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Articles Index > We've all been there!
We've all been there!
By Andrew Laws

There have been many trials and tribulations with the car. Having stripped it down to a rolling chassis and looked at the condition of the brake components and considering the car had been stood for a considerable length of time I decided to replace all the components in the system bar the master cylinder as there was a new one in the boxes of bits and pieces I got with the car. Foolishly I didn't start with the single most important component in any vehicle, namely the engine first. So having replaced all the brake pipes, callipers, and pistons, cleaned and re-greased the front bearings, replaced the front suspension I turned to the engine.

I had bought a service kit for the engine from a Triumph specialist at the same time as buying the brake bits, this consisted of new plugs, points, plug leads, distributor cap, rotor arm oil filter and air filter. So I promptly set about replacing the ignition electrics. Having done this I decided to replace the oil, unfortunately the sump plug had different ideas initially. So I called in the assistance of a mechanical fitter friend of mine.

After the judicious application of a 4lb lump hammer, a large pair of stillsons and some brute force but no ignorance said sump plug gave up. Upon removal there was a gloop and a glug and out came some very black engine oil mixed with more than a little water. "What you need now is some flushing oil" came the pearl of wisdom from my friend and with that he disappeared back to his abode.

So off I went to the local motor factors and purchased said flushing oil along with new fuel hose and clips. Returned home full of optimism poured the flushing oil into the engine, filled the radiator with water and promptly grabbed a load of rags as the water came out nearly as quick as we put it in. Upon checking the hose clamps we found the lower hose clamp was loose, so tightened it up and tried again.

The water still came out but not as fast. So back to the motor factor for some radiator flushing and sealing products, mentioning no names. Filled the rad with water again and tried to start the engine. Nothing, so checked for the obvious, no spark, so got the multi meter out, all the voltages appeared to be correct. So after a little head scratching and rereading of the Haynes manual it's time to get some help.

Found a herald owners website and posted the question, got several replies suggesting different things. Tried all of these and eventually got a loud bang and the garage wall behind the car got spattered with little black dots. "Aha we have a spark" now we just need to get it in the right order. This proved a little more difficult than expected as it is more than 10 years since I got my hands dirty on an engine and then it was with the assistance of a friend on an engine that had been running. Help came in the form of the next door but one neighbour who in his past had built a robin hood based on a dolomite, so it was a similar engine, plus he is a qualified mechanic who works for a local car dealer, again mentioning no names.

So we set about getting the timing right.  Once he was happy we tried again - still no joy. Checked the carb, that appeared to be working. Just to be safe I took the carb apart and blew all the apertures through the opposite way to normal with an airline and reassembled it. Still no joy.

Then I find out there's a chap who lives with a woman, oh I won't bore you any more that's a different story, anyway this chap has owned and rebuilt 9 heralds over a period of time so I had a chat with him and he came and had a look and he couldn't understand why it wasn't firing. When setting the timing, again, the engine seemed to turn a little too freely suggesting a lack of compression so I feared the worst, shot piston rings, worn bores, dodgy valves, more expense.

After Michael, the herald chap went I went round to see my mechanic associate, he's not a friend as yet but we share a common interest, kit cars, and had quite a long chat, so long in fact my other half came out to find where I'd got to.  However he suggested I set all the valves up properly. Unfortunately it was too late to start anything at that point.

The following night I was out in the garage with my spanner, screwdriver, newly acquired feeler gauges and my trusty, up to this point, Haynes manual setting all the gaps on the valves. My mechanic friend, Keith, turned up and tried to start the car but still no joy. We went through the process again checked the gaps on the points reset the gaps again and set the timing up once more. Still no joy.

We then set up the timing up again, according to the Haynes manual you set no.1 piston to TDC and then turn the distributor cap anti-clockwise until the points open and, as Keith hadn't done anything on a car with points for a long time, as most of the cars he gets have engine management chips etc., this didn't appear wrong to start with, but with the no.1 lead at approx 10:30 looking down on the distributor there was nothing. Keith then suggested we move the lead to the position at 7:30. this time when we turned the engine over it was trying to fire on the compression cycle but when the piston was only halfway up so the engine was firing and driving against the starter motor.

However a couple of days of trying the same things over and over again only led to frustration and no life at the right time. I was seriously considering a gallon of petrol and a box of matches at this point but encouragement came from all corners of the globe from the forums that I frequent.

At about 8:30 on the second evening, we looked at the picture in the Haynes manual and ours didn't look the same so Keith suggested we set the distributor so it looked like the picture which we did. Then the lightening struck!! with the top off the distributor and looking at the rotor arm it became clear that the rotation of the arm was anti clockwise so we had been setting the breaker points on the trailing edge of the cam so we were 45 degrees out of phase, which explained the firing on the compression cycle. So we decided to ignore the text and turned the distributor cap clockwise until the points opened thus setting the break on the leading edge.

Now when we turned the engine over it was coughing and spluttering but not quite catching. Bearing in mind I don't think this engine has been actually fired up for at least 10 years this wasn't really surprising, however persistence paid off and after about 5 minutes of cranking and coughing the car somewhat reluctantly spluttered into life and once it had caught it picked itself up and ran sweetly. Keith and I were ecstatic, I was whooping and jumping around like a mad thing, Keith simply shouted "YESSSS" but the big silly grin on his face gave away how happy he felt. We were making so much noise, with Keith revving the engine and me whooping and hollering that the neighbours across the road appeared at their window to see what all the furore was about.

Since then it has been very quiet in the garage, as most of the work required before I can start rebuilding the bodywork is painting the chassis to protect it. Also after the exploits with the engine with large amounts of garage time getting nowhere the garage point bank is looking extremely empty so I have been doing work on the house to rebuild the stock of garage\brownie points so come the time when the bodywork starts going on I can have as much time as I need.

The moral of this story is probably "if you're building or are going to build a kit car check the engine of the kit or donor vehicle first then you don't lose loads of precious garage time and points doing things that may need to be undone because you have a duff engine"



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