Unique Cars - - CONTENTS -

NO-ONE DIED but I can’t re­mem­ber a worse time play­ing with cool cars than the past fort­night. It be­gan with a V W mo­tor that a mate and I fresh­ened to­gether in the shed. De­spite our col­lec­tive en­thu­si­asm, care­ful mea­sur­ing and assem­bly, the en­gine de­vel­oped an in­ter­nal noise dur­ing its run-in. As I needed the car to re­main mo­bile, I’ve had to pull out the new mo­tor and in­stall a spare. Not dif­fi­cult with a V W – you can swap mo­tors in less time than it takes to watch the evening news. Next was my cool old ’79 Com­modore wagon. Ever since it chucked a fan belt, it’s had an oil leak; the f lail­ing belt wrecked the seal be­hind the front pul­ley. I soon dis­cov­ered there’s no easy way to hold a Holden six-cylin­der auto crank­shaft, so I used an old trick of fill­ing No.1 com­bus­tion cham­ber with string to pre­vent the en­gine ro­tat­ing as I re­moved the bolts hold­ing the air-con and power steer­ing pul­ley.

But af­ter com­plet­ing the task, I for­got to re­move the string be­fore hit­ting the key…

The re­sult was an in­ter­mit­tent doonk-doonk from my lovely, 145,000km 3.3-litre Red mo­tor. At first I thought – hoped – it might have bent a valve, a pushrod or dam­aged a lifter from the valves cop­ping a hit from the rope but a head-off in­spec­tion showed noth­ing. Re-as­sem­bled, the noise seemed to be gone, mak­ing me think it was a bled-down hy­draulic lifter and that I had been too fast (or im­pa­tient) with my di­ag­no­sis and lift­ing of the head.

All seemed good… So I drove it to the shops and then it wouldn’t start. Pulling a plug lead showed no spark but a quick fid­dle with the points seemed to get it go­ing again. Whew!

Home again, I re­placed the points, it died next time out and I ran the bat­tery al­most f lat tr ying to restart it. I walked 20 mins home, got an­other car to jump-start it but still no re­sult… un­til I jig­gled the dis­trib­u­tor as the new points had moved the tim­ing. I drove the wagon home then went back for the other car. And the doonkdoonk noise is back… That will be an en­gine-out job to fix. Oh, and the starter mo­tor – that has prob­a­bly done more work in the last fort­night than the last two decades – is now squeal­ing. And the choke cable broke, too. And it’s all hap­pened just two weeks be­fore a planned 2000km swags-and-beer out­back road trip in the old gal. Damn. Then there’s my VP Com­modore. I bought it to kill for its EFI V8 and auto… iron­i­cally to put in the Com­modore wagon, it’s too good to die… so in­stead, I’ve re­stored it.

One of the last tasks was to get the air-con work­ing again. My air-con bloke said I needed a new evap­o­ra­tor. Damn! That’s a dash-out eight-hour task, each way. With the new core in­stalled, we gassed the air-con. Yippee! Cool air for a hot sum­mer… a few days later all I could get was hot air. It’s booked-in for an­other look to­mor­row. So two busted en­gines, a dud dis­trib­u­tor, squealy starter mo­tor and warm air-con, in two weeks. I won­der if I’ll score a speed­ing ticket, a shop­ping trol­ley dent or a f lat tyre to­mor­row…?

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