Monday, 23 March 2009

Suck Squeeze Bang Blow

As we all know, this is the mantra of the infernal combustion engine. Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow, and all will be well.
Project Shed has been nearing completion and was, last friday, so imminently there, that I booked it in for an M.O.T. test. (ummm. for those not from the U.K., MOT stands for the Ministry of Transport... All britain's cars of over three years in age need this test every year in order to be allowed on the roads.)
The green thing has been off the road for a few years, and over the last two or so, I've been working on a major rebuild, assisted by my very good friend Ken. These pics were taken in his garage where the most recent works were the replacing of all the brake components, pipework, cylinders, brake shoes, fluid, etc. So all of a sudden, we were ready. A quick coat of new military green paint, and some fresh fuel, a brief test up and down the road, and then the test. Soon be road-legal again.
"Where's that water coming from?", asks Ken.. Just as we're about to set off. True enough, theres a splashy trail out to the road.
We roll it back in, and I crawl under with a torch.. Rusty stains down the side of the engine block tell a story, and not a good one.

When engine blocks are being cast, there's a sand core inside, to create a space around the cylinders, as the casting cools the sand core is broken up and flushed out of holes in the side of the block. The holes are machined smooth and round, and cup-shaped steel plugs are pressed into place. In the U.S. these are sometimes (erroneously) referred to as "frost plugs", because if the water in the block freezes, they are often pushed out by a column of ice, leading people to think that this is their purpose, to act as a pressure relief for freezing. In fact, ice expands in such a manner that despite those plugs moving, the ice can still burst the cast iron block. This is all a digression, by the way.
Core plugs. That's what they are. They're made of mild steel, and corrode more readily than cast iron.

The ones in this engine were probably the originals, and in that case, have been doing their job since 1962. Ove the last couple of years the engine has been filled and drained several times, and often without the corrosio-inhibiting advantage of anti-freeze additives. At the first sign of rust spotting on those plugs, someone, during the rebuild.... oh, okay then, it was me... thought to fill them with a tough epoxy filler, claimed to be equal to the job of repairing cracked engines.
J.B. Weld, it's called. It is NOT equal to the job of plugging core plugs.
Where are the culprits?
Good question. A camera phone could see them, but no direct sight was possible. No chance to fix them without taking off the exhaust, the inlet and exhaust manifolds, carburettor, starter motor, alternator....

It took almost a day, including buying spares, then reassembling and test-running.
The beast is being entered in the national off road trials, I'm determined. The last one it was in was in 1995, and my little brother broke the gearbox, getting to a point up the side of a quarry somewhat further than I had reached, and being one of the few that day to clear that section. Most of the others that reached that point were V8 powered, not a clattery two and a quarter litre four cylinder engine.

The box ran with the broken first gear for several more years, but there's a fresh set of cogs in there now.

All being well, one evening this week, we'll be celebrating the end of the rebuild.


  1. i thought an early '60's red ford truck with white bumpers would be my ideal love .....

    hmmm ... now i think i'm falling for a military green, 60-ish land rover living in britain.

    sigh. what a handsome 'beast' it is !!

  2. I had a 55 Pontiac Star Cheif and lost a freeze plug. It was one in back of the block and I had to pull the Transmission to do it.
    I was 17 and had never done anything like that. It took weeks. Where I really got hung though was trying to attach the tranny back to the flywheel. I got half of the bolts in and it hung up on something. It trook a week to figure out that I was replacing the flywheel bolts backwards, from the wrong side, and when it got halfway round the bolt at the top., unseen, was hanging on something.
    I was lucky I didn't get killed.
    It'll make an idiot out of you.


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