link bolts to the correct torque).
The end result…
The final step in the process is to adjust the bearing – tapered roller bearings should not have a pre-load (i.e. an axial force which is great enough to remove play in the bearing components), nor should they be too loose. The tightness of the hub nut determines the pre-load on the bearing – the aim is to find the ‘sweet spot’ in which the nut can be locked by the split pin that will allow a very small amount of detectable play. The threaded portion of the stub axle has two holes drilled through it at right angles, meaning there are 12 positions in which the split pin can lock the nut in any 360 degree revolution.
My technique, and there are many, is to temporarily fit the road wheel and then tighten the hub nut with a socket to ensure that all bearing parts and the rear grease seal are seated correctly. Next I back the nut off again until there is free play in the bearing and then very gradually re-tighten until the point at which all the play is removed. Finally I back the nut off until the next available hole for the split pin is available – in this position if the wheel is rocked from top to bottom I should just be able to feel some movement in the bearing (if there is still no movement detectable then I back off again to the next hole). Remember with taper roller bearings that a little bit too loose is generally better than a little bit too tight but, as a rule, if you can hear the movement then it’s probably too loose.
It can sometimes take a few attempts to get this right and the bearings should also be re-adjusted after a few miles to ensure that any additional play gained through the seating of the bearing components is accounted for (so make sure you order a couple more sets of split pins as they should not be re-used).
So that’s my update – both front wheel bearings are replaced. The next jobs on my list are not so small. Watch this space…
Well, another few weeks have passed and against all odds another few jobs have been ticked off of the to do list – the main focus this time round being the rather grotty cooling system which seemingly last saw anything that could be described as a ‘better day’ back in the late 1990s. The hoses were perished and swollen, the coolant a very dubious shade of brown and the fan belt, well actually the fan belt wasn’t too bad, but you get the gist of things.
Some replacement hoses were definitely the order of the day – luckily before its final journey to the scrap man the blue car generously donated the new top and bottom hoses which the previous owner had put on just before it came into my ownership. The remaining assortment of smaller hoses were sourced from Rimmer Brothers in the UK, as was a new thermostat and gasket.
Before fitting the hoses however, the system needed a thorough flush to remove the existing coolant and any associated sludge that had built up over the last 30-odd years. The system was drained by removing the bottom hose and both the radiator and block flushed and back-flushed several times until only clean water emerged. After removing the heater hoses and moving the heater controls to hot, the heater core had the same treatment (this yielded a particularly appetising pan of brown silty goo), as did the small diameter pipe that runs behind the carbs. I would have done the same with the steel water return pipe which runs behind the exhaust manifold but somewhat annoyingly this disintegrated in my hand when I removed the heater hose from its T junction.
Being a mild steel pipe, corrosion here is a common problem which many owners choose to rectify with a stainless steel replacement from Chris Witor. Given the fact that at this stage I was already cutting it fine in respect to my deadline of the 10th February All British Day, waiting a couple of weeks for a part to ship from the UK was a bit of an gamble so I decided to inspect the engine I had removed from the parts car just to see if its water pipe was at least serviceable enough to use as a stop-gap measure in the short term.
To my surprise, not only was the spare pipe in great condition but it was also copper rather than mild steel and therefore completely free from corrosion. I’m not sure if this is a bespoke item made by a previous owner or their garage (or their plumber) or whether these were readily available at some point. Either way it saved me a lot of time and worry (and money – the stainless item weighing in at around $80 including postage).
Whilst I’d had some luck finding a replacement pipe, replacing it wasn’t quite as straight forward as I had hoped. The pipe is easily freed from the block – is is held on by a single bracket at the rearmost exhaust manifold stud, two heater hoses and a compression fitting at the water pump end (I’ve heard these compression fittings can be a pain to undo but mine didn’t put up a fight). Getting it out is less easy – certainly on the S model – as the power steering pump and bracket preclude it from being pulled straight off of the car.
After much wriggling around, trying to find that one sweet angle at which it would clear both the exhaust manifold, the power steering pump and the radiator, I gave up and decided the easiest option was to remove the manifolds to give myself a bit more room. Although not a task I had planned to do, it’s not the trickiest job in the world (providing you don’t encounter any non-compliant studs) and it gives great access to the coolant hoses at the rear of the block, thus making replacement a lot easier. Removal of the inlet manifold (complete with carbs) just requires the disconnection of the throttle and choke cables, a few fuel, vacuum and PCV hoses and nine nuts (six of which also hold the bottom of the exhaust manifold in place). Removal of a further 4 nuts frees the top of the exhaust manifold, which can then be pulled gently away from the head.
With the exhaust still attached, the manifold is only free to move about an inch or so – but luckily this was all that was required to free the water pipe from its small and rather toasty prison. The old one was removed (and promptly chucked in the bin) and the new copper replacement fed in to take its place. I used a little bit of PTFE tape around the compression fitting to ensure it was watertight but other than that the fitting was a thoroughly unremarkable event.
Whilst the manifolds were off I replaced the various heater and other hoses at the rear of the block burning through my stockpile of new (well, newish) jubilee clips. I used the proper, correctly shaped hoses rather than just lengths of generic half inch heater hose as a) they look neater, b) it reduces the risk of kinking and suppressed coolant flow and c) they’re really not that expensive in the grand scheme of things.
With the hoses replaced, the manifolds were reattached to the head using the original gasket which looked to be in good condition. I was careful when tightening the manifold nuts not to go overboard with my crazy Popeye-esque strength just to avoid any sheared studs and heartache. I came away unscathed in this respect.
Next I turned my attention to the larger hoses – both of which needed some Stanley knife-based ‘adjustment’ (this does not usually bode well for the integrity of my fingertips). The car has two electric cooling fans fitted at the front of the radiator which I presume used to be controlled by a long-defunct thermo switch which was mounted on the front slam panel. When this failed the previous owner ran a bypass circuit into the car where a small toggle switch could be used to control the fans manually. This was seemingly never actually fixed to anything and was just floating around beneath the dashboard. This, coupled with the fact that all electrical connections had been made using insulating tape, spurred me on to rectify the situation.
A while ago I had purchased a Davis Craig thermal fan switch together with a adaptor kit to enable the probe to be fitted properly into the top hose, instead of hanging out one end of it which looks untidy and, from experience, invariably leaks. Fitting was fairly simple, 17mm of hose is cut out and the adaptor is fitted in its place. The temperature probe fits into the adaptor and runs out to the thermo switch – which I mounted on the slam panel using the same holes which held the bracket for the old switch.
Two short lengths of wire were then cut and used to join the thermo switch back to the original fan wiring loom, the result being functional, although not exactly factory (I’ve never really been a fan of these aftermarket thermo switches with their very obvious and messy probe cable) .
For extra control and as a backup I also ran a bypass circuit into the car – although unlike the previous owner I went the whole hog and terminated in a proper automotive toggle switch which was mounted to the lower edge of the dashboard. Hopefully I’ll never need to use it but it’s reassuring to know it’s there just in case.
The bottom hose also required some surgery as it originated from the parts car which lacked power steering. The S models did not use the same single-piece bottom hose but instead used two shorter hoses connected by a metal pipe which is of small enough diameter to pass between the power steering pump and its pulley without being chafed. Cutting the middle section out of the bottom hose and just using its two ends did the trick.
The connecting pipe for the two bottom hoses is also mild steel and mine was quite badly corroded at one end – although in this case enough metal remains for it to be used quite safely in the short term. A stainless steel replacement has been ordered from Chris Witor but in the meantime I used some JB Weld epoxy to fill some of the depressions left by corrosion just to help the bottom hose seal as well as possible and to prevent leakage.
When the replacement pipe for the lower hose arrives I plan to run a coolant flushing product through the system before I drain and re-flush the radiator, heater core and block. That should hopefully shift any remaining gunk and ensure the car keeps its cool at least for the next few years.
So that’s the cooling system dealt with for now – there are just a couple of minor jobs to complete at this stage and she’ll be good to go. I’m looking forward to getting out and about and exploring some of SA’s beautiful countryside in the old girl.
It has been quite a climatic end to 2018 for the Rusty household as, a mere seven months after being delivered on the back of a low loader and limping into my garage on three cylinders, the Beast has finally emerged from the shadows and has once again been able to enjoy the slightly prickly feeling of the South Australian sun on its back, dulling its paintwork and crisping up its vinyl components.
This means that I’m finally able to share some photos with my hoards of over-excited readers which haven’t been taken in the 3 foot gap between the car and my garage wall.
So, without further ado – behold the white car:
The car was surprisingly dusty considering it had been tucked up in a sealed garage so it was treated to a wash and hose down – the water from which remaining largely on the outside of the car (a nice little bonus). I think it looks pretty good for a 40 year old car which was picked up from a scrap dealer.
Yes, there are a few little bodywork issues which will eventually need to be addressed – there’s a small amount of bubbling around the right hand end of the rear panel seam, a small hole in the rear valance and a suspect bottom lip at the front end of the driver’s side sill – but ultimately it scrubbed up very well and has proven to be more presentable than I remember from when I bought it and quickly ensconced it safely in the garage/hid it from the wife.
The slightly mismatched driver’s door (presumably replaced at some point in the past) looks ten times better now that I have added pin stripes – sourced from eBay and a very good match to the stripes on the rest of the car in terms of width, although they are a subtly different shade of gold so I will most likely re-do the whole of the driver’s side when I get a spare hour or two. The door also sits a little too far forward (i.e. the gap between the door and the front wing is smaller than the gap at the B pillar) – but I have some laser-cut hinge spacers which should sort this out. I replaced both the upper and lower hinge pins a while ago and this has levelled the door up quite nicely so it no longer drops at the latch end. The old pins were quite worn, especially the top one, so replacement was long overdue.
Replacing the hinge pins is relatively easy – with the door removed they can be driven out of the hinges with a punch, although they have one knurled end of a slightly bigger diameter which cannot be driven through the hinge so it has to be determined which end of the pin is knurled before it can be driven out successfully in that direction. If it’s not coming out fairly easily then you’re probably going the wrong way. In my case both pins were fitted with the knurled end upwards, although on my parts car one needed to be driven out downwards so your experience may vary. It is also worth replacing the two washers which sit either side of the door portion of the hinge – these wear with age and will cause further door drop if not replaced. I used some relatively unworn washers taken from a rear door of the parts car but obtained some new hardened hinge pins via Chris Witor.
Buoyed by the overall internal and external presentability of the car, the next logical step was to make it actually work. With some fresh 98 RON petrol in the tank and new 20W50 oil in the sump (along with the spin-on filter and adapter from the blue car), the rebuilt carbs at their base setting (jets wound down 12 flats from being level with the bridge), the static timing set at 10 degrees and the valve clearances, points gap and spark plug gaps all set as per the manual, the engine fired up quickly and ran smoothly, with the oil light extinguishing almost immediately – a promising start and at least confirms that I wired the coil correctly. There is a little bit of tappetty noise from the top end but at this stage I am putting this down to the engine having not been run for several years and am hoping it will quieten down once the oil gets flowing through some regular use.
However, before I could proceed with setting up the carbs and timing properly, it was obvious that there was a significant exhaust leak which would need to be addressed. Looking at the sooty deposits on the existing exhaust, it was easy to see where it was leaking from – the front silencer on the middle section was in the process of parting ways with the adjoining pipe, with a big split between the two.
Furthermore, the rear section’s silencer had a small rust hole in one of its ends, and the horizontal part of the front section was more oval than round – presumably due to contact with something hard at some point in its life. The system was essentially scrap. This is where having a parts car becomes an absolutely godsend, saving time and money in procuring new parts. Whilst the exhaust from the parts car was not shiny and new, it was very solid and dent-free. It seemed like a sensible choice to swap them over.
As a rule I don’t like removing or fitting exhausts. It’s dirty, fiddly and rather boring. However, I didn’t really want the hassle of finding a garage or fast fit place that would touch a used exhaust, plus I’m a tightwad. I therefore spent a not particularly enjoyable couple of hours on my back doing it myself.
Removing the old exhaust from the car wasn’t too difficult – the rear section is removed first, and is supported by two rubber mounts, one near each end of the section. A bit of wiggling, pulling and persuading with a mallet saw this separated from the middle section without too much drama. Removing the middle section from the front section was less successful, partially due to the limited room to apply a decent amount of leverage. I instead opted to unbolt the front section from the manifold and, with the gearbox supported on a trolley jack and axle stand, remove the front and middle sections together by dropping the gearbox mount and cross-member.
Seeing as I had gone to the trouble of removing them from the car, I thought it was a good idea to replace the gear box mount and the cross-member bushes with the new items I had previously bought for the blue car – a genuine Australian-made Mackay rubber mount (the only ones worth buying by all accounts) and a set of SuperFlex polybushes for the cross-member fittings. To be honest, despite being covered in oil, the old ones on the car didn’t actually seem to be in too bad a condition – the rubber and metal portions of the gearbox mount had not separated and the cross-member already sported polybushes, albeit squashed and tired ones. I replaced them anyway as a precaution.
Fitting the replacement exhaust was undertaken in the the reverse order of the removal process – although the front and middle sections could be fitted individually as they had already been separated. As well as a new downpipe to manifold gasket, I used some exhaust gum on the joints to ensure they were gas-tight. Annoyingly I did manage to shear off one manifold to downpipe stud upon reassembly, but luckily enough remained protruding for me to remove the remains with a pair of mole grips and I had a spare on hand from the parts car. A 30 minute diversion from the task in hand, but it could have been a lot worse.
To finish the job, the perished rubber mounts for the rear section of the exhaust were replaced with some new ones which I had in my stockpile and the rebuilt gearbox mounting hardware was returned whence it came.
Firing up the car again produced an exhaust note much nicer than the chuffing previously emitted, confirming that the replacement had been a success and that I could finally get round to tuning and hopefully even driving the car. But, as excited as I was to get out on the open road, whilst the car was up on ramps it made sense to address the gearbox and diff oil levels in order to cross another couple of items off from the whiteboard list.
The gearbox has both a drain plug and a filling plug – the latter of the two on mine proving particularly difficult to remove. It is located on the side of the ‘box and access is fairly limited due to its proximity to both the side of the gearbox tunnel and a lip in the cast gearbox casing. It was also one of the square head variety of plugs, meaning that I was limited in terms of tools I could use to remove it. Naturally, after draining the gearbox of its oil, I found the filler plug was stuck tight and my repeated attempts at removal with an open-ended spanner were fast rounding off the corners. Luckily, my trusty mole grips came to the rescue and I was able to remove the plug, albeit at this stage in a rather mangled condition.
Whilst I do have a couple of new square headed plugs lying around my garage, I wasn’t hugely keen to fit a part which would likely be equally as difficult to remove in future. Luckily, the broken gearbox which I had previously removed from the parts car had a brass plug with a more sensible hex head. I fished it out of the pile of bits and pieces strewn around the interior of the parts car and fitted it to the white car’s ‘box.
Filling the gearbox with EP80 oil was a fairly slow affair – it needs to be filled via the aforementioned hard-to-reach filler hole until the oil reaches the level of the hole (i.e. it spills back out down your arm). I used a large plastic syringe with a length of rubber tubing to do this as it made the job a bit cleaner – but also slower given that I could only add 100ml of the viscous, slow flowing fluid at a time.
Technically, I could have drained the litre or so of old oil from the overdrive unit by dropping its sump – but seeing as the drained oil was fairly clean and as I did not have a replacement sump gasket to hand I decided to forego this step. I can always come back to it later if required.
Filling the diff was less eventful – the drain plug, although square headed, was easy to remove and the unit only required the smallest of top ups of EP80 to bring the level back to where it should have been. The diff on the white car has certainly not been anywhere near as leaky as the one on the parts car – hopefully it will stay that way as my garage floor can barely absorb any more oily fluids…
I’m not sure if there is something in the water at the moment or perhaps at the ripe old age of 38 I have finally attained peak physical and mental efficiency but unusually I have been on a bit of a roll in terms of ticking Triumph-related jobs off of the to-do list. Speaking of the to-do list by the way, I have actually committed the must-finish jobs to a whiteboard now, so they absolutely have to be done and then neatly crossed-off. That’s the rule with whiteboard lists…
Some of the jobs are quick and easy fixes, others will take a little while longer and involve me getting dirty and sweaty. Obviously I’m the type of person to pick off the easy stuff first in order to to give myself an over-inflated sense of achievement and worth (hence the optimistic opening sentence to this post).
One of the easiest yet also most satisfying jobs on the list is to swap the interior over from the parts car – as a reminder, here is the current state of the white car’s passenger decks:
Whilst it has good elements it’s not exactly in tip-top condition. I love the red seats and door cards, and they seem to be quite rare on the 2500S – but the driver’s seat is in poor condition, with the squab ripped and collapsed, and a split seam on the backrest. I believe the original interior was bone velour – so it sports light brown vinyl trim around the gear stick and on the B and C pillars as well as on the parcel shelf, whilst the carpet is also brown. Not really a classic combo with the red seats. Speaking of carpets, the one in the white car has seen much better days and is ripped, worn and stained throughout. The wood door cappings in the white car are all deteriorated to various degrees – all have peeling lacquer, a couple have peeling or missing veneer and are not really salvageable
I had toyed with the idea of keeping the red interior – but this would have involved either sourcing a replacement driver’s seat, or getting the existing one re trimmed and also replacing the carpet with either red or black to complement the red seats. This would take time and $$$ that I don’t have, so in the end I decided to opt for the quick and free decision of swapping the very good brown interior from the parts car into the white car and to put the red seats and door cards up for sale.
The first job was to remove the interior from the white car and store it away for safe keeping until it is sold (crusty old carpets excepted – they will be dropped at arms length into the nearest bin). Four bolts hold each of the two front seats in place and, once removed, they can be lifted straight out of the car – taking care not to scrape the vinyl against any sharp objects (I learned a hard lesson about this through a previous car). It’s worth noting that there is a spacer at each of the four mounting points which should be collected and set aside. The rear seats come out in two parts – the base is held in place by two screws at the bottom of its front panel, whilst the rear section has two screws along its bottom edge, which can be accessed only when the base section has been pulled out.
Door card removal is equally as easy – the two large screws holding the door handles to the door must be removed, as should the window winder handle. The latter is held in place by a retaining pin – to access this the black trim piece should be gently levered towards the door, at which point the pin can be pushed out of its hole with a thin rod (be careful with these as they’re small and easy to lose). With the window winder removed, the clips holding the door card to the door can be carefully levered out. To avoid damaging the delicate door cards it is best to use a proper trim-prying tool for this:
In my case the door cards had aftermarket speakers fitted, which involved the removal of a small amount of wiring from the door, but this is likely not the case in most cars.
The carpets come out in several pieces – the floor mats in the driver’s and passenger’s footwells are individual sections, each with its own rubber and foam insulating pad – which I retained as they were in good condition. The main section of carpet covers the rear footwells and the floorpan beneath the front seats – with the seats and rear floor-level air vent trim pieces removed this can just be pulled out, although it needs to be fed over the handbrake lever mid-journey. The sections covering the sills and the base of the rear seats is stuck on with contact adhesive, although in my case this was old and crusty and did not put up much of a fight. Your experience may vary.
I decided to leave the centre section of carpet (the bit which covers the gearbox tunnel) in place, as to replace it would require the removal of the centre console and possibly some under-dash gubbins relating to the heater controls etc. As it is the same colour as the carpet which will be transplanted into the car, and in a similar (if not slightly better) condition, it was not worth the hassle removing it. I just gave it a quick once over with upholstery cleaner and it came up a treat. Who says I’m an inefficient time waster? In your face multiple bosses!
Whilst the carpet was out I noticed that the wire to the handbrake warning light switch had broken off at the plug – it looked like it had possibly been repaired before and was subsequently now slightly too short so I cut a length from the parts car and soldered it into the white car, using a bit of heat-shrink to insulate the finished join. A quick test showed the previously non-working handbrake warning light was now functional once again, so that’s another item ticked off of the to-do list.
Refitting the interior was, as usual, the reverse of removal – the carpet sections salvaged from the parts car were carefully glued down with spray-on contact adhesive, whilst the wood door cappings and door cards were swapped over and clipped/screwed into place. The last and heaviest pieces of the jigsaw puzzle were the front and rear seats – each taking up its respective place within the car. And what a transformation…
The new interior completely changes the feel of the car from a down-at-heel wreck to a comfy and usable classic. As per previous blog posts, I had recently spent some time cleaning the brown interior so it still felt and smelled as fresh as a daisy. The new diaphragms which I had fitted to the seats made them comfortable and supportive, quite a change from the saggy, cushion-filled driver’s seat the car had been sporting since I brought it home.
The more eagle-eyed of you will have noticed that I have kept the bone-coloured vinyl on the B and C pillars, as well as on the rear parcel shelf. I had planned to re-trim this with new brown vinyl but it is so much less obvious with a brown interior fitted than it was with the red one that I don’t really think it looks that out of place any more. If this turns out to really bug me then I can revisit it down the line – but at the moment there are higher priorities than this.
Whilst the interior was out I did take the opportunity to replace the front seat belts with new Securon items, purchased a few months ago from Rimmers. The belts in my car were showing signs of fraying and did no longer feel as supple as seatbelts usually do. Plus with 40 years of exposure to the high UV levels here in Oz, and the unknown history of the car in terms of accidents etc, I can see no argument for not changing them. The 500/15 model of belt costs about $60 (£35) per side and is a direct replacement for the existing belts in the 2500 – well worth it for peace of mind.
Rimmers had a couple of options listed for the 2500 – including ones with longer stalks and also ones with the electrical connections for the seatbelt warning sensors – but my car does not have these fitted so I chose the slightly cheaper ones with the 15cm flat metal stalks.
Fitting was really easy – the inertia unit and belt swivel brackets are attached to the inner sill and B pillar respectively by single bolts (19mm from memory). The new unit can be attached into exactly the same fittings – I reused the same bolts to ensure they were fully compatible with the captive threads in the car. The new clasps also use the same fitting as the original ones, although I had to use a couple of (supplied) brackets to get the spacing and orientation right.
All in all I’ve very happy with the fit and operation of the new belts – and I know they are strong and safe, unlike the unknown quantity that was the old ones. In a car with next to no crash protection in comparison to a modern vehicle, this is literally the least I can do to improve safety in the event of a collision.
I haven’t yet tackled the rear belts – mainly due to budget. I don’t plan on carrying any rear seat passengers in the near future so this doesn’t concern me too much at this stage.
A couple of other jobs ticked off the to-do list in the last couple of weeks were tackling the inoperative brakes – I have swapped over the new master cylinder from the parts car to replace the non-functioning unit in the white car and also swapped over the front calipers from the parts car which had new hoses and pads (it was easier just to swap the entire units than to faff around with rebuilding the ones in the white car and having to contend with possible stuck pistons, degraded seals etc). The horrible green brake fluid was replaced with new DOT 3 and bled through the system. At this stage I have not swapped the new slave cylinders and shoes over from the parts car as a) I need to keep the parts car’s handbrake operational, b) the white car’s rear brakes are functioning well so c) I can’t be arsed with so much else to do. I will keep a good eye out for leaking cylinders etc and the rear brakes will be addressed in the near future.
I’ll save you the write-up of the brake work as I covered this in a recent blog post for the blue car – just before it was officially downgraded to the parts car.
Another quick job was to replace the cracked radiator expansion bottle with the one from the parts car – they were of slightly different styles with different brackets, so this involved some drilling and re-riveting on my part. The new one is not the prettiest but fits nicely and is at least watertight. I even treated it to a new length of hose to replace the hard brown stuff that the car came with.
Next on the list is to get the engine up and running – if it does run that is. If not, I’ll need to swap over the known good unit from the parts car. Keeping my fingers crossed for the easy option here…
A couple of months have passed since my last update on the white car and, somewhat surprisingly, plenty has been done in that time. Of course, along the way more issues requiring attention have been unearthed and added to the jobs list, but that’s pretty much par for the course when dealing with 40 year old British automotive technology.
The last post ended with one of those ‘what the hell will I find in my crusty old fuel tank’ cliffhangers. Teased almost to breaking point by the suspense I set about removing it so that I could have a good peer inside. The tank is surprisingly simple to access and subsequently remove – the boot trim needs to be removed (mine was held in place by an interesting assortment of self-tapping screws) after which the tank appears in all its glory nestled just behind the rear seat.
Before removing the tank, the gubbins connecting it to the car need to be detached. In no particular order there is the filler hose, the breather hose, the outlet pipe and the fuel gauge sender unit. None of these gave too much trouble – although it’s worth noting that removing the rear seat provides much better access to the clamps holding the filler hose onto the tank inlet. The sender unit is held in place by a circular retaining ring – it is released by simply driving it anti-clockwise via a rubber mallet and a flat-headed screwdriver located carefully on its lugs until it can be pulled free (taking care to feed the float mechanism out through the hole without damaging it). The tank itself is held in place by four bolts – two at either end. Once removed, the tank can be carefully extracted from the car.
Surprisingly, given the build up of sediment in my fuel filter, the tank appeared to be in pretty good condition. There was hardly any sediment in the bottom and very little in the way of surface rust, either inside or out. The tank did yield one surprise – a yellow plastic nozzle from a fuel can which must have fallen into its petrolly grave many moons ago. Given its potential to block the fuel outlet it was removed and added to my rapidly expanding ‘strange things I have found hidden in the white car’ collection (I’ll probably have enough to dedicate an entire blog post to this at a later date).
Whilst the tank gained a fairly clean bill of health, the fuel gauge sender did not get away quite so squeaky clean – the float was half full of fuel so obviously had a hole in it somewhere. I checked the float in the parts car to see if it could be swapped over but unfortunately it was in the same sad condition so I ordered a new one online. Luckily floats for these Smiths sender units are fairly common between British cars of the era so I could buy one from my local Mini spares retailer instead of having to wait for international delivery.
Once the float was replaced, I refitted the tank and its associated bits and bobs – having robbed the sender unit locking ring from the parts car to replace the rather mangled one on the white car. In hindsight I could have got away with not removing the tank at all but as least now I have the peace of mind of knowing that it’s not full of gunk or rust or plastic yellow nozzles.
With the tank replaced, I turned my attention to the rest of the fuel system – the first job being to clean up the mess that was my fuel pump. I carefully removed the worst of the sediment with a screwdriver before blasting away the remnants from the pump body with a tin of carb cleaner. The filter was gently cleaned in petrol to avoid damaging the gauze. I replaced all of the rubber fuel hoses with high-quality Gates Barricade R14 fuel hose (not forgetting the short length attached to the tank outlet). Australian unleaded does not presently contain ethanol like UK fuel does so problems associated with prematurely degrading fuel hoses don’t seem to be as rife here, but it pays to future-proof. To complete my rebuild of the fuel system the newly-rebuilt carbs were fitted, which look great – even if I do say so myself.
Next in line for a good groping by my wandering hands was the ignition system, which you may remember from my previous ramblings had issues involving melted wire. Being a later 2500, the car is fitted with a ballast ignition system which means it runs a 6v coil instead of a 12v coil. During normal running a ballasted circuit feeds the coil with 6v, whilst a second un-ballasted circuit runs from the starter motor which feeds the coil with a full-fat 12v when cranking. The idea is to temporarily provide a bigger spark when starting the car, thus helping to overcome cold start issues. A good idea really.
Instead of an old-school ballast resistor, by the late 70s Triumph were using a length of ballasted wire to feed the coil – this made for a neater installation and, let’s face it, it was probably cheaper too. Sadly, 40 years of resisting the passage of electrons had rendered it a twisted mess of melted insulation and wire, most likely earthing out sporadically at various points along its length. The car can’t have been running well when it arrived at the breakers yard.
Luckily the rest of the engine bay loom had been spared from damage by the self-destructing ballast wire, so I had no further work to do other than deciding how best to reinstate this circuit. The options were to a) fit a new length of ballasted wire b) try to re-sleeve the existing ballasted wire c) fit a length of normal wire, do away with the ballast resistor and fit a 12v coil instead or d) fit a length of normal wire and a separate ballast resistor. Option A would involve sourcing a new length of wire of the right length and resistance, plus knowing that it might go all melty again and take out half the loom with it, Option B would require me to unwrap the loom both in the engine bay and behind the dashboard and Option C would potentially cause cold starting issues. I therefore chose sensible Option D and put in an order for a ballast resistor, which I mounted neatly next to the coil.
The melted remnants of the ballasted wire were carefully chopped out of the loom and a new length of 15A white wire (in keeping with the BL wiring colour scheme of the day) was run from the ballast resistor back through the grommet in the nearside end of the bulkhead and down to the car’s fuse box. From there I piggybacked onto the fused white circuit, which is live whenever the ignition is switched on.
All in all it looks pretty neat and cost less than $30 to fix. All that remains is to tidy up the engine bay wiring by re-wrapping with some loom tape but I’ll spare you the blog post on that one…