Farm-find engines - Faine 436

By: Jon Faine

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Jon's latest find is an old Citroen motor that's been out in the weather for years. A valuable acquisition, or not?

Some months ago, I was offered a spare motor for my 1926 B2 Citroen, along with a motor for a 5CV ‘Baby’ Citroen of similar vintage. Both were being rescued from a farm clean out. The B2 motor had been outside for years. It was, how do we say, a little the worse for wear. But a donor for spares, if nothing else, does not come along every day, so I greeted the opportunity with relish.

Alex the historic rally driver volunteered his ute for the retrieval, and off we went. After a few hours telling lies as we tootled along the freeway and back roads, we eventually arrived at a family farm.

"Been here long?" I politely enquired of Stuart, surveying the vast collection of scrap metal, junk and old farm machinery that threatened to engulf the landscape.

"Family has been here since the 1870s," he told us.

"And never thrown anything out in all that time," was my wisecrack response. Thankfully we were not immediately asked to leave but instead treated to a fascinating short course in family and local history.

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And then off we went, wrestling the two motors onto the ute tray and firmly strapping them down.

Once these two near centenarians were safely tucked into the shed, I had a chance for closer inspection. The 5CV is in good nick and already off to a new home where it is needed elsewhere, whilst the B2 motor warranted serious spider treatment before closer analysis was possible.

The engine crane was reluctantly persuaded to come out of hibernation from the far recesses of the shed, an exercise involving starting and moving two cars – one with no battery and no brakes – then the band saw, the timber thicknesser and the tomato-sauce making machine. There was half the day gone already. Once the crane was pressed into service, I had my first real opportunity to see what I had bought.

A few stern words to the crank handle made no impact whatsoever, and the motor remained firmly seized. A good clean seemed an essential pre-condition to attempting any salvage, so out came the degreaser and pressure washer.

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Now I love water pistols as much as the next kid, and as the warmer weather has arrived it was great fun squirting anything that moved for a few hours of intensive scrubbing. The extravagant promise on the degreaser-can that all the decades of muck would magically melt away was proven to be utterly false and misleading, but instead the instructions on the containers of elbow grease proved accurate.

First disappointment was discovering a fatal crack in the engine mount on one side. Probably weldable. I am no expert on aluminium welding but as chassis mounts are the major stress points for the entire motor a welded crack is sub-optimal, as they say. So that renders the upper casting of the engine block useless.

Second surprise was getting to study the once elegantly finned sump and seeing that the aluminium has been gently and generously offering itself back to nature. The sump is integral to the lower casting of the block. So that turns out to be scrap too.

A few hours scraping and scrubbing with the wire brush revealed a good timing gear cover and a slightly corroded but intact exhaust manifold. Eureka! The head is solidly stuck, the bolts so happy where they are that they show no signs of wanting to leave home. A few months soaking in WD40 might be better for the head than Madame Guillotine, although I may have to play the soundtrack from ‘Les Miserables’ on full blast to frighten them. Or we may have to teach them a blow-torch lesson – time will tell.

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As the head contemplates life away from the probably asbestos gasket, I thought the spark plugs might give a clue to what lies beneath. They put up less resistance than Marie Antoinette, and surrendered readily.

The hollow of any spark plug – no matter how old – ought not be full of wet slimy greasy gritty sludge. If it’s a clue to what lies underneath, then I really have wasted my money – not for the first time. I sprayed oil into the spark plug holes, uttered a futile prayer and put the cleaned spark plugs back to keep cockroaches out.

Final assault was to address the oil filter, retained by a cover held in place by four bolts in the deformed sump. With subtle persuasion it dumped toxic grey smelly water into an old oven tray I’d placed to catch the crud. At that I surrendered, cleared a spot for long term storage of the carcass and contemplated the prospects of finding some other more rewarding hobby.

 

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