Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Big Cat moves

It's Sunday morning, August 19, 2012 and I'm a happy boy.

A couple of weeks ago, I was about to bleed the brakes, Mike Darby had come over to give me a hand and when I filled the reservoir with fluid, one of them started leaking brake fluid all over the place.  Fortunately I was using DOT5 silicone brake fluid so it won't damage the new paint.  I pulled out my old reservoirs which were nasty looking but much better constructed than the only new ones available now. It was late so we aborted the bleeding session.  The next day I started cleaning the old reservoirs, bought some more brake fluid, then cut the grass, which had been sorely neglected with my attention focused on the car. A few days of work at my "real" job and the week was gone.

Last week, after installing the old fluid reservoirs, I set about to bleed the brakes again. Mike came over to give me a hand again. We worked like crazy to get them to bleed out with no luck.  Bleeding brakes isn't something that is new to either of us but everything we tried, failed. All indications led to a problem with the master cylinders (the 3.8 Liter cars had 2 brake master cylinders, one for the front brakes and one for the rears).  I took one of them apart and could not find anything that looked wrong, but they just weren't pumping properly.  Being anxious, and just not wanting to run the risk of future brake problems, I just ordered 2 new master cylinders. They arrived in a couple of days and I immediately set about installing them.
They are slightly different than the original Dunlop ones and I had a few minor modifications to the brake line routing. I removed the lower brake cylinder, leaving the push rod on its mount and removed the rod from the new ones.  To remove the old push rods requires removing the pedal box, a job that I was definitely not wanting to tackle. I got the new cylinders all installed and that night Rodney came over and we bled the brakes (I didn't want to bug Mike anymore..  ha ha).  It went pretty much without a hitch.  Just a few leaks where fittings needed to be tightened. Whew!!!  That's done.

The next day I started to mount the head pipes to the exhaust manifold and realized that the studs had been installed by backwards by one of the previous owners, I assume.  The fine thread end had been screwed into the coarse threaded manifold flange.
I just didn't like that, and beside all of the brass manifold nuts that I had were fine thread.  I ran up to the parts store and got some new studs, then I removed the manifold and began removing the studs. They all came out fairly easily until I got to the LAST one.  Why is it always the last one?  It broke off and I had to drill it out and tap in new threads.  I installed the new studs and remounted the manifolds. 

Thursday evening, Rodney came over and we installed the exhaust system. This, in itself, is a job. It is mounted with rubber mounts all around but once it's in place, it's almost like it's solid mounted.  One of the mounts has already begun separating and needs to be replaced.

Friday I installed the heater box and got all the hoses hooked up. That's not as easy a job as it might sound either. It's getting tight in that area and I have fairly large hands.  Hooking up the hoses was a challenge.

Yesterday my plan was to start the engine.  I filled the cooling system with coolant.  Pressure checked it with Mike's pressure tester. I had to re-tighten a few hose clamps and fiddle with the thermostat gasket, ultimately removing it and putting Hylomar gasket sealer on it instead of the "official" silicone "Water Pump & Thermostat Sealant" that I had originally used.  Put it back together and no leaks.

I poured about 2 gallons of fuel in the tank, hooked up the battery and was ready to spin it over.  It spun fine, but no fire.  I knew I had fuel at the carbs because the fuel rail was leaking at all 3 carbs (I had forgotten to tighten those.. sigh)  Fixing that still didn't help get fire to the cylinders.  I checked the voltage at the coil, it was fine.  Knowing that I had a little trouble with the connection where the low tension wire connects to the distributor, I pulled the distributor cap.  The connector inside was touching the base plate, grounding out and causing no juice to get to the points. I pulled it away, tightened it down and replaced the cap.  Fingers crossed, I hit the starter button.  Vrooommm... it started immediately and ran smooth as silk.  The idle was a little high, but I didn't care at that point.  I started looking around for fuel & coolant leaks to make sure that everything was connected and tightened.  It was and I was a happy boy.  After gloating a little (unfortunately I was alone) I started it again and began setting the idle.  There was no black smoke, or anything to indicate that the mixture needed to be adjusted.  I lowered the idle to 800 rpm and it just ticked away without any stumbling.  I was tickled.

I raised the lift up a little and put the wheels on.  Rodney had mentioned that he was going to come over after lunch so I wanted to wait till he got there to actually put the car in gear and drive it off the lift. I came inside, made a ham sandwich and waited for him to arrive.  It seemed like it was taking him forever!!  Actually he was here in about 45 minutes.  I gave him my video camera and got in. It started immediately and I put it in reverse.  I got a little grinding at first, pumped the clutch twice and it slid right in (need to bleed the clutch a little more).  I backed off the lift but couldn't get out of the garage because my XJS was parked in the doorway with a dead battery. I had left the key switched on accidentally when I had to roll up the windows during one of our frequent rains. I put the charger on it and got it started and moved it out of the way.  Rodney climbed into the navigator's seat and we set off down my long gravel driveway and up the street.  As we got to the end of the street, the exhaust side of the engine had started smoking a little more than I was comfortable with so we headed back. I figured that it was just oil dripping from somewhere onto the exhaust. It appear now that's exactly what it was. Driving back I ran through all of the E-Type Fabs Gearbox's 5 forward gears, just to make sure that the "5" printed on the shift ball wasn't just there for looks.  Shifting was very positive and the throw on the new transmission is very short and precise.

We got back to the garage and I tightened the feed lines to the cams on the back of the engine, hopefully that will cure the smoking problem. We didn't go back out because a lightening storm had moved in so we put the car back on the lift, tightened a few more things and bled the clutch.

Next we sat down, poured a single malt and talked about how wonderful our world was at that moment.


  1. I couldn't be happier if it was mine!

  2. Richard ... that is so very very cool ... loved the "test drive" video ... you certainly are a brave man to go running down that gravel driveway; hope you did not kick up any rocks; surely don't want to put a nick in that one of a kind paint job ... you are not going to know what to do, now that you have reached the finish line ... you must of had a smile on your face like a kid at Christmas ... congratulations!

  3. Congrats Richard!! I am really happy for you!


  4. Congratulations Richard, That's the first time I've seen it rolling since I've known you. I know you're a happy camper.