Horror fortnight - Torrens 421

By: Glenn Torrens

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torrens torrens

Cool cars are usually great fun but anything that could go wrong did go wrong for GT and all in a fortnight


No-one died but I can’t remember a worse time playing with cool cars than the past fortnight. It began with a VW motor that a mate and I freshened together in the shed. Despite our collective enthusiasm, careful measuring and assembly, the engine developed an internal noise during its run-in. As I needed the car to remain mobile, I’ve had to pull out the new motor and install a spare. Not difficult with a VW – you can swap motors in less time than it takes to watch the evening news. Next was my cool old ’79 Commodore wagon. Ever since it chucked a fan belt, it’s had an oil leak; the flailing belt wrecked the seal behind the front pulley. I soon discovered there’s no easy way to hold a Holden six-cylinder auto crankshaft, so I used an old trick of filling No.1 combustion chamber with string to prevent the engine rotating as I removed the bolts holding the air-con and power steering pulley.

But after completing the task, I forgot to remove the string before hitting the key… The result was an intermittent doonk-doonk from my lovely, 145,000km 3.3-litre Red motor. At first I thought – hoped – it might have bent a valve, a pushrod or damaged a lifter from the valves copping a hit from the rope but a head-off inspection showed nothing. Re-assembled, the noise seemed to be gone, making me think it was a bled-down hydraulic lifter and that I had been too fast (or impatient) with my diagnosis and lifting of the head.

All seemed good… So I drove it to the shops and then it wouldn’t start. Pulling a plug lead showed no spark but a quick fiddle with the points seemed to get it going again. Whew!

Home again, I replaced the points, it died next time out and I ran the battery almost flat trying to restart it. I walked 20 mins home, got another car to jump-start it but still no result… until I jiggled the distributor as the new points had moved the timing. I drove the wagon home then went back for the other car. And the doonkdoonk noise is back… That will be an engine-out job to fix. Oh, and the starter motor – that has probably done more work in the last fortnight than the last two decades – is now squealing. And the choke cable broke, too. And it’s all happened just two weeks before a planned 2000km swags-and-beer outback road trip in the old gal. Damn. Then there’s my VP Commodore. I bought it to kill for its EFI V8 and auto… ironically to put in the Commodore wagon, it’s too good to die… so instead, I’ve restored it.

One of the last tasks was to get the air-con working again. My air-con bloke said I needed a new evaporator. Damn! That’s a dash-out eight-hour task, each way. With the new core installed, we gassed the air-con. Yippee! Cool air for a hot summer… a few days later all I could get was hot air. It’s booked-in for another look tomorrow. So two busted engines, a dud distributor, squealy starter motor and warm air-con, in two weeks. I wonder if I’ll score a speeding ticket, a shopping trolley dent or a flat tyre tomorrow…?


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