The First Year, 9/28/01 to 10/1/02

The engine ran when the car was bought. It would periodically die, which of course had to be sorted out when it died at the fitter that installed the new vinyl top. Real tough to figure out, knew it was fuel related, but the twist in the diagnosis was that the fuel pump seemed to be getting power when I checked it, but wouldn't click. Bought a new fuel pump, still didn't solve the problem. Turned out that there was a problem with the wiring harness under the dash, behind the tachometer. A cold solder joint or something like it on one of the Lucas bullet type connectors providing power to the fuel pump. When the car died, you could get it running again by reaching underneath the dash and jiggling the wiring harness.

Getting ahead of myself...

Priorities the first year were to get the car on the road and drive it. And while I was at it, to do the fun part of rebuilding the engine. My plan evolved into this:
I would drive the car from late Spring to late Fall, and would disassemble the car and repair sections of the body each winter.

In retrospect, this plan provided a great deal of fun, but probably did not produce the best quality restoration. It allowed me to roll around my part of New England in a very ratty looking but quite novel LBC for four years. A wonderful, soul-recharging experience that I would have missed out on had I stripped the car, had it dipped or grit blasted, and followed what I've learned is the normal restoration path for these cars. I'd recommend the rolling restoration approach, but the car has to be in the right condition for it to work. It took me a year to rebuild the engine, replace the brake system, and to make the car reasonably safe to drive. (Safe is definitely a relative term when it comes to a car this small.)

The first thing I did was pull the engine.

...with help from my then 4 year old son.

The first thing I should have done...

...was to buy a digital camera. But that comes later.

Had the machining done by R.A.D. Auto Machine in Ludlow, MA. They were very helpful, very patient as I knew nothing about the process, and very flexible in that I only had to pay them to do what I couldn't do myself. Did not have to bore cylinders, crank journals were left at standard. At the time of purchase the Previous Owner and I both thought the car had 68,000 miles, but it turned out the speedometer needle was covering the "6" and it was actually 88,000 miles. Replaced all the valves, guides, seals, and springs. Had hardened valve seats installed so I can run unleaded gas.

Block was hot tanked, replaced tappets, had the cam reground by Cam Techniques in Florida.

I had to replace the cam bearings because having the block hot tanked destroys the originals, and I should have had the new bearings line bored, but didn't. Not sure how much I hurt myself by skipping that step. I spent a lot of time with a 3M Scotch Brite pad "polishing" the new bearings so that the reground cam would turn smoothly. Having no experience, I don't know if the end result is fine or a problem.

Here are a couple of pictures of the engine going back together, which by the way was one of the most fun parts of the restoration this far. The A-series engine is small, but deceptively heavy. I've done engine swaps before, but never a rebuild, and the simplicity of this engine made it quite enjoyable. I also think the A-series tolerates the dopey mistakes an inexperienced tinkerer makes. I put it back together carefully and to the best of my ability, following the Haynes manual, but I'm sure I did a lot of things wrong and it still started right up when I got things back together on 9/22/02, six days short of a year since the tow truck dropped the car in my driveway.

I'm still using a film camera at this point, so I don't have many pictures.

Here is the crank about to go back into the block

Lining up the cam and crank gears. Don't trust the Haynes Manual at this step! Check the archives at this BBS after becoming a member, which is free and painless.

This is actually the engine coming out in the winter of 2002-03, but let's pretend it's the engine going back in, in the fall of 2002. Notice the steep angle required. Notice also how I've placed the clamp light to yield maximum glare off the top of my head.

And this is what this is all leading up to, not a great picture, but a great moment. After getting the car inspected, I took my son for a little ride. I think we actually stayed in the driveway, but it was still a great feeling.

Next page: The Second Year
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