Dolomite Days, ESP Falcons, Soarer Surgery - Mick's Workshop 469

By: Mick McCrudden

triumph dolomite triumph dolomite

Dolomite Sprint, Californication, V8 Falcons, Pugs and more

One of the more interesting cars we’ve had through the door recently is a Triumph Dolomite Sprint – a four-door rocketship from the seventies, with a body designed by none other than Giovanni Michelotti.

Under the bonnet is a 2.0lt OHC four that claimed 95kW (127hp), tied to a four-speed manual with overdrive or a three-speed auto.

I’m a bit of a fan of these things. They’re still a fabulous little car – great fun to drive. Any example that spent time in the UK or northern America, and their salted roads in Winter, will be suffering from rust. However a local dry example can be alright. As usual, rust or corrosion is the big enemy.

One of the things this car came in for was the instrument cluster had gone to sleep. When we got it out, guess what? It was corroded. A lot of the people we spoke to basically hung up when we mentioned the problem. We did however find one cluster for it, in England, and they wanted a fortune for it.

triumph engine.jpg

The Triumph Dolomite Sprint is a bit of a favourite of Mick’s

So we sat down with emery paper, a soldering iron and a lot of patience. After lots of time, it’s still a bit ugly behind there when you take it out, but it all works. This is an era where it’s still simple enough to work on. There might be lots of wires and contacts, but it’s all analogue and just takes time.

The original clock has died, as they all do, and we found a replacement that works and looks the part. I think the lady who owns it will be very happy.

We had a bit of a job finding a starter motor, but parts for anything can be difficult these days.

They’re actually very good mechanically and come with the faults that any vehicle that age will have. The last job we have to do is tune it – no big deal as it’s four cylinders and two SUs.

For cars like this, it’s often simply a matter of being patient and devoting enough workshop time to getting it sorted. Once they’re right, they’re fantastic.

Ford race spare


Guess what we found in the back of the shed, during a recent clean-up? It’s a Seton EL spare rolling chassis, which sat in a corner of the race workshop until they turned it into a promotional car. It waddled around for a time with just a six-cylinder in it. By now there’s no motor/gearbox, however it has a cage, race seat and harness. With a bit of effort, you could turn it into an historic racer or track car, with an interesting background. Contact me at Glenlyon Motors (03 9381 1666) if you're interested. See more details here.

Here's my tip:



It’s surprising how often we see a car that has water in the cooling system, but no coolant mix. If it’s to save money, it’s usually a false economy particularly in an alloy engine. Many is the aluminium block that’s been sent to the tip thanks to someone ‘saving’ a few bucks. As a default setting 50/50 coolant and water will work, however there are plenty of variations on the theme when it comes to coolant types. If in doubt, check the owner manual or get advice.



Soarer Surgery


Hello folks, Have just finished reading Guy Allen’s column in a recent Unique Cars issue, where he mentions that his Soarer’s touchscreen is starting to give him some grief. I’ve owned a 92 Soarer for the last 20 years and have experienced all sorts of touchscreen issues in that time, so I may be able to assist if he can describe the problem to me. My original screen was swapped out for a rebuilt unit last year.

The go-to person is Mike Beck, aka the Soarer Surgeon in New Zealand (find him via Facebook). He is one of the very few EMV gurus still working their magic. Mike helped me with some free tech advice before I purchased a rebuilt EMV from a Soarer Central ( member in Sydney last year. He is also a Soarer Central member, and it’s quite a good repository of information. You’ll definitely pay for Mike’s rebuild services or a rebuilt EMV from him, but there aren’t many solid options left in Aus now. As you are no doubt aware, our Soarers are quite dependent on their EMVs for a few vital functions, and while some folks have replaced theirs with a non-EMV setup from the lower spec Soarers, it takes a lot of knowledge and patience to do it successfully.

Geoff Fisher

Great advice, thanks, Geoff. Ed Guido’s Soarer is one of those cars that refuses to die – despite having been to the Moon and back – and so he’s pretty keen to keep it going. It sounds like he should bite the bullet and shoot his EMV over to NZ.


California dreaming


I don’t know if you are interested in this car. It’s an original Nissan Z31 California which I have been slowly restoring, including rebuilds for the engine and transmission. Apparently there were only 200 of these ever sold, in 1988, in Australia.

Rodney Luke

You got our attention with that one, Rodney. I’m curious to know what shape the body and trim were in when you got it, as that is often where the real money is spent. As for the V6 driveline, they’re usually pretty bulletproof, so a freshen-up should mean it will outlast its owner. Nissan did a few special models as that body shape neared the end of its production life, and they should always be of interest to collectors. The California tag was applied to the final 200 Series IIIs sold in Australia. Someone from the mag will be in touch.

Give Ed Guido a shoult via - he'll want to do a story on it.


Pug Adoption


Hi Mick. I've been offered an old Peugeot 504, by a friend. It's at the right price (really cheap!) and it's tempting. It all seems to be working okay, doesn't seem to have much rust, though the engine is a little smokey.

Are they worth doing up, and is it a difficult job to sort out the engine?

Jay Forrest

The good thing about Pugs of that age is there is a pretty good club network out there, which just might make life easier when it comes to chasing parts and knowledge.

They are a really robust car and seem to hold together. If it's getting a bit tired, you'd look at giving it a top end freshen-up, which is dead simple to do. The real challenge will be tracking down bits, which is difficult for most cars at the moment. Maybe check out what's available before committing.

I doubt it’s ever going to be worth a million dollars – so keep this in mind when setting a budget – but they’re solid old-school cars that handle nicely and are ultra-comfortable. You could argue they’re a little underpowered by current standards, but most French cars of the period would fall into that category. They will however sit on good highway speeds all day. Good luck!

ESP hunt


Late 70s and early 80s Falcons with straight edge styling, huge glass area, and V8 engines

Hi, I’ve been offered a Ford Falcon XE ESP, with a 5.8lt V8 and manual shift. We’ve yet to see the car, so I’m relying on second-hand info. That says it runs and is a little bit tired, but the rust is pretty minor. Your advice?

Jim Turnbull

Buy it. No, seriously, to quote a famous movie line it’s "the last of the V8s!" Sure Ford went back to V8s, but this was the local swansong for the big Cleveland and is pretty special. Some 178 examples were said to have been built.

The only argument will be over what it’s worth. But buy it within cooee of the right price and you’ll do just fine over the long term, as those things will keep going up in value.

Mechanically, they’re dead easy to work on and, as usual, it will only be the special trim that might trip you up.

Filter Follies

As always I enjoy reading Unique Cars. I have noticed a couple of references recently to using toilet rolls as oil filters. Decades ago I purchased a Franz filter kit for my Mini; I figured that with the engine, gearbox and diff all sharing the same oil a bit of extra oil filtering may help.

This filter was in addition to the standard one and relied on a small continual supply of oil supplied from a T-fitting at the oil pressure sender to the filter. The oil trickled through the filter and was returned directly to the sump via a fitting tapped in above the oil level.

The filter was nicely made with alloy and stainless steel. When I purchased it I was advised never to use toilet rolls. The filters were the same size but the medium was specially designed for its purpose. The theory was that the filters were easy and cheap to change and allowed the oil to stay cleaner for much longer and so extend its life. Larger units were also made for trucks.

To be honest the theory sounded fine, but I sold the Mini not long after, so don’t really know if it helped much.


Hi Winton. Gee, this topic of using toilet rolls as replacement filters just keeps on giving! Maybe Sorbent should get into a new business... And for anyone who just walked in, the topic arose: Can you employ toilet rolls as replacement oil filters? The correct answer? No, never, under any circumstances!

However it’s interesting what you say regarding a secondary oil filter kit for the Mini. I fit secondary fuel filters to diesels, and there was a time when secondary oil filters were common. If properly designed with good filter material, they can have benefits. However the plumbing needs to be right. If it restricts flow and builds pressure too high, you can end up with seals failing and a new set of problems. On the plus side, a well-designed system can remove all sorts of unwanted material from the fluid, which has benefits.


Trivial Pursuit

Diesel Wankel


A marriage made in hell? Possibly, as no-one seems to have got this idea off the ground in a way that was commercially successful over the long term. One of the pioneers was Rolls-Royce, which ditched the idea when the tank the diesel rotary engine was intended for was also abandoned. Others tried and got working versions going, but technical challenges and tightening emission rules were among the factors that saw them disappear.


From Unique Cars #469, Aug/Sep 2022

WANT SOME ADVICE on a build or a potential car purchase? Heck we’ll even tackle long distance diagnosis. Drop MIck a line at


Unique Cars magazine Value Guides

Sell your car for free right here


Get your monthly fix of news, reviews and stories on the greatest cars and minds in the automotive world.