Having satisfied myself that the engine actually runs and isn’t a basket case, it was time to remove it from the car in preparation for complete dismantling. The last time I had to lift an engine I foolishly decided to do it over Christmas – suffice to say that things didn’t go completely according to plan and the Christmas holiday nearly turned into a disaster. This time, however, things were different.
The biggest surprise about the Triumph so far has been the ease with which I’ve been able to take the car apart. You’d think that after 25 years (apparently the last rebuild was in 1989) most things would be rusted solid, but perhaps the fact that its been off the road for the last 12 years has made more of a difference than I’d expected – anyway the fact is that with liberal applications of WD40, everything so far seems to be coming apart pretty easily. The engine and gearbox came out ‘sweet as a nut’; no drama, no grazed knuckles, in fact not so much as a single swearword. Two hours steady work and there it was, sitting on the garage floor waiting to be stripped down before being sent off to be chemically cleaned. So far so good.
Before starting to take the Triumph to bits it seemed like a good idea to see if I could get the engine running, so that I’d at least know whether there was anything catastrophic that would need sorting during the rebuild. As the previous owner had told me that it hadn’t run for at least 12 years it was fairly obviously not simply going to be a case of charging the battery (which, by the way, was knackered) and turning the key.
I’d already removed the petrol tank as it was clear that any 12 year old fuel remaining would be completely stale and useless, so a gallon can of the amber nectar was perched just beneath the fuel pump in readiness for the ‘great start-up’. Getting a spark out of the ignition system, however, took a little longer to resolve; having first removed the add-on electronic ignition system fitted by the previous owner I then spent several frustrating days replacing first the coil, then the condenser and finally the plug leads before I finally worked out (with a little help from Google) that I needed to remove the now redundant ballast resistor from the ignition circuit. Job done, turn the key for a few seconds, and……………. she lives!
Wonderful! Now down to the slightly long-winded business of stripping out the engine compartment in preparation for removing the engine and gearbox.
I don’t think that cars get jealous, but given the recent arrival of the GT6 it would have been perfectly natural for Bertie to ‘get the hump’ just a little. So when we found out about a classic car event taking place at Sudeley Castle on Sunday we decided that this would be an excellent opportunity to give him an outing. Fortunately we were blessed with a lovely early autumn day and I’m pleased to say that Bertie behaved himself impeccably, making the 35 mile round trip without complaint, though parts of the long and steady climbs up Cleve Hill and Seven Springs had to be tackled in third gear.
No prizes won but we were the oldest of the 180 cars taking part – and its no dishonour to lose out to a 1933 Bentley!
Sudeley is lovely. The one time home and the final resting place of Katherine Parr, the gardens are very attractive and the house/castle houses a nice little museum which is certainly worth a visit.
Yes, I admit it, I seem to be developing an addiction for old cars. Well, to be honest I don’t think that its a new thing; after cutting my motoring teeth on cars from the 1960s, and having owned an MGB for nearly 30 years, I think that I’ve always had a strong affection for vehicles that predate the modern era of complex electronics and a hankering for cars that you can fix with a spanner and hammer when they go wrong.
The latest addition to the Ewbank stable is a late 1973 Triumph GT6 which I bought ‘unseen’ in eBay and collected from the previous owner in Kent earlier this week. The bodywork of cars from that era has a horrible tendency to rot really badly but fortunately this one was substantially rebuilt with lots of new panels in the late 80s and so far (fingers crossed) it seems to be in really good condition. There are a few bits of rust to be seen and the paintwork will have to be completely stripped for a complete re-spray but hopefully there won’t be too much need for welding or panel replacement.
I spent yesterday removing 4 or 5 gallons of stale petrol from the tank in preparation for its removal later today. I also took the spark plugs out and turned the engine over, and was relieved to find that it isn’t seized. The first big job will be to extract the engine and gearbox and to take the block down to a local engineering works to get the bores and bearings checked. All very exciting!
In common with all enthusiastic ‘nerds’ who want to get to know all about their new hobby I decided that membership of a motoring club would be helpful in getting better acquainted with ‘Bertie’ our new (well, new to us) Austin 12/4. As it happens there are several extremely good clubs catering for Austin owners, but as the Vintage Austin Register claims to cater mainly for ‘vintage’ cars it seemed sensible to give them a try.
As it happens the club’s annual ‘my car’s shinier that yours’ rally took place near Bromsgrove at the end of June, so the weeks leading up to the event were spent in preparing Bertie for our first major expedition. Although the car is generally in really good condition, its clear that its done little or no mileage for the past few years and that some routine maintenance had lapsed. Finding grease nipples in inaccessible places, adjusting the brakes and changing the oils was a good starting point, but the real work came when we realised that the fuel tank was full of rust and a horrible sort of gum residue that results for leaving old petrol in the tank for years on end.
Removing the tank was simple enough, but getting the rubbish out and then cleaning and re-sealing the internal surfaces was a very different matter. In the end I bought some specialist products and gave it as good a clean as possible before fitting the fuel line with an in-line filter which will hopefully prevent the worst of what remains from clogging up the carburettor in future. Time will tell.
Anyway, the momentous day arrived and we set off at ‘sparrows’ leaving ourselves plenty of time to cover the 55 miles to the rally without having to hurry. In point of fact the words ‘hurry’ and ‘Austin 12’ should probably never be used in the same sentence as the maximum speed that we were brave enough to reach was only 40 mph. You know, its amazing just how little traffic you find in front of you when you’re travelling at that speed – though whether the dozens of frustrated motorists behind us found it quite such an enjoyable experience is another matter altogether.
Whilst I’d love to be able to tell you that we came away with armfuls of trophies the reality is that some of the cars were very, very shiny and a credit to the countless hours of hard work put in by their owners – so there were no prizes for Bertie on his first outing. That said, we certainly weren’t put to shame and I spent several profitable hours looking at the competition and working out what improvements need to be done over the coming months to bring him up to standard. All very enjoyable and made even more so by meeting some very nice fellow enthusiasts – most of whom, oddly enough, weren’t nerds at all!
Oh yes ………..and we got home in one piece too!
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and a general account of life in the Ewbank household…..