Ignitions done right and smoking at school - Mick's Workshop 451

By: Mick McCrudden

Presented by

scorcher scorcher

Firing up that new engine, Centuras, Jag power steering, and missing electrics


Mick's Workshop

At risk of harping on a bit, you may remember that I’ve had a go a few times on the subject of not being mean when it comes to finishing off a project and particularly an engine.

Something that staggers me is the number of times I’ve seen someone spend tens of thousands of dollars building a really high-end engine, something they’ve put their heart and soul into, and then finish it off with cheap repro carburetors or ignition systems.

I’m not sure whether it’s because they’re running out of money or patience, but it rarely ends well.

This month, my pet hobbyhorse is ignition systems and particularly distributors. I’ve been using a local brand – Scorcher – for decades. They’re not the cheapest out there at around $800 a unit, but they’re locally made and there’s support if you need it fine-tuned or repaired. Those last two things are something your average online seller that no-one’s never hear of will run away from.


Scorcher is made by a mob called Performance Ignition Services, on the eastern side of Melbourne, which is run by Andrew and Shayne.

"We do get people getting funny about the price and I don’t know why," says Andrew. "We try to explain to them why it costs so much. They’re built in-house and we get the advance curves spot-on for each individual engine. 

"We can build a distributor for virtually anything.

"The cheaper units often won’t have the timing you actually need and, particularly with vacuum advance units, can cause detonation and pinging."

That pretty much matches my own experience. 

When you’re setting up the ignition, it’s worth getting the whole set-up as a matched rig, so distributor, coil and leads. I know that sounds pedantic, but it potentially simplifies those final few steps in getting an engine running right. And believe it or not, the quality of the leads matters.

We’ve seen cases where some modern injected vehicles simply won’t run with cheap and cheerful replacement leads.

Andrew and crew do a few ranges of gear, including a less-expensive line of distributors called Blueprint and they tackle solid state conversions for older cars that still look original. I installed one recently in a 1956 Chev and the customer is pretty happy.

You can find Performance Ignition Services online at performanceignition.com.au

Here's my tip:

Dim plastics


I’m not a fan of plastic headlight lenses. Sure they tend to be more resistant than glass to stone damage but they dull over time. Ultimately they’ll eventually need replacement. However you can brighten up a murky set by going over it with a bit of Jiff household cleaner and a rag. It seems to have just enough abrasive to do the job.




A Repco head was the cat’s whiskers on a Holden

Reading your story in issue 449 on the Brabham Falcon reminded me of when I was going to Dandenong tech in the sixties, doing night-time trade school motor mechanics. All the blokes were driving by then and would arrive at school in our mostly modified cars.

One of the guys had an FC Holden with a Repco crossflow head and a lot of other modifications. Its claim to fame was that Repco had built it especially for Jack Brabham so he could use while in Australia, or that’s what the owner said.

I think it was two-tone blue, and I was interested because my dad had an FC, bought at Blanchard Motors in Springvale. I still have the car today.

Another guy in the class was Charlie Caruana who was related to Joe Pirotta, Charlie said that he and Joe were working on an FX (48-215) with a 289 Windsor in it and that they’d bring it to school when they got it going. Sure enough, one night they did.

It was certainly impressive – even the teachers were out looking at it! At 9.30pm, as school was finishing, it was suggested to Charlie it would be good if he could smoke it up a bit on leaving. He did, and that’s when we all got banned from parking in the school grounds for the rest of the term! 

Great memories of the famous FX.

Mick Cleary

GREAT STORIES and great times. We can’t ask Sir Jack about it, but the story is plausible. Repco didn’t make a lot of of the crossflow heads for the Grey motor and they’ve become a rarity. But boy did they work. They made a huge difference. I remember Pirotta’s blown 428 Ford Cortina that used to drag-race locally. It was a hell of a thing. As for the 289 Windsor in an FX, there’s plenty of room for one in there, so the conversion was certainly feasible. They’re a great engine and, as we know, Carroll Shelby used them to great effect.

Flickering EH

Hi folks. My EH Holden has had a fair bit of work done to it over the years, but now I’m getting electrical issues.

I think it’s the headlight switch itself. What’s happening is the lights will flicker off, but I seem to be getting strange things happening with the parkers/indicators.


Bob Turner

WHAT YOU’RE telling me sounds pretty typical of that EH-HR period. We’re talking 12-volt electrical systems, with the headlights, parkers and indicators all connected. So the parkers go off when the headlights come on, and the former work as indicators. That era of wiring loom has an earth for everything, and if one goes it seems to affect four other things! We’ll often just patiently work our way through it, checking each lamp mounting. Sometimes the springs and connectors will be worn, and you might replace them or build up worn connections with fresh solder. If we have a choice, we prefer to repair the original units, as they’re generally better quality than the modern replacement. Plus of course you shout it a fresh set of bulbs. It sounds like a lot of trouble, but if you’re methodical, you’ll find the loom will be good for another 30 or 40 years.

After all of that, yes, the swirtch is a good place to start!




Not many of these left in the world

I spotted this restored beauty in the car park at Bunnings, Reynella, there’s not many of these left.

Russell Edwards

I LOVE Centuras…no, really, I do. They were a great package with a cabin that was roomy enough for four people and I really like that you could get a couple of decent-sized sixes in them: The 225 and 245. The sixes had a pretty good power-to-weight ratio and were quick for their day. The biggest issue was the thin steel for the body, which meant that once the rust got hold they were quickly gone. Like you say, there aren’t many left, so it’s great to see one that’s getting a bit of love.


E-type Steering


Nice E-type. Power steering is a rarity on these..

I found the In the Shed with Jon Faine article in issue 450 quite interesting re E-Type power-assisted steering.

Jon asked if anyone had seen an E-Type with that feature. Well I actually own one, delivery June 1969.

I was fortunate to work in the UK for some time and brought the E-Type back in 2011. I’ve encountered some issues with fluid seeping out of the steering rack ends, due to the car sitting. The key to keeping the pump ticking along is to use a small amount of power steering stop leak in the unit and of course check the fluid level regularly.

Brent Deans

SOMETHING WE used to do with that sort of leak is take the spring out of the back of the seal, unscrew it, take out two or three coils and screw it back together again. The trick is not to take out to much – if you get it right, it tightens up the seal. The issue can be wear in the shaft – only a few thou – and it’s enough to allow a weep.


Shed stuff


GT and the VB Commodore ‘paddock-find’: I would think that with all of GT’s fastidious welding work on his ‘farm find’ V8 Commodore that it may be a marginally stronger unit now than when it was new.

In most cases cars fitted with sun roofs are structurally stronger, (even though someone has cut a hole in the roof), because of the bracing required for the installation.

Morley and his wheel bearing saga: Unbelievable! It’s a bit more than a wardrobe malfunction!

Given the manufacturing processes required to produce these precision components it has always amazed that historically they have been a relatively cheap item to purchase. In the scheme of things the material supplier would certify the material spec to the manufacturer, followed most likely by a pre-machining process, then heat treatment, and a final cylindrical grinding process (races), and centerless grinding process for the rollers. The chances of a ‘dud’ escaping from a big name supplier would be infinitesimal, but not so from the ‘budget price’ suppliers whose country of origin is rarely identifiable.

Eric Waple

GT’S COMMODORE Sport has been getting a lot of feedback and deservedly so – he took on an epic job and it seems to be humming along nicely.

As for Morley’s bearing collapse that was very unusual. But it’s also a reminder that if you’re replacing bearings at home, you do need to exercise a little caution. A couple of tips: When you’re pressing it on, be careful not to bend the cage; When you fit a new bearing to an axle, always fit a new cone.


Rally Heroes

Just a couple of comments on the car-mag that I look forward to every month!

Firstly, I love reading Garage Gurus and am fascinated by Glenn Torrens’ projects. I am also excited that Morley is back – Welcome back Dave!

So, why am I writing? Well whilst I have been very impressed with GT’s abilities, I’d be interested to understand what the relevant state authorities require for road registration in terms of accepting repairs like a full sill replacement (on the farm-find Commo in issue 448) when inspecting a car for roadworthy. Will the Commo need a more detailed machinery inspection by a certifying engineer before GT will be able to enjoy his labours?

My next comment/question relates to the 1968 London-Sydney marathon Falcon story (issue 447) which was great!. Could we please see a follow-up/companion story on the other stars of the event…like the Hillman (which was also a very popular car on our market) that actually won (and how it took the honours)? 

I am a big fan of our home-grown/adopted automobile products, but I do think the mag has covered just about every possible aspect of the XR to XY series Falcons history over the years (I am a reader/subscriber of some 15 to 20). 

I would love to see a story around the 1974 World Cup P76 too…and more contemporary rally efforts 2019 Peking to Paris? 

Keep the mag coming!

Russell Cuerel

THANKS, RUSSELL! That’s a good question re repairs and roadworthies. Does all this extensive work require and engineer report? The general principle is that if you’re not altering key structural areas of the car – such as suspension mounts – you should be okay. Much of the decision rests with the roadworthy inspector. If they’re not happy, they can request an engineer report.

As for the Hillman, yep we have looked at them in the past, but not the rally variant that won for the team lead by Andrew Cowan. That would make a great story and we’ll see what we can do. We used to see a fair few Hillmans around, but not these days. A nicely-done Hunter would be welcome in my shed, any day.

That P76 you speak of pops up at the occasional car show and is a sight to behold. Without question the P76 series’ greatest feature was that mighty V8. It had some Buick roots, as we know, and it was a great thing.




Synchronised  Cadillac engine run-in 1964

My C3 Corvette has just had a big freshen-up, including a new 350 crate engine. What are your thoughts on running it in?

Jenny Williams

TALK TO TWO different people, Jenny, and you’ll probably get three different answers. You’ll see video of fresh Yamaha engines pretty well being nailed on the test dyno from day one, and there are race engine builders who will do something similar. I take a more cautious approach. I like to prime the engine before it runs, making sure there is lots of oil through it. Then I like to do a brief run to bed in the camshaft, after which everything is checked. Then I like to run it in on the road, with varying revs and loads for 500km and then change the oil. I do that three times. Clearly I’m in the more cautious school, and it works for me.


Silent Sigma


A family member is getting past driving age and she has an old 2.0lt Mitsubishi Sigma in her garage and has asked if I’m interested. I was looking at some old ads for them recently, which referred to the ‘silent shaft’ engine. Is it worth a go? 

Jim Credlin

A LOT IS going to depend on its condition. If it’s rust-free and has been run more or less regularly, with the occasional service, it’s probably worth keeping and looking after. Not a lot are left out there and a surprising number of people have fond memories of these as a second or even family car. If you’re unsure, get your local mechanic, one who ‘gets’ older cars, to cast an eye over it. My main concern would be hidden problems – such as rust, or seals that have perished through lack of use. Keep in mind parts availability is a real issue at the moment, so you might want to quietly check that out before committing to recommissioning it.



False start


The car Honda first showed to the public was the S360 roadster of 1962, but it didn’t make it into production. Its first showroom version was the larger-engined S500 of 1963. However the company’s first four-wheeler was a slightly earlier T360 micro-truck. We first saw the roadsters in Australia in 1964, by which time they had become the S600, followed by the S800 in 1965.


Want some advice on a build or a potential car purchase. Heck we’ll even tackle long distance diagnosis. Drop us a line at uniquecars@aremedia.com.au


From Unique Cars #451, April 2021

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