Running in engines + mould in old cars + the art of driving - Morley's Workshop 415

By: Dave Morley

holden at lang lang holden at lang lang

Dave Morley likens running in an engine to a first date and turns green at removing mould from interiors...




I think we can all agree that it’s important to maintain a sense of humour. When the lunatics are running the asylum, when you can bash somebody but get off because you had a difficult childhood and when being on ice is some kind of an excuse for armed robbery, a bit of humour goes a long way. That, and continuing to do your own thing, as long as it’s not hurting anybody else.

For me, doing my own thing is messing about with old cars. But the old humour thing is wearing a bit thin when I come up against the current batch of self-righteous douchebags who, mainly because they don’t get it (‘it’, being classic-car culture) are convinced that I should stop it at once. Rock and roll was once frowned upon by a generation of parents. Motorcycling was another pursuit that was deemed the devil’s work. And now it looks like it’s our turn with the do-gooders focussing on getting old cars off the roads for everybody’s benefit.

The latest call for older cars to be put out to pasture comes from none other than ANCAP, the people who bought you the independent crash-test in this country. Now, I’ve got nothing against ANCAP’s work; clearly, providing an idea of how safe one car is relative to another one is a noble pursuit. And it’s not ANCAP’s fault if the mainstream shock-jocks can’t see past the obvious (and flawed) headline.

Meantime, I can see where ANCAP is coming from when it says that older cars without air-bags and stability-control and what-not are more likely to either lead you into a bad shunt or kill you once the prang has become inevitable. But what isn’t as widely publicised as ANCAP’s call for all pre-2002 built cars to be scrapped is that the study in question found that classic cars aren’t part of this rather complex problem. Good on ANCAP for pointing this out, but sadly, that sort of detail tends to get brushed aside when the headlines are being written.

My other reservation about this safety-rating stuff (not this study in particular, because it was based on real-world crash stats) is that sometimes, the difference between a five-star ANCAP performer and a four-star car can be as little as one car having a seat-belt reminder light, and the other not having it. Now, for me, if that’s the difference, then both cars should get exactly the same star-rating. And that’s because in 35 years of licensed driving, I have never once driven off without buckling up. So having a reminder light means absolutely nothing. And if, as a population, any of us are dumb enough to drive off with the seat-belt flapping in the breeze, can I politely suggest that it’s the driver that wants a downgrading, not the car.

Yeah, sure, it’s detail stuff. But so is the paragraph about classic cars not being part of any perceived safety problem on our roads. See, if that’s the case, and it’s only the problem of the mass-market shitters of a certain age that are being driven by people who don’t wear their seat-belts, I reckon the focus could be directed rather differently. See, rather than the headline shouting "Old Cars Are Killing Us", I reckon those same findings could support an alternative headline. How about: "Classic Cars As Safe As Modern Ones"?

But, like I said, with the lunatics running the show, it might be a while before you read that one.


Stripping off


Don’t be too hasty stripping off bits of your car you’re not so keen on. Sometimes, it’ll be those period-correct bits and pieces that will complete a car’s collectability (and therefore its value) down the track. Imagine a Ford XM Squire which has had the fake wood removed because the bloke who bought it as a five-year-old usedie didn’t like it. And don’t forget, Holden dealers were stripping the bodywork off Walkinshaw VLs in the day and painting them colours other than Panorama Silver to move them off the lot. Oh dear.


Golden mouldy


Here’s a problem you never mentioned in your recommissioning old cars article: Mould! That is what my MR2 ended up being covered in after it was stored under my house for the wet season. It took a whole can of Exit Mould, not to mention loads of elbow grease and many hours to kill it too! Ah, the joys of tropical living.

Gary G Smith,
Ravenshoe, QLD

Oh dude! That is groady to the max. All I can say is that I’m thankful I wasn’t eating my lunch when I opened your email. (Sorry folks, the pics were too small to share.) Or my desk might have ended up looking like your interior. Truly, I have never seen such a magnificent collection of filth in or on a car’s interior, and if you’ve ever seen the Melbourne Bloke Centre’s official tow-truck, you’ll know what a huge statement that is. And even after the can of gunk to clean it all up, I reckon I’d still be pulling on a pair of latex gloves, a full chemical-spill onesie and a scuba tank and mask before I drove that damn Toyota.

But it got us thinking here at UC: How do you most effectively clean up a bio-hazard such as this one, and; how do you avoid it happening in the first place. So I phoned a car detailer. The bloke I tracked down, Paul, works up on the NSW north coast where there’s plenty of humidity and, therefore, a bigger chance of mould setting in than there would be in, say, Alice Springs.

According to Paul, there’s no real way to stop mould occurring, not while ever your hands give off natural oils and there’s bacteria in the air. Obviously, those same bacteria that cause mould love a warm wet environment, so a car with damp carpets or an owner with particularly grimy mitts is more likely to be seeing mould take hold. The bad news is it can only take two or three weeks in the right conditions for the gunge to get a foot in the door, at which point, you need to resort to a commercial-grade cleaner to really neutralise the stuff.

Now go out and check the steering wheel on your car. It might look clean from a distance, but take a really close look at the little cracks and crevices and bits and pieces where there’s stitching or seams are joined. If you can scratch off a layer of black horribleness, that’s come off you, my friend, and it’s likely to be full of the bacteria that will give mould a kick-start. Give it a spray with a quality anti-mould product now, and you might just save yourself the horror of greeting the interior in the photo next time you have a bit of humid weather.


Don’t love it? Don’t do it.


I read with interest your response to Colin Francis’ letter "Not in that thing, mate!" in Issue 413, particular the fourth paragraph concerning your thoughts that some individuals see driving as a chore, and that if that’s the case, get the hell off the road. I could not agree with you more and believe that you have hit the nail right on the head. Your analogy of having a vegan cooking your porterhouse is completely, utterly correct.

I recognise that for some the use of public transport is not a viable alternative. So what’s the choice, yep the humble horseless carriage. They do it because they have to, not because they want to – a big difference. In my honest opinion, I think that most people see a driver’s licence something of a right and don’t fully appreciate what they are able to complete behind the wheel of a car.

overturned-car.jpgSome people will do anything to get classic cars off the road

Although I didn’t do anything overly stupid as a young fella, when my dad taught me to drive, he instilled in me the enjoyment of what the car can bring, to look after it, to nurture, take pride in it. He’s 80, still takes pride in his V6 Camry and his driving. He’s still fit and a very capable driver. I get the same from the XR6T Sprint that gets parked in the garage each night. My mate gets his from his SSV Redline. It doesn’t matter what you drive, there are a few of us out there who get this, you and me included. However I think it’s those who see driving as the chore who either get themselves into or cause problems on the road, and they should be actively discouraged from attempting to do so. Could there be a link to injuries and fatalities? Who knows.

I once heard Allan Moffat say to not let your ambition overtake your ability. Wise words, and perhaps more education like this is required. Love the column and keep stirring.

Peter Bridges,

Nice to know I’m not the only one banging on about this stuff, Peter. And I absolutely love your suggestion that maybe there’s a link between crashes and injuries and drivers who don’t give a fat rat’s about the art of driving. I’m not sure how it could be done, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if the stats supported the argument that people who don’t enjoy driving shouldn’t attempt it on safety grounds. Delicious.

Imagine the publicity campaign: Don’t fool yourself. You’re bloody apathetic. Or what about: Are you under 0.05 per cent engaged?

Maybe the stats already support this theory. Surely, the wallopers must know when driver distraction has been a contributor to a prang. And, equally surely, doesn’t that suggest a lack of enthusiasm for the job of driving in the first place. Maybe the bottom line has to become "If you’d rather be texting or ordering take-away or playing air-guitar or touching up your make-up than driving, do it at home on the couch". I know for sure, I’d rather have a bloke who’s a keen driver coming the other way around a blind corner doing 10 kays over the limit, than a brain-dead doing 10-under while eating a bowl of cereal and checking his email. Yet, who do you reckon the speed camera is going to single out?

Actually, the more I think about this, the more I’m over the whole way us tappet-heads are being treated. Remember when you could drive as fast as you thought was safe and it was the cops who had to prove that you were driving dangerously? That wasn’t so long ago. But now that state governments actually draw up their annual budgets based on revenue from speeding fines, that’s all gone to hell. Now we’re guilty until we can prove we’re innocent and, unfortunately, the legal system isn’t set up to allow that to happen.

Did you know, for instance, that if you happen to be at an AC/DC concert and throw your fist in the air as a salute to Angus and accidentally slug somebody, you can go to court and argue that while you definitely did throw an air-punch, it wasn’t supposed to connect with anybody. But speeding? Nope. Your car was either speeding or it wasn’t. No further questions, Your Worship. Doesn’t matter whether it was still being driven safely or not. Doesn’t matter, in fact, if you were rushing a family member or workmate to the hospital with their recently amputated left leg on the back seat. That’s how it was explained to me by a barrister once, anyway. Now from where I sit, that’s not damn good enough.

It’s about time the police stopped bending over the Minister’s desk every time the road-safety bodies (who are really insurance companies in a thin disguise) and the government decide more wire-rope barriers and lower speed limits are just what the community needs. All the coppers have to say is: That’s a very interesting theory, Minister. See you at the next election. Maybe. And then they can get on with catching criminals.

Am I wrong here, or has something gotta change?


Running in debunked?

breaking-in-your-car.jpgEveryone has a view on the art and science of breaking in a new car

I’ve long been intrigued by the variation in both common wisdom and manufacturers’ recommendations on how best to run-in a new engine. I would be interested to hear your opinion, and the opinions of your readers.

I reckon there are potentially as many column-inches in this as have been written over the JFK assassination, moon landing and the red-motor-in-an-EJ controversies. 

Shaun Jones,

Jeez, what a can of worms this subject has become, Shaun. There are those who reckon an engine needs to be run-in at full throttle and full load to get everything to seat, and others that reckon a more gentle approach is the key to a long-lived, healthy engine. Then you talk to a manufacturer (or, more typically, the service manager at the dealership you bought from) and you’ll get a third version of this crucial advice.

Me? I tend to fall into the gently-gently, sneak up on it school of thought and I’ll tell you why in a minute. Meanwhile, probably the best way to run a new engine in is on a dyno.. That way, you control the conditions precisely. You won’t be getting stuck behind a tractor and forced to dawdle along, nor will you be caught in a traffic-jam, watching the temperature gauge slowly marching up the scale (and new engines tend to run a bit hotter to start with).

Of course, even if you do use a dyno, there are still decisions to be made: Do you load her up immediately and run it under a big load or; do you take it easy at first, allowing every component to get to know the one beside it? The run-it-hard school will tell you that modern machining tolerances are so good and honing is now so fine, that you don’t need this break-in period. But what about the camshaft? Surely that still needs a relatively gentle bed-in to ensure the hardening doesn’t disappear before the car has turned a wheel under its own steam.

And even if tolerances and surface finishes are much better than they’ve ever been, I remain unconvinced about the wisdom of turning everything up to 11 before you’ve even had a close listen to what’s going on. See, the surfaces we’re talking about here are not smooth as they come off the hone or the crank-grinder. They might be in a macro sense, but under a microscope there will still be lots of little bumps and lumps that the running-in process either smooths out or breaks off. And to have that process occur gradually and in a relatively controlled manner just seems like common sense to me.

Think about a drum roll. You know, the really fast, military deal where the beat is so fast, the drum makes a sound almost like a vibration or hum rather than a series of beats. The drumsticks are travelling so fast, they’re blurring like a dragonfly’s wings. Well, the world record for a drum-roll frequency was re-set in 2013 (nerd alert!) at 1208 beats per minute. That’s just on 20 beats per second. Now, compare that with an engine at 6000rpm where the pistons are going up and down the bore 100 times per second. Yep, five times as fast. Don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want even the smallest machining dag or hot-spot to show up at the speed. Throw in the enormous loads involved in exploding petrol in a confined space as well as forces created in changing the direction of a speeding piston 200 times a second and it all starts to play on your mind a bit, no?

The problem is, of course, that all those intricate little metal bits and pieces have never even been properly introduced to each other until the engine is assembled and fired up for the first time. They have to get to know each other. Think of it like a first date. You don’t rush up to her and stick your hand straight down the front of her dress, do you? No, you start with a bit of small-talk, buy her a drink, maybe dinner and a movie and see how it goes from there. Same with engines.

I’m not saying every girl will object to the more direct approach, but if that’s your chosen method of courting, I’m tipping you’re going to have a lot of first dates and not many second ones. In fact, the first time you get to second-base will be with your new cell-mate.

maintenance.jpgKeep it well lubed and it will love you

Then there’s the advice offered by the manufacturer. Look, I’m not saying you should ignore it, but I‘d certainly take it with a grain of salt at times. I’ll give you an example. I finally bought Mrs M a brand-new car a few years ago. So, when I picked it up, I asked to see the service manager to ask about the recommended running-in procedure. His advice was to drive it normally without overloading it or lugging it (good advice) for the first 1000 kays. No problem with that at my end. But when I mentioned that I’d be dropping the oil at, say, the 500km mark to get rid of any swarf that had been created by this first-date period, he told me that if I did that, the engine would never bed-in and would be an oil-burner.

Against my better judgment, I stuck to his advice and only gave the poor thing its first fresh oil at the recommended 15,000km mark. That engine, despite being driven sensibly and serviced absolutely by the book, needed a new top end at 74,000km. And when it was rebuilt, I asked the service manager at the place that did the work (same brand, different dealership) about dumping the oil at 500km. Good idea, he told me. Go figure.

Now, the other caveat here is that this is just my opinion. Yes, it’s based on plenty of years of mucking about with engines, but I’m not a mechanic or an engineer or a metallurgist or even a qualified shit-kicker. And if you don’t agree with me, that’s fine, too. But it does make me wonder what the rest of you think about this subject. Is there a magic running-in method that works every time? Is running them in hard and fast really the new way to go. Letters and postcards to the usual address, folks.


Odd jobs

mixer.jpgPerhaps we're seeing the beginning of a horepower race in the concrete mixer game

Your interest in engines doing non-car or truck duties got me remembering: To this day my standout is the 24-stud Ford side-valve V8 I discovered hooked up to the emergency gen-set at what was then the Hoyts Regent Theatre in High Street Thornbury in Melbourne. The ‘then’ was around 1960 when my high-school mate and I, a couple of 15-year-olds, were invited by his dad, the projectionist, to a freebie night at the Regent upstairs in the bio box.

Once I spotted the lovely old Ford side-whacker I lost interest in watching the movie through the slot in the wall. Because my recently acquired ’34 five-window Ford coupe had the original motor, the more primitive 21-stud version, I spent the rest of the night drooling over the lovely good-as-new V8 being wasted in that role. (Ed: Must have been a dud film.) I still think about it from time to time, obviously, imagining that it’s still there, inconveniently heavy to remove from high in the building that survives as a reception centre.

Staying with the Ford V8 theme, concrete delivery trucks haven’t always used today’s hydraulic drive set-ups, with the pump driven by the truck’s engine. Back in the day Holden grey motors were the popular option, mounted east-west between the agitator drum and the truck cab, complete with radiator, petrol tank and minimalist muffler. Drive to the drum was via a seriously robust chain drive (the sprocket on the back of the drum was about 1.5m diameter and the chain pitch was around 75mm). Red Holden sixes took over the role in the 60s. While the Holden-six powered set-ups were a bit ho-hum to me, I got excited when I spotted the occasional one driven by an OHV Ford Y-block V8. I once chased one to the building site on my pushbike just to hear the exhaust note of the mighty Ford when the bloke gunned it to dump the load of concrete. It was music to my young petrolhead ears.

Rob Henry,
Castlemaine, VIC

Ah, what lovely memories. I must say, you seem to have been doing pretty well to own a V8 Ford at age 15. I’d have made you buy your own movie tickets. Somewhere in the dim, dark recesses of my troubled mind, I seem to recall Holden engines on cement-mixers, from a long time ago.

But I was also intrigued by the thought that a big, heavy, hard-to-shift, cast-iron V8 way up high in the rafters of a cinema might have proved too difficult to move over the years and could still be sitting up there giving the pigeons somewhere to sit (yes, sit). So I hit the internerd and discovered that the old Hoyts Regent is now called the Thornbury Theatre. And from there, I managed to track down a phone number and made a quick call.

engines.jpgMore flathead Fords than you can poke a gen-set at, in a range of attractive colours

Sadly, the bloke I spoke to reckoned that, at some point in the building’s history, it had been split in two and that included the upper floors. Which is probably the point at which the old flat-head was removed. Certainly, it’s not there now and the pigeons have to make their own arrangements. He reckoned there was still an old pump in the basement, but no V8 engine of any description (so it hadn’t just been relocated).

So here’s your homework for this month kids: What happened to the Ford V8 that used to power the emergency gen-set at the Hoyt’s Regent Theatre in Thornbury in the 50s and 60s? And while we’re at it, let’s re-visit the original question: What car engines have you seen over the years doing non-car jobs?


Floppy offy


All the talk right now is of Indy and Will Power’s win in the 500 at the Brickyard, the first for an Aussie. And, of course, the most famous Indycar engine over the years has been the Offenhauser; a big capacity, DOHC four-banger. But did you know the Offy was also – briefly – a Formula 1 engine? Yep, Lance Reventlow (heir to the Woolworths fortune) built an F1 car in the late 50s/early 60’s and was determined to use all American-made parts. That (in the absence of a better plan) meant a modified Offy. Sadly, it was all for nothing; the engine couldn’t make the necessary power and was much happier at steady revs on a super-speedway than it was going up and down through the gears in an F1.

That's an original


Have you seen the bumper sticker explaining that Chev bow-tie badges on Commodores "make baby Jesus cry"? Very funny. And I’m tipping you’ve seen plenty of hatchbacks with a devil’s tail and pitchfork growing out of the badge on the tailgate. Yep, tee-hee. But this one caught my eye recently, and I have to applaud the sheer originality of it. Well done sir or madam. Take a bow.


Write to Morley c/o or Unique Cars magazine, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh, Vic 3166  


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