Its gone!

Car sold, collected and gone.

It was a great little car and taught me a lot. Hayley caught me on ebay looking for a replacement but I can’t think of anything that will be as good allround and I can’t decide if I want to focus on hillclimbing or classic rallies. In the mean time I’ll keep my hand in with some speed events in my Boxster.

To celebrate here is favourite picture.

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Its Shoestring Dihatsu racer dot com!

Charade ready to compete - and what a competition car it was!

Just to keep my hand in I managed to persuade my mate Matt to enter his everyday Dihatsu Charade, complete with kiddy seats still in the back, in a SCCON PCT. We had a great time and the little car did brilliantly. 898cc and 3 cylinders of raw power gave more expirienced competitors and better prepared (ie prepared) cars a run for their money on a efw of the tests. Wheels probably a bit small but it climbed some serious inclines. Cheers Matt.

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Trying to look cool. Very burnt later but pleased with new engine and good time set.

And so to Silverstone! For the MGCC MG Live! Sprint. I got up early (very early) and drove down with the new engine humming away and showing really good oil pressure, and the recently re-fitted cigarette lighter socket powering the sat nav. This is a brilliant idea and makes long journeys so much less stressful. I ran it straight off the battery with a 10amp fuse (which is also enough to power an electric tyre pump).

Very pleased with my sat nav-allowing 12v socket

Upon arrival I passed scrutineering with a few comments as the car was dirty. I had washed it a couple of weeks before but it had driven down from Norwich that morning and had a week outside during the day so it probably wasn’t looking its best. I’ll polish it before next time.

Excitingly there were two other a standard class Midgets, both 1275s. Unusually both had at least some modifications within the class rules and expirienced competitors driving them too. Exciting as it means some proper competition. Since one entrant was from Northern Ireland I can count it as an international!

Lots of interesting machinery to look at between runs

So to the event: Only one practice run as it’s a two lapper on the Stowe circuit. I had quite a long que for the first run. As I’m revving for the sound test I suddenly smelt petrol. I pulled out of the queue and popped the bonnet to investigate and found the second carb to be wet. Since I didn’t want to lose my slot and was worried about fuel leaks leading to a fire, I turned the fuel pressure regulator down and then rejoined the queue.

I set off on my practice run. This the first event I’ve been to where I had been before and therefore had a rough idea which way to turn. (Last time I was in my Porsche). I was looking forward to being able to experiment with lines and braking points.

I didn’t get my wish. Towards the end of the first lap the car spluttered and wouldn’t pull so I pulled into the pits. One of the cool things about Silverstone Stowe is that it has “proper” pits so you can pretend you are a racing driver. I turned the pressure regulator back up to where it was and then added another click for good measure. Fire, scmire, I’m not losing power!

I really went for it on the timed runs. Sadly the Northern Ireland Midget pulled out with technical problems – a shame as he had shown good promise early on (though was slower than me). So that left me with a single arch-rival (Paul), a lovely guy to whom I spent most of the day chatting.

Paul and my cars wait to race at Silverstone Stowe

This was interesting as Paul’s 1275 had the same things (wider wheels, lowered suspension, exhauset, filters etc) modified as my car does so it was a fair 1275 vs 1500 test. In theory the 1500 should be the quicker car – they are quicker as standard and the biggest problems are the heavy bumpers and the suspension, both of which have been changed on my car.

I really liked this Healy Sprite. I think the colour is Healy Blue but I could well be wrong. What ever, its very pretty.

After the first run I was ahead, with Paul fairly close behind so for the second run I pushed a bit harder. In particular I really enjoyed riding the kerbs (though when I watch the video I turns out I was hardly touching them). I still didn’t quite get to the target – my final and best score was 98%, but I’m ok with that. Its the class record and means that I have the class record at the old Silverstone course (set in my very first Sprint – see near the start of this blog) and the new one. The new engine hasn’t been set up on a rolling road yet so I expect there is more power to come too. I was happy with how far I was ahead of Paul and I recon I could have found a 100% times with a third run but, with a long journey ahead, I went home. Very sunburnt!

The car then faultlessy returned home and I stuck it in the garage, pleased that the new engine had been perfect, despite long drive back in very hot weather.

Big thanks to David Rainsbury and others for accepting late entry and provinding a great day.

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New engine and MOT

Car drove well on way home. I couldn’t help myself and drove gently as if running in, even though I know its a good engine. My Dad rebuilt this engine for a Spitfire, including a a new crank. I drove it several thousand miles in that car, somethimes fairly hard, and it never showed any of the issues the old engine had.

I should have given up on the previous engine and fitted a replacement engine long ago – there must have been some fault with the block or crank in the old engine. I did read that a spun bearing can throw the indexing out by causing the crank to overheat and distort so maybe the damage was done right back at the end of the season before last. I guess I put too much faith in the professionals who rebuilt it. Anyway – its gone now!

Anyone know of someone good with twin SUs in Norwich? Could do with balancing I think. It really ought to go on a rolling road as the carbs were set up for the old engine. They are the same spec though so it shouldn’t be too far out.

To celebrate I’ve ordered some new Valvoline racing oil and got my books out (see recomended stuff).

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Collecting car with replacement engine in about 2o hours

Very excited!

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New engine on the way and problem solved?

I’ve made a discovery and it has cheered me up. Long time readers will know that the current engine has developed a habit of destroying bottom end bearings. After several rebuilds the gap between running big ends has got smaller and smaller and I got so fed-up that I put the car on eBay.

Before I put it on the ‘bay I had done a lot of research. So much so that I had lost track slightly of the class I compete in. I was planning on building as tough a bottom end as I could and we reading and absorbing the terrible tales of the engine’s weak bottom end. At the same time I was ignoring all of the advice from other people, professional rebuilders and owners of these engines who said that the bottom end is not anywhere near as bad as its reputation suggests and if mine kept going wrong then there must be something wrong with my particular engine. I was even ignoring my own expiriece of this engine in several hard-driven cars in the past.

My sister had a Spitfire 1500 (same engine). My dad (an engineer) rebuilt the engine when it got tired. He didn’t have the bottom end balanced to reduce strain on the bearings or use competition spec bearings. He didn’t modify any of the oil ways to increase flow or use Escort Cosworth big end bolts and ARP bolts for the main bearing caps.

I drove that car several thousand miles following its rebuild. Quite often in long stints. Some of the miles were quite fast. All were on cheap oil. And that car was good. As good fortune would have it, this car was unused in a garage and had not been on the roads for the best part of a decade, though it had been regularly carefully started and warmed up / driven about by my Dad. So I know of a second hand engine that is of a known and tested quality. You know where I’m going with this…

At the same time I spoke to an engine builder what wanted to build me a full-on bottom end. For 5 grand! I declined his offer, even though he pointed out that some people spend 15 grand. Interestingly, he said that blocks can warp. I also read in a book on competition engines that an overheating bearing can throw the crank out of true. I think that one of these happed in the past and this is why my engine is so unreliable. This is my big discovery that has cheered me up – its not the engine design, its my particular engine.

So I’m going to start again. After a bit of coaxing, a new set of plugs, a new condenser and a new set of points the engine from my sister’s car sprang to life and sounded good. Not bad considering it spent the last 10 years unused in a garage. So it going to have a new home and we’ll see how it gets on.

To celebrate I’ve made a little composite video of Gurston Down last year.

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My trophy has arrived!

Its mine!

Unexpected package arrived at work today. I had no idea it would be so big! Its about six inches tall and made of glass. Hexagonal (MG) shape and very difficult to photograph. Not only is it transparent but it is reflexive too. Look carefully and you can see me holding the camera. Absolute pride of place next to tv. Is is too early to build a trophy cabinet?

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Let the running-in commence

Pottering round the streets (so as not to keep revs at one particular point) running new engine in. Great fun even at this speed. Noisy though!

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Fitted engine (with a little help from my friend)

Will gets ready to lower engine onto gearbox

Time to put the engine. One of my former students, Will, lent a hand. No real problems. We left the head off to make it a bit lighter.
Will rebuilt a Land Rover in his mum’s garden, mostly on his own and several years before he was old enough to drive it. He is now at university studying off road vehicle design and keen to get hands-on expirience. Its sybiotic. I get an assistant (actually he often leads) and he gets expirience and a few quid towards his next winch or snorkle for his Landie.
The garage is unheated and unlit and it was bloody cold. The drive has a very bumpy finish – its made of concrete with jagged pebbles pushed in so you can’t roll the engine hoist backwards and forwards to line it up so we had to use the garage even though on an overcast day I made seeing what was going on once 2 of the 3 lead lamps had failed and we were down to one LED one which just didin’t give enough light. Frustrating!
Infact the car is too narrow for the arms of the hoist to slide under the car so we put the car up on a pair of ramps which just gives us enough room.
This worked fine until the hoist’s arm hit the garage door (which was open to let some light in), meaning we had to 3/4 close the garage door which made it even darker! Fortunately it was only for a few minutes.
Only error was mine. For some reason I managed to get a washer under the pedestal for the rocker shaft and we only noticed when we came to do the final set of tappets. So we had to take the rocker shaft assembly off, check it wasn’t bent and then reassemble and reset all the tappets.
Cold and tired we decided to stop before it got dark and we made any more stupid mistakes.

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Collected Balanced Engine

It was a heavy and awkward lift. Nothing to big Nick!

I went to my local Triumph Specialist ( – tell them Chris Barns sent you) to collect my engine after its umpteenth rebuild. After much entertaining chat and pontificating, including a discussion about how I might be better off with a 1300 crank (which would be against the rules and also a very unusual form of cheating) we loaded the engine into the boot of Hayley’s Yarris and I came home.
The engine had gone in for a rebuild after the last time I had the sump off had been shortly followed by a grinding noise as the engine ran. Only obvious sign of damage was on the front main bearing (not the camshaft as I had diagnosed) which was quite heavily marked.
For safety’s sake a new crank had been sourced, reground and balanced and we agreed a new (lower) rev limit and to try a different oil.
Only problem was when I got home. Although I’ve lifted the engine in the past it was only in a very uncontrolled manner – not ideal when trying to lift it over the lip (which seemed suddenly much bigger than when I’m lifting shopping out of it!) of someone else’s car.
A big man was what I needed and a big man I called. Nick is a former county prop forward and just the ticket.

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