Transplants, cross badging, engine stockpiles and more - Morley's Workshop 437

By: David Morley

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engine bay engine bay

Celica heart transplant, more Zen, Carb whisperers and cross badging



Carb Whisperer

A coupe of issues ago, I outlined the ongoing story of my little RA40 Celica. Ugly little brute that it is, I’m still pretty keen on it and a large part of that is that the bonnet now keeps the bird-crap off an 18RG twin-cam engine, rather than the Corona-spec boat-anchor that it was born with. This is indeed good news, because as well as about twice the power at the tyres, the 18RG is a supremely grunty little fella that also has the ability to rev to 7000 (and yes, I’ve tried it, and yes it does).

My buddy Tim 2 (who fitted the engine, and not to be confused with Tim 1 who gifted me the engine that had been sitting in his Bris Vegas garage for about 18 years) helped me locate and weld up an exhaust leak and also cleaned out the fuel tank for me, evicting 18 years’ worth of spiders and crud (or so we thought).

Which really only left finding a side-draft guru who could tune the little bastard into a degree of civility. Until now, my own fiddling had given the carbs the ability to run properly at wide open throttle, but not much else. At one stage, I’d managed to more or less sort out the idle speed and stop the bugger from popping and farting when it was cold, but guess hat happened then? Yep, I got cocky, kept fiddling and ended up back at square one with a pair of carbs that clearly weren’t on speaking terms, let alone holding hands and singing from the same page.

Enter Randy; an old-school carb whisperer based in Bayswater not far from the MBC. Randy’s business is called the Datsun 1600 Workshop. I like a bloke who tells it how it is and leaves the marketing hoo-ha to the millennials. I also knew, from the moment I walked into the shop, that Randy and me were going to get along fine and that the RA40 was in good hands. Instead of display cases full of multi-coloured turbo plumbing and another shelf of digital tachos and shit-and-glitter and what-not, Randy’s shop was full of old cars with an average of 2.4 carbies per car. Yep, I’m in the right spot here.

In the corner of the shop is a set of dyno rollers and it was straight on to these with the Celica. Randy did a quick baseline run and then started to weave his magic, setting the mixtures, the idle and synchronising the 40mm Solex sidies so they were both playing for the same team. By the time I drove out of there a couple of hours later, the RA40 was running about as close to perfect as an 18RG ever did. Result.

Until a few days later when I went powering up a steep, second and third-gear hill near my place. By the time I got to the top, the engine had dropped at least two cylinders and was threatening to flame out altogether. But as I reached the peak, I stopped, slipped her into neutral and let the RG idle for a few seconds. By which time, everything was sweetness, light and 7000rpm again. Clearly, I was looking at a fuel supply problem.

Back home, I upped the bonnet and took a look at the see-through, inline fuel filter. And it was a mess. Full of rusty looking sediment, I could barely blow through it. How the engine ran at all is the real mystery. It now seems pretty obvious that Tim 2 didn’t get all the gunge out of the tank. He reckons it’s because the rust and scale in fuel tanks generally forms on the underside of the top of the tank, because that’s where the condensation forms. And reaching that surface with a pressure-washer is about impossible. He’s probably right.

So I can do a couple of things here. I can keep changing fuel filters every 1000km until the crud is gone or I can rip the tank out and take it from there. Finding a NOS fuel tank for an old Celica is a pretty slim chance, so the shot would be to give it another, more thorough clean. I’ve heard of people filling their tanks with a handful of rocks, securing the tank in a cement mixer, and giving it a merry-go-round ride for a couple of hours. Sounds pretty radical, but the science is sound. Anybody out there tried it? Or got a better idea? Letters and cards to the usual address.


Outta whack


It’s not a bad idea to let a mate have a drive of your car every now and then. Cars get out of whack (tuning, wheel-alignment, clutch-adjustment and such) gradually. So slowly, in fact, that you might miss the little changes as they happen. But somebody unfamiliar with the car will spot problems in an instant. Just make sure it’s a mate who won’t scare your insurance company into hiding.


Sudden braking 


G’day Dave. I’ve been reading with interest the discussion about electronic park-brakes, I recently bought a Series 2 VF Commodore SS which has an electronic park-brake, the switch for which is in the console immediately to your left. My previous car, a VE Commodore, had the window controls, you guessed it, in the console immediately to your left. You can imagine my joy the first time I ripped on the switch immediately to my left in the new SS, through force of habit, on a rainy day, trying to quickly wind up the window only to have the park-brake come on with an unpleasant sound.

I’m pretty sure there’s a bell back at Holden that goes off and they pee themselves each time some clod who used to own a VE tries a hand-brakey in his new VF by mistake. Apart from that minor design quirk, the SS is a fantastic car but I’m saddened to see what Holden has become.

Mark Petersen,

IT’S FUNNY isn’t it? For as long as Commodores had power windows, the switch was always in the centre console. Even in the very first Commodore, the VB of 1978, if you optioned up your SL/E with fast glass, the switches were in the middle of the car. And then all of a sudden, for the very last Commodore, the VF, Holden decides to move them to the armrest on the door.

Having them in the centre has always kind of annoyed me. The two Holdens I own now with power-windows both have them, and both still get me just a teensy bit fractious, mainly because every other car I drive has the window switches on the armrest. But it kind of makes sense for a car that’s been designed for export (as those later Commodores were) where one set of switches, a single console moulding and one door panel or armrest can be used regardless of whether the car is left or right-hand-drive. One wiring loom, too, so it probably saved Holden a fair bit of dosh over the years. Still doesn’t explain the VF, though.

I’m absolutely with you on the brilliance of the Series 2 VF, too, Mark. I reckon pound-for-pound (and certainly dollar-for-dollar) these were the best big, rear-drive sedans you could buy anywhere in the world. And when Holden announced it was putting the 6.2-litre V8 into the Series 2 SS and SS-V, it was a done deal for me. Then I drove one. What a car! I wish I could justify owning one, but the MBC is already home to a handful of Aussie V8s, and another one might just push The Speaker completely over the edge. Still, if they ever get really cheap (VFs, not wives) I won’t be held responsible for my own actions.

Meantime, don’t Commodore park-brakes make a shocking, horrifying noise if you pull them on j-u-s-t before you’ve come to a complete stop? Puts your teeth right on edge. And no, you shouldn’t go out and try it, kids.


Quality, definition of 


By geez Dave, I believe you’re spot on with quality being what gives you pleasure. My old ‘91 Apollo wagon gives me real joy, front-wheel-drive notwithstanding. Hell, I get a kick just sitting back looking at it.

Problem is, not being a collectable, the hardest part of keeping it looking good is getting others to respect it instead of seeing it as just another old shitheap.

I’ve had blokes leaning on it oblivious to their jeans’ rivets scratching it and passengers slamming the doors. That’s why I keep the back seats folded down under a permanent bed so I can only carry one passenger which is much less likely to knock it around. Okay, so I sleep in it sometimes but that’s all. (Now YOU stop thinking dirty!).

Hey, I went to a local car show the other day and when I drove toward the general car-park someone yelled out and waved me over to the classic car display where a couple of young blokes actually gave the Apollo a good look over. I think the car would have been manufactured before they were born. Maybe the ol’ girl has some tangible quality after all! 

On your ‘check up from the neck up’ suggestion, on the basis that I’ve actually read Zen and the Art three times. Hmm... I got no come back on that one. You got me there but you don’t expect me to agree with you surely?

Aussie Sadler,

AUSSIE, OLD MATE, I’d be a bit worried if we did suddenly start agreeing with each on subjects as your or my mental health. As for the Holden Apollo, all I have to say is that it seems a bit ironic that the most reliable car Holden ever sold was actually a Toyota.


For those who came in late, the Apollo was a rebadged Toyota Camry as part of the Button Car Plan that was instigated in the 1980s as a means of getting car-makers up to sustainable production levels. The idea was to co-develop models that would be then shared between makers. Typically, it all unravelled and wound up being a pretty sick sort of joke as Holdens grew Toyota badges (and vice-versa) and we even saw a Nissan Patrol with a Ford Maverick badge (remember those?). But my all-time favourite was the Falcon Ute with a big Nissan logo all over the tailgate. Good times.


More quality debate

Regarding Robert Pirsig’s entertaining book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, actually there are others who have read it a number of times over the years, gleaning more from each read. I agree the character drove himself nuts trying to zero in on the moment of quality (where DOES that start?). But I disagree that happiness alone is enough. His example of the guys fixing a bike, while the radio blared and they joked around, only to damage it in the process, would ring a bell with many, including myself. The mechanics didn’t care, they had fun and listened to some great music, but is that why they were there?

The only way to do something right (quality) is to care before you start, care whilst doing it, care that it is what the customer wanted. That brings satisfaction, happiness and quality. You may say that I too need a journey down the hall of mirrors, but my psyche tells me I’m not crazy. Carry on, you’re doing a fine job; a good quality inclusion in this fine magazine.

Trevor McNair,

HMMM. You raise a very interesting point, Trevor. I guess my assertion that quality is whatever makes you happy needs to be considered in a holistic way. That is, if the outcome (in the example you’ve given, a damaged bike) isn’t what you were after, then it’s not quality anyway, even though you enjoyed the journey up until it all went wrong.

And does your example mean that you can’t combine two or more activities at the same time and get a quality result from either? And what about the notion that it’s possible to over-think a situation and turn a potential quality moment into a battle between the left and right hemispheres of your brain?

On the other hand, you’re clearly correct when it comes to some activities and I immediately thought of the act of driving as a great example. For those who dislike driving; who treat it as an inconvenient means to an end (and there’s a lot of them out there) the task is just that, a task. It will never bring them happiness because they resent having to do it and they will never make a quality job of it. From my experience, these people are the worst (lowest quality) drivers around   and they should all be issued with a bus-pass and told not to go near the front-right-hand seat in a car again.

Just watch the road-toll fall then. Which in turn would mean that a whole lot of people touched by the road-toll now would escape that fate and would lead a higher quality life. Maybe quality breeds quality. Oh heck, here we go again…


Where were the Ts?

ford-falcon.jpgTickford turned Fleet Fords into fleet Fords

I just finished reading issue 435 of Unique Cars. It was a great issue and I especially enjoyed the XA GT story. In regards to the performance Fords from Tickford, namely the stroked 5.6 Windsors that were in T3 sedans and P250 utes: there didn’t appear to be any mention of the TE50 vs TS50 or the P250 utility. I appreciate if utes are not included in the category, but the sedans needed a little more clarity I believe.

The TS was the high-spec version, climate-control, traction-control, premium sound etc, where the TE was standard XR fare. Leather was standard in both, along with a Momo steering-wheel etc. The other major price difference in today’s market is manual versus automatic which makes a manual TS the most valued and an auto TE the cheapest. The P250 is the same, just take off a few thousand. Appreciate the great magazine.


I GUESS the TE50 and TS50s are the forgotten hot Fords, aren’t they? There was also a version based on the long-wheelbase Fairlane of the day, badged TL50. And they were actually great cars. Tickford claimed all along that it wasn’t trying to take HSV on at its own game, rather that it wanted to offer Ford fans a more refined and less visually shouty – but still fast – alternative. I reckon the mistake Tickford made was to ignore the brilliant XR-spec quad-headlight front. Instead, the TE and TS50s got a Fairmont front end with some odd looking black-outs in the headlight reflector area. I know the idea was to separate the Tickfords from the mass-market XR6 and XR8, but I reckon a few well chosen black-outs on the quad-headlight fascia could have really worked, too.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the TE and TS50 never really gained much marketplace traction at the time, although we remember them fondly now. My pick would be a TS50 manual with the roller-rockered, alloy-headed five-litre. Why not the 5.6-litre stroker? Because it was quite a bit less refined in vibration terms and it drank like a thirsty fish. And that 200kW tune on the five-litre Windsor was a real high-water mark in that engine’s life.

The other forgotten Fords – for my money – were the FPV Force 6 and Force 8. These were leather-clad muthas with tweaked turbo-six and V8 engines and it seemed to me that they defined what an FPV should always have been: fast, comfy but visually able to fly under the radar a bit. I’ll take a Force 6 in gunmetal grey with the optional Oxblood, dark red leather trim.

It’s also worth mentioning that these cars were from the era when Rod Barrett was at the helm at FPV. We lost Rod just after Christmas after a long battle with illness. Rod was a proper car guy and a terrific bloke to be around. Any trip to the FPB skunkworks when Rod was in the chair was guaranteed to be a worthwhile effort. The world of factory muscle cars is the poorer for his passing.


Mix-N-Match Motors


As a mechanic in a Chrysler dealership back in the ’70s, I can confirm the mix-and-match engineering that went on back then. I recall a whole heap of Hemi sixes with excessive oil usage and severe piston slap getting a recall. Chrysler sent out crates full of piston and con-rod assemblies with A, B or C marked on top of the pistons. Upon dismantling the engine, the bores were measured and the relevant piston fitted. That’s all I did for two whole weeks. Another time it was an upper ball-joint recall and further down the track, we had steering-box replacements all under warranty. Needless to say, I never did own a Valiant and became a staunch GM-H owner and, to this very day, a competitor in Historic Group N racing in an EH Holden. By the way, I never miss your column


I HADN’T heard about Chrysler doing the A, B and C piston thing, Claude, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit. Mind you, the bad news is that Holden was probably even more guilty of this than Chrysler, but I’m guessing your EH race-car runs a carefully hand-assembled six and not something that came out of a factory in the 1960s.

And did you know that the Hemi six was initially developed by Dodge in the USA as a replacement for its ageing slant-six truck engines in the 1960s? About halfway through the project, though, Dodge lost interest and the plans were stuck away in a drawer somewhere. That was when Chrysler Australia started sniffing around for a new six to replace the slant-six in its local Valiants and somebody in the US remembered about the Dodge project.

So, the half-finished engine was shipped to Oz and the Hemi six was the result. There’s also speculation that one team doing half the design and development work and another team finishing it off half a planet away is the reason the Hemi’s camshaft had no mechanism to stop it floating in its bearings and altering the timing in the process. Anybody who has ever bought somebody else’s dreaded `unfinished project’ will know what I mean.


And Ford did it too…


Just wanted to add to your story around undersized bearings and other odd things in new engines. My father-in-law spent 35 years in the Ford engine plant in Geelong producing the old inline six. Generally, if there was a machining issue with a crank or a casting issue with a block and it was repairable, it was fixed. 

The inline six had notoriously thin cylinder walls so If there was a casting fault they would just sleeve it.  Cylinder bores were measured and matched with pistons. I went through the plant in the early ’80s and the machines looked old and worn out.  If there is one thing I remember it was the stockpile of 351 engines in the corner of the factory that I believe were for the F-Series. Strangely enough they had 4 bolts main bearing caps.

Laurie Mahony,

AGAIN, NO problems believing any of this, Laurie. And I reckon you’re spot on with a big pile of 351 engines being set aside for F-trucks, as the last Aussie Falcon to use the big fella was the XE way back in about 1982.

The other engine stockpile yarn at Ford revolved around the big stack of five-litre engines that were used in the EB and later Falcons (once Ford had finally realised the balls-up that was its decision a decade earlier to ditch the V8 option). By then, the only mob using the old five-litre Windsor engine was an operation making inboard marine engines, and our Falcons were far and away the last blue-oval passenger cars anywhere in the world to get the old Windsor.

Anyway, the point was that Ford was forced to stockpile these engines, in some cases waiting years before they were ever fitted to a car. In the meantime, a lot of them developed rusty bores, and many a V8 Falcon owner complained about oil consumption.

The other quirky fact is that FPV was also using the engines and was picking from the same pile. But to make sure that no FPV cars got brand-new smoky motors, FPV was pulling the heads off each one, honing the bore and reassembling them. So, if you were buying a TE50 or a TS50, you knew you were getting an engine that had been checked and fixed if necessary. But the buyer of an XR8 or a Fairmont five-litre? Not so much.





You reckon car theft is bad here? Well, it is, but it could be worse. According to figures from a couple years ago, a car is stolen in the USA every 45 seconds. Reminds me of a comedy sketch from many, many years ago – from The Goons, I think: "Every 15 minutes in this country, a man loses his job. We must find him and stop him."

A no light bulb moment


Mercedes S-Classes over the years have often been the first cars on the road with various safety and techo concepts. The W222 S-Class launched here in 2013 didn’t disappoint, but it was notable for what it didn’t have, rather than what it did. And what it was missing was a single conventional light globe. Yep, the whole shooting match from the headlights to the ambient cabin lighting was the work of LEDs.


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


From Unique Cars issue 437, Mar 2020

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