Escorts, Datsuns, Dinos and storing your car - Morley's Workshop 384

By: David Morley, Unique Cars magazine

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Revival 2015 428 Ford Escort Revival 2015 428

Morley heals what's troubling you, your car and your shed.

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Morley's soapbox

I ran my little Escort RS2000 at the Geelong Revival a few weeks ago. So after run three, I was standing around with the other drivers at the marshalling point before we were all escorted back to the pits in a big group (the logistics of this event are amazing). And it’s not a bad way to spend 15 minutes because you get to yak to the other entrants and have a close-up eyeball of their cars.

The two blokes in front of me were in deep discussion about the EH Holden one of them was driving. And fair enough, too, because this EH was a dead-set cracker. It was bright red and had been built as a Group N racer, complete with period interior and three-on-the-tree. The donk was a 179 with triple carburoosters and the whole thing had clearly been built by somebody who gave a damn.

Anyway, Bloke 1 was telling Bloke 2 that the EH was the best Holden ever made. "A lot of people say that," Bloke 2 agreed. And that got me wondering: Everybody must have a favourite model of each of the mainstream makes, so what’s yours?

For my money, the Holden I hold most dear would have to be the HQ. Big, strong, simple and cheap (in the day) they also had a beaut back seat (if you know what I mean). Okay, I’d dearly love an A9X hatchback, but, trust me, a HQ would be a wonderful thing to park in the Melbourne Bloke Centre for keeps.

Ford? Hmmm, if we’re talking Falcons then probably the XM, but an XA could always sway me. And Valiants? No question, it’s the VH Charger. But like I said, I want to know what you lot reckon is the peach from each, so get your emailing fingers poised and let’s have them. You don’t have to justify your choice (but you can) and you don’t have to stick to the brands I’ve mentioned. Let’s see if a pattern emerges.


Soot yourself out

Hey Morley, can you please help me settle an argument (more like a friendly disagreement) between my brother and I? The subject matter is:  My 1966 Mustang, with a five-litre Windsor V8 engine, leaves a sooty wet deposit under its exhaust pipes when warming the car up.

My brother said he could easily eliminate that by changing the mixture settings, his claim being that the motor is running too rich.  My argument is that it is normal to run a bit rich when starting (no choke involved) and that the mixture will lean out after driving when the motor is up to running temperature.  My thought is that if the mixture is too lean it could cause damage to valves in the longer term.

My mechanic agrees, and says the condensation from tail pipes is normal, and that the ‘sooty’ look is merely a side effect of the unleaded fuel. My brother insists that he could alter the mixture to avoid the discharge, but I trust my mechanic, who races Mustangs. My engine is stock, apart from a hi-rise inlet manifold.

After returning from a drive, my exhaust pipes do not ‘spit’ anything, and it is only a cold start that naturally produces the condensation. I am quite prepared to leave the settings as they are, because I trust my mechanic who put a kit through the 600 Holley and set the mixture so that the car has ample performance and is only slightly rich on starting, not on the highway.

Geoff Scard,

Morayfield Qld.

Okay Geoff, there are a couple of issues here. The first is that the wet deposit under your tailpipes when the engine is cold is absolutely, 100 per cent, totally normal. It’s water that you’re seeing, my friend, and water is a natural by-product of the process of burning petrol. It’s produced every time a cylinder fires, too, not just when the engine is cold.

So why do you only see it when the motor is being warmed up? Because once the engine (and exhaust system) is up to operating temperature, there’s enough heat in the pipes to turn the water to steam which, as I’m sure you learned at school, is invisible. You mightn’t see it much up in sunny Queensland, but in colder climes, it’s common to see a bit of water vapour (commonly mis-described as steam) being emitted from the tailpipe as the engine warms. Same stuff as the black, watery pools on your garage floor, mate. As the engine warms and the exhaust system gets hotter, that water vapour is turned completely to steam and exits the tailpipe invisibly. This is why a car used for short runs – where the exhaust system never gets hot enough to completely vaporise that water – will rot out its exhaust much faster than a car that is always used for longer runs. The water sits in the mufflers once the engine is stopped and silently eats away at the metal.

Meantime your mechanic is right; the stuff is black because of soot it picks up in its path along the exhaust system. Your brother, on the other hand, aint so correct. A cold engine needs a richer mixture to fire and run properly (and prevent it stalling at the lights). Once it’s up to temperature, the mixture needs to be leaned out to maintain the proper air-fuel ratio (and keep fuel consumption to its correct level). This is why old engines have chokes. By blocking off some of the air that would otherwise enter the carburettor, yet maintaining the same amount of fuel, the choke richens the mixture. As the engine warms, you switch off the choke and everybody’s happy. Modern engines with electronic fuel-injection do this automatically, but it’s the same process of a richer mixture when cold and a leaner one when warm.

By leaning the engine off, you run the risk of A: Making it stall and run rough when cold, and B: Making it too lean when it’s up to operating temperature and getting components like the valves too hot. At which point damage will occur. It doesn’t occur to many people, but a secondary task of the petrol an engine consumes is to cool the metal parts. Not enough fuel means not enough cooling.

And even if you do follow your brother’s advice (and I wouldn’t) it won’t alter the sooty, wet deposits; they’ll be produced whether the engine is set lean or rich. Stick with your mechanic, it sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. And your brother? Keep him away from your Mustang.


That’s no lady…

I am a classic car enthusiast and love your magazine, but I am also a stickler for getting it right. Recently in the press, I have noticed a number of references to the Dino 246GT as being a Ferrari, one of these being a Shannons auction where the "Ferrari Dino 246GT" featured in their auction brochure and sold for more than $500,000.

This has been reported as a new high for this model "Ferrari" in Australia and I believe was also covered in a previous issue of Unique Cars and referred to as a Ferrari. And now I see on Page 48 of Unique Cars Issue 382 a Dino 246GT referred to as a Ferrari. It is not.

The 246GT was a Dino and carried no Ferrari badges or livery. It is acknowledged that Ferrari did manufacture these cars, and also provided the 2.4litre V6 engine (hence the 246GT). It wasn’t until the Dino 308 that these cars became known and badged as a Ferrari, I believe because they finally had a V8 powerplant worthy of the Ferrari name, a three-litre (hence the 308).

If something that is incorrect is repeated often enough it becomes accepted as fact. I wonder if you could clarify this in a future issue of your magazine.

Roger Lange,

Adelaide SA

It was, of course, Joseph Goebbels, one of Hitler’s right-hand-men, who coined the phrase "A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth". And he should have known given that he was not just a kingpin in the whole gamut of Nazi atrocities, but also held the post of propaganda minister under A. Hitler. And if anybody needed good PR, it was the goose-steppers in the early 1940s.

But Goebbels was right: Say something often enough and with enough conviction and force and people will eventually start to believe it. It’s the very reason the internet is such a dangerous place for those who lack the instinct to question what they’re told. See, in the old days, if something was printed in a book, it had been through a team of editors, proof-readers and lord-knows-how-many others before it ever hit the presses. But now, some disaffected 45-year-old virgin with an axe to grind (probably living in his mother’s spare room) can publish via the internet and spout any nonsense they can come up with. And because it’s published, as far as some people are concerned, it must be true. It’s madness, I tells ya.

So yes, the Dino 246 was never badged as a Ferrari, and in that, you’re dead right. On the flip-side, I don’t think it matters too much these days, does it? Badging aside, most enthusiasts regard the Dino as a true Ferrari: Designed by Pininfarina, engineered and built by the Maranello factory headed up by Enzo himself. That ticks the Ferrari boxes for me.

In fact, the Dino badge was Ferrari’s attempt to produce a more affordable range of cars, so the Dino badge was created. In more modern times, Toyota (among others) did the opposite, creating the Lexus badge as a premium brand. Do we not now think of a Lexus as a Toyota in a party dress? So is it wrong to think of the Dino as a Ferrari in sensible shoes?

Meantime, I don’t think the move to a three-litre engine spurred the company to rebrand the Dino 308 as a Ferrari. From what I can gather, the early 308s (1973 to 1976) were still branded simply as Dinos and from 1976, the Ferrari badge was applied to essentially the same car. Perhaps it was just Enzo figuring out how much cachet his surname had when applied to a steering wheel or bonnet.

Either way you cut the deck, the Dino 246 is an absolute classic and one that would be welcome in my garage any day. Ferrari badge or not.

Car on ice

My career is taking me to the UK for one year – possibly two – and I have a ’72 Mercedes that I really don’t wish to trust to anyone else while I am away. I will be renting out my house and the Benz will be stored/locked in the double garage (with most of my furnishings). Do you have any tips on decommissioning and storing my cruiser?

Should I jack the car up and remove the wheels to avoid flat-spotting the tyres? Do springs and dampers appreciate a holiday, or are they better sitting at normal ride height? Should I run the fuel system dry? There seems to be differences of opinions regarding storing a car with a full versus empty fuel tank and fuel system, especially in our mild climate where freezing temps and condensation is not an issue (Central Coast NSW).  

 Or, should I get a trusted mate or relative to regularly start and warm-up the car every month or so? But I have been led to believe this can cause corrosion in the bores, due to moisture if the engine is only idling, and not working hard? The car is air-conditioned, too, with the system updated with an ‘enviro friendly’ gas retro-fit – can this survive for a year without being operated, or should it be exercised each month? I plan to take it for one last long Sunday cruise, then take it home and lock it away.  

I don’t wish to leave the battery on charge (for the small risk of an electrical problem and fire) so I’m happy to buy a new battery when I return and of course, pour in some fresh fuel to awaken the princess when I return. Thanks in advance!


San Remo NSW

This is an issue that confronts a lot of people, Rachael, and the basic advice is that storing a car for any more than a few weeks does, indeed, require some planning. So let me tackle your questions in the order you laid them out. First the wheels and tyres. Yes, I’d definitely put the car up on stands and remove the wheels (makes it harder to steal, too). Otherwise, you’re going to come home to a car with four square (well, flat on the bottom, anyway) tyres. The suspension won’t mind being unloaded but do make sure you put the jack stands in the appropriate spots under the car to avoid damaging the sills or floorpan.

Conventional wisdom is that you should empty the fuel tank and run the system dry, but that can depend on the type of engine you’re dealing with. You haven’t told me what model Benz you have, but if it’s an early injected engine, these had mechanical fuel-injection much like an old diesel engine and running them dry can lead to all sorts of problems when you come to restart them. That said, leaving any of today’s modern fuels in the lines is fraught because they evaporate and form a hard gum deposit that can wreak havoc with things like injectors (and even carburettors). Rock and a hard place, that one.

Beyond those questions, it would be wise to wash the car thoroughly, wax it and then spray everything not painted with a moisture-dispersing fluid before covering the car with a soft, breathable cover and locking it in a dry garage. The air-con? Not much you can do about that, but it’s a fair bet it’ll need re-gassing when you return.

The best overall strategy is to get somebody you trust to start and run the car every three or four weeks to keep everything lubricated and turning over. But don’t get them to just start the engine; they also need to go for a 10-minute drive to get things up to temperature and get rid of the moisture in the engine (and exhaust system) you’re referring to. Make sure they turn the air-con on, too, as this will prevent the seals drying out and the gas escaping.

By the way, you can get trickle-chargers for the battery these days that are protected against power surges and even wrong-way-round hook-ups, so they’re safe to leave attached to the battery and switched on long term. I have a C-Tek charger like that that has been in use every day since I got it 15 years ago and is still going strong. It’s also saved me countless new batteries. These clever chargers also even cycle the battery slightly every few days to keep it in tip top shape.

Keep an eye on Unique Cars for a full blown feature on this subject in the not-too distant. And have fun in the UK. My favourite pub in London is The Blackfriar, near the Tube station of the same name. Tell them I sent you. Actually, maybe not…


Missed opportunities?

Hey Morley, I imagine it’s easy for people to assume you’ve driven everything under the sun.

But are there any bucket list cars, dream cars or missed opportunity cars you’re pining to have a go in before you’re shipped off to the nursing home?

Can you also shed some light on whether you’ve considered tipping money into any other form of motorsport besides HQ wrangling? I’m thinking of introducing my kids to motorsport in future and wonder if you have any tips on the most accessible forms a present. Were would you look and why?

Grant Argus,

Bicheno, TAS.

Go easy mate; I’m not exactly ready for the knackery yet. On the other hand, you’re right; there are plenty of cars I should have driven by now but, somehow, have managed to miss out on. Large among those would be a Citroen DS. I love the look of them and I’ve heard they ride like a bleedin’ magic carpet. But would I know? Nope, because I’ve never even sat in one. A mate was selling one a few years back and I should not only have bought it, I should at least have test driven it.

What else? Oh yeah, I’m yet to have a steer of a Lambo Miura and I’ve never driven a V12 Ferrari (lots of V8s, though). And I’d very much like to score an hour or so in an Alfa Super Giulia (‘cos my heart says I want one of those for keepsies). Oh, and I’d still dearly love to find my old man’s 1974 HQ Kingswood V8 (NSW rego, GSL-973, if anybody’s paying attention) because while I did thousands of kays in the back seat and it’s the car that turned me into a tappet-head, I never actually got to drive it. I was too young and my old man was too wise.

My HQ racing days definitely bring back fond memories, but like pretty much every form of circuit racing, money spoils it. Within a few years of starting up the series on the mainland (Did you know HQ racing was a Tassie invention, Bicheno Boy?) we were seeing fellas turning up with banana-back trucks carting $50K HQ racers. Mine cost me $4200 from paddock to race-track and I used to cart it about behind a borrowed LandCruiser.

My motorsport passion these days is for hill-climbing, and I reckon that’d be a great way to introduce your youngsters to the idea of throwing good money away. Just not so much of it. And you can start with any old bomb. Provided it’s safe and isn’t oozing oil everywhere (and it passes scrutineering) you can even race your daily-driver if you want. Yes, there are a few things you’ll need to do to run in a CAMS event and you’ll need a skid-lid and sensible shoes, but beyond that, you’ll be amazed at how accessible this form of the sport it. Hell, a closed car (sedan or coupe) doesn’t even need a roll-cage. An ex-HQ racing mate of mine did exactly what I’m talking about and started his kids off in hill-climbs and motorkhanas in a crusty old Holden Camira. Glamorous? No. Cheap fun? Definitely.

I’d start looking for second-hand Honda Integras, Nissan 200SXs, Pulsars, Toyota Celicas and pretty much anything else with a rack-and-pinion front end and a four-cylinder engine that can be tweaked safely. That said, you could run the thing with a perfectly stock engine at first and then spend a few bob as the young `uns get quicker and more competent. Try it, I guarantee you’ll like it. Oh yeah, you can also double-enter a car so more than one of you can have a drive in the same event with the same car. Doubling your value, I’d call that.

Misspent youth

I had two Datsun 1600s in my 20s that I really loved and I wish I had kept at least one of them. Now I’m older I’d like to relive my youth and get another 1600 but I’d like it to have a more modern engine, and I don’t want to go down the Weber carbie route. Can you recommend a late model injected Nissan four (or six) that would fit in the engine bay without too much hassle? And would I need to upgrade the clutch, gearbox and diff to handle any extra power and torque?

Steve McNally,

Coogee, NSW

This sounds like a can of worms, Steve, but it’s actually a fairly easy one to answer. The engine you seek is called a Nissan SR20 and, as well as keeping it in the Nissan/Datsun family, the SR20 is widely regarded as a great little four-cylinder motor. And the news just keeps getting better. See, SR20s were available in a lot of 1990s Nissans sold here, so wrecking yards are full of the damn things. And they were available in a wide range of tunes, too; the NX Coupe had a normally-aspirated version while stuff like the Nissan 200SX had a turbocharged version. How much grunt do you need?

The other bit of good news is that since the SR20 is such a popular engine to swap for the previous boat anchor, they’ve been shoe-horned into everything from Lotus 7-style clubmans (clubmen?) to every kind of Datto from a 1000 to a Fairlady. Send us some photos when you’re on the road.

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