Shuddering turbos, Renault resto and cheap thrills - Morley's workshop 383

By: David Morley, Unique Cars magazine

Presented by

morley hq wagon Holden HQ wagon morley hq wagon
morley renault 16 Renault 16 morley renault 16

Morley dives into the shed to help solve your problems

Cheap fun for young and old

The letter from Claire this issue got me thinking (yeah, I know, that explains the smoke…): what makes the perfect starter classic for someone with not many miles under their belt and (probably) bugger-all cash?

We’re seeing lots of young faces mixing it with the older folk at cars shows and, inevitably they’re starting to wrestle with their own toys – not a bad thing for those of you who don’t like to share.

While it’s the big ticket items that grab the headlines (like over $150k for a Kombi for crying out loud!) the fact is most kids would have a poofteenth of that to spend. That’s hardly the end of the world, as I reckon there are still some great cars out there, starting from a few grand if you have the time and patience to do a bit of work.

So, if one of them came up to you and asked what they could get on the road for, say, under $10k, what would you recommend? Shoot me an email at uniquecars@bauertrader.com.au or drop a line the old fashioned way at Morley c/o Unique Cars, locked bag 12, Oakleigh 3166.


Letters

Get a 186

I bought an HG ute in the early 1980s fitted with a smoky old 202 from new.  It was common knowledge then that the last of the HG commercials were available with 202s as the HQ sedan range etc had already been released. 

When I went to the local Gem reconditioned motor dealer to see about an exchange engine, they talked me into replacing it with a 186, as they said (and everyone knew anyway) that the 202 wasn’t a patch on the 186.  I’ve still got the car parked up in a shed. 

The HG utes were a lot tidier car to drive than the HQs were.  I remember well the amount of work I had to do cutting out rust from the floor pan and under the tray for what was only a 10-year-old car. Compare that with a 10 year-old-car these days and it’s obvious those older cars deteriorated a lot quicker than a modern car. 

It was a great car apart from the hideous drum brakes, column shift that would lock up changing from first to second, the windscreen that always leaked water no matter what was done, the lockable spare tyre door abortion, the high fuel consumption small fuel tank dilemma, short exhaust muffler life…cars these days have come a looooong way!

Peter Cairns, email

Quick, put those rose-tinted glasses back on, Peter, you’re ruining it for the rest of us!

You’re not the only one who is a fan of the 186. They’re smooth, cheap to fix and all too often overlooked as an option for a rebuild.

I get what you say about rust. Really it wasn’t until the last 20-30 years that makers started to get their act together on this. Still, it has kept a whole generation of restorers occupied.

And the lock-up from first to second with the three-on-the-tree – that brings back memories. You haven’t lived until you’ve stopped in the middle of traffic, leapt out of the car, popped the bonnet, jiggled loose the offending linkage and jumped back in again to drive off as if this were part of your normal routine. Great times…

Tyres or
rubber bands?

I read with interest Andy Enright’s news article in issue 382, and was disgusted to see the cheap ‘knock-off’ versions of large diameter alloy wheels infiltrating the market. However, I have to wonder if the extra low profile tyres increase the risk of damage to any size wheel.

I know I will cop poo from trendsetters who fit big wheels with ‘rubber band’ tyres on anything from a Hyundai Getz to a Camaro, but call me Old School because I think ‘more rubber-less wheel diameter’ not only looks better but gives a better ride.

Yeah, yeah, the V8 Supercars have a lower profile slick than they used to have, but they race on smooth hot-mix bitumen tracks, not on our rough public roads. I have 205/65/15s front and 215/65/15s rear on my ‘66 Stang and the thing handles great and doesn’t look like a Hot Wheels toy car, which is what I am reminded of when I see what some dudes fit to their classic cars. Sacrilege!

Okay, I am ready for the onslaught of criticism as repercussion for my comments, but I reckon anyone who puts 20-inch wheels on an old classic needs a colonoscopy.

By the way UC, thanks so much for publishing the pics of ‘Anaconda’, the Cobra replica my dad built, which has fat tyres on sensible diameter wheels!

Geoff Scard, email

The crap wheels issue is a bit of a worry so it’s important that when you’re buying aftermarket gear to check it actually comes from a reputable source and meets the required standards. There are times when buying an unheard-of make from an unknown internet retailer could turn out to be a whole lot more expensive than doing it the old-fashioned way and visiting an actual shop.

As for the ultra-low profile issue, you’re right. Going super low on the profile does raise the chances of copping a puncture on dodgy surfaces.

In fact one bloke we were talking to recently said he lives on a dirt road and ended up changing the rims on his HSV because he got sick of popping tyres. It took only a minor raise in profile to fix the issue. As if to prove his point, we recently spiked a tyre on an SS-V Commodore, travelling down the very same road!

Another issue is that if you stray too far from the original profile, you’ll need to have a look at the suspension, as the tyres are part of the suspension package. Less flex there means the springs and dampers work harder.

A lot comes down to personal taste, but there is a practical side to updating rims. For example, if you own something out of the seventies that has a bit of performance, you will struggle to find really good rubber to fit the standard 13 or 14-inch rims. A swap to a compromise size such as 16-inch will open up a whole world of decent options, without wrecking the ride. Remember to double-check the sizes and offset, so you dodge any clearance issues.

 

Renault resto

I share your love/hate relationship with French cars – my particular affliction concerns Renault 16s. I had quite a few of them back in the 1970s but never bothered to keep one, lovely little cars but just didn’t see the point of hanging onto one. 

Fast forward to 2015 and as a retirement present, the Financial Controller approved the purchase of a barn find 1976 TS – owned by a little old lady in Toowoomba (true - she’s about 80 years young and about five feet tall) and the 16 hadn’t been driven in eight years.

Restoration is coming along nicely and, as expected, there’s a problem with the starter motor – no problem, once the exhaust manifold and downpipe are removed it’s a relatively simple job to sort out.

One of the things I love about the 16 is lifting the tailgate and asking people to check out the position of the shocky towers – man is that funny! One bloke even said to me "this has been in a very bad prang and the dills didn’t repair it properly." When I told him why the towers are positioned where they are, he just said, "Oh man, that is so French!" Of course, he was right.

Dave Tonks, Qld

Dave, several of our crew have owned French cars over time, including me, Faine (a repeat offender), Enright, Blackbourn and Editor Guido for starters, and we’d all fall for another, if it was the right car. Yes, there are times when you wonder if the engineers deliberately set out to make the home mechanic’s life a misery, but there’s no escaping the fact there’s a wealth of good driving experiences out there.

The 16 is a great choice, and good timing since they celebrated their 50th anniversary this year. If you go back to 1965, you’ll soon realise how revolutionary they were in their time – way ahead of the pack in a lot of respects. At that time most of us couldn’t spell hatchback, let alone tell you what one was – now they rule the roads. Don’t get Nathan Ponchard from Wheels started on the 16. He still maintains the 16TS is the original hot hatch.

Keep plenty of pics of your rebuild and stay in touch, as we’d love to run it as a reader resto feature.

Special Q part 2

I just read the article re Special Q. I have one of the Dandenong built HQ Premier station wagons fitted with the 350 engine.  My story starts in 1999 when I was phoned by a local used car yard to see if I would like to buy an HQ wagon , as  I was running a Holden wrecking yard at the time.

I just agreed with what he said HQ, Premier, wagon, factory 350. Then I went to have a look, taking my HQ parts book with me to show him that no HQ Premier was ever fitted with a 350.

I opened the bonnet and thought, gee that is a great conversion , checked the body tag and then realised, hey this is the real thing. So it was a no brainier that I had to have it!  I love reading your magazine here in NZ.

Mark Brownie, NZ

What a great story. We love hearing about these oddball variants that somehow made it into existence, even if they don’t appear in the factory brochures of the day.

Mark included a copy of an email from a Holden forum which says, "This car is one of four Premier wagons built at Dandenong with a 350 engine. If this car is a goer, three of them survive to this day."

It goes on to reveal the VINs and build dates as: J314361 built Dec 1971, J319330 built Feb 1972, J333224 built June 1972 and J380825 built June 1973.

Double vision

Like Robert Bassett said in the October edition, Aussie cars overseas are a lot more numerous than one would think.

I have a unique one. Traveling westbound on a very remote western part of the Trans Canadian Highway, an Inca Gold HK Premier went the other way. How do I know it was a HK Premier? We both slowed down to look at one another. He was checking out my Silver Mink 5 Litre HK Monaro, I was checking out his HK Premier. We waved and continued on our way.

Derrick, email

Seriously? You come across another HK Holden on the other end of the planet, in the middle of nowhere, and all you do is slow down and wave?! I know we’re all meant to be laconic Aussies, but that’s taking it way too far. C’mon, at least a stop for photos and a celebratory drink would have been in order. Jeez…

Great shuddering turbos

My 2003 Falcon XR6 Turbo (auto) has developed this weird shuddering/vibration at 80km/h and above. It seems okay on the way to work, but the minute I hit the freeway, it gets nasty.

The car has about 130,000 on it. It’s well looked after and the servicing is up to date, plus the tyres are fairly fresh. Any ideas?

Ash Long, NSW

 

Funny you mention this as one of our crew recently had something very similar. Assuming you haven’t got a house brick tied to one of your wheels, I’d be getting underneath it and have a good look at the centre bearing on the drive shaft. They can flog out earlier than you might expect. If you’re lucky, it may have just worked loose.

A centre bearing is one of those components that none of us think about until the drive shaft starts knocking and tries to get in the cabin with you. The giveaway in a manual is often some shuddering from underneath as you release the clutch, but the symptoms will vary hugely from one car to another and autos can disguise the issue for longer.

In any case, it’s not a massive job and should be dealt with as quickly as you can. Nice car, the XR6 Turbo – hang on to it.

Cheap classic?

Thanks to an insurance payout (don’t ask) I’ve decided to have a crack at owning a classic, but I’m on a tight budget of about $8000.

What I’m after is something European, manual, that’s either a classic now or has the potential to be one in the future. I’d prefer a compact car.

Got any ideas on what I should be looking at? Ideally it’s something that won’t send me broke and will get me to work and back without letting me down.

Claire Torrens, email

Okay, the moment you mix the words ‘cheap’ and ‘Euro’ in a sentence almost everyone will say you’re heading for potential poverty. Which is no reason not to do it, but go in with your eyes open.

Parts on Euro cars can be expensive, though you can often get around this with good aftermarket suppliers. The trick is to buy something that you know has already had the common gremlins sorted. For example, Ed Guido has owned a string of early Six series Bimmers (tragic, really) and knows they blow head gaskets at around 220,000.

Then there’s the stuff that goes on all old cars, like brakes, bushes and so-on.

So, here are a few tips: try to target a few rather than just one model, as it will increase your chances of finding the right car at the right price; Get to know the history of anything you’re looking at; Get some help to check out a car you’re serious about.

Priority number one is rust and/or a badly-repaired body – that’s a car-killer; Number two is go for anything with evidence (such as receipts or a service book) that it’s been repaired and looked after over time; Number three, a gentle test drive will often reveal any basic issues.

If the owner starts saying it just needs a new left-threaded thingummy to run properly, walk away. Excuses like that suggest they either haven’t a clue or they can’t be bothered – neither is a sign of good ownership.

As for your hit list, there’s a pretty big choice out there. One of our Queensland contributors, young Chris Thompson, recently went through the same exercise. He was looking at a big array of machinery, including a couple of generations of 3-series BMWs, Peugeot GTI and VW Golf. He ended up choosing the latter, a 1990 MkII GTI. When the negotiations got serious, he took his mechanic along, who helped knock down the asking price.

Once you narrow down the field, a specialist club can be invaluable, particularly since some of the really good cars are sold by word of mouth. Let us know how you get on, Claire.

 

Stretched Valiant

Maybe you can settle an argument I’m having with my uncle. We were looking at the story on the 10 best Aussie Muscle Cars (issue 380) and the section on the VG Pacer. Thing is, all the race shots we see are of four-door cars and not the two-doors. What gives?

The old bloke reckons it’s because the Pacers were bigger and heavier – is that right? It doesn’t make any sense!

C Barrie, WA

The ‘old bloke’ as you call him (it’s tough getting respect, isn’t it?) is more or less spot-on. We had a good look at this for the cover story this issue, as a lot of that sort of info kind of disappears into the mists over time. The Pacer Hardtop (which had a lot of Dodge Dart DNA in it) sat on the ‘long’ 111-inch wheelbase versus the 108-incher for the sedan. Whether or not it was heavier is a moot point – the wheelbase difference alone could make the sedan a better prospect for the track. There may have been commercial reasons behind that, as well.

In fact, we’ve yet to come across a race pic of a Hardtop. Now I’ve said that, I just know someone will come up with one!

 

Rise of the Phoenix
I’ve been hunting around for a big Yank cruiser for ages now and have narrowed down the search to a 1967 Dodge Phoenix. I’ve found it through a mate of a mate and the owner’s in no hurry to sell, and I reckon we can get the price to a reasonable level.

Question is, what should I be looking for?

John Simms, SA

 

You don’t mention whether it’s a hardtop or sedan, John, but no matter. We went searching back through the archives on this one and dug up the advice from our Cliff Chambers, who does our buyer guides.

Are you sitting down? Here’s what he had to say - it’s pretty comprehensive:

Body rust is going to be an issue with cars that haven’t received recent and professional attention to body problems. Cars with vinyl roof covering need special attention to the rear pillars and window surround. Given their age, these cars need an on-hoist inspection looking for damage to floor pans, chassis members, suspension attachment points and the lower firewall. Look also at the top surfaces of mudguards, wheel-arches, doors and the edges of the boot-lid and bonnet. Brightwork, be it chromed or stainless steel, isn’t easy to locate so make sure all the bumpers and rubbing strips are attached and in decent condition. Sets of body rubbers are available and not expensive and even reproduction door-handles can be bought for $250 per pair.

Cars sold in Australia were powered by 318 and 383 engines and both units are very durable. The smaller motor was shared from 1969 with Valiants so spares are easily found. US suppliers have everything needed to rebuild or upgrade either motor. These engines, if neglected, can suffer from overheating but a professional flush will help. New radiators are available for around $300. Misfiring and backfiring can be a warning of camshaft wear, or at least faulty ignition timing. Cars with show potential need to be running correct mechanical components, so seek advice from a Dodge authority if something doesn’t look ‘right’.

Basic suspension design means easy maintenance and no serious durability issues. Replacements for wearing parts such as ball joints and bushings are available and at reasonable prices. The power steering needs to be checked for leaks and a reconditioned pump costs around $250. All-drum brake set-ups need to be in top condition to deliver adequate stopping power but parts are available. Alternatively, US suppliers have kits which allow pre-1969 cars to be converted to front discs. The parts cost around $1500, with freight charges adding another few hundred.

There isn’t a lot inside a Phoenix to fail but if it has an air-conditioner, check that the system has been upgraded to current specifications. Replacement hood-lining for the US-made Fury is still available but replacing damaged seat vinyl is tricky. Make sure that small parts like control knobs are present and the dash dials aren’t cracked. Lenses for the tail-lights and indicators are still being made, a new steering wheel was offered at $500 and it is easy to obtain a reconditioned starter motor for either engine.

If you buy it, send us a picture.

 

Old Holden history

My family has an old FJ which has kind of ended up being an heirloom. It’s been in the shed for decades – certainly since I was a kid and now I have grown-up kids of my own.

We’ve got a few books and lots of workshop info on the car, but were wondering if there’s anything in particular you’d recommend?

D Chapman, email

Okay, now I’m jealous – I reckon many of us would hand over some non-essential body parts to have an FJ tucked away in the shed. It’s a big part of the country’s history and a nice simple, stress-free classic. Books? I don’t know what you have already and there is a wealth of material out there on early Holden. The best move is to get on the interweb and search the archives of bookshops like Pitstop or Motor Books.

One that might not pop up immediately is written by our own John Wright: Special – the untold story of Australia’s Holden, published by Allen and Unwin. It’s out of print, but you should be able to source a copy. What’s different is it tells the inside story about the development of ‘our first car’ including the factory gossip and politics. Worth a look.

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