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Running gear refurb #1

Some of the hard work with the running gear I am using had already been done when I bought my project, insofar as the driveshafts and CVs had already been refurbished, the diff had been given a lick of paint (and I believe an oil change), and the front hubs had already been reamed to accept the ‘maxi’ ball joint which is required for fitting to the lower wishbones. And, in fact, all of these parts demonstrably worked given that way back in June 2012 it was a rolling chassis that I collected… In addition my project also came with some brake calipers neatly boxed up in what appears to be ‘just back from the refurbishers’ condition and, less appealing on the eye, I became the owner of a box full of various rusty parts including a full set of un-refurbished calipers and an assortment of stub axles, front hubs and hub carriers in equally rusty/greasy state…

In preparation I had to make a couple of purchases, eBay provided a 41mm impact socket for the Sierra rear hub nuts and I decided to take a £30 punt on an electric impact driver from Lidl. Much reviewing of contradictory information on the internet confirmed that ‘yes’, Sierra hub nuts are handed for each side of the car but without giving me confidence that I knew which side the left-hand-thread nut was supposed to be fitted on…

Anyway, once I started stripping everything back completely I realised that the rear hub carriers that the refurbed driveshafts sat in looked rather grotty, as did the rear wheel bearings. So I dug out a matching pair of ‘spare’ hub carriers from the big box of bits, baked them in the oven (turns out 40 mins @ 200c works well) to assist the process of bashing out the old bearing races that remained, and then gave them a good stint in the electrolysis bath. The brake caliper brackets got the same treatment.

In bashing out the old bearing races I did cause a bit of damage as I foolishly used a screwdriver as a drift, so had to use some wet’n’dry to smooth out the small nicks I had made in the machined faces (and in fact had to do the same on the gearbox output where I had completely mangled the old oil seal as i had levered it out)…

I had, very previously, given the front hubs (and pedal box, and pedals) a couple of coats of Fortress metal paint and can confirm that it holds up reasonably well when kept indoors in a garage for 3 and a half years (it has also held up on my washing line pole in the back garden OK too)… Despite this positive experience I decided to use Hammerite for everything I had newly strippped although I will re-coat the front parts with Fortress once the back end is all together. But first off they got a couple of passes with etch primer. I masked up to keep the mating surfaces clean but still had to do some gentle rubbing down with 600 wet’n’dry to make sure bare metal surfaces meet when they are all bolted up.

An order to Burton Power meant I recently received a bundle of parts for the engine and gearbox rebuild but also two sets of Sierra rear wheel bearings. A chap at the local garage was kind enough to lend me a bearing drift kit and so, with only minor tapping to correct misalignment with the brass drift I had recently purchased, it was a relatively simple job to drift the new outer races back into the repainted hub carriers.

I am now waiting on the arrival of what promises to be a neat little tool that will make short work of thoroughly squeezing grease into the new bearings before I can fit the grease seals and then get the whole back-end put together.

In the meanwhile I have bolted the rear wishbones and uprights back onto the chassis, and have trial fitted one of the rear brake calipers to gauge popular opinion on what the right orientation is…


Engine recommissioning #1

The engine for my car is getting superficial treatment rather than a comprehensive rebuild. It ran fine in the Sierra (more on that in the next post about the engine), the 69bhp it apparently produced when new (or what is left of that now!), is plenty for me for now, so the first step i’ve got through is mainly making it look nice, the second step will effectively just be giving it a bit of a service.

There are three modifications I will have to make to the engine itself:

1 – Shorten the sump (and the oil pickup pipe). This is just to allow better ground clearance given the engine sits rather lower in the Haynes than the Sierra. I part exchanged the offside door from my Sierra some time ago with a chap who had an already modified sump and oil pipe so that saves me the hard work of modding the original parts myself.

2 – Shift the oil filler spout on the rocker cover. As standard it sticks straight up from the front of the engine and would foul the bonnet, so it’s better relocated to the back and angled. Again I picked up an already modified one via someone on LocostBuilders.

3 – Relocate the alternator. In its standard position it gets in the way of the steering shaft, so I fabricated a revised mount. This will need a non-standard auxilliary belt too once i’ve measured up for the right length.

But before doing all that I thought it would make things look much better all round if I painted the block (and the gearbox bellhousing and maincase too whilst I was at it)… Cleaning everything up took several hours of scrubbing with various degreasers including some cheap Simoniz engine degreaser and a spray bottle of Cillit Bang. Both worked well. Once the oil and grease was gone everything had a good blast with a drill mounted wirebrush then a final wipe down with some panel wipe before I masked off the various ports, etc. Two costs of Hammerite Smooth then went on by brush – and so far it all looks OK.

Before paint (but after some serious degreasing and wirebrushing)


Block before paint

After two coats of paint…

Gearbox painted (1)Gearbox painted (2)


There has been one optional step too, which I had to tackle as part of stripping down the engine to paint it: removing the original fan (which will be replaced by an electric fan mounted straight on the VW Polo radiator which replaces the massive one from the Sierra)… I got the necessary offset spanner several Christmases ago, but it still took about 90 minutes to get the fan off. In the end I had to resort to clamping the fan pulley still using the old auxiliary belt held in some mole grips to stop it turning as I tackled the left-hand thread that secured it.


The next step will be the mechanical work….



Sitting comfortably? (Pt 6!)

It has been so long since I started this project that I’d forgotten i’d already noted down my work FIVE times previously on seats! (See Sitting comfortably? Pt1, Pt2, Pt3, Pt4 and Pt5)But, interestingly, a whole load of the work has finally come together in a way that means I may soon actually fit the steering column, and perhaps the pedal box, for the final time – as the drivers seat is now mounted in the car!!!

I had made a frame for mounting the seats ages ago – thinking i’d use it in combination with seat runners – before I decided to instead use a length of box section to mount the front of the seat, with some separate brackets for the rear, both bolted to the seat runners. But in the end I’ve decided to ditch the runners altogether and have made some rather beefier mounts, combining various things i’ve tried. The original flimsy prototype did prove useful as it allowed me to try out the seat position a LONG time ago and more recently held the seat at the correct angle for me to measure up the final brackets.

I also took inspiration from the side mount brackets which racing cars use and the Lotus Elise seat mounts which get used for fitting Elise seats into other road cars. The obvious difference I needed to cater for has been that my seats have mounting points that go vertically down towards the floor and horizontally towards the back of the car, whereas lots of other bucket seats have mounting points which come of the seats horizontally at either side….

The end result has taken a few weekends to get together, first cutting substantial sides for the brackets from 3mm steel, then welding straight strips onto the bottom edge to form an L shape, then a section of box section to join them at the front, before offering up the seat and drilling through for the holes to bolt up the seat at the back. Then, finally, dry fitting everything into the car before drilling through the floor to bolt them in permanently.

Now I can fit the steering column and pedal box, just to fine tune the seat position, and the job will be complete.

GRP #1 – Side panels

Along with getting the aluminium panels onto the chassis, fitting the external panels has been a long, drawn out, process…

The first step in doing this was really just getting them into a state where I could leave them attached to the chassis. For the nosecone, scuttle and bonnet this is simply a case of plonking them down and holding then secure with some spring clamps. But for the side panels this involved begining to cut some of the holes which will eventually have the suspension mounts, steering rack, etc sticking out of them, simply to be able to get the panels square against the chassis.

The first learning point to all this has been that some slight distortion to the side panels had occurred in the 4 years (!!!) since I bought it – in hindsight I could have put some wooden braces into them to support them in the correct shape – but I suspect that would not have been a perfect solution either. However it has not really been a signifcant problem, not least because so much of the return on the side panels – which had the most sag in them, has been cut away to make them fit. This has been caused by my use of a 3mm floor panel, if I had welded in a flush 1mm steel panel I suspect I may have been able to simply ‘wrap’ the bottoms of the side panels round.

The second learning point was that it’s only when the panels are squarely in their final resting place that you can really  work out exactly where the holes need to be cut. But you need to cut holes to get them into their final resting place. Yossarian would be pleased… The best approach has been to make a paper template, based on the dimensions in The Book, then transfering markings across to the GRP and cutting as little as possible before offering the panel up the chassis, seeing what goes where, trimming a bit more, then doing it all again. And again…

The work on this started in Jan ’17, just to get the panels to the state where they could be clamped in roughly the right place. In trying to force the first panel on I made some cracks in the gelcoat which will need sorting at some point.

Side panel1st

A few days concerted effort in Sept ’17 got them actually fitting over the chassis rails properly. It took many hours as I was trying to avoid removing any more GRP than necessary, and didn’t realise how much I would take out in the end. The 4.5″ angle grinder with 1mm cutting disc and sanding disc was the ideal tool, but noisy and messy.



And just over 12 months since I started, about another 10 hours of concentrated effort has got the panels almost to their final state. Once again, working out exactly where to make the necessary cuts has been the biggest challenge, the time is taken up mostly by careful measuring and marking, and by careful fitting and removing of the wishbones.

One of the benefits of leaving some big time gaps in the process here has been that the GRP does give over time, so some of the ‘sag’ that had developed in the 4 years the panels had been stored has been alleviated by nearly 12 months being simply clamped in a new position. This is particularly true for the scuttle which, although carefully stored – and mostly self supporting due to the returns in the moulding, did need to be pulled in by a few mm to get a nice flush finish. 12 months being clamped in the new position has worked wonders.







Practice makes… an engine stand!

There are plenty of articles online talking about how to improve your MIG welding skills (and the ever helpful mig-welding forum) – but at some point they all say something very similar: get a lot of scrap pieces of steel and practice laying down welds over and over…

I definitely need to practice my welding, but I also really want to do something productive with the limited time I have to work on project car! Being frugal I also don’t like wasting perfectly good materials making something that has no use, and I like avoiding paying for things where I can too…

Several months ago I was lucky enough to come across some builders at work who were removing some handrails and banisters, which were mostly made from 50mm box section steel. They were planning to chuck it all in a skip and more than happy for me to take it away to save them the bother, so I have ended up with about 25 yards of steel tube to practice my welding on.

At the same time I realised that I would find it a lot easier to work on my Pinto engine if I had an engine stand and so making my own, rather than buying one, seemed an obvious step. I started searching online for information on the right dimensions and, between the helpful write up I found about making “The Best Engine Stand That Money Can’t Buy” and a few Google Image searches, I had the measurements. It was short work chopping the box section accordingly (although the next project will be to construct a angle grinder bench mount so I can make even shorter work of cutting!). I also needed a few other bits and pieces and, between a local fabrictors perfectly happy to let me have a few short lengths of tubing to make the pivot for the stand for £5, and a heap of other bits and pieces i’ve picked up along the way, I practically had all the parts for free. Getting 16 m8 bolts with washers and nuts to secure the castors was probably the biggest expense!

For such a simple thing to construct, this little project has given me a LOT of welds to practice on. I’ve watched a good few Youtube tutorials but nothing beats having a go, over and over again, trying out different torch position, power settings, wire speed, etc. Some of the welds definitely look better than others, but only practice (and ideally doing all this much more regularly!) will make perfect. Once again, the no-rent Hobbyweld arrangement has turned out just right for my situation, as i’ve only managed a handful of days playing with the welder in the last year thanks to the demands of two small children. But it’s immensely satisfying to know I turned a pile of scrap into a solid tool for the workshop!

Panelling #1

Despite the lack of posts since Floored Pt 4 there has now been some, albeit very stop-start, progress with panelling.

Transmission tunnel side panels, the rear bulkhead panel, the passengert footwell and the floor panel are now crafted and have been riveted and bonded to the chassis. The final step of actually bonding and pulling the rivets was done over two different days, a few weeks apart. The severe downpour that unfolded just as I was popping in the last of the rivets on the first day did dampen my initial feelings of success but, thankfully, did did not actually compromise the Sikaflex 221 which I used as the PU adhesive. Apparently, I discovered afterwards, Sika will cure whilst underwater…

Rivetting back panel

Rain pic


The steel panels which I faffed about with in 2014 were no real use as templates in the end but a lot of hours went into making these panels –  in fragments spread out over the period January – October – to carry out the following steps:

i) Making cardboard templates.

ii) Marking up the 1.2mm NS4 half hard aluminium sheet I bought to make the finished product. I went for sheet with a plastic film on one side – so I can keep the ‘visible’ side of the panel as scuff free as possible whilst building. However the first panel I marked up was effectively the wrong way round – the plastic film would have been on the inside – so I had to redo it. Easy, and stupid, mistake to make.

iii) Carefully trimming them up so that they fit nicely as plain panels. Despite best efforts with the cardboard there were plenty of little tweaks to make.

iv) Carefully marking up where the chassis rails would sit against them – so I knew where to drill the holes for rivets.

v) Drilling through them twice for the rivets. First, from the ‘reverse side’  in 1.5mm to locate where the final rivet holes would go, the second time in 3.2mm through from ‘the visible side’ whilst the panel was clamped up on the chassis rails to drill the full hole required for the rivets.

vi) Drilling the ‘other’ holes I needed in the panels – in the rear bulkhead this was 4 holes to allow access to the diff bolts. A 32mm hole cutter worked well in the end – but marking up was a ‘best guess’ in practice simply angling a pen through from the rear and hoping it was held square to the diff mount holes. To position the holes for the harness bolts in the side panels this was easier – with the panel held in place with Clecos I simply wound a 7/16s bolt through from the inside to leave a mark as it started to push the panel out then centre punched and drilled.


vii) Deburring the panels – so that they would actually sit flush against the rails when pulled in tight by the rivets. And deburring the holes in the chassis rails too. I decided to fork out for a special Noga deburring tool (the RC1000) which cost £35 delivered – which allowed me to deburr inside the box section as well. I also ran a standard deburring blade round all the edges of the panels although in practice this mostly just left them smoothed but very bumpy…

viii) Degreasing and cleaning the panels in prep for the bonding. I used simple white spirit and some panel wipes I bought from a bodywork suppliers.

ix) Degreasing and cleaning, then scuffing with Scotchbrite pads, then re-degreasing and cleaning, the chassis rails. The POR15 paint I have used has a gloss finish and I thought the Sikaflex would want something to ‘grab’.

x) Appling the Sikaflex – this was especially awkward with the rear bulkhead panel as it had to be carefully slid into postion – so the sealant was squirted in from various different angles in the end – some was applied onto the box section face, some onto the panel.

xi) Rivetting. This was fairly straightforward for the bulkhead panel, once a couple of un-popped rivets were pushed into place the whole panel aligned and it was then a case of getting all the rest into place then popping them working from corner across to the opposite. The side panel was more complicated – despite using clecos when drilling the holes there was obviously more pull on the panel when rivetted. Starting at one end was OK, by the time I reached the other end some of the rivets needed persusaion to actually go into the holes. In the first step (rear bulkhead and back panel) I was left with two holes (out of 70-80 odd) that needed drilling out slightly before I could actually fit the rivet and one hole where I had just failed to drill into the chassis rail at all. In the end I just left that one…. When fitting the floor, in the second session, I had two holes which had been drilled through at 2mm but not 3.2. I just ran the 3.2 drill through these once every other rivet was in place.

xii) And the final step is now simply to wait for the Sikaflex to cure then see how much I need to clean up / trim. Some Sikaflex was squeezed out from between the panels and rails when the rivets pulled down. A week after the first session I trimmed up to allow for clean fitting of the floor etc, second time round I smoothed more of the overspill out whilst it was still wet.



Painting (mounts and brackets)

With the panels due to be fixed I knew I needed to grind back a couple of welds to allow good fit. I wanted to re-paint these areas – although they were only tiny – and so knew I needed to open a tin of POR15. With it opened it seemed sensible to make use of as much as possible – so  I decided to paint up the diff brackets and engine mounts.

POR15 is not straightforward to work with, so the Marine Clean degreaser they recommend was pressed into action, then the ‘Metal Ready’ solution which leaves a strange whitish surface before paint is applied.

The steelwork was largely covered with a thin black layer of something – which I think may be ‘millscale’. I tried to remove it with a sanding disc in the angle grinder but in the end just used the POR preparation products and hope that I will get good adhesion. If the paint fails then next time I will simply using a red oxide primer and something like Hammerite to finish them. For now though it looks to have worked well.

DiffMounts-primedEngineMounts-primedEng_Diff_Mounts Painted