22 Sep

Simple Carbs: Rebuilding and Tuning an SU Carb (https://classicmotorsports.com/) Sep 21, 2020

[I can’t vouch for the accuracy or completeness of this article as I haven’t as yet had to muck with my Plus 4’s SUs. I have done business with Burlen and have found them acceptable as a vendor. I have also done business with Joe Curto and I am a fan. Cheers, Mark]

No matter what the name on the valve cover, so many British classics rely on the ubiquitous SU carburetor: Jaguar, Triumph, MG, Rover, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Morris, Austin, Sunbeam and so many more. And not only did almost every British manufacturer specify SU carburetors, but so did other companies.

Volvo and Saab also used them, while Hitachi-built versions of the SU were used by Datsun.

Sure, Webers may be sexier and have more racing titles to their credit, but for normal use these SU carbs work well. While some people are quick to cast SUs aside and look for an upgrade, a little understanding and mild tuning can go a long way, whether the goal be increased performance, better drivability, or improved fuel economy.

How They Work

Based upon a principle developed and patented by George Skinner in 1905, the SU (as in Skinners Union) carburetor changed very little until emissions regulations pretty much made them obsolete about 30 years ago.

The SU is about as simple as a carb can get: it has very few moving parts, usually only one fuel circuit, and far fewer springs, balls and other complicated pieces than conventional carburetors.

All carburetors make use of the venturi principle. Daniel Bernoulli, an 18th-century Swiss scientist, used a venturi, a tube that is narrower in the middle than it is at either end, to discover that as the velocity of a fluid increases, its pressure decreases. As the air and fuel pass through the venturi’s narrowed passageway in a carburetor, the mixture speeds up; the resultant drop in pressure is what causes the fuel to atomize.

The SU employs this principle differently because it varies the size of the venturi. Hence, the SU is called a variable venturi carburetor and is grouped with those built by Stromberg, Predator and Amal. In the center of the venturi is a piston with a tapered needle affixed to its bottom side. The piston has holes positioned in it so that as air is sucked through the venturi, vacuum above the piston makes it rise. When it rises, not only does more air flow to the engine, but the needle allows more fuel to flow from the jet below. The needle is a precision piece, with nine to 16 specific diameters measured during the manufacturing process to ensure proper fuel flow throughout the range of air flow to the carb.

Thus, the SU self-adjusts to the air/fuel requirements of an engine. It only flows as much air as necessary, and the tapered needle ensures that a proper fuel mixture is obtained at any air flow. This self adjustment needs a little help at two times: During cold starting and hard acceleration, when a richer-than-normal air/fuel mixture is needed. SUs handle these two situations differently, but again use very simple means. Cold starting any engine requires more fuel in the mixture. With conventional carburetors, this is done by limiting air intake, or choking the mixture. SU carburetors do the opposite, increasing fuel flow to richen the air/fuel mixture without limiting air flow. Most SUs do this by lowering the jet, which allows more fuel to flow thanks to the needle’s taper.

Conventional carburetors use an accelerator pump to squirt more fuel into the mixture on hard acceleration. Again, SUs take a different tack. The piston/needle assembly is damped via a plunger in an oil-filled tube, forming a sort of shock absorber for the carburetor. The damper slows and smoothes the movement of the piston. On hard acceleration, vacuum that would otherwise quickly lift the piston is redirected to quickly suck more fuel out of the jet. As the piston slowly continues its rise, the mixture returns to a more normal ratio.

Basic Tuning

A set of British wrenches and SU jet wrenches (top) are useful tools when working with SU carburetors. These are available from most British car suppliers for relatively low cost.

Assuming that the carburetors are in good condition and have properly sized needles in them, the tuning procedure is not as complex as most people think. However, before the carbs are touched, ignition dwell and timing must first be correct. It’s a good idea to ensure valve clearances are correct as well. A quick check for vacuum leaks is next, and only once this is done is it time to move on to the carburetors.

Next, if there are two or more carburetors, they need to be synchronized. This can be done with either a dedicated synchronization tool or a short length of hose. With the engine running at idle–usually 600 to 1000 rpm–the synchronization tool is placed over the inlet of each carburetor to get a reading on its gauge. The idle screw is adjusted on each carburetor until each one gives the same reading on the synchronization tool. The low-buck method is to substitute a 12- to 18-inch length of 1/4-inch or 5/16-inch hose for the tool. Hold one end of the hose up to the air inlet of each carb and the other end to your ear. When each carb emits the same noise through the hose, they are synchronized at idle. (Note that revving the engine slightly and periodically throughout the adjustment process helps to “clear out” the carbs.)

After the carbs are synchronized at idle, the throttle linkages can then be adjusted to ensure they remain synchronized throughout the rpm range. With just a little free play in the linkage, each throttle arm should start moving at the same time when the accelerator pedal is depressed. If not, the locking nuts can be loosened to adjust the linkage. The idle mixture is set next. The conventional method, which is published in most manuals, works very well. First, each piston is lifted slightly, about 1/16-inch (usually a small screwdriver is helpful for this step). If the engine speed falls off, the mixture is too lean and the jet is lowered via its adjustment nut or screw. If the rpm rise, the mixture is too rich and the jet is raised. If raising the carb’s piston causes the engine speed to rise by about 50 rpm before returning to its previous level, the mixture is just right.

An alternate method is to use a vacuum gauge and adjust the mixture in each carb to get the highest vacuum at idle that is possible. At this point, the idle speed can be verified to be correct and the tuning is nearly done. All that is left is the “choke” adjustment. As discussed before, SUs don’t really have chokes, as they richen the mixture instead to allow smooth engine starting. This is usually accomplished through a linkage and cam that lowers the jets and raises the idle speed. The linkage and cam only affect idle speed in the first two-thirds of the distance of choke cable travel; it increases the air/fuel mixture as well as the idle speed during the final third of travel.

The two steps to adjustment are to ensure that multiple carb setups have proper linkage balance between carbs, then to set the high-speed idle screws that touch the cams. High speed idle is usually around 1800 rpm.

Rebuilding Old Carburetors

Replacing the throttle shaft bushings requires reaming out the old bushings, installing new bushings, and reaming the new bushings to size.

If you look at the sidebar on common problems, you’ll see that most problems related to SU carbs are due to wear or age. SU carbs are pretty easy to rebuild as there are relatively few parts. Additionally, there are many competent rebuilders who can bring these carbs back to as-new condition for a reasonable fee–figure $50 to $75 to rebush each carb’s throttle shaft and $350 to $500 to completely rebuild a pair. Polishing all of the external parts can add another $100 to $200 to the rebuild cost. Except for throttle shaft bushing replacement, most enthusiasts can carry out repairs at home. Throttle shaft and bushing condition are paramount to tuning an SU, and there are three common solutions for fixing worn parts. One is to replace only the shafts. If the old shafts aren’t too worn, the bushings probably aren’t too worn, and new shafts will go a long way to stopping vacuum leaks. The second repair is to ream out the bushings 0.010-inch and install oversized shafts. This is a cost-effective solution, but can only be carried out once. The third method is to completely remove existing bushings and install new ones, then replace the shafts with standard ones. As can be expected, there are increasing requirements in terms of the cost, skill and tools necessary for each of the respective steps.

Many rebuilders will replace these components and let you do the rest of the rebuild. The rest of the rebuild entails replacing the jets and needles in the carb bodies and piston assemblies, the needle and seat in the float bowls (and floats if defective), and replacing gaskets and rubber pieces. For the car-show crowd, all cast parts should be glass-beaded. It is then usually a good idea to get the linkages and hardware replated in zinc, and to polish the dashpots (the chambers for the pistons).

If you’re a strict concours type, these were not plated or polished from the factory, but it seems most restored cars get them prettied-up anyway. Don’t want to fuss with old carbs? Brand-new SU carburetors are still available. Depending on the application and vendor, figure a brand-new pair starts at about $550.

Performance Modifications

Comparison of earlier- and later-style throttle disks shows that the later-style disks have a spring-loaded poppet valve, which impedes air flow. Replace these with earlier-style disks in performance.

There are not too many performance modifications necessary or possible for SUs. Aside from changing to larger carbs, about all that can be done is to change to needles with a different taper and make modifications to increase air flow around the throttle disk and shaft. Most SU specialists carry a range of needles for changing the mixture characteristics throughout the range of air flow. While the fine-tuning of needles can be an onerous process, there are generally just a few categories of standard needles available. Labeled weak, standard and rich, they provide the levels of performance and economy their names imply. While there are more than 800 needle profiles available, many tuners will just make up their own profile by chucking the needles into a drill press and then using fine sandpaper to sand in the profile they like. Of course, they spend a fair amount of time with a micrometer to ensure they’ve narrowed the needle (richened it) the right amount.

Filters and velocity stacks can make a difference in performance. Usually, K&N filters are worth one or two horsepower. TWM’s velocity stacks can also offer a couple of horsepower, but usually cannot be effectively run with an air filter. Finally, small improvements can be made to the carbs by improving air flow around the throttle shafts and disks. Carbs built after about 1968 feature throttle disks with a spring-loaded poppet valve that improves emissions, but the valve also impedes air flow. Fortunately, earlier flat disks can be fitted. For the radical tuner, the throttle shafts can be thinned and ovalized for an extra CFM or two of flow.

Why Keep Them? So, why not just go to a Weber carburetor? For some, that’s a good solution, but many are bound to their SU carbs thanks to racing regulations. And then there are those who believe that properly set up SUs can perform just as well as Webers on the street, but with easier tuning and better manners. In fact, we’re in the middle of dyno testing SU and Weber carburetors. Look for our findings soon.

New Vs. Rebuilt

Before you buy that box of carb parts, first price what the rebuild is going to cost. In some cases, you may want to consider new carbs instead.

Burlen Fuel Systems, the company that owns the rights and tooling to SU carbs, still makes and sells brand-new replacement setups. Available for most common British classics through the big suppliers like Moss Motors and Victoria British here in the U.S., these new carbs can be an excellent option. However, the new carbs are not identical to the ones they are replacing. In most cases, many of the parts have been updated and thus are not interchangeable with the originals. As a result, if you go with these new SU carburetors, you won’t be able to use the standard replacement parts.

We’ve also seen a few easy-to-overcome quality problems with the new carbs, like choke linkages needing slight bending to work properly. How do you decide whether to go new or rebuilt? Consider your goals and budget. If you have a common setup like an MGB with HS4 carbs, then you may find the new ones not only a good option, but cheaper than a professional rebuild. For example, a pair of brand-new HS4 carbs will set you back about $550 to $575.

A concours-quality rebuild can cost about $600 to $700. (If refinishing the external parts is not needed, knock about $100 or $200 off that figure.) On the other hand, sometimes it’s more cost effective to rebuild the originals. New HIF4s run about $1000 per pair, while again it’s about $600 to $700 to rebuild them to concours condition. (Forgoing the polishing and replating work can save about $100 to $200 here, too.) If “concours correct” is your goal, then there’s really no question and you’ll need to rebuild the original ones. (Don’t forget, however, that your car will be down while the carbs are sent out for a rebuild.)

Can’t decide whether to go with new or rebuilt carbs? Let your budget, situation and goals guide you. ###Size Matters: Identifying SU Carbs SU carbs come in several styles and sizes. Fortunately, there is a system for understanding the size of the carbs. Each carb is identified by one or more letters and numbers. The first letter is an H or a V, which stands for Horizontal or Vertical. The SU carbs commonly used on European cars are all of the horizontal design. The next letter will describe the physical characteristics of the carb and usually describes the float chamber location: S stands for Side float or Short body, depending on which expert you call; IF stands for Internal Float; and D stands for Diaphragm jet.

The numbers require an understanding of fractions, as they indicate how many eighths of an inch over 1 inch the carb’s throat size measures. So, an HS4 carb is 1+(4×1/8) inches, or 1 1/2 inches. To put this together, an HIF4 (common MGB carb) is a horizontal, internal float, 1 1/2-inch carb. An HD8 (common XKE carb) is a horizontal, diaphragm type, 2-inch carb. An HS2 (common to Spridgets and Minis) is a horizontal, side float, 1 1/4-inch carb. One exception to the “fraction” rule is the more modern HIF44, common to newer Minis. It is also called a “metric” SU because the float is measured in millimeters. (In this example, the horizontal, 44mm internal float measures about 1 3/4 inches across.)

In addition to size and type, there are a few other things to consider before you start buying used carbs on eBay. Some carbs have vacuum fittings, some do not. Carbs are often configured in sets of two or three and need to be kept in order for linkages to work. HS carbs may also have different float bowl angles. For example, Spridgets are 20 degrees, while Minis are 30 degrees. If you had to pick from the various models, the HS version is probably the best one to go with, followed by the HIF models. The earlier H type carbs are pretty good but suffer from faster wear in the choke linkages and are a little more prone to leaks from the float bowls. HD carbs are more complicated, with a separate idle circuit and diaphragms inside. HS and HIF carbs aren’t perfect, either: HS models are very prone to throttle shaft wear, while HIFs don’t tend to wear at the throttle shafts, but are a bit more complicated and have more of a tendency to overflow if they get dirty.

How many carbs should you run? For most performance engines, one carb for every two cylinders works pretty well. How big? Unless your engine is pretty heavily modified, you’ll probably do best with the stock size that came with the car. If you need a little more, jump up a quarter of an inch. If you’ve got a full-race engine with an excellent breathing head, go up half an inch.

17 Aug

Project – 1969 Morgan 4/4 electrifying Kansas (https://retro-electric.uk/ MAY 29, 2020)

[I guess it had to happen eventually with all the hype around electric vehicles. Converting this older RHD Morgan 4/4 4 Seater may not bend too many rules but I personally hate to see any Morgan get excessively modified or scrapped. As stated in the article we will have to wait and see if this project is ultimately successful or not. Mark]

Electric cars are seen as the pinnacle of technology and modern engineering; however the Retro-Electric brigade seem to choose vehicles that are about as far removed from modern machines as possible. We have covered early Land Rovers, VW Beetles, Type 2 campers and Morris Minors. None of which could ever have been said to have been cutting edge, even when they were new.

There is something about these cars though, they have a character through their basic roots that others just do not have.  However, Morgan takes traditional build to a different level, after all this car is still built from the same material that they make horse carts from!

The Morgan 4/4 has been in production since 1936, in a largely unchanged style. In fact, it was Morgan’s first car with four wheels, the name indicating that the model has four wheels and four cylinders.

Apart from a break during World War Two, the 4/4 has been in continuous production from its debut right up to the present day. The original engine was a 1.1l Coventry climax, increasing in size to the modern 1.8 ford engine currently used, however despite recent headlines about a future vehicle, never has electricity powered a Morgan.

Greg Mittman from Kansas City in Missouri is about to change that.

You would be right to expect a Morgan Retro-EV conversion to take place in the UK, after all it’s the home of the very British marque, however during the 1950’s and 1960’s the US accounted for over 85% of all production and they remained a very popular, if specialist, car in the states. 

The Morgan was no stranger to a conversion in the USA either, in 1974 emission regulations threatened to kill off the car, so the company converted all imports to run of propane to pass the US emission regulations, therefore electrifying a Morgan is putting a modern twist to an old story.

Initially Greg had no plans for a Retro-EV, he wanted to restore a vehicle with his father, Sam, who is an experienced home mechanic. With no specific model in mind they started looking through online auctions for something interesting nearby.

Greg came across the ad for the 1969 Morgan 4/4, but was completely unfamiliar with the brand, however he did a little digging and the British charm and unique design convinced him that this was the car to restore.

Sam was convinced, an experienced hobby mechanic, the basic structure and mechanics meant the Morgan should have been a simple restoration.

However, when they got the car home it became obvious that they had taken on more than expected. The engine in the car was not original and missing many parts which would have been exceedingly difficult to source in the US.

Half joking Sam suggested, “We could make it electric” and what initially seemed unlikely has become a two-year labor of love.

The car has been converted by the pair at weekends and during downtime and is now starting to near completion, despite this being the first experience of E-power for either of them.

Taking advice from enthusiasts and experts has helped them specify the right parts for the conversion. 

Greg has chosen a Netgain Warp 9 DC customer motor coupled to the cars original ford gearbox for its powertrain. The Warp 9 is one of the most popular motors used for conversions in the US, its size and performance combination make it a popular choice, delivering 32hp and 70ib ft of torque. The Warp 9 is also a cost-effective solution at around $2000. 

The project will use 40 LiFePO4 3.2v 100ah batteries. As with the motor, they are one of the most popular choices. The Morgan offers plenty of room for fitment of the batteries behind the seats and at the rear, with additional room up front to help balance the load.

A Curtis 1231c controller has been purchased and will be fitted to keep everything performing correctly.

One of the key elements in any build is the charger, many projects can be ruined with the choice of a poorly specified charger. Make sure that you consider your requirements carefully when choosing your charger. Greg chose a TSM2500 unit. This unit has user adjustable settings and has been setup for 110V US power. The units also offer great output in a relatively small size, very useful for Retro conversions.

Greg is still testing the car but is comfortable that upwards of 50 miles to a charge is comfortably achievable with the specification he has chosen, it’s also likely to comfortably outperform the original powertrain.

The Dilithum BMS installation is nearing completion and then the pair will move on to the final part of the build, the body.

The handmade windscreen is out for chrome and It still needs body, interior and instrumentation work, but Greg is convinced that this is the easy part and can’t wait to get the car on the road.

The “e-Mog” has some way to go to completion, however the unusual right-hand drive car has already generated a lot of attention in Kansas where the electric conversion will be totally unique in gas loving middle America. 

Keep an eye on our site as we continue to cover Gregs conversion.

11 Jul

Do I have Too Much Oil in my Morgan?

Aside from filling the gas tank, changing a Morgan’s engine oil is perhaps the most common task required to keep the car running properly. This bit of routine maintenance can be done by a ‘quick lube’ shop on your break, at the Morgan dealership (if you have one!) or more commonly, in your own garage or driveway. New, clean oil is an engine’s best friend, but too much of it can cause costly damage, reduce engine performance and should be removed as soon as possible.

If Some Oil is Good, More Oil Must be Better? Right?

To understand how overfilling your engine oil is too much of a good thing, it’s helpful to first provide a little background.

Engines are comprised of hundreds of precision-crafted parts working in unison at high speeds and temperatures, all of which require oil for proper lubrication and smooth movement. You add oil to an engine to the crankcase, as directed by your Morgan’s Owner Handbook, using the oil filler port under the bonnet. The oil settles in the oil pan when the engine is not running. When you start the Morgan, the oil circulates throughout the engine, to lubricate all the moving parts (like the spinning crankshaft), and passes through an oil filter that removes contaminants that could potentially cause damage.

When too much oil is added, the level in the oil pan becomes too high. That allows the spinning crankshaft to come into contact with the oil and essentially aerate it. The result is a foamy, frothy substance that cannot adequately lubricate the engine.

Also, the extra oil may create excessive pressure inside your engine that will look for an escape through various gaskets and seals. If one or more of those fail, that will lead to leaks and who wants a leaky Morgan?

One area that is sometimes omitted when discussing excessive oil is the a drop in engine performance.  This drop in performance comes from a few places.  The foamy, frothy substance that circulates with the crankshaft weighs something and this added weight makes it harder for the engine to spin.  The spinning is what makes the power and adding any load here causes a performance hit. Also, the inconsistency of the oil pressure, caused by the foamy, frothy oil cloud, will most likely result in another performance hit. 

Checking to See if Your Morgan Has Too Much Oil

If you think you have excess oil in your Morgan’s engine, the quickest way to know is to look at the dipstick. “Too much oil,” however, is not a precise measurement. Every engine design has different dimensions, so knowing at what level your engine oil will become a foamy, frothy oil cloud is almost impossible.

The dipstick is a graduated rod that slides into a tube that goes into the engine’s oil sump.  It typically has low and high marks to show if your car has too much, too little, or the perfect amount of oil.  Anywhere in that range is perfectly fine, as is maybe a modest amount above the top level, but I would certainly get nervous going much above that.  It’s advisable to get into the habit of checking the level frequently, and certainly after an oil change.  

Your owner’s manual can tell what to look for when checking your car’s oil, but the owner’s manual is really only valid if the engine is bone stock.  If you have modified the engine’s sump or the engine itself, the manual might be incorrect. 

[Note: I once bought a Morgan that didn’t have a dipstick!  I went to check the oil and was gobsmacked!  (Is that even a word?)  So, I know there are universal ones available, and cheap too! Mark]

There are other indicators that will suggest you have an overfill problem, including blue exhaust smoke, a burning smell, an oil leak, or an excessively high or low reading on your oil pressure gauge (some Morgans have gauges, some do not).

What do I do to Get Rid of the Excess?

If you have significantly more oil than the top of the dipstick range, play it safe and let some out. There’s nothing high-tech about the procedure: Loosen the drain plug like you do for an oil change and let out a cup or two at a time. Then snug the drain plug, start and idle your engine for a minute, shut it down, and then recheck the dipstick, wiping it once and then putting it back in for a correct reading. And, do all of this while parked on a level surface. (Make sure you dispose of the used oil properly and don’t just dump it down the drain!)

Also, remember that if you’ve been driving the car before the oil change, the oil is likely hot and could cause burns if you don’t handle it appropriately.  If you’d prefer having a ‘quick lube’ do the job, go for it, but be inquisitive and don’t just assume they know what they are doing.  Make sure they do it correctly and check their work afterwards. They may know Toyotas but will not be familiar with Morgans.

02 Jul

In Search of Purple Squirrels

The red 1986 Plus 8 was converted to gasoline in 2013, soon after I got the car.  It was a propane car with very low mileage.  At the time, I had another Bill Fink propane Morgan but it wasn’t being used much.  I had come to the realization that the Propane BBQ bottle exchange (you exchange your empty one for a full one at the 7-11) was killing the future of Propane as a clean motor fuel.  No one, well nearly no one, still pumped propane so it was almost impossible to find fuel on the road.  You had to know exactly where to go and know exactly when you would need propane (many places that pumped propane didn’t open on weekends) and plan your trips accordingly.  What good is Morgan if you must be so exacting in your travels?  In my mind Propane as a motor fuel, was no longer viable, it was dead.  So, a conversion to gasoline was the most appropriate answer.

Well, I did the usual thing, sticking with the Offenhauser intake manifold that Bill Fink had used for his propane setup and opted for an appropriately sized (e.g. small) 4 barrel carburetor.  I used a Holley 390 CFM.  Others have used any number of 4 barrel carburetors and some have worked better than others.  For me it was an easy decision, I had two other Plus 8’s with this carburetor and they were fine, so I stuck with the Holley.  And, for the most part, the Holley carburetor worked fine for this conversion, as well.  I only messed with it when I needed to.  This Plus 8 was my long distance driver and I didn’t want to screw something up. 

Well, then it happened.  I got another long distance driver in 2017 (the 2005 Roadster) and the red 1986 Plus 8 became, as the Brits would say, redundant.  So, reluctantly I put it up for sale on Hemmings.  Well, after a few calls from dealers with crazy offers and a few price drops, I pulled it off Hemmings.  I guess the market just wasn’t right.  As I really didn’t need to sell the car I decided to play with it! 

After the conversion from propane to gasoline, the car went everywhere. Road trips to Virginia and the Keys, etc.  But, I continued to tweak it as necessary.  After, one road trip, I feared boiling fuel and changed the metal spacer (between the carburetor and intake manifold) to a phenolic (plastic) one.  I also added a h eat barrier.  Finally, I switched the Offenhauser intake to an Edelbrock intake.  All good.  But, . . .

There were a few things I didn’t like about the Holley set up, a few ‘purple squirrels’ if you will.  They included reluctant starts from cold and a momentary hesitation under acceleration.  I thought both were related in some way to a fuel delivery issue. 

To correct the reluctant start issues, I tried several different ‘low pressure’ fuel pumps on the car.  All the pumps worked to a degree, well, except the one that turned out to be ‘gravity fed.’  I ran out of gas, with a half a tank of gas in the car?  WTF?  The tech support people from the vendor said the pump had to be lower than the tank.  Well, in a Plus 8, there isn’t much ‘lower than the tank’ than where I had it mounted, except perhaps on the road surface itself!  I finally found a pump with 2 feet of vertical lift to solve that problem.  But, you still had to turn on the key (power up the pump) and get the fuel to flow to the carburetor.  Before you engaged the starter.  This took a few moments and even then it required a pump or two on the gas pedal to get the car started.  It was even worse when it was hot, e.g. at the gas station.  Sometimes it just wouldn’t start and you had to wait until the car cooled down. 

The other thing I didn’t like with the Holley configuration was a momentary hesitation I got when accelerating hard.  Sort of like a burp.  This mainly occurred when the car was somewhat cold.  Again, I thought it was fuel delivery.  It might have been something else, but I focused there. 

These were my purple squirrels and I was determined to find them and fix them.  Both of them appeared, to me and my simple mind, as fuel delivery issues.

In my investigation, I finally turned to the panacea of all fuel delivery systems, Fuel Injection.  I could have opted for the Flapper, HOTWIRE or GEMS systems used by Morgan but I didn’t have one at hand, so I started looking at my options.  (FYI, the 1986 era Plus 8 would have most likely had a Flapper EFI coming out of the factory.)

I talked with several MOGSouth members who had already gone down this path and found that a throttle body EFI system made the most sense.  I looked at them all.  There were the manufacturers themselves and then there were other vendors simply re-branding systems manufactured by others.  In the end I was able to sort through the chaff. Some were quite extensive (invasive?) in their installation but also in their capabilities, e.g. they would control coolant fans, AC, ignition timing and other things.  Some of this was a bit much for me as I was focused simply on fuel delivery.

There were also a number of requirements imposed by all of the systems.  A high pressure fuel pump was needed for Fuel Injection (e.g. 58 PSI) which necessitated high pressure fuel lines and filters, a fuel return line was desired (a line for unused fuel going back into the gas tank), and an O2 sensor was needed in the exhaust system. 

After much study, I opted for the Go Street 400 EFI system from FITech EFI.  (Others will have different requirements and will chose differently. This is just what I did and not an endorsement that you should also go this way.) It seems that the other systems did things I didn’t want to do (ignition timing control, etc.) or they were a tad pricey.  Remember, this was now a toy car and costs were increasingly important.  

A picture containing television, screen

Description automatically generated

Well, surprisingly I bought the correct system configuration (from Summit Racing) and offered it up as a Garage Day project.  Garage Day projects are activities accomplished by me and others on our weekly Garage play date here in central Florida.  Things tend to take longer with Garage Day (as can be expected with more help!) but are certainly more fun. 

The EFI project started with the installation of the high pressure fuel system.  We had to run a high pressure fuel line forward from the gas tank to the area of the EFI, and another high pressure return line to from the EFI back to the gasoline tank.  Interestingly, the kit I had bought from Summit had all the components and lines included.  I didn’t need to go buy other bits and bobs.   The gasoline tank I had installed during the propane to gasoline conversion had a return line port and I had simply blocked it off as it was unneeded in my Holley configuration.  We unblocked it now as it was needed for the return line.  We also installed the high pressure fuel pump and fuel filters (all provided in the kit by FI Tech.)

There was only one thing needed that we could not do without outside help. We needed to have a bung welded into the exhaust collector for the kit provided O2 sensor.  (The FI Tech kit provided a method to install an O2 sensor, but it wouldn’t fit the small diameter exhaust pipes used on my Plus 8.) We went to my neighborhood muffler man for the welding.  The other sensor needed was the temperature sensor and one was provided.  Albeit, it was too big for the temperature sensor port in the Edelbrock manifold.  So, we tapped the intake manifold and fitted the provided temperature sensor.  (I might have been able to use the old sensor but was leery of the output it provided, analog or digital? And wasn’t sure it would work properly.  So I opted to use the one provided by FI Tech.)

Then it was simply a matter of fitting the EFI to the manifold, bolting it down, connecting the fuel lines, vacuum hoses and connecting the wires.  The instructions were simple, and it all went together easily.  Then came the fun!!

The FI Tech systems, just like the others on the market, are ‘self-learning’.  You start with a basic set of configuration parameters, e.g. engine displacement, idle speed, rev limits, etc.  Then as the car is driven, these parameters, and others such as Air Fuel Ratio are adjusted by the EFI system, taking into consideration the exhaust flowing past the O2 sensor, the coolant temperature sensor, etc.  Pretty cool!

They also give you a hand-held device that is physically connected to the Electronic Controlling Unit (e.g. ECU or computer) of the EFI system.  You can adjust things like Air Fuel Ratio (AFR) or monitor things such as Engine Temperature, as you drive. 

The FI Tech system also has a ‘data dump’ facility that dumps the state of the ECU to a file, when asked.  I had a high rev miss (about 4,500 rpm) and dumped the computer state when it occurred.  It creates a file that shows all the parameters in the ECU and what their values were when the miss occurred.  I sent the file to the vendor and got back instructions on what parameter to adjust to correct my problem.  I guess I did this a half dozen times.  I am impressed and quite thankful for their help in tuning my car.  I didn’t expect that kind of support. It was over the Covid 19 time frame so the vendor may have been more accommodating to me and my problems, given they may not have been that busy. They may be less accommodating when they are busy, I don’t know.  

Bottom line.  I am a happy customer!  I found the purple squirrels (this set anyway) and they have been addressed by the FI Tech EFI system.  The process was fun, quite challenging, but still fun.  I can see a small fuel mileage improvement in just my ‘around town’ driving. I have yet to take it on a decently long highway trip to see what the mileage is then.  I believe the car is running quite a bit smoother and I believe there is an increase in hp (say 5%-10%), but I have no scientific way to prove it. 

And, all this playing with the Plus 8 has made me love this car even more!  It may now just be a toy, and unnecessary, but I may just have to keep it! 

It’s just too much fun!!

Cheers, Mark

04 Apr

Understanding Spark Plug Heat Range

(https://www.enginebuildermag.com/)

[I know many of us have tunnel vision when it comes to modifying the Morgan.  “Originality is a must!  Modification is simply heresy . . .

Ok, I get it, but I will have to say that in my opinion, one of the wonders of the Morgan car is the ability to modify it with relative ease.  Sometimes, we find a need to improve something in the interest of safety.  Sometimes, it is just a wild hare that gets us going.  I have a few Morgan cars and have to say all of them have been modified in some way.  Some are performance modifications while some are simply cosmetic. 

In the midst of one of my efforts, the topic of Spark Plug heat range came up.  As usually, I found a void in my understanding. So after a little searching, I found this article. It seems simple and direct so I thought I would share.  Cheers, Mark]

Depending on the engine modifications you’ve made, you’ll need to take a few extra factors into consideration before settling on the right spark plugs.

These factors include spark plug seat design, thread length and diameter, and reach. One of the most important – and most misunderstood – factors in choosing aftermarket spark plugs is the heat range. 

What is Heat Range?

Heat range is the speed at which a spark plug can transfer heat from the firing tip to the cylinder head water jacket and into the cooling system.  Choosing the right heat range is crucial for high performance engines.  If the heat range is too cold, the spark plug will be unable to properly self-clean by burning off carbon deposits.

If it the heat range is too hot, your engine could experience detonation, pre-ignition, or power loss.  Most spark plug manufacturers recommend that the tip temperature remain between 500° C and 850° C.

Heat ranges are designated by each spark plug manufacturer with a number.  In broad terms, spark plugs are often referred to as “hot plugs” or “cold plugs.”  A cold plug has a shorter insulator nose length – the distance from tip to spark plug shell – and transfers heat rapidly from its firing tip to the cylinder head water jacket.

Cold plugs are ideal for high rpm engines, forced induction applications, and other instances where the engine produces high operating temperatures.  Conversely, hot plugs are good for applications that operate mainly at low rpms.  Because they have a longer insulator nose length, heat is transferred from the firing tip to the cooling system at slower pace.  This keeps the spark plug temperature high, which allows the plug to self-clean and prevent fouling.

Unfortunately, heat range numbers are not universal – each brand has its own method for assigning heat ranges.  You’ll need to talk with your sales rep or consult with the manufacturer to find the best heat range for your application and spark plug brand.  Be prepared to supply some basic vehicle information, including any modifications you’ve made.

[The internet is a great source for a given vendor’s spark plug offerings and some provide the relative heat range information. ]

As a rule of thumb, you can expect to require one heat range colder than the factory-supplied plugs for every 75 – 100 horsepower you’ve add with your modifications, according to Champion Spark Plugs. Here are some more basic guidelines to get you pointed in the right direction:

Basic Heat Range Guidelines

[Don’t be afraid to experiment a little. You can always revert to what you have now! Mark]

  • Increased compression ratio [Common with Morgans]Higher compression ratios mean higher cylinder pressure and temperature. Once again, you’ll need a colder heat range to rapidly transfer all that extra heat to the cooling system.
  • Air/fuel mixture modifications [Common with Morgans]:  Lean air/fuel mixtures raise the operating temperature, along with the plug tip temperature, possibly causing knock or pre-ignition.  Use a colder heat range for leaner air/fuel mixtures.  Rich air/fuel mixtures can cause the plug temperature to dip, allowing carbon deposits to build up on the tip. Use a hotter heat range for rich air/fuel mixtures.
  • Advanced ignition timing [Common with Morgans]In general, advanced ignition timing will raise the spark plug temperature.  In fact, NGK estimates an increase of 70° to 100° for every 10° advance in ignition timing.  For this reason, you may need to go with a colder heat range to prevent knock or pre-ignition.
  • Prolonged acceleration/high speed driving [Common with Morgans]Frequent and drawn-out acceleration and high-rpm driving raises combustion temperatures and generally requires a colder heat range.
  • Supercharging/turbocharging [Turbocharging is not unheard of with Morgans however Supercharging is not common]: Forced induction leads to increased cylinder pressure and temperature, which could lead to detonation.  Depending on the exact application, you’ll need to go with a significantly colder heat range (faster heat transfer) over stock.
  • Nitrous oxide [Not common with Morgans]The high cylinder temperatures caused by nitrous usually requires a colder heat range over the stock plug.
  • Methanol [Not common with Morgans]Since it has a higher octane level than standard gasoline, methanol delivers more complete combustion. As a result, you’ll need a colder plug to transfer more heat from the combustion chamber.
18 Feb

The Truth About Car Paint Sealant (https://avalonking.com/)

You can argue the pros and cons of automotive paint sealants, compare it to waxes, and staunchly defend your favorite brand. We all have our opinions, however. . .

In my opinion, one of the most compelling reasons to use a paint sealant on a Morgan in MOGSouth is protection.  In many of our locations, our cars are subject to extremes.  It is frequently hot!! With the sun baring down on our cars, unmercifully.  Our cars need as much protection as we can give them. 

Another strong motivator for using a sealant is time.  Our Morgans are not typically our only cars, nor are they our only commitments.  We have other cars that need to be addressed (and other things that take up our discretionary time) so we can continue to work, eat, shop, etc.  Spending all day, every day, playing with our Morgans is not always possible.  We need products that last.  

Another thing I like about paint sealants is they seem to be slicker than waxes. That means the unavoidable ‘dirt and grime’ that seem to be ‘magnetically’ attracted to my Morgan, doesn’t stick. The car stays cleaner, longer. And for me, that is a good thing! Cheers, Mark

In the automotive world, there is always a middle ground. Whether you’re buying a new car, or looking for paint protection products, our industry is packed with multiple options to fit consumers growing needs or limited budgets. When it comes to protecting your car’s paint, a popular mid-level product is a car paint sealant.

Automotive paint sealants are mainly manufactured and sold by the same companies that produce car wax and polishes. They are often designed to provide a thin layer of protection that prohibits contaminants and UV rays to penetrate to the clear coat.

And like any other paint protection or car care product, there are some paint sealants that are really good – and some that are just simply – crap.

With the multiple products out there, it’s common to find some less than honest marketing lingo that oversells what they can and can’t do. So, in order to provide some clarity or just some simple facts, we’ll dive into the truth about car paint sealant.

We’ll define what car paint sealant is and what it’s made from, explain what it is designed to do, how they are applied onto a vehicle, some pros and cons about them, and finally, we’ll answer some of the most common FAQ’s. 

So, let’s dive into some car paint sealant facts.

What is Car Paint Sealant?

If you’re familiar with car wax and polish, then you may have met it’s older, and longer-lasting cousin – car paint sealant. It’s usually made from synthetic ingredients, polymers, and car wax to allow it to last longer. It’s designed to protect the paint from exposure to UV rays and contaminants and usually lasts up to six months.

Why is the Car Paint Sealant Important?

Many car owners choose car paint sealants as a longer-lasting alternative to car wax and polish. But it also produces results far superior to these two products. There are a few reasons why this product is quickly becoming a top seller in the paint protection market.

It provides a deeper depth of paint

Car paint sealant typically creates a deeper or high gloss finish on when applied to paint in good condition. So, not only does it protect, but it enhances the natural shine.

It protects paint longer than wax

Car wax (usually the natural carnauba wax) will last about 6 weeks. Some synthetic car waxes can last up to 3 months. A car paint sealant which is made from polymer technology and synthetic ingredients will last from six to 10 months.

Provides stronger protection

Some harsh contaminants like acid rain, bug splatters, and bird droppings contain strong acidic levels. These items can penetrate basic car wax and cause damage to the clear coating. Car paint sealant is stronger, long-lasting and protects the paint from these harmful contaminants.

Increases the vehicle’s resale value

When a car owner uses car paint sealants it helps to protect the clear coating (?), which preserves the paint quality – and also the resale value when you trade in the vehicle.

Makes it easier to wash and dry a vehicle

Paint sealants have very good hydrophobic properties. Like a ceramic coating, they resist the collection of standing water, dirt and debris, which makes it easier to wash and also dry the car.

How to Apply Car Paint Sealant

Since these products are similar in their ‘construction’ to liquid car wax and polish, they are usually applied in a similar fashion. Generally, auto detailing experts agree that there are two basic ways of applying the best car paint sealant products:

Hand Application

The hand application method of a paint sealant is virtually identical to car polish. In fact, many consumers will apply a paint polish first, then apply a car polymer sealant on top. This helps to improve the luster and shine of car paint. Essentially, applying car synthetic sealant follows a three-step process:

Prep the vehicle

The prep work for applying car paint sealant simple. Just wash the car using the two-bucket method and apply an IPA spray solution to remove any small particles or contaminants.

Apply the sealant

Applying the actual paint sealant is also easy. Using a microfiber applicator sponge, apply a dime-sized drop of the product and rub it on the paint surface in a forward or vertical pattern. Don’t use a circular motion so you can avoid paint swirls. While the video above shows the guy doing the entire hood, for optimal results, stick to applying in a 2 x 2-foot section.

Buff

Once you’ve applied the product, and it’s dried, test the product by rubbing your thumb over it. It should ‘haze’ and wipe clean. Just buff the paint surface with a microfiber towel.

Machine Application

The machine application is another method of applying automotive paint sealants. It’s essentially the same process as described above but increases the potential of swirl marks. The key to reducing swirl marks is making sure the paint surface is 100% clear and free of microscopic imperfections.

If you’re going to use the machine method, you should probably complete extra prep work, such as using a clay bar treatment before the IPA spray solution.

Are Paint Sealants Worth It?

Determining whether a paint sealer is ‘worth it’ really breaks down to your personal comfort level, desire to keep your vehicle protected, and your pocketbook.

That being said, here are a few of the Pros and Cons of using a paint sealant to protect the paint surface of your ride.

Paint Sealant Pros

  • Simple to Use
    • As we described above, applying paint sealants are incredibly simple. You don’t need a detailer to apply it. It’s not a one-step product like some people think. But, it’s really easy. Just prep the paint, rub it on, let it dry, and wipe it off.
  • Combines with polishes and waxes
    • You also don’t need to remove waxing or polish jobs before applying a paint sealant product. In fact, many people use them all in conjunction. And many makers of these products combine a car sealant and polishes into an all-in-one solution.
  • Produces a shiny appearance
    • When you apply a synthetic polymer sealant to a properly prepped and clean paint surface, it will produce a very shiny or glass-like appearance. It also helps to reduce road grime from sticking.
  • Longer lasting than car wax alone
    • Most good paint sealant products will hold up for up to six months. There are a few pro-grade car paint sealants that can produce lasting protection for almost a year, but it comes at a premium cost.

Paint Sealant Cons – While there are some positive attributes of paint sealant products, they are not perfect. Here are a few items to consider before you fork over your hard-earned money.

  • Highlights imperfections
    • Very similar to a ceramic coating, a paint sealant will highlight any paint imperfections on the clear coating. If you have swirl marks, the paint sealant will make them look larger and more detailed. To combat this, most car owners have paint correction completed by detailers prior to using this type of product.
  • Needs more prep work than car wax and polish alone
    • The Paint surface needs to be very clean to allow paint sealants to adhere to the surface well. While you don’t need to strip wax or use a polisher, it’s important to clay bar treat the surface at the minimum for optimal results.
  • Hard to remove
    • If you’re wanting to remove a car paint sealant, you’ll have to look for and purchase a specialty automotive soap. These products are developed to strip paint sealants and car wax products, so it will completely remove everything in most instances. It can also take a few attempts to fully remove.
  • Middle-level paint protection solution
    • We talked about the range of product options in the automotive world in the intro. Well, paint sealants are that middle ground. Are they easier to apply than a ceramic coating? Yes, they are. However, they last about 1/8th the expected longevity of a ceramic coating.

When Should You Use Car Paint Sealant?

By no means do I believe that car paint sealants are not good. In fact, there are times when I’d suggest using a car paint sealant above a ceramic coating as a paint protectant.

Some of the best situations where a car paint sealant is your best option to protect your paint finish include:

Perfect for daily drivers on a budget

If you’ve recently purchased a newer car, and you’ll be spending a lot of time commuting highways, a car paint sealant is a good, entry-level product. While I’d personally use a ceramic coating, some people just don’t want to put the time and effort to prep or pay a professional to do it for them. In this case, a good paint protection option is a good car paint sealant.

Great for winter or extremely hot weather areas

If you live in Florida, Georgia, or Mississippi, or Alabama, and again, don’t want to put the effort or make the financial investment for a ceramic coating, a paint sealant to protect auto paint from exposure is a good alternative.

If the car paint is in good condition

We indicated above that paint sealants will highlight visible paint damage. So, if the paint is in good condition, and you don’t need to complete paint correction, a paint sealant is a good option.

Car Paint Sealant FAQs

To wrap things up, we ‘ll address some of the most popular car paint sealant FAQs, so we can clarify some common questions.

  • Q – Which is Better – Car Wax or a Paint Sealant?
    • A – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, when it comes to determining whether car wax is better than paint sealants, it really breaks down to what’s important for you. A car paint sealant is going to last longer and protect the vehicle about 5-times longer than even the best car wax. However, car wax is not going to highlight paint damage as much as paint sealants, so it might actually make your older car look better.
  • Q – How Long Does Car Paint Sealants Last?
    • A – We touched on this above, but most paint sealants will last anywhere from four to six months. There are some professional-grade paint sealants that can extend life expectancy to almost a year. However, these products typically require professional application and will cost a lot more than off-the-shelf products.
  • Q – How Expensive is a Car Paint Sealant?
    • A – You can find most car paint sealants at local auto parts stores for $25 to $40. You can also purchase them online on amazon.com and from manufacturer websites.
  • Q – What’s the Difference Between Car Wax and Sealant?
    • A – A car wax provides a hard shell of protection that actually gets stronger with added temperature. This is due to the natural carnauba wax ingredients derived from a palm tree in Brazil. A paint sealant is a fully synthetic product that is comprised of polymers that chemically bond onto the paint surface. When they ‘flash’ it provides a stronger layer of protection than car wax – and thus lasts longer than car wax.
  • Q – Can you Wax over a Paint Sealant?
    • A – Yes, you can use both products in conjunction. In fact, applying a car wax over sealant may provide an extra layer of protection by filling in smaller imperfections.
03 Aug

Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Clay Bars for Auto Detailing (www.theartofcleanliness.com)

[As most of you know, I have both show cars and drivers in my gaggle of Morgans. I’ve recently gotten a few blank stares (maybe it was just the individual’s natural state?) when I talked about clay so I found this article and thought it might be helpful. Cheers, Mark]

What is a clay bar? What are clay bars made of?

Quite a misnomer, clay bars aren’t actually made of clay. They are made of an elastic, malleable resin compound which is often formed into a block for distribution. You rub this block across your paint with the aid of a lubricant to help pull contaminants out and off of your paint.

How do clay bars work?

Clay bars are very lightly abrasive. Think of them like a 5000 grit piece of wet sanding paper. You lubricate the surface of your paint and rub the clay across it which abrades away and pulls out contaminants such as dirt, iron deposits, and tree sap.

The material clay bars are made out of is also malleable allowing it to form to the surfaces of your vehicle and withstand grating against the dirt and contaminants you’re removing which are very hard.

It’s important to remove these deposits with a clay bar. Many of these deposits such as rail dust, carbon, and industrial fallout contain metallic substances which when left embedded in your paint will oxidize and spread under the clear coat leading to pitting and clear coat failure.

Plus, clay barred paint is incredibly smooth. This makes the application of wax or sealant much easier and increases the bond waxes and sealants have with your paint so they last longer. Win win.

Are detailing clay bars safe?

Generally speaking, clay baring is very safe. As long as you keep the surface you are claying lubricated you shouldn’t install any scratches or marring. If you rub your clay on a non-lubricated area of paint you can scuff the paint lightly. There are also some more abrasive grades of clay than can leave behind micro marring but this marring is quickly removed by a light polish.

Since clay bars are so lightly abrasive they do not remove a meaningful amount of paint. Properly lubricated, you will never clay through your paint. You will also never remove scratches or swirls with a clay bar, that’s a job for compounds and polishes.

Can I use a clay bar on other materials such as glass or plastic?

Absolutely! Any hard surface with stuck on contaminants can benefit from claying. Use a clay bar on your windows the next time you detail your car. You’ll be amazed how smooth and water shedding the glass will be afterward.

Some grades of clay, however, should not be used on clear plastics unless you intend to polish them afterward. They can leave light hazing on soft plastic.

I typically use clay before polishing any surface be it paint, plastic, or glass that way my polishing pad has less work to do and subsequently lasts longer.

When should I clay bar my car?

Any time you feel your paint after properly washing and drying it and it feels gritty you should clay bar.

A neat trick to truly tell if your paint is gritty and contaminated is to put your hand inside a plastic bag (shopping or sandwich, doesn’t matter) like it’s a glove and rub your paint. This will amplify any imperfections. Paint that felt somewhat smooth to your bare hand will feel like sand through the bag.

Once you clay your paint you can use the bag trick to test if your paint is truly smooth and will not benefit from any more clay baring.

Does a new car need to be clay barred?

Absolutely! While your car was transported from the manufacturer to the dealer it did so by rail, highway, and even sea. Most dealers don’t do a great job at cleaning the cars once they receive them. This means your car has rail dust, iron particles, road film, salt, and other contaminants already imbedded in it.

How often should I clay bar my car?

If you’re properly caring for your car this should only be once or twice a year. By properly caring I mean you’ve already clay barred and polished it once, have kept it protected with a good wax or sealant, and have cleaned it routinely to make sure contaminants haven’t’ sat on the paint for a long time.

What are the differences between clay bars?

The primary difference in clay bars is the aggressiveness/grade. There are typically three different grades of clay bar, medium, fine and heavy.

Heavy clay bars are meant to remove deeply imbedded and adhered particles. These will leave hazing and should be followed up with polish.

Medium grade clay bars are meant to remove more stubborn contaminants but may leave behind light micro marring or hazing that will require a follow up with a light polish.

Fine grade clay bars are means to remove light amounts of contaminants and will not harm the finish. These can be used as often as you like and are the kind typically found on store shelves by the likes of Meguiars and Mothers, both of which are my recommendation for most people in search of an affordable, quality clay bar.

What can I use as clay bar lubricant?

Most clay bar kits use a quick detailer as a lubricant. This is also known as a spray wax. You can also use concentrated soapy water or a rinseless car wash solution.

Never use a clay bar without a lubricant. You’ll make a mess and mar your paint.

What alternatives are there to clay bars?

Clay bars have been around for years so it’s the first product people think of when they think about decontaminating their paint. Fortunately, in that time, some new products have come out that can entirely replace clay bars.

There are now wash mitts, pads, and towels that are made of a rubber like substance that can be used just like a clay bar and are washable/reusable.

There is a definite cost/benefit analysis to be done when considering these alternatives. On one hand they are faster to use and reusable, even if dropped, because they can be washed. On the other, they are comparatively expensive. They can cost two to four times as much as a clay bar. If you think you’ll use them often this can make them a great deal. If you’re only intending to use it once or twice, it might not make sense to spend the extra money. That is for you to decide.

How to Use a Clay Bar

Note: I recommend splitting your clay bar up into two to four pieces. This will prevent you having to throw the whole bar away should you drop your clay. Once a piece of clay hits the ground throw it away. It will pick up contaminants and it will scratch your paint otherwise.

[ have dropped my clay a couple of times. You will be tempted to try to pick off any contaminants that you see and try to reuse it (because it isn’t cheap), but you can’t see them all and the ones you didn’t find will definitely scratch your paint – Don’t do it! Mark]

  • Wash and dry your car.
  • Flatten your clay out to fit flat in your hand.
  • Spray a small area of a single panel, around 2 square feet, with your lubricant of choice.
  • Lightly rub the clay back and forth on the lubricated paint.
  • Rub the clay back and forth until you no longer feel any resistance or hear friction. This means the paint is clean.
  • Wipe off the area you just worked with a quality microfiber towel.
  • Feel the surface with your fingertips. It should feel smooth. If not, repeat the claying process again.
  • Move on to the next area.
  • When the surface of the clay stars to look dirty, fold it in to reveal a clean surface to proceed with.
  • Once you’re finished it is a good idea to re-wash the vehicle to remove any residue left behind by the clay and lubricant.

Tips for Using a Claybar

  • Wash panel before clay baring to prevent marring paint.
  • If you drop the clay, game over, throw it away.
  • Cut your bar into smaller pieces so you don’t ruin the whole bar if you drop it.
  • Work in the shade so the sun doesn’t dry your lubricant too fast.
  • Work in smaller areas at a time so your lubricant doesn’t dry up.
  • Use light pressure. Heavy pressure will displace the lubricant and you’ll scuff your paint.
  • Make sure to frequently fold in the clay to expose a clean surface to clay with.
  • Spray your clay with lubricant and place it into a sealed baggy for long term storage.

What is the Best Clay Bar?

Honestly, most clay bars within the same grade are pretty equal. Some are a little more malleable and shapeable than others but the performance is roughly the same. This is one area where the whole “you get what you pay for” thing doesn’t really hold true.

I have used many brands of clay bar over the last 15 years and I still come back to the Meguiars and Mothers bars you can pick up off the shelf at most big box stores for under $20. I’ve used both and generally grab whichever is cheapest at the time. You’ll get 160g worth of clay, a decent microfiber towel, and clay lubricant (quick detailer) for the same cost as just a bar of clay from other brands.

You really can’t go wrong with the above mentioned bars unless your car is in such bad shape that you need a medium or heavy bar. In that case take a look at Heavy or Medium grade bars.

24 Apr

How To Tow a Car Trailer (Ernst – WWW.Hemmings.Com)

[I was surfing the web and found this. It caught my eye as I am trailering one of my Morgans, this coming weekend, to Pensacola for their all British Car Show. Lately I find I am driving less and trailering more. Especially with the older cars or for car events farther afield. Maybe it’s the creature comforts offered by the tow vehicle, or I may just be getting old. (I don’t like the second option so I’ll go with the first!) I have a car trailer and have some experience however I don’t want to become over confident or complacent with something this critical. So, give it quick read and perhaps you will learn something new, as I did. The last thing we need it an accident or worse yet, an injury. Be safe but have fun! Mark.]

Hemmings’s own tow rig, used to transport cars to events. Photos by the author.

According to statistics compiled by the DangerousTrailers.org web sitee, an average of 68,358 American motorists are involved in towing-related accidents each year, each resulting in average damages exceeding $43,000. While towing a trailer seems simple enough, proper equipment, safety practices and loading techniques are all essential components in ensuring that trailering drivers get from point A to point B with vehicles, passengers and equipment intact.

The first step to towing any kind of trailer is ensuring that both trailer and tow vehicle are properly rated for the load to be carried. Should the proposed tow vehicle be rated by the manufacturer to safely tow up to 5,000 pounds, pulling a double-axle car trailer, loaded with a 1961 Chevrolet Impala, across Colorado’s Independence Pass certainly isn’t recommended. The best advice here is “buy enough truck,” understanding that new towing requirements may require the purchase of a different tow vehicle with a higher weight rating.

A proper hitch and receiver are the next essential components, and for towing a vehicle the absolute minimum recommended would be a Class III hitch and receiver, rated at a maximum trailer weight of 6,000 pounds (when used with a weight carrying hitch) or 10,000 pounds (when used with a weight distributing hitch). A Class IV hitch and receiver gets a higher rating (up to 14,000 pounds, when used with a weight distributing hitch setup), but may not be applicable for tow vehicles aside from full-size pickups and SUVs. Beyond this lies Class V hitches (rated up to 17,000 pounds with weight-distributing hitches) and fifth-wheel hitches, which are primarily the domain of heavy-duty pickups.

Once satisfied with tow vehicle and hitch setup, the next challenge becomes finding a suitable trailer to handle your perceived vehicle hauling needs. If your towing is limited to hauling a Formula Vee racer to regional vintage events, a double-axle enclosed trailer will likely be overkill in terms of both size and weight. On the other hand, when towing a Mercedes-Benz Unimog cross-country, a two-wheel car dolly may be suboptimal for your needs. When purchasing a trailer, try to consider both current and future needs; if your passion is for restoring Corvairs, then sizing a trailer may be fairly simple. Should your passion extend to all GM products, including pickups, sizing a trailer may be more of a challenge.

An adjustable height Class V receiver.

For hauling vehicles, trailers should be equipped with a weight distributing hitch and trailer brakes (which may or may not be required by the state in which you reside). An anti-sway system may be a wise investment as well, particularly for those new to towing. Sway likely represents the biggest danger to towing trailers, and it can be caused by factors as diverse as excessive speed, strong crosswinds, passing trucks or improper trailer loading.

To minimize the risk of sway, loads should ideally be centered over the trailer’s axles, evenly balanced from side to side. This isn’t always possible, so most recommend carrying slightly more weight to the front of trailer (assuming that the rig’s tongue weight isn’t exceeded in doing so). Under all circumstances, avoid placing the heaviest part of the load to the rear of the trailer’s axle, as doing so will increase the likelihood of trailer sway.

If a trailer begins to sway, the best corrective action is to gently let off the accelerator, slowing (without applying the tow vehicle brakes) until the trailer is again under control. Should you have an electronic trailer brake controller, applying the trailer brakes manually will bring a swaying trailer under control, which is further justification for an electronic trailer brake and controller setup. Accelerating further or braking the tow vehicle heavily are likely to exacerbate the problem, so both should be avoided. Be aware that certain situations (crossing bridges or being passed by tractor-trailers, for example) are likely to create cross winds; be aware that this make increase the chances of trailer sway, and be prepared to act accordingly.

Emergency trailer brake controller; should the cable pull tight, the trailer’s electric brakes activate.

Ensuring that trailer and tow vehicle are level will also help to minimize the risk of sway, and different trailers may require the use of different height receivers. If you frequently tow more than one trailer, investing in a multi-position receiver may be easier and less expensive than buying separate receivers for all trailers. Also, ensure that the receiver ball size matches the hitch of the trailer; attempting to tow a 2-5/16-inch hitch with a two-inch receiver ball is a recipe for disaster.

Prior to loading the trailer, it’s a good idea to give it a full inspection, particularly if it hasn’t been used in a while. Check tire pressuree as well as tire tread depth; tires may show ample tread, but those with signs of dry rot should be replaced. Attempting to wiggle the wheels and tires from side-to-side may show if wheel bearings are worn, and it’s a good idea to pack (non-sealed) bearings with grease annually. Check electrical connections for corrosion, and use dielectric grease on the connector pins to minimize the chance of future corrosion. Inspect wood deck planking for any signs of rot, and replace as necessary. Finally, hitch the trailer to the tow vehicle to double check that all lights (and electric trailer brakes, if equipped) are functioning.

The specific procedure for loading and strapping down a vehicle on a trailer will vary by trailer and the type of ratcheting strap used, but some general guidelines still apply. First, be sure the vehicle’s weight is centered over, or slightly forward of, the trailer’s wheels. As much as you can, ensure that the side-to-side weight of the trailer is balanced by offsetting tool boxes with things like fuel jugs. When using ratcheting straps that cradle a vehicle’s tires, be sure that all attachment points are secure and close enough to the tire to ensure proper operation (per the strap manufacturer’s instruction). When using over-the-axle type ratcheting straps, be sure the strap is wrapped around a structural member, but not rubbing against coolant hoses, fuel lines or brake lines. When using ratcheting straps that attach to the vehicle, ensure (again) that straps are attached to strong enough part of the frame to carry the load. As a general rule of thumb, one strap in each corner should be the absolute minimum number used, and placing four wheel chocks (in front of the front wheels and behind the rear wheels) gives additional piece of mind. As a further reminder, the trailered vehicle should be in Park (or in first gear), with the handbrake set.

Properly hitched trailer, showing sway control bar.

Once the trailer is hitched to the tow vehicle, it’s a good idea to go through one more safety checklist. Is the load level, or does the tongue weight of the trailer (or the drop of the receiver) need to be adjusted? Are all the electrical connections tight, and do all signals, lights and brakes work as intended? Are the safety chains crossed in an X-pattern beneath the trailer hitch, forming a cradle in the event of a hitch failure? Is the tether for the electric trailer brakes set? Is the nose wheel up and locked, and is hitch securely locked into position? Have the lug bolts on the trailer (and any other fasteners potentially prone to loosening) been tensioned to the proper torque?

As with most tasks, prior proper preparation is the key to safe and successful trailering, and the best way to avoid becoming one of the 68,000 plus motorists involved in trailering accidents each year.

A tip of the hat to Brad Babson for his help in compiling this piece.

01 Apr

Epic Engines: Buick Aluminum V-8 – (Hagerty.com)

The Little Aluminum V-8 That Saved Britain’s Bacon

LIKE THE KID WHO FLUNKED FIFTH grade and then grew up to become a decent stockbroker, the troubled youth of GM’s 215-cubic-inch (3.5 liter) aluminum V-8 didn’t hinder its fruitful life.  Born in 1961, this resilient engine introduced turbocharging to production cars but failed to earn a sufficient U.S. audience, whereupon it was sent to England to live out its life in everything from Range Rovers to TVRs.  Along the way, this mill, commonly known as the “Buick aluminum V-8” for reasons that will soon be explained, inspired countless designs and enabled a cottage sports-car industry.  It was the only American engine design ever to win a Formula 1 title.  One could argue that GM’s aluminum V-8 was every bit as ingenious as the Chevy small-block.

General Motors began studying aluminum V-8s in 1950 to power its LeSabre and XP-300 dream cars.  Although cast aluminum had been used early in the 20th century for crankcases, constructing entire blocks and cylinder heads out of this material was a major breakthrough in the U.S.

In Europe, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Lancia, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, and Volkswagen perfected aluminum construction after World War II.  The success of VW Beetle imports convinced U.S. automakers they would need downsized cars powered by smaller and lighter engines to compete.  In 1960, the Chevrolet Corvair began the move to aluminum engines, followed by Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Plymouth, and Rambler in ’61.

Aluminum’s appeal is a density, or weight per volume, that is 60 percent lower than that of cast iron or “gray iron,” until then the traditional engine-block material.  Per pound, aluminum yields two to three times the bending stiffness and strength of cast iron and three times the tensile strength.

Aluminum’s downside is cost.  Iron ore is simply mined, melted, and mixed with a few ingredients before casting, but refining aluminum is a complex, energy-intensive process.  First, bauxite ore, a claylike material, is mined.  After melting and settling, alumina (aluminum oxide) in the molten ore is purified with an electric current, a process called electrolysis.  Because of aluminum smelters’ high electricity consumption, they are typically located near hydroelectric dams, where the electricity is plentiful and cheaper.  As a result, aluminum typically costs five times more per pound than gray iron.  In the mid-1950s, GM engineer Joseph Turlay, who designed Buick’s first production V-8 for the 1953 model year, topped an experimental cast-aluminum block with hemi heads, a supercharger, and dual carburetors to produce 335 horsepower from 3.5 liters.  That V-8’s 550-pound weight was a major breakthrough compared with the typical 700-pound iron-age engine.

GM engineers soon began work on a production aluminum V-8 to power the Buick Special, Oldsmobile F-85, and Pontiac Tempest slated for 1961.  Buick won the development and manufacturing assignments, with Turlay overseeing and Cliff Studaker assisting the engineering effort.

1961 Buick Special with 215 CI V-8

GM’s game plan was to use a stretched Corvair unibody to underpin its new compacts.  More refined ride and handling would, hopefully, justify higher prices for the upmarket models.  In addition, the aluminum V-8 would foster weight savings throughout the chassis, thereby improving performance.

Toward that end, the 3.5-liter V-8 was a showcase of light design.  The block, heads, intake manifold, timing chain cover, water pump, and water outlet were all made of GM’s 4097M aluminum alloy containing II-to-13-percent silicon.  This added material lowered the aluminum’s melting temperature, helped it flow more readily into molds, and reduced shrinkage during solidification.  A touch of copper was added to improve corrosion resistance.  The pistons, rocker arms, and carburetor were also aluminum.  The final 324-pound dry weight was 200 pounds lighter than Chevy’s small-block and roughly half the weight of Buick’s 6.6-liter V-8.

Turlay’s engineering team applied creative solutions to myriad design issues.  Because aluminum bores weren’t durable enough to withstand piston scuffing, cast-in-place iron sleeves with grooved outer surfaces engaging the surrounding aluminum were used.  This provided a tough bore surface without sealing concerns.  Shrink-fit iron valve seats and guides were incorporated into the aluminum heads, also for durability.  A deep-skirt block with five cast-iron main-bearing caps provided a stiff bottom end.  The cast-aluminum pistons were linked to the cast-Armasteel crank through forged-steel connecting rods. (Armasteel was GM’s name for a special cast iron manufactured by its foundries.)

Combining an 8.8:1 compression ratio with dished piston crowns and shallow combustion chambers achieved detonation-free operation on regular gas.  The spark plugs were located within half an inch of the bore center to minimize flame travel.  The 3.50 inch bore and short 2.80-inch stroke minimized piston speed and engine height.

Because aluminum expands significantly more than iron when heated, the engineers worried that steel bolts screwed directly into aluminum threads might loosen in service. Testing proved the bolts would maintain the desired torque if they were well lubricated during assembly.

Aluminum-block manufacturing was the one area where Buick ventured into the unknown.  The technique adopted was called semi-permanent mold casting, because it mixed conventional sand cores with permanent steel dies.  Sand cores defined the internal coolant passages and the crankcase portion of the block.  The reusable steel molds used for the outer flanks, deck surfaces, and valley area saved manufacturing minutes and provided a smoother finish than was possible with sand cores.

Following dyno development and a million miles of durability testing, Buick’s engine was tuned to deliver 155 (gross) horsepower at 4800 rpm and 220 pound-feet of torque at 2400 rpm, with a relatively flat torque curve.  Upping the compression ratio to 10.25:1 and adding a four-barrel carburetor hiked output to 230 pound-feet and 185 horsepower, or 0.86 horsepower per cubic inch.  Chevy’s 283-cubic-inch V-8 delivered 230 horsepower (0.81 horsepower per cubic inch) with a four-barrel carburetor.

Oldsmobile entered the 1961 model year with a version of this V-8 called the Rockette to evoke a family tie to the Rocket 88.  To make efficient use of manufacturing facilities, Buick cast all the blocks and crankshafts, and Olds manufactured its own heads, pistons, valvetrain, and intake manifolds.  One significant difference in the blocks was Buick’s use of five head bolts per cylinder whereas Olds preferred six (stay tuned for the reason why).  Pontiac equipped most of its Tempests with what it called an Indy Four—basically, a V-8 chopped in half—with the Buick 3.5-liter V-8 available as an extra-cost upgrade.

The racing community was impressed by America’s new small V-8, too.  Mickey Thompson concluded that this ultra-light engine was the ideal means of rattling the Offenhauser crowd at Indy.  In 1962, Dan Gurney qualified eighth in Thompson’s Harvey Aluminum Special powered by a 4.2-liter Buick V-8, but he dropped out half-way through the race with a broken gearbox.

Unfortunately, the buying public didn’t swarm to the General’s new premium compact cars.  Only Pontiac topped 100,000 sales in 1961; combined Special/F-85/Tempest sales exceeded the Corvair’s volume by only 10 percent.  The issue was price.  The cheapest Olds F-85 cost $118 more than a Chevy Bel Air.  Instead of merely hoping sales would rise, Buick and Oldsmobile swiftly rejiggered their game plans.  In 1962, Buick moved down-market, and Oldsmobile grabbed the next rung up the price ladder.

Buick’s 1962 companion to the aluminum V-8 was a V-6 made by whacking one cylinder per bank.  To spare the higher cost of aluminum, the block and the heads were converted to cast iron.  Keeping the V-8’s 90-degree V-angle was hardly ideal from a vibration standpoint, but it did allow machining the new V-6 with existing tools.  What began as a crude expedient eventually ended up as GM’s rock-star 3800 V-6, a story for another day.

Oldsmobile promoted its Rockette aluminum V-8 to Jetfire Turbo Rocket status by adding a Garrett AiResearch turbocharger fed by a single-barrel side-draft Rochester carburetor.  Beating Chevy’s Corvair Monza Turbo to market by a few weeks gave Olds bragging rights for the world’s first turbocharged production model.  Peak power surged to 215 horsepower at 4800 rpm—clearing the one horse-per-cubic-inch hurdle.  The torque curve peaked at a potent 300 pound-feet at 3200 rpm.  Without major changes to the host engine or any loss of smoothness or drivability, midrange torque rose by 40 percent.

Turbo pinwheels spinning at 90,000 rpm were supported by aluminum sleeve bearings lubed by engine oil. Exhaust gas accelerated the alloy-steel turbine wheel from 40,000 rpm during cruising to 80,000 rpm in less than a second after the throttle was floored. An exhaust waste gate built into the turbocharger limited boost pressure to 5 psi.

Instead of lowering the naturally aspirated V-8’s 10.25:1 compression ratio, which would penalize efficiency, Oldsmobile devised a system that metered Turbo Rocket fluid during boost conditions in a 1:10 ratio with the gasoline consumed.  This 50/50 elixir of distilled water and methyl alcohol (antifreeze) with a splash of corrosion inhibitor cooled the gas and air mixture sufficiently to forestall detonation.  To their surprise, Olds engineers found that the alcohol content added six horsepower to peak output.

The tank that stored this juice was pressurized by a tap off the turbo’s compressor to force delivery to the carburetor’s float chamber.  Safeguards were provided to inhibit boost when the essential fluid was depleted.  Testing predicted the 5 quart supply would last nearly 1000 miles.

BEATING CHEVY’S CORVAlR MONZA TURBO TO MARKET BY A FEW WEEKS (AND BMW AND PORSCHE BY A DECADE) GAVE OLDS BRAGGING RIGHTS FOR THE WORLD’S FIRST TURBOCHARGED PRODUCTION MODEL.

Osmobile’s 1962 JetRocket V-8 topped by a Garrett AiResearch turbocharger fed a single-barrel Rochester downdraft carburetor. Five psi of boost raised output to 215 horsepower at 4800 rpm and 300 pound-feet of 3200.

Those extra head bolts?  Oldsmobile designed them into its version of the 215 to help avoid warpage and blown head gaskets on the turbo variant.  The pistons, the bearings, and the valves were also upgraded.

Proud of their achievement, Oldsmobile engineers Gil Burrell, Frank Ball, and James Lewis concluded their Turbo Rocket tech paper by saying, “This engine is a development that will be appreciated by all engineers, performance enthusiasts, and other people interested in advanced mechanical powerplants.”  Car and Driver technical guru Roger Huntington dubbed the engine “the most radical design from an American factory in many years.”  He rated the ’62 Olds Cutlass F-85 Jetfire “an elegant and comfortable high-performance car of medium size”.

Unfortunately, GM’s hot small engine was caught out by radical changes sweeping through the industry.  For the 1964 model year—the dawn of the muscle-car era-—GM’s premium compacts grew into intermediate A-bodies powered exclusively by iron engines.  Buick and Olds kept the V-6 and added larger V-8 options.  Pontiac used a Chevy inline-six for base power and offered V-8s ranging from 326 to a wild 421 cubic inches.

The aluminum 215 V-8 lasted only three model years, in part because it was a costly indulgence.  The casting process suffered from porosity issues—seepage through the cylinder-block walls—and the high scrap rates gave top management the willies.  If the porosity wasn’t discovered upfront, coolant contamination of the oil triggered an expensive warranty claim.  Customers who used the wrong antifreeze suffered radiators clogged with aluminum deposits.  Mechanics hurriedly changing spark plugs occasionally stripped threads in the aluminum heads.

Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfire owners often ignored the dash light urging them to replenish their Turbo Rocket fluid.  The most pressing issue was fewer than 10,000 turbo cars sold, resulting in its cancellation after only two model years.  Some dealers even stooped to removing the booster for disgruntled customers.  The Corvair Monza Spyder also failed to top 10,000 sales in 1962, suggesting that turbochargers were too mysterious for most small-car buyers.

On the opposite side of the earth, Oldsmobile’s light, compact V-8 was held in higher regard.  Australian racing driver Jack Brabham commissioned auto-parts supplier Repco to base a Formula 1 V-8 on the Olds block endowed with SOHC heads and a flat plane crankshaft to produce more than 300 horsepower from 3.0 liters.  That shrewd move earned Brabham the 1966 drivers’ and constructors’ titles.  This was the first and last time an engine with American production-car roots prevailed in Formula 1.

Britain’s Rover also took advantage of GM’s aluminum V-8. By the early 1960s, the 3.0-liter F-head inline-six that powered its flagship sedan was overdue for replacement.  On a visit to the States, Rover’s managing director, William Martin-Hurst, stumbled across a Buick V-8 that Mercury Marine intended to install in a boat.  The engine was instead shipped to England, where Rover engineers concluded it would suit their needs.

In 1965, Rover inked a deal with GM that included all rights to the aluminum V-8, tech data, blueprints, and a few used engines.  Designer Turlay, about to retire from Buick, moved to England to assist the production restart.  Apparently, it didn’t occur to anyone at GM that Rover would be competing against GM’s own European brands, Opel and Vauxhall, with the exiled engine.

Rover switched block manufacturing to conventional sand casting with pressed-in cylinder liners to solve the porosity problem for good.  Starting with the P5 sedan in 1967, Rover’s 184-hp V-8 graduated to the P6 a year later and to the Range Rover luxury SUV when it debuted in 1970.  The enduring success of the Land Rover brand in our market is the direct result of its arrival with a smooth, potent engine.

Growing in steps to 5.0 liters, the aluminum V-8 thrived in MGS, Morgans, Triumphs, and TV Rs and stayed in production until 2004.  The remanufacturing firm MCT then took the baton to continue the supply of engines to Britain’s low-volume specialty brands until 2010.  Without this V-8, the Japanese would have annihilated British sports cars as quickly as they had laid the U.K.’s motorcycle industry to rest.

GM’s courageous aluminum and turbocharging initiatives yielded several worthy permutations of the original Buick 215 V-8, notable racing success, and millions of satisfied customers.

In life, as in the engine lab, tenacity pays off.