Camaros and Batteries - Mick's Workshop

By: Mick McCrudden

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

Camaros and Batteries - Mick's Workshop
The Camaro Mick has been working on.

We’re working on a customer’s Camaro a t the moment, owned by a lucky young fella called John. Like all of us, he’s bought it and – as you get with old cars – has since discovered a few niggling problems that he wants to get on top of. It’s a smart approach which works out cheaper in the end – just stay on top of any issue that crops up, rather than let it develop in to something even worse.

What got his attention was an oil leak from the rebuilt V8. While it was leaving marks on the ground, it was coming from the top of the motor and wasn’t a big deal. I’ve seen this lots of times before and have done it myself: on the end of the bigger manifolds you tend not to put in the cork or rubbers in as they have a habit of squeezing out and making a bigger mess. I silastic the ends.

In this case the oil has been leaking out the back because whoever did it was a little conservative with the sealant. You want it about a quarter of an inch thick and then when you bolt it down the excess oozes out. Then you get to clean up the mess. It’s not a big deal, but it did create some extra work.

The car has been really well built, though I’m seeing the bigger-is-better theory at work. What we’ve noticed is the spark plugs are showing as super rich and are being drowned. We’ll come down a size or two in the main jets, which will sort out the plugs. Farther down the road, I think we should come down a size on the carburettor – it’s just a little too big for that engine. 

Really, it’s just a matter of a little further sorting. Otherwise the car is a stunner – a top-quality interior and a body that is arrow-straight.

On another topic, you’ve probably heard me carry on in the past about how slow and difficult it can be to get perfectly ordinary spares. It seems everyone is short of stock and you’d be amazed at how often I unwrap the eagerly-awaited bit on to discover the wrong one.

This week, the tough thing to find is – of all things – a battery! And no, I’m not talking about a charging pack for a space shuttle, just a perfectly ordinary unit for a Camaro. How?

But it lines up with other recent experiences, such as waiting four weeks for a tailshaft component for an Alfa Romeo Giulietta which was ordered from the UK. That did turn up and we’re releasing it to the happy owner, tomorrow.

It just means we all have to be more patient than we’ve used to when it comes to getting things fixed. Such is life.

Imperial Resto

chrysler imperial.jpg

Hi Mick. I have a 1959 Chrysler four-door Crown Imperial Southampton with the 413 Wedge motor. It’s all original and a matching-numbers car.

We will be stripping down the engine and transmission for a rebuild.

Now, would you upgrade the heads etc and put bigger bore exhausts on this?

Would there be any advantage in converting to unleaded fuel? 

Are there any tips on getting better mileage, as this will be about 10 to 12 to the gallon and it has a big tank. 

Will mods to motor devalue this car?

It’s completely rust free, with virtually every option (stainless-steel roof, power everything, auto dip lights and interior mirror, flight sweep deck lid, railroad horns etcetera. It came with a full history. 

I guess another question is how far do you go with the restoration? Do you go concours or simply very good? Thank you.

Chris Webb

You're a lucky man. The Wedge almost certainly could use a freshen-up by now. 

What I would suggest is:

A proper bottom-end rebuild – there are some good parts available in the USA for these engines, which is worth exploring;

Yes, you would build it for unleaded fuel as part of the job, which means hardened valve seats and subtly altered cam – most people leave out that second part;

Then the usual top-end freshen-up with a lift in compression. 

I’d also look at a new manifold and carburetor, and ignition. 

Put all the old parts in a box and slip them under the workbench for the next owner who might be a purist. That way you’re not hurting the value of the car and you’ll get the benefit of some updated technology. There’s nothing worse than being stuck by the side of the road with your freshly restored car, complete with its original issues!

I’d also track down an old-style radiator shop that knows how to rebuild and upgrade your original. And when it comes to an exhaust, going bigger is okay but don’t go crazy – an inch and three-quarters will do it.

Doing all of that means the car will get improved fuel consumption, because it won’t be working as hard to do the same things. And it will be more reliable.

As for how far you go with the restoration, I reckon you make it tidy enough to make you happy. Going down the whole concours-level rabbit hole can cause 10 times the work for very doubtful benefit – unless you really are in to showing cars.

To me, it’s about making it nice and enjoying the thing. Good luck with it!

Mazda Hunter

Mick, I’m on the hunt for a first-model MX-5, that is an NA. They seem to have become a little collectable over time and the prices are starting to reflect that.

However, they’re still affordable, though I’m tending to find the mileages are up there. 

I’m seeing some cars that look pretty good with mileages around the 200-240,000km mark. Is that too much, or would you still consider one with those sorts of numbers.

Danni Cross

These are the original bulletproof car. The engines have a reputation for doing 500,000km and they’re as reliable as a hammer. 

They’re the Japanese answer to the MGB and deserve their success. You’re looking for some evidence of servicing. As I’ve mentioned in the past, mileage doesn’t worry me much, if the car has been properly looked after. 

Normally I’d be telling you to check for rust, but these things don’t suffer from it. Unless it’s been underwater, it doesn’t happen. The galvanising is excellent.

If I was putting one up on a hoist for a customer, the one thing I’d be looking for is crash damage and evidence of dodgy repairs. The only thing that goes wrong with them is people!

Pug Power

G’day Mick. I have an old Peugeot 404 that we’ve had for years and has probably been to the moon and back.

It’s been pretty easy to look after, but recently it’s starting to play up.

The car starts okay, but tends to miss and carry on accelerating away from the lights, then it settles down once you’re cruising.

Any thoughts on what I should be looking for?

Jim Crestwell

There two things that are going to cause that.

First, metal expansion vacuum leaks around the inlet manifold. So many people just don’t check the bolts and they just come loose. Then you get some metal expansion and subsequent leaks.

Second, go through the fuel system and its delivery. There we’re looking for leaks, a blocked or tired filter, tired fuel pump and so on.

Start at one end and methodically work you way back. While you’re on the case, check the spark plugs and generally give it a bit of a birthday. It needs a little loving.

Top Jag


Despite having well-meaning friends try to talk us out of the decision, my partner and I have decided to hunt down a decent Jaguar XJ6. 

We love the look of them and, having ridden in a few, reckon they’re something special.

Other than saying don’t do it, do you have any advice?

Paul Ambrose

You may already know this, but you’ll hear XJ6 owners talking of Series I, Series II and Series III. Series II, built 1973-79, is the one to have.

In the first series, they were still working out the bugs, the second they got it right, and in the third they went with fuel injection and big plastic bumpers and I feel they took a step backwards.

Series II was a really well-refined car – we’re talking of the 4.2-litre engine, which was strong and a great performer. A properly-built one won’t leak and will last. The big issue is rust across all of them, which is endemic.

The good news is a Series II has nice thick steel panels, so replacing floors, door skins and the like is easy enough. Look for rust on those areas, plus sills and around the front and rear screens. The good news is that parts supply is plentiful.

When sorted, they’re a great thing to be in and really are quite magic. The usual advice applies: if you can afford it, buy a good example – they are out there.

Tired Wagon

I’ve owned an HQ Holden wagon with a 202 red motor for nearly 20 years and it’s getting pretty tired.

Overall the car seems sound, not much in the way of rust, and it’s a bit of a family favourite. So we’ve decided it stays but needs a freshen-up.

The big question is, since we’ll be spending money on it, do we stick with the 202 or go all-out with a V8?

Anne Smith

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a 202. They were a brilliant engine and made for a good family car – they would tow a caravan and were economical.

If you have your heart set on a V8, a 253 in an HQ is a fabulous package.

Keep in mind though that the swap will involve a lot more than just the motor – engine mounts, cooling, transmission, exhaust system.

If you came here, I’d probably try to talk you out of a V8 and advise rebuilding the six. You’ll get a good lift in power with a two-barrel on it, a bit of a cam, a small lift in compression and it will go much better.

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