Saving batteries, crook castings and hard to reach handbrakes - Morley's Workshop 432

By: Dave Morley

Presented by

string string

Brain-busting problems, burnout for badly-stored batteries, and Holden motors that were worn out from new. It's all happening in Morley's shed...

 

Morley's Workshop

Let me start out this month by bending your brain with the ultimate `how long is a piece of string?’ question. I love stuff like this, and I’m doing you a favour, because as any neuro-quack will tell you, making your brain do new things is a great way to maintain and even build new neural pathways and in extreme cases, even stave off dementia. Brain plasticity and all that.

Anyway, here’s the pop quiz: The planet Earth is a big ’un (maybe not by Milky Way standards, but I wouldn’t want to have to vacuum it, right?). With a diameter of (depending on where you’re standing or where you look it up) 12,742km, it therefore has a circumference of 40,035.364km. So far, so third-grade.

But here’s where you get to challenge your own brain. Let’s assume you had a series of little posts measuring just 100mm from the ground to their tip, and you placed them right around the Earth’s equator. Yeah, yeah, I know, you’d need a couple of weeks to do this, but stay with me here. Next, you run a piece of string from the top of the first post, to the top of the second and then the third and finally right around the planet (there goes another couple of weeks). You now have a piece of string encircling the planet, 100mm above the ground.

So the question now becomes, how much longer is that piece of string than the earth’s circumference? If you’re anything like me, you’ll be tempted to say many, many, if not hundreds, of kilometres. I mean, it’s got to be at least a few kilometres, right, based on even a small change to the huge distances we’re working with, right?

Um, wrong. If you do the maths you’ll find that our piece of suspended string is, in fact, just 628mm longer than the circumference of the planet around which it’s strung! And that’s because maths doesn’t lie, nor is it any more flexible than your ex-partner. Circumference is diameter multiplied by Pi (3.142) and if you take the 200mm (that’s the 100mm you’ve raised the string on both sides of the planet) you’ve added to the diameter and multiply that by 3.142, you get 628. That’s millimetres. Yeah, 62.8 centimetres! Amazing?

An old mate tortured me with this a few years back, and it still does my head in. But then you start to mess around with the formula and it starts to look pretty solid. Even, for instance, if you made those posts one kilometre high (to keep the maths simple) you’ve only added two kays to the diameter of the new circle you’re measuring. So let’s crack out the calculator. That original circumference we talked about for the planet was 40,035.364km, based on a diameter of 12,742km. Now add the extra two kliks (12,744km) and multiply that new diameter by Pi. You get 40,041.648km and, therefore, you’ve only added 6.284km to the string’s journey. Makes setting the timing marks on a DOHC engine seem simple, no?

Bottom line? If you can’t win beers with this at the pub, you aint trying. Either that, or I’ve just ruined your headspace for the next week. You’re welcome.

HERE'S MY TIP

Just have a go

tools.jpg

As I worked on the RA40 Celica the other day, the seats needed to come out. No big deal, but when they went back in, I discovered that the threaded bosses in the floor were full of forty years’ worth of dust, sound-deadener, carpet threads and general crap. Running a tap through them took about five minutes and now the bolts aren’t fighting me all the way in or – worse – damaging a thread in the battle. Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to drag out the tap-and-die set.

 

LETTERS

Knocked back in 60 seconds

morleys-workshop.jpg

I am a vehicle enthusiast and have a huge bundle of your magazines that my wife accepts as part of her marriage commitment. In 2016 I ordered construction of a restored 1968 Eleanor Mustang to be built by Classic Speed located in The Philippines. As a condition of the contract, I visited the factory in the Philippines in May 2019 to accept the vehicle.

The restoration includes conversion to right-hand-drive and a complete rebuild to new car specification. The car is fantastic and cost over $200,000. The contract included a Ford 427 motor, manual transmission, and of course the Eleanor paint work. Classic Speed supplies vehicles to many countries including Australia. My car is Classic Speed CS347.

My problem started in July when I applied to import the high-quality vehicle. The Department of Infrastructure refused my application to import to Australia. Naturally this was very disappointing. I have appealed without success for a permit even though I am aware of several other similar vehicles that have previously been successfully imported.

Classic Speed management has supplied me with photos and details of several other cars that they have exported to Australia since January 2016.  Almost all have been restored Mustangs with RHD conversions and engine upgrades. In addition, I have also independently located other similar vehicles in Australia that were imported from Classic Speed in the Philippines.

It appears that any pre-1989 vehicle converted to right-hand-drive will not receive a permit. The logic is hard to understand especially when Classic Speed highlights its RHD conversion as a main benefit when they restore a vehicle for Australia.   I was hoping you could research this matter as I am aware of other vehicles under construction where perhaps the owners are not aware of this problem.

GH,
Roleystone WA

OH BOY, that’s a shocking situation in which to find yourself. I guess vehicle importing is one area where it’s not actually better to beg for forgiveness than to first ask for permission.

Having a quick read through the Infrastructure Department’s website, it seems about the only thing they hate worse than asbestos brake pads and head gaskets (and that’s another nest of vipers, trust me) is a car with modifications. And although I can see your point that a conversion to right-hand-drive (done properly) is a safety issue rather than a let’s-go-crazy mod, the good old Dept dudes don’t see it that way.

There seems to be a right of review option with the department, and you can ask to have your application reviewed along the lines of a direct plea to the minister of the day. You’ll need to include supporting evidence from the folks who made the changes to the car, proof of your ownership and a letter from you outlining the particular circumstances you’d like to be considered in your application for exemption. But from the sounds of things, you’ve already been down this road.

Thing is, with absolutely no experience with this stuff, I’m unable to say how likely success or otherwise for such an application would be. Nor whether the fact that you’ve paid for the car up front or that the work was all carried out by a team of pros, will make any difference.

So maybe you should talk to somebody who does this sort of thing all the time. There are plenty of companies around who specialise in brokering deals like this who’d have a much better idea of what’s going to make it into the country and what isn’t. I noticed on the department website there’s also scope for approved workshops to import a limited number of cars for their customers, so maybe that’s an avenue worth investigating.

Mate, I seriously hope you can resolve this, as being forced to sell the car while it’s still overseas doesn’t sound like a great way to get your money back to me. Keep us in the loop.

 

Stop yer whining

ford-mustang-interior-2.jpgEarly Mustangs had a pull-n- twist park-brake...

Re issue 430; I see yet another person complaining about the positioning of the handbrake in the Mustang. Seems a few people have issue with it being 100mm farther to the left. I guess these people must be rally aficionados, regularly executing handbrake turns around a series of hairpin bends. Personally I’m not usually in the car when the handbrake is engaged so it doesn’t bother me. And if they think that extra reach is a pain, they ought to try the awful umbrella-handle handbrake on an old 60s Mustang.

Chris Percival,
email

ford-mustang-interior.jpg...these days it’s the reach right over and tug version

HMMM, I THINK I’m with you on this one, Chris. It has never seemed like a huge deal to me to have to reach a little farther to grab the hand-brake and give it a yank. And yeah, when you think about it, if you are in the car when the hand-brake is applied, chances are you’re occupied with something much more important. If you know what I mean.

Now that I think about it, though, the hand-brake (or park-brake to be more precise) is one area of car design that has been cocked up many times over. The umbrella-handle job you’ve mentioned is one example, but those foot-operated ones are a bit of a trial, too That said, I don’t mind the ones that are applied by foot and released with another prod of the elastic-sided. But the ones that are applied by foot but released via a handle or button really bunch my Calvins.

But by far the worst kind is the modern e-brake which uses an electric motor to apply and release the actual braking mechanism. You often have to search the cabin for the switch and then, once you’ve found it, you have to work out which way it operates. Now, you’d reckon that pulling the switch up would apply the brake, and pushing it down (the same action as with a conventional brake) would release it. Er, sometimes. But for some reason, the car industry can’t make up its mind on this.

Meantime, the motor takes longer to apply or (crucially) release the brake, so you have to sit there for a second or two for the brake to release before you can haul into the traffic. And you’ve also suddenly got a much more complicated set-up with a whole bunch more to go wrong. And for what? Seriously, was the old cable and ratchet system broken? No, no it wasn’t. And yet, the conventional park-brake seems doomed to be lost forever, joining the floor-mounted dip-switch, the quarter window and the manual gearbox on the shelf marked `Good ideas we no longer use’. Bollocks to ’em.

 

Loose reds, blown blacks

holden-vc-commodore.jpgThe composed look masks the driver’s terror at the body roll

Got another little piece of Holden trivia for you: Holden red motors regularly came out with one undersize big-end journal, usually requiring a 10-thou oversize bearing. It’s something you need to be aware if you’re doing a quick ring and bearing job.

Also, and I would not like to swear to this, as I have seen a lot over the years and I am now in my 70s, but I recollect seeing a turbocharger on the Commodore with the Holden black-six in it. If my memory is correct it was on loan to the NRMA at its Villawood workshop when I was working there as a patrolman.

Geoff D,
Email

ACTUALLY, GEOFF, that rings some kind of bell in my dim, distant memory. To be honest, nothing would surprise me when it comes to this sort of mis-matched bearing sizes, and casting core-shift that was rife at Holden towards the end of the old pushrod six production.

Maybe somebody else can confirm your theory Geoff, but I do know for a fact that, on the engine assembly line, the first job was to measure the bores and then select a piston set that would fit properly. My recollection is that the pistons sets were graded A, B and C based on their sizes (no, they weren’t supposed to be different). So you measured the bores, and then chose the pistons that were more or less the right size. Not very scientific, I agree. It was all to do with the tooling being worn out and I’d imagine the same type of problem could have been experienced with the crankshaft castings. Anyway, even with this on-line piston matching process, some engines made it into cars even though they were already pretty much at the limit of their wear tolerance.

Regular readers will recall the example I gave a couple of years ago of a brand-new VK Berlina bought as a company car for the chief engineer at the RACV. He complained from day one that the thing was rattly and an oil burner. Eventually, after doing no good with the dealer who sold the car, his engineering team pulled the six down and measured everything. And it was right at the wear limit. Yep, a brand-new engine was ready for a rebuild. So, like I said; nothing would surprise me.

As far as the turbocharged six in a Commodore goes, I’d guess you were looking at a gadget called the CDT Commodore. CDT stood for Country Dealer Team and was the brainchild of Bathurst privateer Jim Faneco who also modified and raced Geminis. I think the factory was in Bayswater in Melbourne’s outer east. I haven’t found any reference to a VK CDT Turbo, but I know there were definitely VH Commodores given the CDT treatment. From what I can recall, you could specify either a 173 or 202 cubic-inch blue motor and a five-speed manual was also mentioned. The turbo installation was typical for the day and was a draw-through design with a big side-draught Stromberg (I think) feeding the snail. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one in the flesh and I’m damn sure I’ve never driven one. Which leads me to my next question: Anybody out there got one we could have a peek at?

 

Surface area revelation

delco-batteries.jpgDelco shows how to measure battery power

I refer to comments by Darren Moss with respect to storage of batteries on concrete and the installation of batteries into or on to a battery box or tray with bare metal base, Unique Cars issue 430. There has been some debate since my contribution in Unique Cars issue 424.

Make no mistake, as suggested by some commentators, modern plastic case batteries placed on concrete are not immune to the phenomenon of self destruction, often occurring within a matter of hours.

Many years working as a practising heavy-vehicle electrician/HVAC technician has confirmed this fact beyond any doubt.

With respect to Mr Moss’ observation of batteries installed on to a bare metal battery tray, I respectfully suggest that upon careful observation of the said battery tray, a pressed sheet metal assembly will be revealed, with a pressed/recessed ridge around the outside which corresponds roughly with the perimeter of the battery. There may be another pressed ridge in about the centre of the battery tray to offer some support to the centre of the battery. This arrangement results in only minimal metal-to-battery contact, resulting in only very limited opportunity to self-discharge through the battery floor. Should a battery box/tray with a flat bare metal floor be revealed, I would respectfully suggest that the original rubber, plastic or, sometimes timber, insert has been removed from the tray/battery box and discarded at some point in time.

Passenger or light vehicles with batteries mounted on a tray in the engine compartment have soft enough suspension and will iron out most of the shock from our magnificent super-smooth highways, so batteries can cope fairly well with only minimal support offered by the OEM battery tray.

However, heavy vehicles, including truck, bus and coach, construction equipment, road train and similar applications which utilise large diesel engines, typically have multiple heavy commercial-engine cranking batteries installed.

 Due to the physical size and weight of same, a substantial battery mounting system, of sufficient structural integrity must be employed. The entire base of the battery MUST be fully supported by the battery mount system to prevent damage to the plates as well as the bus bars at the top of the battery case, hence the requirement of a flat heavy metal battery box floor, which must be covered with a rubber mat or similar.

I am pleased to note that batteries in storage at the Melbourne Bloke Centre are now safely stored on timber and/or rubber.

The said resident bloke can look forward to a long and healthy life for his stored batteries.

I live in hope that all the other blokes and blokettes wherever they may reside, and who are the recipients of this fine publication follow the actions of said resident bloke when it comes to battery storage.

Mac Carter,
Townsville Truck Electrics, QLD

batteries-2.jpgMaybe we should make cars from Cadmium, given this claim

I KNOW YOU’VE commented on this subject before Mac, and your views have always seemed pretty straightforward, even to a dunce like me. But what you’re telling me now – that a reduction in surface-contact area is the key to keeping batteries from self-discharging – is truly news to me. That said, it makes as much sense as any other theories I’ve heard on the subject and it’d be a brave bloke or blokette to argue against a fella with your experience on the subject.

Doubtless there will be those who disagree and will point to any contact path, no matter how small, as being a possible cause for a battery to discharge, as well as those who still don’t believe that a concrete floor can carry away a battery’s electrons. And, of course, in the interests of healthy debate, they’re welcome to get in touch.

Meantime, like I said last time, I’m not sure what I believe, but I’m damn sure I’m keeping my batteries on a wooden shelf from now on.

 

No worries on the revs thing

holden-commodore-interior.jpgModern autos and why revs drop when coasting... A new topic for debate?

Re your letter from Paul Burge about his cars dropping revs at cruising speeds: Don’t worry about it. Most automatic cars since the 80s do it. Once you take your foot off the accelerator the transmission goes into Neutral, your engine goes to idle and you coast. This is done to save fuel. If you do not want revs to drop then select a lower gear. Revs will only drop while in Drive.

George Michael,
Banora Point, NSW

I AGREE WITH you, George, that Paul probably doesn’t have anything to worry about with the behaviour of his cars, but I’m not sure that I agree 100 per cent with your explanation. I’m with you in that it’s all about saving fuel by allowing the engine to go back to lower revs and taking the load off the driveline, but I’d be a bit surprised if the gearbox was actually shifting itself to Neutral as part of the process.

I’d imagine that would lead to some horrible thumps and bangs when you got back on the noise to accelerate again and the trans had to quickly go from Neutral to Drive to make that happen.

What I think happens is that the torque converter is allowed to unlock, letting the revs slip back a little and saving fuel. Then, when you need to get going again, the converter can stay unlocked to allow the engine to spool up some revs and torque, or it can re-engage its lock function and keep you rolling.

Having a gearbox that shifted itself to neutral would be a dangerous thing, I’d reckon. In fact, the highly publicised problems with dual-clutch manuals over the last few years have largely been about a sudden loss of drive when the driver needed it most. Imagine backing off on the freeway and then spotting a B-Double straying into your lane that you needed to accelerate past to avoid, flooring the juice and having to wait for the tranny to re-engage Drive. It might only take milliseconds, but milliseconds count when you’re about to become a Kenworth bonnet mascot.

And, really, the trans doesn’t need to shift to Neutral to save fuel when the driver steps off the throttle. See, modern engine management actually cuts the fuel to the engine on deceleration, so there’s no need to select Neutral because no juice is going to the injectors anyway.

In fact, you might use more fuel because the computer – in your scenario – would have to fire the injectors enough to keep the engine idling in Neutral. But, if you allow the car to coast in gear (thus keeping the engine turning) then the fuel could be cut altogether.

The other problem that would occur with your explanation is that shifting to Neutral as soon as you backed off the gas would remove all engine braking effect. A ‘free-wheel’ set-up that deliberately produced this result was included on some makes in the 1930s. Introduced as an economy measure, it fell out of favour for safety reasons.

 I once had a Toyota Crown which had a three-speed manual gearbox with an electric over-drive that incorporated free-wheeling. And man, that was as scary as it was hilarious.

Once you backed off the noise and allowed the car to select overdrive (via a solenoid) you were pretty much sailing. Literally. There was no intervention from the engine in terms of helping you slow down and you were suddenly very dependent on a set of very ordinary brakes trying to haul up 1.4 tonnes or so. Exciting, but not exactly fun in the purest sense.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT

Lucky driver

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A bloke is driving home when he skids on a patch of diesel, clobbers a spoon drain and ends up upside-down and unconscious in his seat-belt. The ignition is still on and there’s fuel leaking everywhere. The car following contains Mr and Mr Smith who stop to try to help. Just metres behind is another car, driven by Mr and Mrs Ball who also stop to help. Luckily, the bloke is pulled out by the Smiths.

More brain strain

Sticking with the brain-teaser theme (particularly ones that defy your assumptions), have a crack at this one: How many revolutions do you reckon a typical car engine does getting from Melbourne to the NSW border, a distance of a neat 300km? If you’re like my mates, you’ll offer an answer in the millions. T’aint so. Let’s assume that you do the journey sitting on 100km/h. That means it’ll take three hours. Now, let’s also assume that in a typical modern car, 100km/h in top gear equals 2000rpm. So, 2000rpm multiplied by 60 (that’s an hour of running) gives us 120,000 revolutions. Multiply that by three and you get 360,000 times the engine has turned over. Not that many, is it? Certainly less than you thought, right?

  

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

 

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