A change of plan

As a loyal reader you’re probably wondering why there has been no update to this blog in the last few months. Perhaps you’ve been experiencing sleepless nights because of the unbearable anticipation of the next post, or have simply adopted a life of petty crime in an attempt to suppress that hollow feeling inside? Well, put down your crowbar and settle down with a nice cup of tea, for here is the update on what has been going on in Rustyland since April.

The last post ended with me mid-clutch replacement, awaiting a new release bearing carrier to be shipped from the UK. Parts from the motherland generally take a couple of weeks to wind their merry way down under and unfortunately my attention span sits at around the week and a half mark. My fingers began to wander and before long I was casually checking out classic car offerings on Gumtree. As my wife knows only too well, this has rarely ended without another ‘bargain’ littering/adorning our property.

Enter Project 27.1b:

Front
The white car

Project 27.1b, or ‘the white car’ as it shall be known for the foreseeable future, was advertised for sale by a local breakers yard. The scrappage rules are different over here – yards are free to either break or sell cars that they buy, there is no compulsory destruction as there is in the UK which has lead to many a savable classic being needlessly introduced to the jaws of the crusher. Apparently an old boy drove the thing in the early hours of the morning, despite it having no brakes whatsoever, and just wanted shot of it from his garage. The yard owner thought it was too good to crush and advertised it on Gumtree for $1500. Unfortunately for my wife, and for the blue car (more on this later), that’s exactly when I decided to partake in some casual and harmless window shopping.

The advert looked tempting but it was difficult to tell from the couple of grainy photos what the overall condition of the car was. I ignored it for a couple of days. In my defence I even posted the ad to the pages of a couple of Australian Triumph-related Facebook groups I follow. By the end of the week the ad was still showing and I could resist no more. I spoke to the breakers yard by phone and they confirmed the car was ultimately solid. I was there at 8am sharp the next morning – just to take a harmless look obviously…

Breakers front
As found in the breakers yard

I gave the car a fairly good once over at the yard, with the help of my trusty fridge magnet and torch. It was scruffy but solid. Best still, it was not metallic blue. I started doing the sums in my head, weighing up the additional purchase cost of this car plus the jobs it needed doing, against the cost of ultimately having to undertake a full-body bare metal respray on the blue car. The white car won.

Breakers left side
Passenger’s side

The car was a genuine 2500S, which gave it more of a pedigree than the blue car which was a TC with an S engine – and registered as the latter (possibly erroneously) by SA’s boys in blue. It also had a very nice set of genuine S alloys (plus unused spare), power steering and even an original 1970s AC system. The headlining was virtually unmarked, and the dashboard in great shape other than one small crack – neither of which were jobs I relished doing on the blue car.

Breakers right side
From the rear

The downsides over the blue car were the mismatched interior – judging by the vinyl on the parcel shelf and pillars, it looks like the car originally sported bone-coloured velour with the seats and door cards being replaced at some point with a red vinyl set (the driver’s seat of which was in very bad shape). The wood cappings of the doors were also in a bit of a state with peeling lacquer and, in some places, veneer.

Interior 1
Mismatched and damaged interior
Interior 2
The rear seats have held up better

Whereas the panel fit on the blue car was actually very good, the driver’s door on the white car has at some point been swapped – the replacement a very subtly different shade of white, lacking the sexy gold pin strip and very badly aligned, with the hinge end having dropped by several millimeters meaning the door had to be lifted when closing to avoid it merely bouncing off the striker plate.

Driver's door drop.jpg
Replaced and sagging driver’s door

The biggest job needing doing on the white car which I would not have had to have worried about on the blue car is the crusty front end of the driver’s sill – the jacking point of which promptly chose to relocate itself about 5-10 mm further into the sill when I first tried to put the car on axle stands at home. The inner skin looks solid but I presume the middle and outer skins need replacing. At some point a previous owner or one of their agents has lovingly given the sill a dose of filler and a bit of paint to hide the problem – but I know it’s there and waiting for me. Lloyd Reed can expect a phone call at some point…

Driver Sill Rust.jpg
Front end of the driver’s side sill – here be monsters…

The only other rust I can find on the car is at the bottom corner of the rear valance panel – it’s going a bit crusty in one spot but it’s not particularly widespread.

Rear panel rust
Rear valance rust spot

The underside of the car looks in great shape and all of the factory warning labels are present under the bonnet, which is a nice touch of originality.

Slam panel
Slam panel with original labels intact
Under Bonnet labels
Under-bonnet timing and air-con labels

So, what of the blue car you ask? Well, I am still in two minds about its fate. It is a very useful source of spare parts for the white car –the brown tan interior (seats, carpet, door cards, door cappings), for example, can be transplanted over to the white car, thus ticking off a big item on the ‘what makes this car look a bit shitty’ list. Likewise, all of the coolant system hoses are brand new, the ones on the white car are very perished, soft and swollen. The white car was driven into the breakers yard (and subsequently from the tow truck into my garage) with no brakes – the pedal just sinks to the floor with little or no stopping power. The brakes on the blue car have been completely overhauled from master cylinder to hoses to slave cylinders to friction material. That can be swapped over to the white car. The tyres on the white car are worn and old, the ones on the blue car are brand new. The engine in the white car is an unknown quantity, the engine in the blue car has proven to be very good and would make a good substitute if needed. I also still have the newly-rebuilt OD gearbox originally destined for the blue car if the need ever arose. There are also multiple niggly little items – the boot lid catch, the evaporative control system (missing on the white car), the centre console, boot lining etc – all good on the blue car and not so good on the white car.

Engine
Engine looks clean, has no detectable crankshaft end-float but is an unknown quantity

The reality therefore is, that the blue car will be (well, already is being) used as a parts car for the white one. It is annoying to have to undo and the redo the work that has already been done – the brakes for example, no-one likes doing brakes, let alone thrice – but it will save a fortune over buying and shipping new parts again.

At the end of it I’ll have a decision to make – do I spend the time away from my family fitting all of the less-than-great stuff I remove from the white car into the shell of the blue car and try to sell it on as a project, or do I take the easy option and bundle everything I don’t want inside, strip anything else that I might need in the future, ring the same breakers yard from which I bought the white car and make an easy and quick $250. Not a good investment when you consider the original cost of the car but very tempting in terms of recouped man hours. Plus, let’s face it, the blue one is not pretty, is not a great spec and will definitely need a full respray to look remotely presentable. That in itself would cost more than the price of a similar example with already decent paint and would presumably put off all but the most determined of Triumph saviours.

The wife says I can’t keep it on the driveway outside the kitchen window so I’ll need to decide soon. All opinions welcome…

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Clutching at deadlines.

With two weeks to go before the self-imposed deadline of getting the car back on the road for the 2018 McLaren Vale Vintage and Classic event, things were looking relatively peachy. I had the gearbox out, I had a clutch kit ready to install as well as all of the other bits and pieces I thought I might need during the process.  Surely nothing could go wrong? More on that later…

The first step was to remove the existing clutch from the car and inspect the flywheel for any scoring, rust or other damage. The clutch, a Borg & Beck style AP Driveline one, was actually in great condition and the friction plate was showing very little wear indeed. There was a little bit of scoring on the ends of the diaphragm spring fingers caused by the release bearing but nothing major. However, I had a brand new replacement waiting so I decided to keep this old one as a good spare and fit the new one anyway (if it had been a Laycock kit in equally good condition I may have chosen otherwise).

Old Clutch
Existing Borg & Beck style clutch

On removal of the clutch, the flywheel also looked to be in good condition with no significant scoring or corrosion to speak of.

Flywheel
Flywheel is in good enough shape

 

One item I had unfortunately forgotten to order was the spigot bushing which sits in the flywheel on the mk2 2500 (and in the end of the crank on the mk1) – this was noticeably worn and was a little loose so after a couple of futile phonecalls to Aussie-based suppliers, a replacement was ordered from the UK on express delivery. The bushing provides some support to the gearbox input shaft and is crucial to preventing wear in the gearbox bearings. The replacement bushing arrived a week later and when compared to the old bushing, its replacement was clearly well-overdue as the central aperture was not only heavily scored but also oval rather than round.

Bushes Old vs New
Old bushing on the right, new on the left

 

The spigot bushing is made from a porous bronze and needs to be soaked in engine oil overnight to provide ongoing lubrication to the end of the gearbox input shaft.  Its removal and refitting is relatively easy – I drifted the old bushing out of the flywheel with a suitably-sized socket and then used the old bushing to drift the new one in. The new bushing fits very well in the flywheel with no detectable movement at all, whilst the gearbox input shaft fits snugly but not tightly into the central aperture. It was the right call to delay installation of the new ‘box by a week to fit a new one.

Bushing Out
Old bushing removed from the flywheel

 

The next step was to take a look at the clutch release mechanism and to swap it over to the new ‘box. The clutch release bearing is pressed onto a bearing carrier which slides over the splined gearbox input shaft when being actuated by a fork attached to the clutch operating shaft. When the clutch pedal is depressed the operating shaft rotates causing the clutch fork to rotate and push the release bearing forward against the clutch pressure plate which, in turn, releases the pressure holding the clutch friction plate against the flywheel and therefore breaks drive from the engine.

The first obvious problem with the existing release mechanism in the old gearbox was that the two bronze slipper pads which act as a bearing surface between the clutch fork pins and the bearing carrier were missing – instead the pins were acting directly against the surface of the bearing carrier. Luckily, I had ordered the slipper pads assuming they would need to be replaced so this in itself did not cause any undue setbacks.

Missing Slipper Pads
There should be a square slipper pad on the end of this fork pin

 

The clutch release bearing carrier was removed from the gearbox (it can simply be pulled away from the input shaft when the clutch operating shaft is turned beyond the range that it would experience in normal use) and the taper pin holding the fork to the shaft was removed (along with its retaining wire). These pins are apparently prone to breaking which is a gearbox out job to replace, so I obtained a high-strength one from Chris Witor. The below picture shows the new pin holding the fork to the release shaft – to prevent undue stress on the pin it is preferable that the thread does not bottom out in the thread in the fork, mine was looking good in this respect.

Pin in Fork
The new pin does not bottom out in the thread in the fork, which is good news

 

Unfortunately this is where my luck ran out. On closer inspection of the release bearing carrier I noticed that opposite sides of its rear face showed C-shaped hairline fracturing – possibly due to fatigue from where the release fork pins had been acting against the surface without slipper pads or, perhaps more likely, just due to a previous ham-fisted approach to pressing the bearing onto the carrier. Either way it was very close to failure and a replacement was needed. I could not locate a replacement in Australia so yet another order was placed from the UK which will take a week or so to arrive. This sadly put me out of the running to attend the Vintage and Classic event in the Triumph but I’d rather miss out on this and know that I have not put sub-standard parts back into the car. I don’t really want to be dropping the gearbox again in the near future.

Fractured Carrier
Fractured release bearing carrier

 
So with work on the release mechanism halted, all that was left for me to do was to re-attach the flywheel (torquing the bolts up to the correct 50 lbf ft) and fit the new clutch kit. This went nice and smoothly and I know it’s properly aligned as I used some of the time spent waiting for international deliveries to strip down the old gearbox so I could remove and cut down the input shaft to use as a handy alignment tool. Hopefully this means the new ‘box should slide straight in without any issues.

Input Shaft Tool
New clutch perfectly aligned with help of a cut-off input shaft

 

Fitting the clutch was easy – the clutch plate is centralised against the flywheel with the help of the input shaft and the pressure plate located over the three dowels in the flywheel face. The plate is attached to the flywheel via six bolts, which were torqued up incrementally.

Now I am just waiting for Australia Post to deliver my parts so that I can move on to the next step in assembling the clutch release mechanism onto the new gearbox and lifting the new ‘box onto the car.

The gearbox swap begins.

As summer gave way to autumn and the temperatures died down to more sensible levels, I decided to take a few weeks off of work to spend some quality time with the newest member of our family. I also agreed with the missus that I would be able to spend a few hours in the garage here and there in order to try to get the Beast up and running in time for the McLaren Vale Vintage and Classic Run (spoiler alert: I missed it – but that didn’t stop me from trying).

The existing gearbox in the car had two problems: 1) it was only the four speed non-OD and 2) it whined horribly in all but 4th gear suggesting the layshaft bearings had probably seen better days. I’d managed to source a rebuilt OD gearbox from across the Tasman which had been sitting in my garage patiently waiting to be fitted for several months – finally its time had come…

As I am not fortunate enough to own a car lift, the first step was getting the car high enough off of the ground to comfortably remove the ‘box from underneath. I have a nice set of 1000kg Stanfred ramps but raising the car on these alone would have provided, at best, the very minimum amount of space required to perform the job. To get the car up a little higher I made some improvised bases for the ramps out of landscaping sleepers and angle iron – this gave me an extra 100mm or so of space under the car which makes accessing the underside of the car a lot more comfortable.

Ramps
Plenty of room underneath

 

I also knocked up some small platforms for the rear wheels to sit on to give me a bit more space at the rear of the car to remove the exhaust etc.

Ramps3
Platforms to provide extra height at the rear

 

It took a couple of attempts to drive the car up onto this arrangement of supports but it’s up there and it’s solid so I’m happy. It’s lovely having this amount of room to work underneath the car so once this job’s over I’ll keep my timber extension pieces for any similar tasks that come up in future.

 

ramps2.jpg
Angle iron prevents the ramps sliding backwards or sideways

 

Once the car was raised to a suitable height, the job of removing the old gearbox could begin. The first step was to drain the ‘box of its fluid via the drain plug on the underside and to remove the gearlever assembly from inside the car. Next, the wiring was unplugged from the reversing light switch on the selector mechanism housing and the speedo cable removed from the side of the gearbox casing. The clevis pin holding the slave cylinder piston to the clutch release fork was removed to separate the two, the middle exhaust mounting undone and removed from the brackets attached to the gearbox and the four bolts holding the output flange to the propshaft were removed before gently lowering the prop towards the ground. At this point, to give myself more room I opted to remove the entire exhaust system from the car – a couple of the rubber mounts need replacing and the flange to manifold gasket is missing so I’ll address those when reassembly time comes. Other than that the system looks to be in great shape and is quite possibly original (the Aussie climate is great for classic cars).

Clevis
Clutch slave cylinder clevis pin

 

Once freed from all of the ancillary parts, the next step was to lower the gearbox to gain access to the bolts attaching the bell-housing to the engine back plate. According to the workshop manual, this can be done with a trolley jack placed under the engine sump, using a block of wood to distribute the weight. As I had not undertaken this task before I opted for a belt and braces approach of using use two trolley jacks – one under the sump as per the manual and then a second underneath the rear gearbox cross-member (to be honest this wasn’t necessary and if I did the job again I would use just a single jack as per the factory recommendations).

Lowering
My belt and braces lowering approach – the central axle stand was a temporary measure whilst the job was paused for lunch

 

After supporting the ‘box with the jacks I undid the four nuts holding the rear gearbox cross-member to the car floor pan and dropped the ‘box in stages – lowering the rear jack by about an inch first, then using the sump jack to lower the unit down onto the rear jack until the cylinder head was resting against the bulkhead.

Rear GBox Mount
Rear gearbox cross-member – attached via four nuts/bolts

 

After the unit had been lowered and was self-supporting against the bulkhead I completely removed the cross-member from the gearbox (actually it fell off as the rear mount had disintegrated – luckily I have a good Mackay replacement from Chris Witor) and set about removing the various bolts which secured the gearbox to the engine backplate. Most of these are relatively easy to remove, although the top three or four require the use of one or more long socket extensions and a universal joint due to their difficult-to-access positions. In all removing the bolts was probably a half-hour job. The final four bolts to be removed were the two holding the clutch slave cylinder and the starter motor to the backplate. Be prepared for the weight of the starter motor when you remove its bolts as it is a surprisingly heavy beast and your head is likely to be somewhere beneath it!

At this stage the gearbox is free to be dropped from the car. To do this I removed the cup from my large trolley jack and positioned it underneath the gearbox so that the sump plug of the ‘box was located in the resulting hole. Using the long  trolley jack handle from the front of the car I gently eased the ‘box backwards until it was free from the engine and lowered it to the ground. Due to the height of the car from the ground and as I may one day need to rebuild this box I placed some timber and polystyrene beneath the ‘box in case the worst happened and it fell from the jack. This came in handy as due to the imbalance of the ‘box on the jack it became easier to roll the ‘box from the jack and gradually remove timber until it was resting on the ground.

Dropped
My patent-pending timber and polystyrene gearbox catcher

 

And just like that the first stage of the gearbox replacement was complete. The garage was locked up and I went indoors to enjoy a cup of tea and a shower whilst musing the prospect that I would not have the wonders of gravity to assist me when using my less-than-muscular arms to fit the new, even heavier overdrive gearbox…

An inferior interior – Part 2.

Whilst mechanical work is being undertaken to make the car more driveable (further posts to follow shortly), I’m also continuing with some less messy tasks to make the interior a nicer place to be. Whilst it’s not the worst car I’ve ever sat in, there are a few glaring issues which would ideally be fixed before the car is pushed into regular use – namely the very cracked dashboard, the ripped headlining, the sagging front seats and a lingering less-than-fresh odour which seems to be emanating from the carpets.

Whilst I am still exploring options regarding the first two tasks (including the seemingly herculean task of replacing the headlining), I was however in a position to do something about the latter two – the seats and carpets.

For those with a keen memory (or at least the ability to scroll), you will be aware that I replaced the original ripped and mismatched front seats a few months ago with a much better pair I sourced from a guy in Tasmania. Whilst the vinyl is in great condition, the rubber diaphragms which sit underneath the foam seat squabs had perished meaning that much of the support that British Leyland had originally engineered into this fine piece of in-car furniture had been lost.

The picture below shows the better of the two original diaphragms (I was a bit hasty about removing and disposing of the worst one before thinking of taking a photo) and how it has perished and split in many of the places where it is attached to the seat frame. The diaphragm from the driver’s side, which was the worst of the two, had split along the entire length of its rear edge leaving virtually no support between the seat foam and the car floor.

Split diaphragm
Perished original seat diaphragm

 

Until relatively recently these diaphragms had been unavailable to buy new and, in lieu of finding un-perished NOS replacements, I have read quite a few stories of innovative owners piling books, pieces of timber or even bricks beneath the seats to restore some of the lost support. Luckily, a few years back, Chris Witor had managed to get these re-manufactured in high quality rubber so this is no longer the issue it once was – I duly purchased a pair and set about fitting them to my existing seats.

The diaphragms are held onto the seat base by 12 metal clips which, once the diaphragm is perished and slack, are pretty easy to remove with a pair of long-nose pliers. It’s worth bearing in mind that some of these might be missing – especially if your existing diaphragms are perished to the point of splitting – so you might want to source a few more in advance if this is the case with yours.

Old diaphragm
One old, split and largely unserviceable diaphragm – the other one was worse

 

Whilst removing the metal clips is simple enough, using them to fit new, un-perished diaphragms is a little trickier as in order to provide proper support for the seat base, the diaphragm needs to be stretched taut across the seat frame – securing the first few clips is easy, but to get the final clips in place the diaphragm needs to both be stretched laterally and pushed inwards towards the seat foam at the same time as inserting the clip into the hole in the seat frame. This task gets progressively more difficult as more clips are inserted and things tighten up.

A second pair of hands would definitely have helped with this task but as my better half was not available at the time I found that heating the new diaphragms with a hair drier prior to fitting helped me to stretch and contort them just enough to finish the job – although getting the final couple of clips in place prompted the use of some choice language and left my fingers feeling a little on the bruised side for a while afterwards.

The new diaphragms transform the seats completely – they’re nice and firm as BL intended and offer a noticeable amount more support than they did with the perished ones. The new diaphragms also feel equally as good quality, if not better, than the originals so will hopefully last a good few years.

New diaphragm
New diaphragm fitted, support restored!

 

With the seats removed from the car, it was disturbingly obvious that the carpets were in a bit of a state – once an opulent shade of coppery-brown that personified everything that was good/bad* about the 1970s (*delete as applicable), they had taken on a distinctly murky grey tint and exuded the odour of 40 years worth of stale cigarette smoke and general filth. Running a hand over the pile (albeit probably unwisely) left a surprisingly greasy film – I’m not sure if this was from past maintenance or the result of several decades of engine and gearbox fumes seeping into the cabin. Either way something had to be done.

I’m no particular stranger to filthy cars – I have bought my fair share of bargain basement runabouts in the past and have always managed to bring even the shittiest of cabins up to a level of cleanliness that approaches acceptable. My product of choice for this task is Autoglym’s Interior Shampoo which is now available in Australia (about $16 from Supercheap Auto).

cis500_interior_shampoo_base-min_1__2_1__1_.png
Revives even the shittiest of car interiors

 

It’s easy to use – simply spray lightly over the area to be cleaned, scrub with a clean, damp cloth and repeat if required – and can be used on carpets, upholstery, plastics, headlinings etc. It works wonders (the evidence of which will be present in your bucket of water) and leaves a pleasant yet subtle new-car (ish) fragrance.

Whilst my well-used carpets were never going to be returned to their factory-fresh state, this stuff lived up to my expectations and significantly improved the look and smell of the soft finishes inside my car. The photo below shows a before/after shot taken mid-treatment. The passenger side of the car closest to the camera together with the gearbox tunnel had been cleaned, the slightly depressing greyer area furthest from the camera (complete with somewhat concerning blood-type stain) had not.

Before and after
Before and after – quite a difference

 

In total the cleaning produced six buckets of filthy and rather greasy water from the carpets.

dirty-water.jpg
About a sixth of the carpet filth/patina – notice greasy tide mark

 

After being left to dry overnight and given a quick vacuum to restore the pile, I was very happy with the result. It looks ten times better, the interior smells much fresher than it did before and, best of all, there’s not even the slightest trace of blood left. Just the dash and headlining to sort now and it’ll be 100%. Well, 75% – but that’s probably the best I can hope for given my starting point.

Clean carpets
The finished article – you could eat your dinner off of it (although I wouldn’t recommend it)

 

I’ll leave the seats out for now until I have finished the gearbox swap as I feel they are safer inside the house than in the car whilst I’m fiddling around with it. It’s very spacious in there without them though and I must admit to having a cheeky beer in the back seat the other day whilst planning out the next few jobs to do. It was like being in a limousine. A terrifying, driverless limousine with blood-stained carpets…

A wheely good upgrade.

The previous owner fitted two new front tyres to my car just before I bought it but whilst my rear tyres still had most of the tread they left the factory with, according to their date stamps they were manufactured in 1997 and therefore were well overdue to be replaced – I don’t like the idea of driving around on 20 year old rubber, regardless whether it looks OK or not. New tyres were therefore on the cards.

Wheels - old
Old steel wheels with dented hubcaps

A few months previously I procured a decent set of 14” Stag/S alloys so I decided it was time to put them into service on the car, although it meant buying four new tyres instead of two. Luckily the local Tyreright was running a ‘4 for the price of 3’ special on BF Goodrich Advantage TA tyres so I decided to go with those.

Whilst I’m aware of the classic BF Goodrich all-terrain tyre with the white writing on the sidewalls, I’ve not really heard much about their range for passenger vehicles. Still, being a fairly major brand of tyre, I felt happier going with those than the unknown budget alternatives like Goodride, Winrun etc that I could have picked up for the same price. Plus, four branded tyres supplied, balanced and fitted for under $300 was too good a deal to turn down.

Wheels - new
The end result – what a transformation

First impressions are they’re nice tyres – although if I’m honest I’m not sure how well the fairly funky tread pattern suits a classic car. It’s not really a major concern to at this stage though as I have bigger things to worry about on the appearances front, like the shocking paintwork.

Wheels - tread
Funky tread pattern would perhaps suit moderns better

Based on what I have read about the most suitable tyres for these rims, I decided to go with 185/70/R14s as fitted to the Stag, the other option being the slightly narrower 175/70/R14s which would have been closer to what was originally fitted on the 2500S with these wheels. In the end I decided I preferred the slightly chunkier look of the 185s, although opinion seems to be divided as to which profile will offer the better grip.

Wheels - close
A bit of peeling lacquer here and there – I’ll sort that out at some point

The rims need a bit of a refurb, which I will get round to when all of the more important jobs have been done, but all in all I’m really happy with the transformation – the wheels maketh the car, or so they say.

A deadline has been set.

Not too much has been happening in the garage in recent months – this is due to the arrival of a new, miniature, member of the household who somehow requires even more love, care, attention and constant fettling than a 40 year old Triumph. Things have finally started to settle down a little bit so I’ve been finding odd moments to sneak out into the garage whilst I think the wife is otherwise preoccupied.

I’ve decided to set myself a target date for getting the beast up and running to an extent where it can be used for longer runs. As an incentive to complete the long ‘to-do’ list I’ve registered myself and the car for the forthcoming McLaren Vale Vintage and Classic car event in April. In case you’ve not heard of it, the event is a day-long classic and vintage car festival held in the McLaren Vale wine region in South Australia (about a 45 minute drive south of Adelaide). The day starts on the main street of McLaren Vale with a parade of over 500 cars which then gather at different wineries around local area, grouped by marque. The public can then tour the participating wineries and enjoy some wine, food and live music whilst indulging in a little classic car ogling. I have attended before as a spectator and it’s a great day out in a stunning part of South Australia.

Whilst I’m pretty certain that mine will be one of the least outwardly presentable vehicles in the parade, I’m determined it will at least be able to hold its own at a basic mechanical level. Therefore the list of jobs needing to be completed over the next ten and a half weeks currently stands as follows:

  • Re-register car under the new South Australian historic rego scheme
  • Fit spin-on oil filter kit and change oil
  • Check oil level in diff and undertake other routine lubrication as per schedule
  • Bed in new brakes
  • Buy and fit four news tyres for stag alloys
  • Fit new overdrive gearbox to replace existing, noisy non-OD box
  • Replace clutch whilst the ‘box is out
  • Wire up the overdrive
  • Fix non-working hazard lights
  • Stop coolant leak around thermostat housing
  • Fit new door seal on rear offside
  • Refit dashboard timber

So, having found a cheeky hour to spend in the garage I decided to tick off one of the simpler jobs on the list – the fitting of the spin-on oil filter conversion kit.

I’d already picked up the kit a few months previously as part of a larger parts order from Chris Witor in the UK. It is comprised of a cast alloy adaptor which screws to the engine block and two O-rings, the larger outer ring which is the same as that used on the existing canister and a smaller inner ring which seals the incoming unfiltered oil from the outgoing filtered oil.

IMG_20180204_120956747_HDR
The new Chris Witor-supplied kit

The kit replaces the older canister and paper filter arrangement which, whilst just as effective at filtering, can be a messy and fiddly affair to change and does not have a non-return valve so therefore allows the oil within the canister to drain back into the sump leading to a delay in building up oil pressure on cold starts. Another bonus for me being outside of the UK is that I can buy compatible spin-on filters at my local motor spares place, rather than either shipping from the UK or paying through the nose locally for the old-style inserts.

IMG_20180204_130514349_HDR
The old and fiddly cannister filtration system

Fitting the adaptor was relatively easy – the first step is to remove the existing canister filter. Technically the sump does not need to be drained for this process but I was due an oil change anyway so away it went. Once the oil was drained I cleaned up the mating surfaces of the block and also removed the existing outer O-ring from its channel. This is a step which is apparently often overlooked – leaving the existing O-ring in place will not allow the adaptor to seal properly so worth ensuring it is done before you waste good oil on redoing the job. I applied a smear of new oil to both the new inner and outer O-rings and fitted to their respective channels in the adaptor and block respectively (the smear of oil also helps the inner O-ring to stay in place whilst the adaptor is being fitted).

IMG_20180204_121029077
The block oil filter mounting surface – note groove for O-ring

Once the O-rings are in place, and taking care to ensure that the inner ring does not fall out, the adaptor is simply screwed into the block using the hole which was previously used for the canister bolt. Once in place but not tight, the adaptor can be turned to the required orientation for the screw-in filter. Ideally this should be mounted vertically so that gravity holds any oil within the filter whilst the car is not in use but I had two problems with this approach: 1) The hydraulic hose protruding from the clutch slave cylinder and 2) the housings for the oil pressure relief valve and the oil pressure switch – both severely limited mounting options. I therefore went with a temporary near-horizontal mounting of the filter as shown in the picture below – this will be rectified when I’ve got the clutch slave cylinder out for the forthcoming gearbox change.

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New adaptor and oil filter mounted nearly horizontally – temporarily

Once in the required position the adaptor can be tightened onto the block surface via the central bolt. The manufacturer did not provide a tightening torque for this bolt but being an alloy casting I wouldn’t go too crazy with the spanners. Tight enough to hold it in place and seal against leaks without risking cracking the casting or, worse, stripping the thread from the block.

After fitting the new adaptor and filter, I refilled with approximately 5 litres of Castrol’s finest. As the new filter would take a little time to fill and therefore for oil pressure to build up, I removed the king lead from the dizzy and cranked the engine until the oil light was extinguished. I then fired the car up briefly and all was good – no weird noises or gushing lubricant. Checking the garage floor the next day showed no drips but the true test will be after the car’s been on a long run and the oil’s hot and thin. Watch this space (or the garage floor)…

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Castrol GTX 20W-50

The brakes broke.

Well, all was going swimmingly for a few months but whilst out on a quick run to check the carb setup progress got slower and slower until eventually the car would barely move under its own steam. The unmistakable smell of hot brakes from all four corners of the car suggested that there was a problem with the master cylinder – hardly surprising really for a car that had been pressed into service after many years sleeping.

Luckily for me, the problem came to a head when I was only 20 metres or so from the end of my driveway so, with the seemingly unbridled power of my newly-tuned engine, I was able to gently coerce the beast back into its garage where I must admit it sat for a couple of months whilst I ordered in some parts from the UK. On a side note: it’s generally much cheaper to import parts from the UK than it is to buy them in Australia from the few Triumph parts suppliers that exist here – even when the expensive international freight is taken into account.

Whilst the fact that the problem affected all four wheels at the same time strongly pointed towards the master cylinder as culprit, I did bear in mind other causes like the servo (or booster as they call it here), collapsed hoses, seized pistons etc. To save time and parts shipping delays/costs if I only addressed one issue I decided it was worthwhile giving the whole braking system a bit of an overhaul. To be honest it had been playing on my mind for a while due to the length of time that the car had been laid up so this was as good an excuse as any to get stuck in. My shopping list therefore included a brand new TRW master cylinder, flexi hoses, front pads, rear shoes, rear cylinders and an assortment of little bits and pieces needed for other jobs that had cropped up. Rimmer Brothers provided everything I needed and their international shipping isn’t exorbitantly priced and it’s fast. I know they are not always everyone’s first choice of supplier back in the UK but for overseas orders their comprehensive website and fast shipping makes things so easy. It’s probably the third order I have placed from overseas and haven’t had any problems to date with quality or incorrect parts.

Cylinders
New master cylinder vs old

The first job was to replace the master cylinder which was fairly easy in the grand scheme of things. Prior to removal I wanted to empty the reservoir of brake fluid to minimise spills – due to the lack of any suitable suction or siphoning device I decided to bleed this out with the help of the missus on the brake pedal. Whilst the front brakes bled easily thus emptying one half of the dual-circuit reservoir, the rears would not bleed at all – presumably due to a dodgy or stuck seal somewhere in the cylinder. On the plus side at least this confirmed that this was most likely the cause of the stuck brakes. In the end I opted to just remove the cylinder with the reservoir half full with some carefully placed polythene used to protect my (albeit rather dodgy) paintwork from any spills.

Just two bolts hold the cylinder to the booster, once these and the two hydraulic pipes are undone then the cylinder can simply be pulled away. The cylinder piston and inside of the booster looked nice and dry which means the faulty seals at least did not allow fluid to escape from the system entirely and ruin the booster.

Cylinder out
Master cylinder out, drip tray and sheeting to protect paintwork

Fitting the new cylinder is pretty much just the reverse of the removal procedure – I put a blob of grease on the end of the pushrod first to prevent any wear as the years pass. Hydraulic unions were tightened carefully – I worked by the rule of tightening until there was resistance and then nipping up another 1/8 to 1/4 turn. I haven’t had any problems to date with other cars on which I’ve worked so I used the same method here.

Cylinder in
Clean, shiny and hopefully functional

Whilst I was pretty sure the new cylinder would solve the problem I set about taking a look at the rest of the system to ensure everything else was in order. The flexi hoses, whilst not obviously perished from a quick glance, looked old enough to be original so I swapped those out for a new set. My preference would have been to fit a set of steel braided hoses but my budget would only stretch to replacement rubber ones – time will tell how the quality compares to the old ones. Removing the hoses was fairly easy – one benefit of such a dry climate is that there are far fewer seized fixings to deal with than I had been used to in the UK.

Old Hose Front
Old vs new hoses. Just in case you’re wondering – yes, I was using axle stands…

The other benefit of a dry climate is that the brake pipes themselves were in good condition with no signs of corrosion or seeping so were left in place. On close inspection a couple of the old rubber hoses showed signs of perishing when bent so it was well worth swapping them out now.

I had made the decision a little while ago to replace the front pads and rear shoes on the car, despite neither being worn to the point that they really needed to be replaced. This will probably divide opinion given the strong affiliation towards NOS items among the Triumph community but I really do not like the thought of asbestos dust being constantly generated and deposited on my garage floor and accumulating on components which I will be fiddling with for years to come. I’m aware the risks of low-level infrequent exposure are minimal but I would rather remove the risk entirely than live with a small risk indefinitely. I wore a P2 mask during any work around the friction material and kept everything dampened with a water spray to minimise dust becoming airborne and to remove built up dust from components (yep, I’m weirdly paranoid about this stuff). It will be interesting to see how the new brakes compare with the old brakes, which were really rather good – until they seized.

The front pads were addressed first. These are easy to remove – the two guide pins are pulled out (with the split ends being closed up first) and then the pads can just be pulled out of the caliper. Interestingly, whilst most UK cars have Lockheed calipers, mine and many other AU/NZ cars use Girlock ones. Apparently the Girlock brand was born from a joint venture between Lockheed and Girling required to meet regulations that required a certain percentage of locally manufactured parts to be used on AU/NZ assembled cars. The calipers are entirely different so it is important that the correct parts are used – I had to obtain the front pads locally as Rimmer Bros did not stock them (although Chris Witor does).

Old Pads Front
Old front brake pads – approx 5mm friction material left

At this point I decided to pull the calipers off the car (much easier if the bolts holding the suspension upright to the hub are also loosened) and take a quick peek at the pistons under the dust cover to check their condition and renew if necessary. However, this showed there was no fluid leaking past the seals and no corrosion to the pistons so I chose keep the originals in place to save a bit of time and money – I can revisit this at a later date if needed. Fitting the new pads was straightforward – the caliper pistons were compressed with a clamp (and proved to be un-seized) and the new pads installed in place of the old. Ideally I would have fitted new guide pins but I forgot to order these so reused the old ones. Corrosion was minimal so hopefully this won’t cause any problems. The existing discs are in good order with very minimal scoring so these remained in place.

New Pads Front
New pads fitted – note Aussie Girlock caliper

I had originally planned to use mid-range Bendix branded pads but due to a mix-up with the order I ended up with TransGold ones instead. I was going to return them but some googling indicated they actually seem to have a good reputation for a budget kevlar pad among the Holden community so I’m going to give them a go. They’re easy to swap out again if they prove to be dud.

The rear brakes were next. Popping off the drums showed that they had obviously received some attention shortly before the car was taken off the road as the shoes were virtually new but due to aforementioned reasons I decided to replace them anyway (I have kept them as spares in case I change my mind). This recent brake work meant the drums were easy enough to remove – although the nearside one required a little bit of persuasion due to what turned out to be a seized wheel cylinder holding one of the shoes in place (releasing the self-adjusting mechanism did not help here).

After unclipping the handbrake cable from its lever I stripped the brakes down, making a careful note of the location of the springs (the top one goes behind the shoes) and gave everything a good clean with some brake cleaner. I removed the cylinders and, as mentioned above, the nearside one had a seized piston which I could not work free, so were due to be replaced anyway. They most likely had seen minimal mileage but sadly the long time spend off the road had not agreed with them. Fitting the new cylinders is a mixed bag – offering the unit up to the car is the easy bit, but installing the funny little dished e-clips to hold them securely against the backplate (without breaking the clip) is annoyingly fiddly. As luck would have it, these clips are the same as used on Minis and a tool exists to fit them. Even luckier, whilst there are no Triumph parts suppliers in close range, there is a very good Mini spares company in Adelaide (Minisport) who had the tool in stock and do next day delivery for local orders. I therefore bit the bullet and ordered the tool online to make my life easier.

Clip Tool
The brake cylinder clip tool that will save your sanity and knuckles

The tool is really easy to use – it threads into the hydraulic inlet of the cylinder and a new clip is inserted over the top of the tapered section of the tool. As the nut is tightened, the outer section pushes the clip downwards over the tapered section, spreading it gently as it moves. As the outer section of the tool hits the backplate the clip can be heard to click into place with all three tabs neatly located in the groove around the cylinder inlet. This tool saved much swearing and means I’ll never have to worry about whether the clips are doing their job or not.

After the cylinders are fitted, building up the rear brakes is a simple reversal of the removal process – although getting the springs in place can be a little frustrating. Before the drums were refitted I made sure the self-adjusting mechanisms were completely retracted.

Rear Brakes Done
Rear brakes completed (minus shoe retaining pins and springs)

All that was left to do after this was to refit the wheels and bleed the system through. I used DOT 3 fluid and a Gunson Eezlibleed fed from a bike tyre inflated to about 10psi – I wanted to use a pressure-bleeding method rather than pumping the new cylinder as I didn’t really like the idea of un-lubricated piston seals moving in the cylinder bore during those first few pumps before brake fluid made its way completely through the system. I sacrificed the old master cylinder lid for use with the Eezlibleed which made for an airtight seal on the first attempt.

After the bleeding was complete, the brake pedal proved to be nice and firm and the rear brake self adjusters could be heard ratcheting into place on both sides – I have read that this is best done before the handbrake cable is reconnected.

All in all the system appears to have been successfully overhauled. The car is currently out of rego as I await the changed to the South Australian historic rego scheme to kick into place on 1st July but as soon as she’s legal again I’ll bed-in the brakes and report back.

Next job – finish the tuning that was rudely interrupted by the brake problem.