A Special Builder's Notes


The Special Builder's Breakfast Club

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08 April 2014

Better Now.....

.... than in the middle of France.

After a jolly day out in the Austin (the meeting at Ufford beckoned and the weather was perfect, plus, I spotted on a Talbot, a very neat and racy looking hood whose style and construction I might borrow for the Special) The Ambassador's Daughter and I started up the Hillman for the first time. It sounded lovely.

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There was a bit of trouble with the timing; I'd fiddled about with the distributor a while back and hadn't got the points gap right when I'd put it back. Then we discovered that the rubber washer on the filter bowl had gone hard so fuel spilled out of that and when that leak was cured, fuel spilled out of the top of the float bowl on the carb. I thought at first that the pressure in the fuel pump was too high but, when the valve closes on the float bowl the fuel supply should shut off. We noticed also that a couple of the new core plugs were leaking - fortunately not the ones that are hard to get at. So I could run the engine only for about 20 seconds at a time before I had to switch the fuel pump on or off but, more worrying than all these minor leaks was a run of water which appeared to be coming from between the head gasket and the block. I set The Ambassador's Daughter to work.

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The head had to come off. The only part of the operation which might have been a problem was the splined sleeve which couples the distributor drive to the bevel drive and gear on the camshaft. According to the book, a special extractor is required but as it turned out, a tap with a drift lifted it away with ease.

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There was a slight 'gotcha' when I discovered that I couldn't get at the tab washer on the camshaft damper and had to drill a big hole in the firewall to get a screwdriver in to bend it back. Then, with the aid of the engine hoist and a couple of straps, the head slipped up the studs very easily.

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With the head off and a bit of time spent with a sharp instrument, it was apparent that the leak was coming from a couple of cracks between two of the waterways and the edge of the block. It looked as though the fault was in the casting - not frost damage - as the wall of the casting appeared to be peeling away like an outer skin. I continued to pick away until I'd opened up a line 9" long!

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I took advice from Learned Counsel and we elected to fill the gap with stick weld in three of four layers - grinding and polishing between each operation, until we'd burnt out all the old oil and rust that had accumulated over the years and replaced it with sound metal.

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This was about halfway through the procedure. The final filling was done with MIG and then polished smooth. There's still a couple of hair-line cracks to 'v' out and fill on the top of the block and after that, all should be well. A bit of silicon on the bottom of the head gasket will help with the seal.

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The head itself looked extremely good and I wouldn't be surprised if it hadn't been off for refurbishment in its recent past. Some of the valves looked fairly new and there was virtually no carbon build-up in the combustion chambers. Apart from the fact that the head had to come off, which was a bit of a hold-up in the proceedings, the only thing that went wrong was my loaf of bread (distracted, I'd left it in the machine too long and the mix of Spelt and white untreated flour doesn't like to be ignored)...

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... and a miniature grinding wheel shattered and made a bit of a mess of my forehead.

But it's better now.



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