Lock fixes + 3RRR radio fun + Skoda lights + Old Celicas - Morley 423

By: David Morley

Presented by

morley morley

Progress on the Celica, lubrication needs of a 380 SL, an attack of the vapours and the "Rock the Casbah' controversy



All keyed up

In the trendy, buzz-word, grown-up world of new-car design, they’re called `touch points’. They’re the bits that you touch and feel, whether it’s where you rest your arm on a centre console or the way the door handle feels and sounds when you grab a handful of it. It’s a real science, too; real people with real white-coats spend their days in laboratories refining surfaces, perfecting plush and engineering the correct `clunk" to make sure the car gives off a quality look, feel and sound.

In an older car, one without remote central locking and a start button, two of the first of those touch points you’ll encounter will be the door lock and the ignition barrel. In fact, you’ll encounter them pretty much every time you enter or leave the car. And while I don’t know exactly how many trips to the moon my new Celica has completed, it must be a few judging by the feel of those two components.

The ignition key was so worn, it didn’t even need the little button on the steering column to be pushed to remove it. Actually, tackle a left-hander hard enough (not really something I’m game to do until the knackered suspension has been junked and replaced) and the key would half slide itself clean out of the ignition barrel thanks to centrifugal force. And the barrel itself was so slack, I reckon the car could have been started with a nail file (Remember that, EH Holden owners?). Meantime, the driver’s door lock doesn’t respond to either of the keys I got with the RA40 so the only way to unlock it was to use the iffy ignition key in the passenger’s door and reach across: Central-locking 1979 style, right there. The second key? No idea what the hell that does. Either way, it’s not in much better nick than the other one.

The point being that even if the locks all worked, as touch points they sucked the bag. Made the whole thing feel cheap and nasty (and, yeah, I know it’s a Celica, so shut up). Fortunately, for less than a hundred bucks, you can still buy a full set of replacement door locks and an ignition barrel, all keyed alike and with a pair of new keys as well. The kit I bought also had two different actuators for the door locks (suggesting it was some kind of a universal lock-set) gaskets to go between the door lock and the door skin (to protect the paint) and new spring clips to secure the lock units. Heck, the lock faces were even protected with a plastic film so they don’t scratch up in the post. The only thing missing was a boot lock, so that’s something I’ll have to chase up separately, `cos the Celica came without any boot lock at all. Maybe I’ll be able to adapt the one working original door lock. Maybe. And this stuff is dead simple to fit. I tackled the ignition barrel first, purely because I figured it’d be the tricky bit. One youtube tutorial later (gotta get a workshop manual) and I was in business, pushing the right release pin and pulling the old barrel out with the key in the `Accessories’ position. Fitting the new one was the reverse, although the new unit was a bit tighter and required a light tap to make it seat properly.  But once it was in, it was immediately obvious that it worked. Especially when I hit the starter, forgetting that the car was in gear. Oops.

On to the door locks and, once the door trim is removed, it’s pretty easy to see what has to happen, Basically, you unclip the actuating rod from the back of the lock, slide out the spring-clip, throw the old lock away and reverse the process with the new lock. Strikes me that an RA40 isn’t the most secure car in the world, but what the hell, it made for a simple job.

And now there’s a nice mechanical, clunkety sound when you unlock the door, a slick click when you slide the key into the ignition and a muttered expletive when you are rudely reminded about it being in gear. Even better, the ignition key can’t be removed until you press the little release button on top of the column which, for all I know, could even be a roadworthy item.

I hate to say it, but this is all going smoothly. And if the rest of the refurbishment is as simple as re-keying the car, I’ll be very happy. Along with extremely surprised.


Mystery package


Lying to your partner about car parts you’ve bought is a dangerous game. They’ll eventually find out at which point, you’re toast, brother. So, sometimes, you’ve just gotta get creative. Turn it to their advantage. My most recent triumph was when the Monroe shocks and King springs for the RA40 turned up by courier. Instead of stonewalling and saying I knew nothing about them, I fessed up, but added that the cardboard packaging would be brilliant weed-mat in The Speaker’s precious garden. I swear, it was just enough of a distraction to get me of the hook. Sometimes, I surprise even myself.


Did you do that?


Hi Mr Morley. Just wondering if you were on radio 3RRR’s Bumper to Bumper in the 80s and 90s? It was a great show with the same humour as yourself.

Mark Woodhouse,

Guilty as charged, Mark. But it gets better, the editor of this fine, family magazine, El Guido, was also part of the Bumper to Bumper team. The third member was Rowan Harmon (aka Uncle Chuck Ripplejaw) who has been around the race-car industry for years and years and still is.

We had a ball doing that show, and it all started out when we three car-nuts approached then 3RRR station manager, Stephen – The Ghost Who Talks – Walker (remember the Skull Cave show on Friday evenings?) to give us a time-slot for a motoring-based show. Given that the typical 3RRR listener was more likely to own a pushbike than a car, it was a huge leap of faith by Walker, but one that grew into the Bumper to Bumper experience.

Of course, this was in the days of the old 3RRR studios which were housed upstairs in a converted factory in Fitzroy and reached by what looked like a fire escape. Palatial not. Inside it wasn’t much better with each corridor lined with racks of carts (cartridges, like an old eight-track format) a big open space full of old lounges losing their stuffing and a clump of studios at the far end. And it was wonderful. You never knew who you’d run into, some famous, some interesting and some just plain weird (or all of the above).

Our slot was from 9 to 10 on a Saturday morning, so it was a bit of a commitment to keep yourself nice enough on a Friday night to turn up in time for Guido to hit the button and send the studio live. There was something truly captivating about working live that recording a podcast will never re-create, I reckon.

At 10am, we’d file out of the studio and the Einstein Au Go (which is still running) mob would file in and kick off. We, meantime, would head down Victoria Street to our favourite Vietnamese café for a bowl of duck soup and a debrief. Wonderful times.

Bumper to Bumper finished up when we were poached by 3AW and moved to a Monday evening slot where we actually got paid to turn up. That ended pretty unceremoniously when 3AW station manager Steve Price got his nose out of joint because none of us were available to call the second Melbourne Formula 1 GP (I called the first one as part of the 3AW team). I guess we took a bit of that 3RRR attitude with us and that just didn’t wash in the commercial-radio world.

Anyway, I rate that handful of years at 3RRR as one of the highlights of my media career. And I’m absolutely chuffed that you remember it fondly. Thanks. By the way, when I promised to rat Guido out as part of the Bumper to Bumper crew, we got thinking about a latter-day version, probably a podcast with all the mayhem and stupidity that made the original such fun. What do you lot reckon? Would it be a goer?


Remembering Sol

mercedes-benz.jpgLarger than life Merc limo of the early 80s

I wrote you not long ago about what I should do with my 1981 Mercedes-Benz SEL 380. I eventually realised someone had long ago done an engine swap in my car, switching the 380 motor for a 420 and bigger trans. So I rebuilt that lot and away we went at the speed of several thousand turtles.

Now, I know from Sol (Remember the old Castrol ads with the gangsters and their mechanic?) that oils aint oils, but even though I’m a very old mechanic these days, when I did my trade I assumed oils were oils. You know, a bit of diesel oil in your petrol sump would get you home but you can’t run on it all the time. Why is that? And you can run a diesel motor on petrol oil for a short time but not a long time. Why? And if oils are oils, what’s this detergent bit I hear about? I thought detergent would be good in all engines.

And while I’m here, I noticed in your mag’s last car evaluations there was nothing for a 1998 EL Ford Falcon XR8 manual. What’s the old girl worth? Is it worth keeping? It’s a good one with a bit of bonnet fade, but nothing else wrong with it. (Please edit this as I’ve had a couple.)

Robert Bawden,
Ravensthorpe, WA

ford-falcon.jpgIs it a keeper? Absolutely

Glad to hear your Benz is back to good health and roaming the roads again, Robert. I do remember your previous letter. But I tell you what, I hadn’t thought of those cornball Castrol TV adverts for years until you mentioned them just now. I looked them up and it turns out the part of the hapless Mechanic, Sol, was played by none other than Max Cullen. Then again, since you couldn’t make an Aussie road movie without Max (Running on Empty 1982, Midnight Spares 1983, Spider and Rose 1994 and even an episode of Kingswood Country from 1980 where Max played Donger Jackson (I kid you not) casting him in an ad to sell oil to tappet-heads was probably a pretty sharp move.

Meantime, I’m not really across the science of diesel versus petrol engine oil, but these days, with tight internal tolerances, alloy construction and forced induction and the heat that comes from it, choosing the right oil has never been more important. It all comes down to the additive packages included in a particular oil and whether the oil is synthetic, semi-synthetic or straight mineral. I think, more than ever before, we need to be guided by the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to this stuff.

But you’re right, in the old days, it was generally agreed to be cool to run a bit of one in the other when it came to diesels and petrols. My brother was always a big advocate of running a couple of short-interval doses of diesel engine oil in any petrol car he’d just bought. The theory was, the cars we were all buying back then were usually so knackered and gunked up internally, a short, sharp jolt of a high-detergent diesel oil would give them a good pull-through. The idea was to switch to the diesel oil, run the engine for a few hundred kays, repeat and then switch back to normal oil. It never seemed to do our engines any harm, but I have heard of the same treatment in really crusty engines loosening the filth which then circulated through the engine, clogged the oil pick-up and grenading the engine. Anybody out there had this problem?

Certainly the high detergent levels in diesel engine oil are there for a reason. And that’s simply that your average diesel is a filthy animal. My old LandCruiser gets oil changes every 5000km, and it’s not even turbocharged. Thing is, by the time you’ve poured the new oil into the rocker cover and let it drain into the sump where it appears on the dipstick, it’s black already. And you haven’t even started the engine yet. Horrible stuff.

How some car-makers (like Land Rover) can sleep at night having specified 34,000km or 24-month oil change intervals for a two-litre turbo-diesel making 132kW and hauling around 2.2 tonnes of Discovery (potentially in 45-degree ambient heat and towing a caravan) is completely beyond me. Sure, metallurgy is better than ever and production quality is ditto the best it’s ever been, but 34,000 kliks? Really?

Now, your Falcon XR8. I reckon the reason it fell through the cracks on our listings is because it’s a 1998 model. See, that’s the point at which the AU was released, so the EL tends to get qualified as a 1997 model. But these were actually really good cars. Being an EL, they had their rear roll-centres sorted (Ford cracked that with the EF Series 2) so they handle and steer well. And that old Windsor five-litre was a good thing, too. The only real NVH drama was some driveline snatch in manual versions, but they’re so much rarer than the auto that they’re cooler again. What’s it worth? Hard to say, but you’d have to be looking at somewhere between five and ten grand provided it’s in serviceable nick. A really mint, low-kay one would be worth a bit (quite a bit to the right buyer) more, but I reckon you’d find them in that five-grand range. Is it a keeper? Absolutely.


Let there be light


Hey Morley, love the ramblings from the MBC. Keep up the good work. Last year I bought a new Skoda Octavia wagon. In 18 months I have done 58,000 trouble-free kilometres at an average of 5.3 litres per 100km. Not too bad I reckon. Another 850 yesterday with no trouble.

The only problem I have with it is the headlights. They are bloody shocking. I had an old Datsun 720 dual-cab last century which had better lights. The Skoda uses H15 globes and there not many upgrade replacements around yet. So, on to the wonderful web and I found some LED replacements. Bewdy, out with the card and they turned up a few days later. Looking forward to being able to see where I’m going (most of my driving is night) I went about fitting them. But because of the LEDS being fan-cooled and being about 40mm longer in the body they don’t fit into the headlight. The cover on the back of the light doesn’t line up properly with the globe so it will not go in. So now it looks like hanging driving lights off the front of it, which I didn’t particularly want to do. But that is another story.

Philip Douch,
Somewhere in the dark.

Hmmm. You’re not the first bloke to complain about the lighting performance of modern cars, Phil. Funnily enough, my experience has been the opposite; most of the modern cars I’ve owned have been Aussie-made big cars (utes, mainly) and from the AU/VT on, they’ve all had great lights. That said, I have road-tested a few new cars where you needed to get out with a torch to check whether the headlights were switched on.

As you’ve discovered, you’ve got to be real careful when ordering lights (or anything else for that matter) online. A lot of internet sellers will suggest a long list of cars that are compatible with their lights, but sometimes those lists are just wrong. Which is what’s happened to you. But you also need to be mindful of over-stepping the upgrade mark and plugging in a light that creates too much heat for either the light’s mounts, body or lens.

Anyway, what’s wrong with a good set of spotties (one pencil-beam, one spread-beam) mounted out the front of the old girl? Skoda is a brand with a rich rally heritage, so why not buy into that with a set of driving lights?

The other option is to go for one of those newfangled LED light-bars. Again, you’ve got to be careful when shopping online as some are great and some are duds, and make sure you get one with a solid, sturdy mounting bracket. I have a pair of Hella light-bars (one spread, one distance) on my old LandCruiser and they’re amazing. If anything, they’re too bright in the suburbs and create too much dazzling reflection from road signs and stuff. But out in the bush they’re a revelation.

But even these high-quality versions have their limitations: They’re great for lighting up the side of the road (whence Skippy is most likely to appear) but they still don’t light up as far down the road as the ancient Hella 100-Watt spotties the light-bars share bull-bar space with. In fact, those old Hellas are now more than 30 years old and I’ve simply transferred them from car to car. I think they’re on their fifth Morley-mobile right now.


Knock the Casbah


Morley, you have to be kidding "Rock the Casbah" for the R driving song! Mate, what about "Radar Love" by Golden Earring? Not only the best "R" driving song but one of the best driving songs of all time. 

Shane Gunn
Heathcote Junction, Vic.

Hmmm, Radar Love eh? Golden Earring were a Dutch band, I think, and that song is on high rotation on every classic-rock radio station on the planet. So, yeah, pretty good choice, Shane. But I’ll stick with The Clash rockin’ the Casbah.

I don’t think the Clash have ever done an album that doesn’t work for me. Even the slightly less-accessible Sandinista had its share of moments. By the way, did you know that The Clash’s knowledge of the Middle East was all down to Joe Strummer’s father being a member of the British Foreign Service and being posted all round the world. Joe was actually born in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. That’s how the Casbah got a run in the song. Now you know.


Many happy returns

diagram.jpgThis techo diagram isn’t from the MBC

I read your column regularly and get lots of useful tips , however your answer to Ian Heferen regarding a cure for vaporisation did not include the most common fix for this problem which was incorporated in most cars when pollution controls dictated higher-temp thermostats resulting in even the factories having to face this problem. The way the factory fixed fuel vaporisation was to run a return line back to the tank to maintain a flow of cool fuel to the carburettor at all times.

How this was done was to place a Tee-piece right in front of the carburettor with a small bleed-hole which ran back to the tank allowing a small return flow of fuel but not enough to affect supply to the carburettor.

You may remember the metal canister which Holden used on all its V8s with Rochester Quadrajets mounted right at the carburettor inlet with the small hose going back to the tank. This modification could easily be fitted to any vehicle and is a permanent fix for the problem. Keep up the good work.

Tom Carson,

Tom, mate, are you positive it’s this column you get useful tips from? I’d check, ‘cos half the time this stuff is just a random stream of gibberish between me and a bunch of blokes who also appear to have nothing better to do. Mind you, as I like to remind management, this column is kind of an A4 Men’s Shed where we can all get stuff off our chest, and I’m proud to be part of it.

Meantime, I can’t see a single problem with your solution for The Vapours (Another great 1970s band. Remember "Turning Japanese"?). Keeping the fuel circulating would mean that it didn’t get a chance to sit in a hot spot anywhere along the fuel line and cause the staggers.  I guess the reason Mick at Glenlyon Motors suggested the things he did was to relieve poor old Ian with the obligation of having to replumb the engine bay and fuel tank of an old truck. But Ian, if you’re reading this, here’s another trick to try on the old International.


Back in the game

celica.jpgWill Morley’s Celica end up as pristine as these?

Welcome back to the Celica fold. The RA40 coupe with chrome bumpers is the pick of the series, you have done well. I like the sound of your build; the engine should be a BEAMS 3SGE out of the Altezza and just like Neal Bates’ RA40 classic rally car. 

Attached are a few happy snaps of my RA23 Celica. It is a reincarnation of the one I owned in my youth, only this time it’s done the way I dreamed of but couldn’t afford; 18RG, five-speed conversion (was an auto) Shockworks coil overs, and lots of blood sweat and a few tears.

Adam Laws,
Toyota Car Club of Australia (VIC)

Ah wow! Your RA23 looks amazing. Sounds like we’re in parallel universes here Adam. Because I also had an RA23 as a young `un and I put an 18RG in it and loved it to bits. Shoulda never… Ah well. Anyway, this time around, I couldn’t afford an RA23 so I’ve gone down the RA40 rabbit-hole. Don’t know exactly where it’ll lead me, but my grand vision is for a car that will give me change out of ten grand but should still be a bit of a head turner and huge fun to drive.

Now, speaking of Neal Bates’ classic-rally RA40, I’ve actually been lucky enough to score a ride in it. As a long-term Toyota frontman (the Bates boys were the de facto Toyota factory rally team for years) Neal and the RA40 turned up at the launch of a new Prado back in, I think, late 2013; not long after the RA40 had been built.

It was on display at the dinner venue up at a ski-resort and, inevitably, Neal and I got yacking about old Celicas and what-not. About midnight, Neal gets up to leave to put the RA40 back on its trailer. Hang on, says I, I’ll come outside and listen to it fire up. Aw, I reckon we can do better than that, he says with that evil Bates glint in his eye.

Before I knew it, I’m strapping into Coral Taylor’s seat in the RA40 and Neal is warming the engine with little bursts of throttle that must surely have woken anybody in that ski resort. Once the oil-temp gauge had come off the stop, he snicked first gear, we rolled out of town about a kilometre and Batesy give it large. You could hear that carburetted 3SGE sucking in koalas and the zorst bouncing off every cutting on the twisty road up out of the resort. I’ll never forget it and it’s actually one of the reasons I’ve fallen for the somewhat unlikely RA40.

But maybe it isn’t as unlikely as we’re all tempted to think. The whole JDM thing is gaining momentum now as chrome bumper Aussie cars reach new heights in price-tag ferocity. I never thought old Toyota Crowns would be cool, but they are these days. And what about old Mitsubishis (Lancers, Scorpions and Sigmas) and even older Japanese pick-ups? They’re all around for chump change, are great to work on for beginners and represent a great way to get into collectible cars. Should be more of it. And there will be.



London black cars


Australia hasn’t really embraced the products of the Chinese car industry. But maybe it’s just a matter of time. According to the most recent stats I’ve seen, of the 35 million cars on the road in the UK, one in four of them was built in China. The fact that Chinese brand Geely makes the famous London Black Cabs might be helping. And before you snigger, don’t forget that we used to look down our noses at South Korean cars, too. And look at Hyundai and Kia now!

Silver screen heroes


Elsewhere in this issue, I’ve run off at the mouth about Pontiac Firebirds and the Rockford Files connection. But over the years, the silver screen has made plenty of cars famous by linking them to crime fighters. Probably the most unlikely one was Peter Falk’s character, Columbo, the bumbling, dishevelled detective who had the good sense to drive an equally battered Peugeot 403 convertible. Any more you can think of?


Write to Morley c/o uniquecars@bauertrader.com.au or Unique Cars magazine, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh, Vic 3166  


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