Driving a 1954 Austin-Healey 100/4 from Peking to Paris in the June 2019 ERA Rally.

Friday, 2 February 2018

0038 Engines, brakes, GPS, & lots of problems !

26th Jan - 2nd Feb 2017
Progress despite the Pain !

Engine back in at last
Well, the great news is that the engine and gearbox are finally back in Gidget, which is a real milestone in the rebuild.  We have also achieved a lot more in the past week, but it certainly hasn't been without a lot of pain and frustration !  But apparently this is "normal" when rebuilding older cars - Just that no one told me how frustrating it can get at times, especially now when one is so close to having it all together, so when things go wrong, the frustration is more intense !

Engine mated to gearboc
The timing chain cover arrived and as soon as it was on the engine, the last job before mating engine with gearbox was to remove a small brass bushing that fits in the end of crankshaft. Normally these are removed by filling the hole with grease then "hydraulicking" it out by driving a suitably sized punch down through the middle of the bushing.  2 hours later, our brass bushing had not moved, and no one here had ever seen one before that wouldn't come out easily !  The old engine was having its last fling by making sure it still caused us problems.  And because this is a Healey crankshaft mated to a Toyota gearbox, the size of the bushing meant it was likely to be hard to replace.  However, the next morning, Steve had located sutable needle roller one at a local shop, and once I had picked it up, it fitted perfectly, and will be far better than the original brass bushing.  Once that was fitted, and the gearbox and engine joined up, Steve and Andrew got the engine hoist sorted while I got a video of the momentous occasion !

Video of engine installation
Getting the engine in was relatively straight forward, but it is a very tight fit, even with the front engine shroud removed, and it required two people, and at times 3 (which is why the video is stopped occasionally !) in order to get it in without damaging all the nice
Video of engine installation
new paintwork.  Once the engine was in, we had to bolt up the mounts - Which was a bit of a nightmare as all the holes wouldn't line up.  Despite the fact that we had put the mounts on the same sides as they had come off, it took us some 2 hours before we could get all the bolts line up and in without stressing them.  Given it was hot and humid in Qld this week, everyone was very hot and bothered ! 

Side brackets supporting rear dampers
Meanwhile Andrew was back under the rear of the car, fitting the lateral support brackets either side of the rear dampers.  The rear dampers are only held on by two bolts, and given the constant fore and aft strain placed on these bolts while the lever arms are continually going to be moving up and down, we have decided to mount plates in front of and behind the vertical edges of the dampers in order to help share the strain with the two bolts, and hopefully prevent the dampers "rotating".  However even this relatively simple exercise didn't go smoothly, because we then found that you need to be able to rotate the dampers in order to fit them to the linkages on the axle !  So having fitted all the brackets, we then needed to modify them so that the dampers could be installed and linked to the axle.  The right hand side was even worse due to the presence of all the handbrake linkages right beside the damper - So once again, a job we thought would take 10 minutes ended up taking several hours to get right.

Studs not coming through drum
Meanwhile the new 4 stud front brake drums had arrived from the UK, so we prepared to finish the front brakes off - Only to find the drums wouldn't fit !!   First of all they wouldn't fit over the new brake shoes, so we removed the shoes to see if they would fit, and found they still wouldn't even go all the way on !  After a great deal of
Chamfering edges of holes
fiddlng around trying to find the problem, we realised that the mounting studs on the hubs have a slightly proud diameter where they poke through the hub, while the holes in the drums had not been chamfered to allow for this.  So all the holes had to be relieved slightly to allow for the extra thickness at the base of the studs.

Machining the hub
This done, the drums still wouldn't go on - And eventually we realised that the central section of the hub was about 20 thou bigger than the recess in the drum itself, thus preventing the drum from sliding home.  Luckily Andrew had just bought a small lathe the day before, and after we had removed all the split pins and bearings holding the hubs in place, he was able to set it up and turn down the hubs until they fitted perfectly.  Finally the drums fitted, so we re-fitted the brake shoes.

Brake cyl problem
Now the drum still wouldn't fit over the brake shoes ! What was going on?    We tried everything, to the
Where it is too high
point where Steve was tearing his hair out.  After several hours of taking the brakes apart and refitting them, and measuring everything, we eventually deduced that the problem was the size of the slave brake cylinders, which on the trailing edge were slightly too high.  This meant that while the leading edges of the shoes fit inside the drums, the trailing edge is some 4 mm too high.  We even removed the little steel shims that are required to protect the cast alloy of the slave cylinder, but even this did not get us enough clearance.  The result at the moment is that we still have not received a satisfactory reason for this problem from the supplier in the UK, and due
Measuring the brake issues
to the time difference, the discussions take several days.  We have a fall back position in that we could grind off the steel of the brake shoe at the trailing edge which would enble us to fit the drums, but in doing this, it would mean that any future shoes purchased would also need to be ground down, so this is only a band aid solution.  We are currently waiting on the supplier to find the real cause of the problem (incorrectly sized slave cylinders ?) before we make our final decision on how to proceed.

Fuel pumps connected up
In the meantime, lots more work to be done.  The fuel pumps in the boot were now all connected up to each other and the fuel tank, with the fuel line just waiting on the seats to be installed so we could correctly route the fuel pipe through the cabin.  Flexible hose was purchased to connect both the cabin air vent and the carburettor inlet to the front of the car, and this takes up lots of room !  Now the engine and gearbox was in, Andrew could hook up the clutch linkage and get this working properly - Not easy
Brake and clutch linkage
because it turned out the hole on the clutch lever was excessively worn, allowing for a lot of free play in the clutch mechanism.  As a result he had
Electronic brake light switch
to weld up and then remake the hole in the correct size, and when this was finally done, there was no free play anywhere !   We had also decided to fit an electronic brake light switch instead of the reknowned troublesome hydraulic unit, so a bracket was made up for this and fitted.

And whenever time permitted, Steve was doing the wiring.  We have had numerous time consuming dramas with the supplier sending the wrong parts, but finally we had most of what we needed.  We have moved all the main wiring inside the cabin, instead of being exposed in the engine bay
Wiring inside cabin
Wiring & parcel shelf in place
as previously, where it was affected by heat, and potentially by water if we have rivers to cross.  But moving it inside, it is not only better protected from the elements, but is also easier for us to check and see fuses etc while in the car.  Relays have been fitted for all major items, and a large fuse box to replace the original two fuse piece, along with a bus bar to simplify the whole layout.  Using the original loom where possible, additional wires have been added for the new items like spotlights or USB
ports, while new wiring has been added for important items like the fuel pumps etc, so we can be sure it is good.  The "parcel shelf", which was originally a rusty old piece of tin when received, has been restored, repainted and recovered with foam back vinyl, and reinstlled back in its original position.  With the dash re-fitted, instruments are being connected, and metal stays supporting the dash have been re-installed to ensure it is firmly in position ready for rough roads.

RIP's sun top

Business owner Dave Godwin's MGA has been all over the world, and runs a kind of "sun top" when the weather is OK. It keeps the sun off but lets a cool breeze in.  I include photos of it because it might be worth considering because it works very well, and with the new perspex front provides a lot more vision. 

Sump above chassis rails

When under the car, it is rewarding to see that all our work and effort on the engine sump has it sitting nicely 1/2" above the lowest chassis rails - The bottom of the diff housing is now the lowest point
Tight between engine & heatshield 
of the car.  And with the new clutch mechanism now installed the right way up, this is safely tucked up out of the way, well above the chassis base. And it was a good job I completed all the heat shielding around the passenger footwell because it was a difficult enough job with the engine out, but now the engine is in, it would have been impossible.

With the engine in, we were able to connect up the two engine /
Engine steady bars
geabox stays that help to prevent the engine and gearbox from moving backwards or forwards.  These bars are bushed, and mounted from the chassis onto brackets bolted into the side of the gearbox, but were not aligned properly, so needed some work in order to fit correctly.  We still intend to add some chain or cable to additionally restrain the engine in case of a sudden stop, but can do this later.  This engine weighs 600 lbs, so it is quite a lump to retard when the rest of the car stops quickly, and will need all the help it can get.

Heat shield behind carbs
Next problem we found was that while the new crankshaft and alternator pulleys were for a wide fan
Narrow water pump pulley
belt, the original water pump pulley (mounted to a new water pump) was for a narrow fan belt !  So we have had to order a wider pulley from the UK.    Then, with the carburettors in place, we trial fitted the new 100M style airbox - And it doesn't fit !  On our early car there is a chassis upright beside the carbs that supports the front shroud, and it is right where the airbox is supposed to fit !!  Aaaargggh !  Not sure whether we will find a way around this, or will have to make up a new airbox.  We also have problems with the heat shield plate between the carbs and the exhaust manifold, which
is vital in order to prevent fuel vaporisation.  The new exhaust manifold stands a bit further out from the block than the original unit, and fouls the new heat shield we had copied off the original (which had asbestos on it !).  Additionally, the old throttle cable linkage was a real mess, and we have worked out that if we make up a new heatshield for the carbs, if it is shaped correctly we can make it also act as the bracket for the throttle cable - Good Colin Chapman thinking to make everything have at least functions, thereby saving weight !   So this is in process as I write.

New heater hose blanking
Original heater hose blank
We do not have a heater in the car, as this was all missing when Ashton
acquired it, however the hot water feed for a heater comes off the water pump casting.  When received, this was blanked off just by a piece of rubber pipe which then had a bolt stuck down the end of it - Not the best engineering solution !  So Steve has tapped a proper fitting into the water pump which is guaranteed not to fall out or come loose !!

Meanwhile the new windscreen has been taken up to Maxitint in Pimpama, to have Clearplex protection added to it, and should be ready in a week or so  This material is for stone protection and can apparently withstand fairly major impacts from passing projectiles, and means we don't need to wory about broken windscreens or carrying "temporary" windscreens.  I used similar material previously on my cars that I took up to the Arctic, and it worked very well, and means we have one less thing to worry about.

Garmin Montana GPS
Then it was off to Johnny Appleseed in Brisbane to get some information about GPS units.  ERA has advised us that a Garmin unit that can received GPX files is required, such as the Montana or Garmin 64 or 78.  Johnny A shops are great because they only sell GPS units, so have a full range of models and, more importantly, know what they are talking about.  The Montana is a great unit with a 4 inch screen and can do everything - As long as you know how to work it !  (I can see GPS training classes coming !) Trouble is it is also quite expensive at about $800. The Garmin 64 has a much smaller screen and less features, and is $400, while the Garmin 78 is slightly cheaper again, but again has a small screen and less features.  There are slightly cheaper Montana units that still have the big screen, so will have to do some more research to find out the best options.
Garmin inReach Explorer

Also in Johnny A they have an interesting unit called an In-Reach Explorer.  This is also a
communication unit and for a monthly subscription of $119 you can send unlimited texts, emails etc and position data, so might be one way of keeping our followers updated as we cross the Gobi ?  Once again, a bit of research needed, but looks interesting !

After my visit to Johnny Appleseed, it was back down to the GC and the car.  With conversations ongoing about the front brake problems, I took some measurements of the brake shoe thickness to send to the UK supplier.  We will have to see what they come up with as a solution to this issue.

Switches on dashboard
The wiring work continued whenever possible.  Instead of the large and old fashioned foot operated dip switch, we have installed a hand dip switch up on the dash, located in the centre so that either of us can reach it.  That way, if the driver is busy, the co-driver can dip (or un dip) the lights as required.  We are wiring up the spot lights so that if they are "on", then they will only operate when high beam is up.  If they are "off" then they won't operate on high beam.    We also have an indicator switch up in the middle of the dash which can also be operated by either of us if required.  With the new leather covered steering wheel mounted, it is quite close to the dash, and the ignition key down on the right hand side is really close to the driver's fingers.  I felt that the last thing the driver needs is
Key too close to steering wheel
to bang his knuckles on the relatively sharp key when he is busy steering through sand or mud, so we have decided to move the ignition key down to the lower centre console.  The starter is actually operated by a button, not the ignition key, and this button remains up on the dashboard, but the key will be down lower, out of harm's way.

The original prop shaft was a monster - About 3 inches in diameter.  When we came to refit it through the transmission tunnel, it fouled the hand brake mechanism because now we have changed from a spiral bevel diff to a hypoid one, the shaft exits the diff lower.   I therefore had to take the prop shaft down to John at Gibbs Trucks down at
Not much room in prop shaft tunnel
Burleigh Heads as they specialise in tailshaft repairs and balancing - That is all they do.   I had dropped it off with him at about 10 am, and was surprised when he called me back at about 2 pm to say it was ready !  So I went all the way back down to Burleigh, picked it up, and took it straight to CCC.  The shaft is now 2" diameter, and looks much better, and more importantly is lighter and will fit through the transmission tunnel.  There is one large castellated nut on the handbrake mechanism that is still quite close, so we will make up a small shim to move the whole handbrake mechanism over slightly, and all will be good.

Alternator needs bracket adjustment
With the alternator fitted up, it needs a slight adjustment to the existing bracket because it is considerably larger and heavier than the previous unit.  Not a major change, but yet another small job that will detract Andrew from getting the bodywork completed !  And that is a key issue - Everytime something needs to be altered or machined, or something made up out of sheet metal, Andrew is the man, so when lots of things need altering or making, he is contantly busy.  Since there are always several cars in the workshop, quite often he can't even get to work on our car until halfway through the day - Very frustrating but not a lot one can do about it.

New brake switch
Crawling round under the car to inspect the brake switch, it was good to once again note the increased clearance of the oil sump, and also notice that Andrew had stamped "M18" beside the sump plug to show that it is an 18 mm metric size !  In the photo the little tab for wire locking the sump bolt is clearly visible, but it will not be used unitially because we will run the car briefly, then change the oil, and at that stage will wire lock the sump.  It should also be noted that the plug has been welded in to the sump at a slight angle downwards so that when the plug
Bolt size marked on sump
is removed it will not spray the oil sideways, all over the clutch and brake mechanism, and also potentially into the top of the undertray.  It is little touches like this that will make a big difference when we are out in the bush trying to work on the car.

As I will be away next week for 4 days down at Mt Panorama in the Lotus, we have decided to leave the car at CCC until I get back next week.  The delays we have encountered on the brakes in particular as well as in several other areas has meant we have not got the body work to the stage I need in order to be able to prepare it for painting.  So hopefully Steve and Andrew can get
Where we would have to grind brake shoes
all this done before I get back, and I can then move the car to my house next Friday.  That is the plan.  However, just as I was leaving today, Steve called me and said that they had put the gear stick into the gearbox in order to check clearances for installing the centre switch console, and when doing so had difficulty getting a couple of the gears !!   Since the gearbox has just been totally rebuilt, and is now installed in the car, if there really is a problem with it there will be a major delay while we take everything back out again !  I have spoken to Al at Nerang Differential Services who rebuilt it, and he cannot believe there would be an issue, so will be sending someone over first thing next Monday morning to check it over.  Fingers crossed that it is OK, as it would be soul destroying to have to take everything back out again just to get the gearbox.    We have had SO many frustrating issues this week, and a problem with the gearbox at this stage would almost be the final straw........  Here's hoping all is OK.

Rest of the photos are here :-  https://photos.app.goo.gl/2YWyzPK1U1oUXPg82


  1. Well Giles its starting to like a real car again.One day you can look back and say "one bolt at a time" it truly is looking good.It will be better then it was ever designed to be.The posts are good,its almost like being there without the grease ,rust and headache.Keep up the good work my friend.--John

  2. Thank you John. It is support and comments like that which keep us going when times get tough ! Really appreciate it


Ashton & Giles welcome any visitors, support, and comments as we prepare for our Adventure !