Friday 12 May 2023

14 years of silence, will it run?

My time in the garage has been intermittent of late, so to keep the enthusiasm levels topped-up I decided to have some fun and see if I could get Gretchen’s engine to cough. The engine last ran 14 years ago, so I was longing to hear that characteristic purr once again. 

But ....will it run? 

It should be noted that this was not the original engine to the car. That lump met an unfortunate demise back in 2003 whilst I was bombing up the A5 dual carriageway just outside of Milton Keynes. I suddenly went from 60mph down to about 10mph and had to pull over and call for recovery. Sadly, the big end was shot and because I was reliant on the car as my daily driver, I traded it in and purchased a reconditioned unleaded ‘green’ unit (the engine you see here).

Naturally, the first order of TLC business was an oil change:


To run the engine outside of the car I needed to build myself a starter rig. I located a used bellhousing that had already been cut down for the purpose:

I then set about rigging-up a simple wiring loom. I wanted to run a few indicator lights, namely; ignition live, oil pressure and alternator. After researching how others had gone about it, this is what I came up with:

Once assembled it functioned exactly as I had hoped:

The battery is the same one that came out of the car all those years ago. I was surprised to see it was still reading some voltage, so I knew that there was hope it could be recharged

After after 24hours of trickle charging it was capable of holding adequate voltage, at least enough for the purposes of bench running the engine. Obviously, this will be replaced with a new battery at the time the car goes back on the road.

Through my engine tinkerings I discovered that the fuel pump was not working effectively, so I simply replaced it with a near-identical new one:

More adventures to come, particularly now that summer is around the corner. Thanks, as always, for reading!

Thursday 29 September 2022

Sporadic re-emergence

Happy New Year! 

With apologies for the unplanned and lengthy intermission. You know how it is, life sometimes takes over and focus has to be diverted accordingly. That said, Gretchen's restoration has never been far from my mind... 

Recently I have been casually tinkering in the garage to remind myself of where I had got to. You will have to excuse me as I am likely to jump around illogically from task to task for a while. In short, don't expect any linear progress, but I will try to keep things moving along.

Here is something I have been itching to do for a long time - making a start on repairing the crusty old rear wheel well and body mount/reinforcement section:

Having stared for countless hours ruminating on the best approach to this, I opted to weld together a jig that would allow me to correctly locate the donor panel:

I needed to preserve the exact location of the original bracket (the one with the bolt hole which secures down onto the chassis). Note the 'cup' cradling the old bracket constructed from small off-cuts of angle iron. Theoretically, this will keep things correctly aligned when offering up the replacement panel:

After carefull assessment I chopped out the old rotten section with the angle grinder:

Here is the rot-free donor panel (harvested from a scrapped dry state car in the US, you may recall). It still needs to be trimmed down and blasted clean before I stitch it in, but I think you get the idea of how the jig idea will work:

Anyway, it feels good to be back on it. I will try not to leave it so long for the next post! 

Wednesday 8 December 2021

Black Friday parts order

My chassis components clean up over the past few months provided me with an opportunity to make an accurate parts list. By the time that the inevitable annual sales came to town, I was ready and organised. This is my latest shipment of parts:

As well as fresh slave cylinders, the eagle eyed will notice that I have upgraded to a duel master cylinder (for safety reasons): 

The part I am most excited for has to be the dropped spindles:

They will provide a 2.5" drop on the front of the car, whilst offering a smoother ride.

Not everything that I required was in stock, but it was a good haul nonetheless. Things are starting to move towards the chassis rebuild, which makes me happy!

Wednesday 1 December 2021

Repair to the petrol tank support rail

I was still in two minds about the tank support rails. My initial feeling was that they were fairly crispy and that heavy pitting (from both inside and out) had thinned them.

However, upon blasting, it turned out that my assumption only turned out to be partially true. It seems that these sections were made from a slightly lighter gauge steel, which would explain why they felt relatively light. Fortunately, the rot was not too extensive, so rather than replacing with new items I figured I would save them. Afterall, the more original steel that stays in the car, the happier I feel:

Marked up the worst sections:

Cut out the bad:

made up a patch from fresh steel:

Clamped, welded and dressed:

I am not sure how I want to proceed with the forward section that curves downwards. It is actually a bit more complicated than it appears in photos because the planes sit at various angles rather than conveniently flat. I may end up using a section out of the Mexi tank rail and graft it in rather than trying to form it from scratch. I need a little thinking time, so will come back to it.

 Right, time to have a look at the other side...

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Slough Swapmeet Swag

First time that I have ventured over to the annual Slough Swapmeet and it won't be the last. It was a quality event with plenty of old air-cooled wagons to inspire and motivate thyself (particularly needed in these colder darker wintery days):

From Bristol, it was only an hour down the M4 motorway to get to Newbury Racecourse on a sunny Sunday morning. Met some intresting folk and managed to bag a few items for Gretch: 

6v battery cover. Although this will never be fitted to the car it is my intention one day to make a larger version that has the same original appearance, but will fit the dimensions of a 12v battery. This is low on my priority list, but I think that a period looking cover for a modern battery would be a nice touch. Eventually. Some day. Maybe.

Original Bilstein jack. Not sure this is the exact 'year correct' version for a '65 (comment below if you can enlighten me), but it appears to be around the right era. Good enough for now and it was an absolute bargain for a clean one in working order.

Heater channel vent covers. I was missing the passenger (left) side, but got them as a pair for a low-low price. They fit up into my Klassic Fab channels, but I may need to rework the top lips to enable the covers to freely slide underneath as they are in ther pretty tight:

So, a great day out was had and a few more OG parts have been ticked off of the list!

Wednesday 17 November 2021

Reinforcement panel clean up

After lengthy consideration, I decided to make more work for myself by removing the petrol tank support rails. They seemed fairly solid on the top facing planes, but were wearing thin along the bottom edges (water moisture + gravity + decades of road use = crispy metal). It's always difficult to know how to proceed when things are in a grey area (ie: the condition is not too bad, but not too good either), but I think that ensuring things are made solid has to be the overriding factor. So, more spot welds were drilled out followed by careful separation of the parts:

One huge benefit to having this section split into component parts is that I could now fit the reinforcement panel into the blast cabinet, so that it could be properly cleaned up for assessment:

I identified a few areas of concern as I went along. One was a slight kink/dent on the front edge that was likely caused by the front end shunt the car had sustained in the past:

This was easily rectified with a hammer and dolly: 

After a numbingly long time blasting I had things back to bare steal on the front and back:

A potentially chronic issue may exist in behind some swelling visible along the overlapping seam of the washer bottle recess. See how it bulges outwards between the factory spot welds:

I fear that can mean only one thing ...bloated rust! That will likely need addressing... 

As for the tank support rails, I do have a couple of options; either replace with NOS ones (that come spot welded to the replacement quarter panels) or attempt to repair the originals. One of those options is obviously far easier, but that is not always how I choose to approach things. We shall see...

Wednesday 10 November 2021

Separating the wheel well

Although I would like to strip and paint more chassis related parts (namely the front beam), I need to accept that the UK weather is now less favourable - it has turned cold and wet, which doesn't make for the good painting conditions in the garage. I shall come back to that task when the northern hemisphere is pointing back towards the sun.

So, I have pivoted my attention to something different - the crusty wheel well that I previously removed from the car in one piece along with the adjoined petrol tank rails and washer recess panel:

I gently removed the paint from the area where a row of spot welds holds the pieces together along the seam:

Carefully drilling out the spots:

To do a neat job without distorting the flanges takes some time, but means less fettling and straightening down the line. I have found that a good approach is to drill a hole 70% the size of the spots to be removed. Then come in with the rotary multi tool with a small grinding/burr attachment and careful enlarge the holes to the exact profile of the spot welds. Also, working from one end to the other ensures that the spots come apart in sequence, which makes the separation easier. 

Eventually I had the old well wheel separated without any drama:

A reminder that even the most solid of cars is likely to have rust lurking in the untreated overlapping seams. Unfortunately it is inevitable unless the car has been kept in a vacuum since its date of manufacture:

I shall source a replacement panel for the wheel well section only. I will intend to clean up the rest and make an assessment. I am optimistic that only minor repairs will be required: