Chapter 17: Replacing the heart. Slant Six install

Things are moving right along now. A couple of days ago I got my 2 brother in laws together and we reunited car with engine. The slant six is officially back in the hole that has been under the bonnet for 18 months. Whats more, its looking a lot nicer than when it came out.

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A very grotty before

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Somewhat nicer after. No manifolds on yet (which will make it look even nicer) but you get the idea

First job was to install the flywheel, clutch, bellhousing, starter and transmission. I decided it would go quicker and easier to do all that in the shed with the engine out of the car and then just install the whole lot into the car as a unit. For the most part i think that was a good decision, you have far better access to everything in the shed, tools right nearby, and no need to contort yourself trying to access bolts in hard to reach places. As a result i could easily get the torque wrench on everything and do them up to spec. It made getting the whole assembly a little trickier to get back in the car, but nothing too difficult.

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Clutch in…looking good dad

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Bellhousing and Clutch fork installed

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Fitting the little Chrysler 3 Speed

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Torquing it down, much easier doing this work out of the car

To do the install, I ended up rigging the lift chain slightly towards the front of the block, so the weight of the trans made the rear hang low. The slant is well set up for this with 2 threaded bolt holes in the top of the block located perfectly for mounting a lifting point. In order to get the steep angle of attack required to get the trans into the tunnel, and the super long slant 6 fitted in the engine bay, we wrapped a strap around the transmission extension housing, and pulled it towards the front of the car, using the K member as a pulley. One we had lowered the whole lot low enough for the trans to fit into the tunnel, we just slackened off the strap and the whole thing just slipped into position.

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Preparing to drop her in

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Steep angle of attack, note the yellow being pulled to keep the extension housing low. Hillbilly engine leveler!

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Plop, its in

To level the engine up, a trolley jack with a block of wood on top was slid under the trans and jacked up. A little jiggling and the engine plopped into the mounts. Not so easy was the transmission mount. The crossmember the mount fit into was gummed up with dirt and underbody sealer. I hadn’t brought it out for a clean as the handbrake cable was seized inside it and i didn’t want to risk breaking it. Some underbody wire brushing and some taps with a rubber mallet sorted it out and it was soon buttoned up. Job done.

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The biggest holdup was the bloody trans mount. It just didn’t want to fit. The mount needed cleaning up, few taps, and we were in business

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Bonnet on. Done!

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Stanced a lot nicer now with the heavy slant back in the hole

Next step is wiring, plumbing everything up, fitting the manifolds, fluids, and we are ready to fire up.

I also have taken care of some odd jobs, including front shocks, fitting a new inner splashguard (in fibreglass…no rust!) and rubber seals.

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One of the true heroes of my recent efforts. My AEG impact wrench. These undo everything, don’t tackle an old car build without one

Next update i will hopefully have video of a running slant (with all the fluids retained on the inside). Fingers crossed.

Huge thanks to my Bro in laws for helping me out, an engine install is not a one man job. Double thanks to bro in law Warren for filming everything in HD, so i have some awesome momentos of the occasion.

Also did up the old extractors for the build. These were pretty rusty and grotty, but a run in the sandblaster and some high temp flat black had them looking sweet

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Chapter 5: IT’S ALIVE…IT’S ALIVE

So finally, after working towards this moment for a month, I hooked up a heavy duty battery, turned the ignition and…the val started!

But firstly, an update from last week. I managed to get some quality time with the val over a few late nights and a weekend, which enabled me to put in the prep work required prior to turning the key in anger. Some heavy duty scraping with a razor removed most of the dessicated 47 year old gaskets from the thermostat and waterpump mounts, and they were mounted with new hoses without issue. I’m a little bit concerned about the water pump, as it did weep a little once I filled the system with water, but I had been quite conservative with the mounting bolt torques, so nipped them another quarter turn and all seems ok so far. I need to talk to a Val expert about the lower radiator hose too, which seems to foul on the fanbelt unless it is tied back.

An oil and filter change was next, and a new chrome dipstick (Ted Bullpit style) was added seeing as the original didn’t have a dust cap. I now had a dirty, oily, rusty slant 6 with some nice shiny bits hanging off it. Things had been pretty sluggish electrically when I used the jumper leads last week, so I took all the terminals off and cleaned the cables and mounting points with a wire brush, then chucked in a massive 750CCA battery. I figured that I might be turning this old girl over for a long while and would need the big capacity.

With the fuel line disconnected and the spark plugs out I gave the starter a quick test and the motor turned over strongly, much better than last week. Good. Next up was fuel. I was a little concerned about the very elderly juice that had been sitting in the tank for 30 years, and removing the cap revealed a pretty nasty varnish smell. I borrowed a handy little snake cam from a mate who builds racing engines to have a look see inside, and it revealed a pretty ugly sight. Most of the tank walls were covered in a black scaly crud, the remnants of the old evaporated fuel. Sucking fuel out of this tank was going to be a no go unless I wanted to clog the new fuel filter I just added in 5 minutes. I resolved to drop and clean the tank later, but I was itching to get the Val started, if nothing else as a bit of a moral boost after a month of not much. I figured the best course of action was to remove the fuel line at the pump, and run a line into a small container of fuel (aka, an empty beer stubby). A quick suck at the carby end of the fuel line primed up the pump and line, and I was good to go.

Just to kick things off I primed the float bowl with a cup of juice. I then made sure the 100 tools I had sitting in the engine bay were clear of the fan and belt, opened a beer, and stuck the keys in the ignition…paused a beat…then let rip.

The starter whirred strongly. I pumped the accelerator twice and…VROOOM! First attempt the mighty slant six burst into life! I couldn’t believe it, I was set for the long haul thinking a distributor overhaul was probably on the cards before I coaxed life out of the donk. But no, here she was, a motor that hadn’t even been turned over in nearly 30 years running strongly. I let out a big “WOOOO” and took a drink. 10 seconds of holding her at a fast idle and I released the accelerator, and the beautiful old donk sat there idling peacefully, maybe a bit less refined than the day it rolled off the line in South Australia, but still pretty nicely. Now for the next test, I got out and moved a few things out of the way, jumped back in the drivers seat, trod on the clutch and snicked her into first. Easing out the pedal resulted in the car moving under it’s own steam with no complaints! Heaven! Back into reverse, and I rolled her back into the shed nicely.

Youtube of startup

All in all a raging success. No rattly big ends, no noisy tappets. After a brief, light smoke smelling richly of fuel from the exhaust, probably from the excess fuel I poured down the carb, there was no noticeable smoke hanging in the shed. The start up revealed the odd expected minor issue, the flange at the base of the exhaust puffed a little bit and will need a bit of attention but all in all, very happy.

A monumental achievement for me met with little excitement from Anna,

“Oh that’s good”, was about all I could extract.

Seeking some validation I quickly rang my Val loving brother in law who was excited as me to hear that she was going.

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Got the headlamps working too. I call this my Christine shot

So I now have a car that actually runs. Now I need to stop her. The brakes are non-existent currently, mainly due to a bone dry master cylinder…hydraulics don’t work so well without fluid. Given this lack of fluid, the greenish tinge around the filler port, and the stripped paint on the firewall underneath the cylinder, I’m guessing it has a rather large leak in the seals. Given it’s age, and the fact brakes are rather important, I am going to shoot the MC off to a brake specialist to get it rebirthed with a rebuild and stainless resleeve. It’s less than 200 bucks so worth it for peace of mind. While that is going on I will probably drop the fuel tank and work on cleaning that out, and maybe whip off the drums and see what the linings are like.

Chapter 4: Awakening the beast

One of the frustrations of owning a 50 year old car,let alone one of a brand that hasn’t been manufactured for over 30 years, is that you can’t exactly go down the local Repco and pick up a water pump. I was getting itchy feet waiting for my cooling system gear in the post, so set to work on other tasks that would need to be addressed before I could fire the old girl up.

Before sticking in a nice new water pump I figured a good flush of the cooling system was in order. One of the nice things about the slant 6, is that it has a handy block drain plug to facilitate the task. Unfortunately mine was covered in decades of muck and oil, and I figured it probably had never been removed in the life of the motor. It was also a square headed plug and I had a bugger of a time finding a tool to fit. I eventually relented and pulled out the 12inch shifter, which to my amazement removed the plug with ease. A little too easy it seemed, and I was a little dismayed to see about the back half of the plug completely devoid of threads, they’d simply corroded away. I then stuck a hose in hole left by the removed thermostat housing, and was surprised to not see the a stream of water exit the block drain. A quick poke up the hole with a bit of wire met resistance very quickly, the hole was well and truly blocked with rust. A good 5 minutes of poking later, and finally I broke through and was met with a stream of water. I imagine it is still pretty nasty in there as there is only so much an external flush will remove, but hopefully it was better than nothing. Thankfully the ugly looking block plug wound straight back in with no issues, although a mental note was made to purchase another. It’s a 4 dollar part on the fantastic online Val store. They’ve thought of everything.

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The badly corroded block drain plug

Next I thought it wise to check something else that may come in handy when it came to turn the Val over, the electrics. The car came sans battery so I had well and truly gambled on them being ok. I figured the easiest way to check was to park up the Commodore at the door of the shed and hook up some jumpers to the terminal cables. This was a bit of a worry, what would I find once I introduced actual power to an electrical system that had been hibernating since “The Uncanny X men” were riding the top of the charts? Would my pride and joy spontaneously catch on fire? Or maybe almost as worrying, would absolutely nothing happen. As mentioned previously, I am not a mechanical genius by any stretch, but I know even less of the black art of electrics.

Snapping on the jumpers didn’t result in any visible smoke signals, first hurdle cleared. I figured the next thing to check would be the accessories. Unfortunately on turning the Pentastar stamped key to the on position I was met with perhaps what I dreaded nearly as much as an impromptu viking funeral, absolutely nothing. No radio, no overhead light, no headlights, no dash lights, no brake lights.

Bugger.

My first efforts at trouble shooting, wiggling the jumpers around, yielded nothing.

Bugger. Dammit, first hurdle and I had failed dismally. I was thinking of complete re wiring, new starter motor, new everything. I was going to be broke at the end of this. The one saving grace of a ’66 Valiant is the electrical system is…simple. First effort was to trace the terminals back to their connections on the car, positive to the starter and neg to the block. I then rolled the car forward a foot or so to give me the slack required and hooked up the jumpers to the connections, bypassing the somewhat dodgy battery leads. As I pulled my head out from under the bonnet I was met with a beautiful sight; near my knees was a mournfully blinking front indicator, like an automobile version of an ECG, we had a heartbeat.

Turning the key to on still resulted in… absolutely nothing, but I had an interior light and brake lights. But I had no headlights, no dash lights, no radio. Refusing to give up, I twisted the key back to off, then on, then off, then on. My old man used to have a Ford Trader truck of a similar vintage back on the farm, and that key took about 5 turns before it would work, most likely due to a dodgy connection. I was hoping this was the same. Sure enough, on the 4th or 5th turn, there it was, the oil warning light shining on the dash. Never has a warning light been so welcome. The fuel gauge crept up to a quarter, nice. Even if the car never ran I had maybe 10 dollars of 30 year old super to somewhat recoup my losses.

I’d come this far, why not see if the starter would turn over. Obviously with no spark plugs or water pump I wasn’t going to be able to fire it up, but at least I’d be able to see if the starter worked. Turning the key resulted in a loud “CLUNK”, and a shake went through the whole car. Again…”CLUNK”. It seemed the starter was engaging but there wasn’t enough juice to turn it over.

It was getting late and I couldn’t be stuffed removing the terminals and cleaning the rust off them, so I figured I’d start the commodore to get a few more amps to the jumpers. “CLUNK”. Bugger. One more time.

“CLUNK….RRRrrr”

ITS ALIVE! A full second or so of cranking, very slow sluggish cranking, but cranking all the same. I sat back happy, looking at the cheery little red oil light and feeling another step closer to success. I have put the sluggish response down to my cheap jumpers and heavily corroded leads and terminals on the Val. Hopefully with a nice new battery, leads and clean terminals I’ll have a nice strong crank.

But that’s for next time. Meanwhile my water pump and associated bits have arrived so they’ll hopefully go in this week. I’m somewhat held up as domestic duties call, in that I have been ordered to paint the nursery. Hopefully I can fit in a couple of late night tinkering sessions, aided by the nice new LED work lamp I grabbed on the weekend.

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We have a heartbeat!

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Brake lights!

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A very welcome oil light

Until next time.