DIRTY STUFF

Street Machine - - Contents - WIL­LIAM PORKER

EV­ERY­THING WAS AS IT SHOULD BE, UN­TIL THEY TRIED TO FIRE UP THE Y-BLOCK. THERE WAS NO OIL PRES­SURE – NOT EVEN A FLICKER OF THE GAUGE NEE­DLE

THIS was a barn-find. A faded 1954 F100, dust-laden and swal­low-pooped, with four stuffed tyres, squat­ting be­hind two trac­tors. The guys knew what it was, in­cred­i­bly straight and mostly free of tin­worm. This was the first model to be fit­ted with the mighty 239-cube Y-block, af­ter the ven­er­a­ble side­valve V8 was fi­nally put out to pas­ture. The pair hag­gled over money with the son of the late owner and came back with cash and a trailer.

It was now des­tined to re­turn to the roads as a street ma­chine. They cleaned ev­ery damn thing, ripped out the en­gine and auto, and, not know­ing any­thing much about re­build­ing Y-blocks, gave this to a per­for­mance guy to re­con­di­tion. He came back to them af­ter a cou­ple of days, say­ing that the pis­tons and crank had done too much work. He could get 11:1 slugs out of the USA plus a roller cam, the crank was grind­able, and the valves could be refaced, but they would need new springs. They said okay to his es­ti­mate, and went on with new blue paint, flash up­hol­stery, and low-pro­file tyres on blue-cen­tred, as-wide-as-they-could-fit al­loys.

The truck was look­ing good. The carbs and wide man­i­fold came back from a spe­cial­ist in­duc­tion shop, the auto was re­built with a high-stall torque con­verter and man­ual-shift valve­body, it al­ready had a nine-inch rear axle that only needed a clean and new seals, and they con­tracted a guy to run hid­den wires front to back.

Fi­nally, the Y-block came back: gleam­ing and clean in new paint, triple two-bar­rels proud above an al­most dead-white man­i­fold, a nice pair of head­ers hang­ing off each side, and for some­thing more re­li­able, a Mal­lory dis­trib­u­tor to trig­ger the high-volt­age elec­tronic ig­ni­tion.

There was huge en­thu­si­asm to bolt on the cho­sen C6 auto and slide that and the en­gine back in, hook up all the gear and tem­po­rar­ily re­fit en­gine ex­haust pipes with the old muf­flers. Then it would be trail­ered to a lo­cal shop for new big­bore pipes and stuff, which would cre­ate a full twin sys­tem.

The fuel tank had been cleaned, a full set of gauges would tell them ev­ery­thing about the health of the en­gine, and even the starter mo­tor had been re­stored with new bushes and brushes. Ev­ery­thing was as it should be – un­til they tried to fire up the mighty Y.

They knew it would run, as there al­ready had been a 20-minute test ses­sion at the en­gine builder’s, and so it did af­ter they had pumped fuel to the old twin-throat carbs. But there was no oil pres­sure. Not even a flicker of the gauge nee­dle. Damn! Must be a dud gauge; go bor­row an­other one from Joe. Fit­ted that, fired the en­gine, no dif­fer­ent. Joe reck­oned his gauge worked.

They rang the reco per­for­mance guy, who said he would come out with a master gauge. Ar­rived a half-hour later, plugged his gauge in and said: “We’ll have pres­sure when you crank the en­gine with the spark­plugs out.” Then the mo­ment of truth ar­rived: his beaut gauge never even twitched. “Guys, you’ll have to pull the sump off. I’m too busy for that; give me a ring if you find any­thing weird.”

That didn’t go down too well with the hard-yakka blokes, but they did this any­way, look­ing up at the oily in­sides from un­der­neath. Noth­ing had dropped off or out of where it should be, in­clud­ing the small pan­cake oil pick-up, so they de­cided to pull the base off the oil pump and crank the en­gine to see if the pump had drive from the camshaft. The base fell off onto the con­crete, and there was only one gear inside.

Where the hell did the other one go? Must be here some­where. They did an eyes-on-con­crete search and just about dis­man­tled the ramps. No gear. They then checked that the drive to the only gear inside the pump was fine.

They fi­nally fig­ured that the pump idler gear had never been fit­ted, and rang the en­gine guy. “Im­pos­si­ble!” he said. “I had 70psi hot on the test bench. That gear must still be some­where on your floor, and some­thing else must be caus­ing your loss of oil pres­sure.”

“Mate, the gear isn’t any­where inside our shed. That gear must still be at your place.”

“Bull­shit! We did pull the sump af­ter that test bench run, just to check that ev­ery­thing was okay. But I swear my young bloke re­fit­ted ev­ery­thing.”

Im­passe. So they hunted again for the phan­tom gear. Then the mo­bile rang: “Ah, hi there. We found the gear. Sorry guys. Me young bloke took the pump apart when the sump was off, just to check, and your gear fell off the bench into the rub­bish bin and he for­got all about it. Prob­a­bly dream­ing of some sheila again. I’ll be right out to re­fit it.”

An hour later, they had oil pres­sure, and shared a beer with the still-apolo­getic en­gine builder.

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