Trans Ams, Mustangs, hotrod BMWs - Mick's Workshop

By: Mick McCrudden

mick pontiac engine mick pontiac engine

Shed time with Mick: Trans Ams, Mustangs, hotrod BMWs and much more


We’ve recently had a nice late 1960s Pontiac TransAm come into the workshop. It was bought sight-unseen from the USA, which can have its risks. Some are good, some are shiny but thrown together with spare parts.

In this case the car is generally good, but there’s an issue with a misalignment of the belt for the power steering and it’s been chewing through belts. I’ve had to warn the owner it will take anything from eight to 12 hours to fix – if I can source the parts.

We have a pump that’s leaning back and out. What they’ve done is use a Pontiac bracket mounted to the cylinder head with the incorrect bolts, then they’ve forced in the wrong power steering pump. It all works and is not dangerous, but the fact it’s eating belts has got on the owner’s nerves.

It’s unfortunate, but it has to be fixed. And I guess in the context of what the car is valued at, it’s still well worth doing.



Anyone who has put a 700R transmission in an old car – which we’ve been doing for many years – will know our biggest battle has always been getting the lock-up to operate. We’ve all tried and it’s either completely ugly and didn’t work or completely ugly and worked a little bit. It’s always been a battle.

Some time ago I was on the interweb, like modern people, and read an article about Holley experimenting with a system that connected to one of its carburettors to drive the four-speed lock-up.

I rang a local rep and he said it hadn’t yet been released. My response was, where do you want the money because I want one. It’s exactly what we need for Ed Guido’s VK wagon build.

It’s taken 12 months and it’s arrived. It’s basically a throttle position sensor. It’s a direct bolt-on to the carburettor and plugs into the gearbox. It will read throttle position and, when you lift off at a certain speed and are cruising, it will allow the torque converter to lock up. It’s labelled as a "TPS kit for electric choke". I’d love to find the person who thought of it and give them a hug!

Here's my tip:

Stop me


If you’re about to replace your disc brake pads, there are two things to watch.

1. Get the discs machined so you bed in the new set properly. 2. Don’t use cheap pads as they always squeak and cause problems. I use only OEM or Bendix.


Mustang Belts


Early Mustang belts have been a big topic lately

Last issue’s 289 Mustang owner, Jenny Adams, may be interested in the following if her noisy fan belt problem is not already fixed: 

A common ‘repair’ in Aus for early (1964) 289 engines, when the original alloy water pump had corroded internally, was to replace it with the cast iron unit as fitted to the ZA Aussie Fairlane.

But not only did you then have a weight penalty, but that set-up sees the fanbelt pulley approximately 10mm out of line with the crankshaft drive pulley and to a lesser extent with the generator and/or alternator pulley.

Additionally a quick check for worn water pump bearings, as opposed to a worn belt, is to pour water on the belt at idle speed. Noise gone? Then it is belt problem.

Eric Waples

You’re right in saying the alignment is critical. The mounting points on the ZA pump are different. If you’re unsure about the fitment of a replacement, it’s best to fit the pump loosely – no gasket at this stage and just two or three bolts – bolt on your power steering pump, look at the alignment and then modify the pedestals as required. It’s the old rule: measure twice and cut once.

As for the water on the belt diagnosis, yes and no. Nine times out of ten it’s the belt at fault and there can be multiple reasons, such as age, poor adjustment, poor alignment, finally to the bearing being worn out – which will make the belt squeal. You can apply fluid to a belt and have the noise go away, but that doesn’t necessarily rule out a bearing issue.

Your next check is to loosen off the belt, grab the fan blades and see if you have movement. If there’s no movement it’s definitely the belt, if there is movement it’s both the bearings and belt.

Speaking of belts, see my intro this issue.


Hotrod Bimmer


I’m just getting in touch to share a very unique BMW. The car was built in Sydney by Brintech customs and is a late model 120i coupe featuring the running gear from an E92 M3. That includes the S65 4.0lt V8, good for around 309kW and 400Nm.

I own a unique business, detailing, fixing up selling used cars on the private market on behalf of our customers:

Mark Meehan


The big Chrysler 340 V8. Good battery and starter are essential

I approve. That’s a lot of horsepower in a little car and is a tried and true recipe – we used to do it with Toranas. Big fat engines in tiny little holes! You need some decent skills to do this, but that said these sorts of conversions are happening all over the world.

While a modern driveline is more complex than the engine-carburettor-distributor set-ups we’re more used to dealing with, the challenges remain the same. And that is, the biggest challenge is getting everything to physically fit.

From an electronics point of view, you’re literally lifting everything from the ignition switch through to the injectors, including ECUs and control modules. So long as you stay with the original electronic recipe, there should be no issue.

When it comes to buying a special build, get it checked out by a professional. If it’s an old-style Chev/Ford/Chrysler or whatever, bring it to a dinosaur like me. If it’s something later, look for a knowledgeable marque specialist.

That 120/M3 hybrid looks very nicely done – great job.


Slow Starter


Hi Mick. I’m playing with a VH Valiant sedan with a 340 V8 and auto under the bonnet. The car was originally a six and had a bit of history, though the change-over looks like it’s been done fairly well.

While the engine fires up okay and the battery checks out on a voltmeter, the starter is slow to turn the thing over and I’m wondering if it’s worth switching over to a high-torque starter. Your thoughts?

Ged Anderson

I’d go through and check a number of things. It can be as simple as cleaning all the earths. As for the starter motor, test them under load. They might spin freely but struggle once they meet some resistance. In older cars you can lose a huge amount of voltage through corrosion in the cables, so fresh ones are a possibility.

When you test the battery with a voltmeter it might read 12.8 but drop to 10 the moment you engage the starter. An easy test is to disconnect the ignition and crank the motor. If it starts to slow down in the first 30 seconds of cranking, the battery is on the way out.

A high-torque starter is worth considering. Places like Castlemaine Auto Electrics will make you one for just about any application. Slow cranking is not good for the engine – it’s hard on the lifters, the cam and the crank. They’re designed to spin quickly.


Hose Down

My old 1988 S-class Mercedes-Benz, a W126, is running just fine but I can’t remember when anyone replaced a hose in the engine bay. They look fine and there are no issues at the moment, but I’m wondering how I go about checking them out, or do I just replace them.

Jim Fredericks

That’s easy – just change them over! If you don’t know, replace them and then you know exactly where you are. We do the same thing with later cars and timing belts – if the owner doesn’t know when it was done, fix it now and remove any doubt.


Trivial Pursuit

Longest car names


There are times you wonder if car makers have a bet going on who can come up with the longest and most ridiculous model names. Here are three top contenders: 1. Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce Roadster; 2. Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 2.0 TD4 E-Capability 4x4 HSE Dynamic; 3. Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo S E-Hybrid. Any more contenders?


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 #478, May 2023


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.