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.