Holden Timing, Self-eating Ford, Family Pug - Mick's Workshop

By: Mick McCrudden

Mick is toiling away in the workshop and providing you with the car advice you need

 Holden Timing, Self-eating Ford, Family Pug - Mick's Workshop
People are still finding these old cars laying around and there’s no reason to be scared of getting them running again.

Sixties Revival

We’re in the throes of reviving a 1961 Falcon ute, which is incredible condition for its age. People are still finding these old cars laying around and there’s no reason to be scared of getting them running again.

This one has a solid body with little rust and we know we can still get the parts we need, because there’s still a good pool of demand for them.

The biggest thing about this old girl is it’s the owner’s first car – which is really cool. It’s obviously been sitting for a long time and he’s asked us to get it running again.

Our job is to bring it back to life, make it reliable and safe.

We’ve fitted a new brake master cylinder – they are hydraulic drums all-round with no power assist. 

The water pump and radiator are also in for attention. We’ll replace the former and have just had the radiator rebuilt by an older chain-smoking Russian bloke who’s a specialist and does a great job. He’s upgraded it from two- to three-core.


Of course, we’ve added a new thermostat and housing to the list.

The biggest issue when working on projects like this is you’re going to break a bolt. You take it on the chin and you deal with it. Rust, corrosion and time mean that components virtually weld themselves in place. We’ll go through all the threads, clean them out and fit new bolts.

We’ll more than likely run a pressure wash through the block to get out as much crud as we can before the new cooling system goes in. We’ll then run it without a thermostat for probably two or three months, and with a chemical cleaner in there as well.

There’s a company called T-K that makes a rust inhibitor and we swear by it. You add it to the system and the water turns jet black. Then you drive the car until it goes clear. Then you drain it.

We’re leaving what we can in place, like the old original Holley carburettor that was a model built specifically for Ford. You don’t see many of them around and giving this one a freshen-up should be no problem.

As I said, there’s nothing to be scared of with a project like this and, in the end, the owner will have a stunning old ute to cruise in. 

Holden timing 1

Hi Mick. I believe you have got it wrong with your advice regarding Gael Thornbury’s problem with his Holden timing (last issue). No Holden grey motor has a timing chain they were all gear drive. Even if it did it would not have the timing go out over such a short time.

Kevin Diener

Holden Timing 2

In Issue 487, Mick’s reply to Gael Thornbury’s enquiry about an FE Holden with timing issues, Mick stated that the timing chain was the issue. FE Holdens use the grey motor which drives the camshaft by a composite fibre gear with a central steel boss. After high mileage these gears are prone to working loose on the boss causing timing issues.

Neil Englund

And Holden Timing 3!

Hello Mick, I served my time on Holdens and a lot on the grey motor and also raced one. They do not have a timing chain, they have a fibre gear direct to the crank. I would be more inclined to look closely at the distributor, the gear on the drive and in particular the advance mechanism and also the vacuum advance. Sometimes the cam gear became loose in the boss, which is the part holding the fibre gear to it.

Bob Jones

Mick says...

Oh dear, we need to apologise for the misprint. How this column works is Guido and I have a chat and he transcribes it into the mag. He’s blaming brain fade for typing timing chain instead of timing gear. That said, the grey motor would have been better off with a chain!

The original gears get in to trouble and what we were trying to talk about was the fact the home mechanic, when they go to change the timing gear, sometimes gets caught out by the helical cut. As you line it up, you need to be aware that it’s turning as you tap it on. Because of that, it’s easy to end up getting it one tooth out. It’s a common mistake.

There’s method in their (Holden’s) madness, as the helical cut is quieter and longer-lasting than a straight cut. Of course when you switch over to an aluminium replacement (which you eventually should) you soon discover it’s a little noisier than the original fibre.

The car we’re building at the moment for Guido, the VK wagon, originally got put off the road because the fibre gear in its original six (built decades after the FE) went to lunch. That is now in the throes of getting a 355 V8 and a four-speed auto. In that car, we were never going to rebuild the six. 

Self-eating Ford

I always enjoy your column. I’ve got a ’57 Ford Customline that has developed a habit of eating the interior sill plates. 

This set (pictured) is the second I’ve fitted. Any ideas what’s causing it? Could it be electrical? My mate fitted an under-dash stereo and knowing him, he’s buggered something up ...

Phil Minns

Mick says...

STRAY CURRENT. That will be your problem, and yes it’s likely your mate didn’t earth the radio properly. If you put a voltmeter across the plate and to an earth on the chassis, I guarantee you will get a measurable current which means electrolysis is eating the aluminium.

Go back to the last-known issue and check the radio is properly earthed. Then make sure you have two main earths working: one from the engine block to the chassis and the other for the battery to the chassis.

You will never entirely remove stray current, but that will slow it down to the point where it’s no longer an issue.

Celica capers

Hi Mick, I have an early TA22 Toyota Celica (the Mustang shape) with its now tired original 1600 motor and a five-speed box.

I’m looking at the possibility of swapping the motor for something like an 18R-G twin cam 2.0lt and creating a GT replica.

Is that a realistic idea and how difficult would it be?

Glen Tunstall

Mick says...

It depends on how serious (or not) you are about retaining originality with the TA. That little hemi-headed 1600 was a very good motor. The cylinder head was absolutely fabulous.

I owned one years ago and discovered Toyota built a domestic-market 3.0lt V8 (for another car) with those heads. I was sorely tempted to track one down and fit it into my Celica as I was confident it could be squeezed in.

The more exotic fours will go in, but you need to be mindful of whether what you’re fitting is running later electronics and fuel injection – if so, that’s a bigger project. Not impossible, but it will take time to sort it out.

If it’s a carburetor motor, that’s a much easier task. 

Don’t underestimate the little 1600 that’s already in there, as you can make them really go. For example, back in the day there was a manifold that accepted twin Webers and you should still be able to track one down. Somewhere like EFI Hardware should have one. Add a little compression, some valve springs and a cam and it will come to life. That could be a lot simpler than an engine swap.

Family Pug

We’ve been looking for something a little different in the way of a classic to play with and have settled on finding a Peugeot 404 Familiale.

Have you got any advice on what to look for and what to avoid?

Janine Adams

Mick says...

At risk of sounding like a broken record, watch out for rust! French cars of that era copped it, as did the British, Italians, American – in fact anything from that era. It can all be fixed, but the cost can be too much to remain viable.

For that era Peugeot, you want something that’s been over here a while and has dodged European salted roads.

Parts availability is not too difficult. We’re finding bits for Peugeot, Citroen and Renault of that era are now pretty good and you can get a lot of parts out of France. Those cars are becoming popular as restoration projects over there, which means there’s good demand to prop up the suppliers. 

A 404 is mechanically simple, with a marvellous little motor. 

As a general rule, buy the best one you can afford, as a well-sorted car will always be cheaper to own and run. 

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 uniquecars@primecreative.com.au

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