Thursday, 13 February 2014

Engine work and gratuitous cute cat shot.

One of the reasons for the lengthy pause in blogging activities in January was the continuing work on the Alvis engine.

When I left off, Roger and I had just started the tedious job of honing the bores out by 10 thou to accept the new pistons.

This accomplished (finally.................! Checking and re-checking the clearances were spot on at 2 thou took ages), we gave each bore a finishing whizz with fine stones in the honing tool, then spent a day adjusting the conrods so that the gaps at the gudgeon pins were central and even. You won't be surprised to hear this involved bending them very gently in a vice. The pinch bolt that fastens the conrod to the gudgeon pin can cause bending of the rod as it is tightened. It was this we were seeking to eliminate. It was another lengthy and not terribly interesting procedure, but one which was essential if the engine is to run smoothly. (Stand up at the back whoever said "or indeed, at all........."!!!!)

It's worth mentioning that I had taken most of January as annual leave, so I was able to press on with the job.

I cleaned absolutely every component until it shone.

The inside of the sump was pressure washed, hardened deposits were removed with a wire brush in an electric drill, then the washing process was repeated to remove any loosened dirt or swarf.

Repeat for every last nut, bolt and washer.........

No wonder I was quiet during January!

(Actually, not quite every bolt and washer: the special bolts which fasten the conrods to the big ends were replaced with new, in case the originals had stretched. Yes, we've been very "Old Skool" in our approach to this rebuild, re-using much which others would probably have turned their noses up at, but I wasn't prepared to risk a bolt letting go and wrecking the engine.

I gasped a bit when the total for all eight of them came to an eye-watering £102.00, though.........)

We were also working against the clock: Andy and Terry from The Body Shop in Wisbech (who have wrought miracles with FU2's coachwork) needed the car back on the last Saturday of January so they could put the front end on and do the final finishing.

We did it.


Here's some pictures:

(Oh, by the way, if you have absolutely no interest at all in matters mechanical, please feel free to scroll down to the cute cat shot at the end of this post. Well, I do try to keep you all happy......... )

This is the engine shortly after I wheeled it over to Roger's place. The sump is off and under the Workmate. The pistons and conrods have already been removed. We then stripped out the crank, main bearings, timing chain, tensioner, cam shaft and cam followers, oil pump and distributor drive. Mucky, isn't it?......

Once stripped, we threw it in the back of the little Volks and took it back to my friend Jane's workshop. Here, I removed all the old paint and surface rust from the exterior of the block with a wire brush in an angle grinder. The engine was then treated to a good coat of black engine enamel.

Et voila. (I left the paraffin heater going all night in the workshop to prevent the paint from 'blooming' in the cold. It worked a treat!)
This is the block after a thorough wash-out. This involved scrubbing with 'Gunk', rinsing, scrubbing again, power washing, then blowing through with a compressed air line, before finishing off with a fetchingly pink vintage 1960's hair-dryer. Teasy-Weasy would be proud!
Most of the components were cleaned with little variation to this theme, though I did evolve a rather cunning way of cleaning the insides of the cam followers:tape over half the holes in the follower with gaffer tape, add a handful of small ball bearings and a squirt of gunk, then tape over the rest of the holes. Proceed to shake, cocktail style, remove some of the tape, pour out the ball bearings and gunk (now resembling oxtail soup) onto kitchen roll, rinse cam follower, repeat...... It worked rather well!

And here they are, awaiting attention. It's worth noting that everything was labelled carefully so each component went back exactly where it came from. This is really important.
The cam shaft comes out last when you're stripping down, so goes back in first:

Locking tabs on

With the cam in, pistons and conrods are next........
Then it's the turn of the crankshaft and the main bearings, closely followed by the now very shiny oil pump.
Can you see the oil can bottom centre of the above picture? Lashings of oil as you assemble is as necessary as the almost clinical levels of cleanliness. We used Duckhams Q 20/50, though when the sump is filled up, it will be with Morris of Shrewsbury's Running-In Oil which will be changed after the first 500 miles.

Once the bottom end of the engine was reassembled, care had to be taken to torque the castellated nuts down correctly. This is tricky: you can be pin point perfect as far as torque is concerned, but the castellations in the nut may not line up with the hole in the stud or bolt, preventing the split pin from going in. You just have to be patient, and swop the nuts over until they all line up nicely. (As a last resort, you can file a whisker off the nut itself on the bench grinder, but this is not recommended.......)

Then it's time to fit the sump. The oil strainer has a new gasket hand made in the correct cork by Roger:

On with the flywheel! It is stamped with a three digit number which must be lined up with the one on the end of the crankshaft, or the timing marks will be all over the shop.
Then we fitted the clutch and gearbox and lowered it all into the chassis.

Actually, it wasn't quite as simple as that.

These things never are...........

I took photos, but forgot to put the camera into black and white mode, so can't show this without disclosing the car's colour. I'm saving that for The Big Reveal, so suffice to say, we got it in in the end. (If you're reading this because you are about to attempt the same, the selector mechanism/gearbox top plate has to come off for installation as the gear stick won't clear the bulkhead.....)

Anyway, that's about it for now.

Oh, and here's the cute cat shot I promised:

Tomorrow, I journey to Royston to pick up the completed chrome work.

That's going to be a biggish bill...........



  1. Oh WOW well done!

    I have never heard of someone taking their whole annual leave in January... That is dedication for you!

    1. Hee-hee! :-)

      Actually it was a case of 'use it or lose it'. We are no longer allowed to carry over any annual leave so I booked everything I could get.

      It has definitely helped with getting the engine done, though!

  2. Looking good! if you're planning on buying lots of Morris oil, you can get 10% off as a member of the Historic Narrow Boat Club. Which costs £12 per year and gives various other boaty discounts including insurance. If you don't fancy joining and you don't need a boat to be a member let alone a narrow one, let me know and we can place the order with our discount.

  3. I didn't understand a word of that! But I'm glad you are back :-)
    Kath (nb Herbie)

    1. Thanks Kath!
      Hope you liked the picture of China Cat, anyway.......