Classic Car Winter Maintenance

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Written by Stephen Hawkins, HICSE Senior Test Engineer

This winter, whilst everyone else was staying in the warm and dry, avoiding the cold weather, I was doing some major work on my classic car, in a barn/workshop on a windswept hill, in the Cotswolds.

 One of the major issues that was spoiling my enjoyment of my 'classic' 1975 Scimitar SE5a, was that the gearbox was jumping out of 2nd (sometimes with a disconcerting bang!) when the throttle was feathered.  Whilst this was not an issue when on a run, it was a pain in the town.  Not only that, but everywhere I parked the Scimitar, it left its calling card - oil.  In my case both transmission oil and engine oil.  My driveway was suffering and you could 'smell it' on a warm day.  Although, to be fair, the oil was doing an excellent job of preserving the chassis!

 However, something had to be done.  This sort of thing takes planning, a working gearbox had to be sourced.  This was accomplished during the previous August where a working, oil tight, gearbox was pulled from a wreck, one weekend, for the princely sum of £100, including propeller shaft and all other linkages and fittings (the Propeller shaft was later sold to a needy Scimitar owner in Finland, for a very small consideration).

 So then came the big day in early December, after all connections and mounts had been undone and the bonnet removed, to pull the engine and gearbox out of the car.  A two man operation, to do it safely.  The old iron Ford Essex V6 and gearbox are a heavy old lump, when connected together.

classic car

 The engine was then split from the gearbox, where it became obvious that a new clutch would be required, as bits of spring from the friction plate, dropped out of the bell housing.

 The engine was always fine, with good compression and good oil pressure.  So the plan was to just flush out all the waterways, replace the core plugs, and rear main seal.  Then just service it, paint it, and pop it back in.  Simples!

Classic Car

 The 'new to me' gearbox, just needed a filter clean (overdrive), new oil and a clean and paint.  A messy business, but an easy one, for the budding mechanic.

Classic Car

 The engine was then painted a rather fetching shade of green, and then re-attached to the gearbox, with the new clutch, ready to go back in.

Classic Car

The engine bay was then cleaned up, including the scraping off of all the congealed oil and dirt as far as I could reach.  It became obvious that a new radiator was required, along with all new pipe-work for the cooling system, with all new stainless jubilee clips (ouch!).  Also, there are a lot of panels in the engine bay, in front of the engine, that duct the air to the radiator, all these were powder coated and replaced where necessary.  As a bonus, we managed to flush out the heater matrix, which had never, in my experience, allowed water through, to get the heater working again.

 As you can imagine, it was some months before I was ready to put the engine back in, with 'new to me' tubular header pipes for the exhausts.  But in it went, if rather gingerly. 

Classic Car

 After reconnecting all the mounts, electrics, pipes (water and fuel), etc, it was soon time to try the restart.  This was a surprisingly underwhelming affair, as it started on the second try.  So after a thorough warm up, bleed and checking that the cooling fan came on when the engine was hot, we were done.

Classic Car

 Now all I had to do was wait.........The law has changed this year (20th May 2018), as this car is now well over 40 years old, it no longer requires an MOT.  Yes, you heard right, not only is it free tax, as a Classic Car, but an MOT is now only voluntary and can be avoided by declaring the car as VHI (Vehicle of Historic Interest), a tick box on the new tax form.  However, I will be having the car inspected by a third party at some point this year, just for my peace of mind, and to get my next list of jobs to do.

(01/06/2018)

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