Monday, 20 May 2013

2013 - The New Blue Car Project Begins

I had realised back in 2010 that my original TR7 I bought in 2002 was not going to last too much longer.  The previous owner had done quite a lot of welding but it was not very good quality and I found some important bits he missed, or rather the MOT man did.  Almost at the same time I bought another TR7 which was an abandoned project and was structurally sound.  See my previous post about this with some pictures.

However when I started to get serious about the project I found that the interior had got wet at some time so was actually in a poor condition and would all need replacing.  Also when I got a quote for a decent paint job it came to almost £1500.  This meant there was much more work - and expense - in putting it back on the road to the standard I wanted so I decided to sell it.  Less than two weeks later it had gone to a new home up near Manchester.

Looking round for a replacement I found a good looking  1981 Midnight Blue TR7 on Ebay and bought it for less than the price of painting the old one.  It was pretty tidy and had quite a lot of good stuff already done, like uprated brakes and suspension, 15" wheels, stainless exhaust, electric fan, electronic ignition etc etc.    It had some restoration done previously but there were a couple of spots still  needing attention, mainly the front of the rear wing just above where it joins the sill. This is a regular TR7 problem area and repair panels are easily available.

May 2013.  The car was booked into a good local bodyshop but the MOT test expires on 1st June so I took it for a test not expecting any trouble.


The tester pointed out a badly corroded fuel tank strap that would need  replacement before he could pass it..
Yes, its completely broken!

I ordered some new straps from Robsport and started to get the axle out to give access to the tank. This is when the fun started.

Someone had been at the axle bolts before me and they were mostly rounded off so this was going to be fun.

Out came the grinder to take the heads off and things were going pretty well with showers of sparks until I noticed something was dripping amid all the sparks. It was petrol !!!

Yes, that is petrol leaking!

I only just touched the spot where the petrol was coming from and the sealer came away to reveal petrol dripping in a steady stream from the tank.  Not good.

Hmmmm, I think any more grinding will have to wait till the leak had stopped.   I drained as much as possible (about 6 gallons)  from the tank and left it dripping into an old washing up bowl overnight.

Next morning the drips had stopped and I was able to get the axle out completely, but not before some more grinding.  The upper link bolts at the body end are harder to access so I had to cut though the links.
Bolts cut off with the grinder.

It seems a bit brutal but it was the best way to get at those top link to body bolts. I do have a some old suspension links "in stock" so temporary replacements are no problem.

Top link sawn off
to aid access to bolts

So the axle is now on the floor and the new tank mounting straps are on their way from Robsport.  

Axle finally out

I found a replacement tank in Aberdeen via the TR7/8 Forum  and did a deal at a good price.  By a amazing stroke of good luck a friend in Aberdeen ( John Roberts ) is coming down to Gloucestershire in the next couple of days  to collect a Fiat 124 Coupe he has bought from Stroud and will bring the tank down with him.

Update: 22 May 2013.  My friend John has delivered the tank which looks pretty good but has obviously been sitting for a while and has something making sloshing noises inside.  He also gave me some fuel tank restorer/sealer stuff that he had left over to treat it before I install it.  

23 May 2103.  The tank treatment is in three parts, a cleaner/degreaser,  an etching solution and finally the actual sealer. I have done the first two giving them a good "slosh around" - that is the actual term used on the products labels - and its now waiting to air dry before adding the sealer.  I will also give it a good external paint layer for protection before fitting.

Replacement tank during treatment

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

2012 Sprint engine update and Oil Pressure gauge

 Running around trying out the Sprint engine was good fun. It is a smooth torquey engine and I just love the way it revs.  The only thing I started to notice when the initial grin started to fade was a few rattles and noises that weren't there before. The exhaust system would knock on the floor sometimes and I had also found a mark on the inside of the bonnet (hood) where the oil filler cap was just touching.

Several attempts to rearrange my cobbled up exhaust system proved useless, and it was too close over the axle area,  so I decided to buy a complete new system that I knew would fit properly.  S&S supplied a very nice complete new stainless system including manifold and mounting rubbers, but at around £500 it was not cheap!
Fitting the system was very easy apart from the manifold.   The new engine has studs in the head instead of bolts which I think is a good idea, but the clearance issue ( see picture ) means there is not enough room to
 Nice new stainless manifold - but close to chassis
get the manifold on/off the studs.  The only way is to undo the engine mounts to tip it over and then it would just go on.  I also used brass nuts on the studs to avoid any sticking problems later.

When I asked S&S about the clearance to the chassis rail they told me that folks tend to use a bit of heat and a hammer to "modify" the manifold.  I thought this was a bit brutal having just paid good money for it but found another way on one of the forums by a small machining job on the right side engine mount - see pictures below.

engine mount before - block side

and after

engine mount before - chassis side
and after

About 5mm is machined off each side of the mounting as shown in the pictures.  The effect of the machining is to make the engine "lean" slightly to the right and away from the chassis rail.

Enquiries about the bonnet clearance revealed that the usual trick is to use TR8 spacers between the subframe and chassis rails.   These are basically just a thick washer (about 10mm) which drops the subframe by the same amount relative to the body. Easy fix and took less than 30mins to do.


Forgot to mention earlier, somewhere in amongst all these goings on I managed to find time to fit an oil pressure gauge in place of the clock. The car always had a gauge fitted low down by your left knee - a useless place - so I moved it to somewhere you can now see it.. I used a old Smiths classic full scale 0-100 psi capillary. gauge. Quite a simple job, just a bit of fitting/cutting out some plastic in the back of the instrument pod to get it sitting nicely in place..

Oil Pressure now clearly visible.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

2012 Sprint engine installed

All the usual hoses and wires connected up to the new Sprint motor with no problems but I had to fiddle about with the exhaust.  I had used the scruffy mild steel manifold that came with the engine and the car already had a stainless sports system so I had to make up a sleeve to join the two together. Not difficult but getting it all lined up and hanging nicely was a hassle.

I had read the clearance between the manifold and the chassis rail is sometimes a problem but I had a whole quarter of an inch!

I cranked it over on the starter a couple of times and saw oil pressure on the gauge so the big moment came - and it fired up easily after a couple of turns.  Phew !!   No nasty noises and no more smoke than usual with a new engine installation. Excellent.
Let it run for a couple of minutes and then checked around for any leaks the noticed the oil pressure was a bit high, in fact, much too high.  I was seeing  80psi running and even 65-70psi at tickover. Hmmm.

This seemed it might be a problem so I asked around on the Triumph Dolomite Club forum and they all agreed too much for a normal engine.  The consensus pointed to the oil pump so I whipped it off and found someone had fitted an uprated spring in the relief valve. It was longer and stronger than standard. This might be OK for competition but really not necessary for a normal engine and can cause premature wear to the timing chain tensioner so I just swapped to a standard one and normal pressure was restored.  I now had about 55psi running and 35-40psi at tickover.  Much more comfortable.

Completed Sprint engine installation

A quick road test found it was a bit flat above 3000rpm so I obviously needed to get the carbs and timing set up properly but otherwise everything worked OK..  It ran sweetly enough but needed a tune.  At this stage it still had not got the air filters and it was on standard needles so I booked a session on my local rolling road to get it running just right.

Couple of days later, K&N filters fitted, I took it to Maynard Motorsport rolling road in Nailsworth to sort it out properly. I have known Mark Maynard for years since before I rented some space in a spare corner of his workshop to build my Sierra Cosworth rally car in the early 1990's. He has a good engineering machine shop and can make almost anything you need for a car.

If you have never been to a rolling road it is a bit of a shocking experience first time.  The sheer noise and violence of a car running flat out whilst you stand a couple of feet away is pretty scary. You will not believe how loud it actually is.  I knew what to expect but it had been a few years, so I stood back with my fingers in my ears, whilst the car was given a good thrashing. Carb needles were swapped for some richer ones to match the K & N filters and the tubular manifold and ignition timing adjusted slightly to optimise everything.

Result was 134bhp at 5800rpm and a smooth flexible engine, see printouts below.


Thursday, 9 May 2013

2012 Sprint engine project begins

So having decided not to spend money repairing the old 8-valve engine I had to find a complete Sprint engine more or less ready to go in.  Some asking around on forums turned up an engine in Chipping Sodbury, only a few miles from me, which sounded suitable.  Speaking to the owner I found out it actually came from a TR7 which had fallen apart around it!

When I went to collect the motor I found out just how heavy these things are - or it may be I am getting old!
My long suffering mate Chris came with me and we only just managed to lift it into the back of my estate car.

I had borrowed an engine stand so we got the engine set up on it to have a good look at it.

First impressions not too bad but a couple of concerns soon arose.
The seller had told me he could never stop it weeping oil around the back of the sump and I quickly found the two bolts into the aluminium crank seal housing would not tighten - the threads were stripped.  Easy to swap the housing but that needed the flywheel taken off and I couldn't do that on the engine stand.  I have since seen a neat trick using a modified engine mount on the side of the block so its possible to get to all parts with it on a stand - next time then.
With the sump off the bottom end all looked good so it went back together and I turned my attention to the water pump.
Taking off the cover I found a 12 vane pump, excellent - but it was a 6 vane cover !!!  Again easy to swap but I started to wonder about what else I would find.

The carbs looked pretty dusty so I decided to give them a good going over with an overhaul kit.
Grimy carbs as received

I also got rid of the old waxstat jets at the same time. It was quite a nice and satisfying job completely stripping and cleaning the old carbs and they ended up almost good as new with their new butterflies, jets, needle valves and gaskets.

One of the fiddly bits to putting the Sprint engine in a TR7 is to sort out the heater pipes. My new engine still had Dolomite heater fittings so the previous owner had obviously bodged the pipes somehow ( yes, another bodge) but I wanted to do it properly. 
One heater connection joins to the water bypass pipe that runs along under the carbs.  I just used a standard TR7 bypass pipe here, only had to swap the olive fitting where it screws into the manifold.

The real factory TR7 Sprints had a special outlet casting fitted on the back of the head but these are super-rare so most folks use a made up version. Rimmers or S&S Preparations will sell you one which is just a standard Dolomite Sprint blanking plate with a standard plumbing outlet screwed and/or welded to it, see picture below. It looks a bit crude but works really well.

The picture shows a standard TR7 heater outlet and the modified Sprint one. You will need to re-use the screwed in outlet from the TR7.  After one failure which came out with all the aluminium thread I found I had to heat it up on a camping stove to avoid stripping the thread of the outlet.
Now all you need are some standard TR7 heater hoses to join it all up - simple.

Looking at the distributor I found it already had a Pirhana electronic ignition fitted so I would need the amplifier module to go with it. I also tested the vacuum unit by the good old sucking method and found it didn't move at all.  Searching around the web I found a Pirhana module on Ebay at a good price but the vacuum units proved to be nil stock at all the usual suppliers.  More searching and I eventually found a new old stock one at Mick Dolphin. Nice genuine bloke and good to deal with.

So finally I had a Sprint engine fully assembled and ready to fit

Please ignore the Speedograph air filters, they were just some new ones I had lying around and put them on whilst the engine was being fitted.  The engine runs on K&N filters now its in the car.

( The Speedographs are new and for sale in case you know anyone wants any for a Spitfire/MG/ etc )

The engine came with a scruffy but OK mild steel exhaust manifold so that went on.

Having experienced how heavy the bare engine is  ( around 140kgs I read somewhere )  I decided to buy myself a decent hoist to install it, especially bearing in mind it would be going in with the gearbox attached to it as well.
I decided to buy a 1 ton folding crane which cost £150, because I think when you have 200kgs of metal swinging in the air above your shiny paintwork you want to trust it to stay there. It also came with one of those adjustable leveller gadgets which are essential to tip the engine to the steep angle you need.
Trusty mate Chris assisted again and it all dropped in pretty easily leaving me to connect up all the fiddly bits over the next couple of days.