Patience, and Problem Solving - Mick's Workshop 456

By: Mick McCrudden

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Patience, determinationa and a willingness to have a go




Whether you’re doing a major restoration at home, or it’s being done at a professional workshop, it will take three times longer than you thought! That sounds extreme, but the principle is right.

Nine times out of ten when there is a delay, it is often out of your control.

For example, parts supply is a major issue. Shipping at the moment is a real probblem and, in lots of cases, stocks of parts are low. And often when you do get them, they don’t fit.

Now sometimes that’s down to quality, and we’ve all had a bit of a rant about Chineses parts over time. But having met some people involved in Chinese industry, sometimes that quality (or lack of it) is a two-way street. Factory X can build higher quality, but the customers won’t pay for it, so the component is built down to the price.

Other times, you have to deal with slight differences between vehicles, or specification in different markets. A recent example we had was fitting a muffler to Ed Guido’s big Benz 300SEL. The component was bought from the USA, from a specialist supplier, and it was decent quality. But there was still an additional hour or more entailed in getting everything to line up.

Another example? We’ve just recently ‘married’ the custom-built front end and engine/transmission pack for Tom’s spectacular HG Monaro build. (That’s him pictured above.) The short version is we’re installing a 427 stroker with a modified Turbo 350 transmission. An interesting package and top-quality build, using well-tried technology.

However each component can present challenges. For example we ordered a set of engine mounts and had to send them back, because somewhere along the way there was confusion over which engine we were fitting.

When the right ones turned up, I had to modify one substantially as there was no room allowed for getting the steering knuckle through. That exercise took a fair bit of trial and error before we were happy with it. So there is a couple of hours gone on one component alone.

None of that is a complaint, it’s just how these big projects roll. You need patience, plenty of determination, and a willingness to have a go at solving a problem.


Light me up


This applies particularly to those of you with cars old enough to have bayonet-style globes. When one in a circuit goes – such as brakes/tail-lights – grab a handful of globes and replace the rest of them while you’re in there. Nine times out of
ten, they’re on the way out, too.



Project Bombodore


Torrens’ Bombodore adventure is winning fans

I have thoroughly enjoyed the recent articles about Glenn’s VB V8 resto, as I have one myself (and am not planning on selling it). It is so much fun to drive and you can’t beat that fantastic engine sound (better than the Chev or that other brand in my opinion!) With a few ‘mods’ done to the old red motor to help it breathe a bit easier it goes well, yet as Glenn points out it will also pull from idle in fourth gear!

Previous issues mentioned the ‘sport’ option, I can shed a bit more light on this. Referring to the famous June 1979 Wheels magazine comparison test between the VB SL/E and three Europeans, which the VB easily won, it was tested in Sport B pack form, which included the 5.0lt engine, auto trans – turbo hydro 400 – LSD, power windows, electric door locks, dual exhaust and rear seat speaker. I’m not sure what Sport pack my car is, but it is the 4.2/four-speed combo.

It makes me sad that we have lost our Australian identity in terms of cars. I have had the pleasure of being in and having driven a few of the old classics, including XY and XB GTs (magnificent engine sound/performance), Valiant 265 (incredible low down torque), Torana 202 (surprisingly quick) and various Commodores, including a VK group A and Group 3. When the top-selling vehicles are now dual cab utes, I can hardly contain my excitement! Combined with ‘back to the future’ American performance road and race cars, this Aussie generation sees a totally different traffic scene and doesn’t know what it has missed out on! I also own a VS HSV Clubsport 5.0lt auto which is currently being restored, also fun to drive and becoming a rare beast.

Grant Cheetham

WE WERE recently talking to someone with an early eighties car, Grant, and they commented that kids tended to swarm over it, seeing it as a novelty. I guess if you grow up in a world of SUVs and dual-cab utes, older cars do look a little special.

I’m a fan of the old 5.0lt/304 V8 autos. They’re pretty well bulletproof. This will depend on how literal you want to be with the restoration, but there is one modification I would consider with these engines, and it does involve a little expense. That is, make it crank trigger ignition. The reason is the inlet manifold is huge and the distributor is at the back, which is a difficult set-up to get to when something goes wrong. They are painful, as there is no room. A crank trigger ignition with eight coils gets around that. Other than that, it’s a simple and great package, particularly the Clubsport. If it were mine I’d be tempted to change the 16-inch rims for 18s, but that’s personal taste. In any case a great car.

Not the GT-HO

I was interested to read recently about the XY GT ute. A mate of mine told me this story from the late seventies, where he knew someone who had written off a GT-HO. He pulled the driveline out and stuck it under a ute body, which resulted in a nice package.

And the HO tags, they were worth $10,000 even back then and were sold off. I wonder where they ended up?


HEAVEN ONLY knows what a set of HO tags would be worth now. You’ve highlighted why people go to so much trouble to verify those cars these days. The right tags are a start, but you really need someone who knows their GTs to check out a car properly. That and great providence are critical.

Worth restoring?

I’ve come across a pretty solid looking Renault 16 manual that I’m considering restoring. It has rust, but nothing that looks terminal, and the motor and transmission work. All up it seems a decent runner. So the big question: is it worth restoring?

Beck Abrams

YES AND no. I love some of those old Renaults and sometimes people forget the French have a great history of building tough and versatile cars. They also seem to build in at least one weird mechanical quirk, but they’re often a great drive.

The cheapest way to get a good Renault 16 (or most other classics) is usually to spend a bit extra and buy one that’s already done.

Remember these cars were never meant to last this long! But, if you’re game and are prepared to tackle a lot of the work yourself, that changes the calculation. As you say, the car is already a runner, so it may be possible to treat it as a rolling resto – do things up as you pick up skills and can afford the bits.

That series is no worse for rust than many cars of the era, which means you need to check it out carefully and keep an eye on it! They’re pretty robust on the mechanical side of things and not particularly difficult to work on. The rear torsion bar suspension is a little quirky, but there are people out there who understand the breed.


Cold Drive


A BMW 635 owner is suffering cold blitz from his Bimmer

I’ve got a BMW 635, a 1979 model, and it’s decided to a try and freeze me out on cold mornings. The heater defnitely isn’t playing. Is there a trick to getting it going again?

Ted Simons

THE PROCESS is pretty much the same on any car of this era.

Start at the heater tap at near the rear of the engine around the firewall, and check it’s actually opening and closing. Assuming you have enough engine temp and the tap is operating, you’re next job is to look for a blockage in the system. The radiator for the heater is tiny and that age a blockage is likely. Some gentle pressure from your hose at home, through the feeder pipes behind the engine, is likely to be enough to clear it. Don’t use too much pressure, or you’ll break something. It’s one of those jobs where patience has rewards.

Ford Oiler

Hi Mick, I have an XD Fairmont with 4.9 and four-speed. It’s getting up there with nearly 300,000km, but it’s running fine.

I typically give it a good mineral oil (Penrite or similar) for the engine and have stuck with mineral for the trans and diff. Is that the right thing to do?

Ted Simons

THAT 302 is a really nice engine and I’m not surprised you’ve hit 300k without too much trouble. And yep, you’re on the right tram with the oil. The whole driveline comes from an era that suits mineral lube – that’s what they were designed for.

Just as an aside, one thing we used to do in wintry Melbourne was change the gearbox oil for auto trans oil across the cold months. They were pretty crunchy old transmissions and, in winter, sometimes the synchro rings wouldn’t want to let go. However it was soon changed back for the heavier oil when the warmer weather started to appear.


Special Kei


Light cars with diminutive engines of 200cc and below were produced from early post-war years. in Japan, the Kei class is seen as having ‘officially’ started in 1955 with a 360cc engine capacity limit and allowed special tax breaks. Suzuki was the first maker to hit the market in October 1955 with its Suzulight series of a sedan, van and pick-up. The nameplate survived till 1969.

Got a problem?

Want some advice on a build or a potential car purchase. Heck we’ll even tackle long distance diagnosis. Drop MIck a line at


From Unique Cars #456, Aug 2021

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