Posts filed under “Project Penny”

A Rover 3 Litre (P5) from 1964.

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A fully-dressed Chevy LS1 engine weighs 215 kilograms, or 474lbs

A fully-dressed LS1 V8 engine weighs exactly 215 kilos. That is 474 Freedoms if you are from the United States of America. I put it in the title of this post to save the world a click.

This includes everything that is normally directly attached to the engine - power steering & air con pump, alternator, inlet & exhaust manifolds, flywheel, engine mounts, fuel rail, engine side of the wiring loom, etc. There's plenty of numbers out there on the Internet that involve the words "about" and "I think", and I didn't like that, so I lifted one with a £35 crane scale from Amazon to find out for sure.

You're welcome!

I know what you're thinking. It's "how would you know what I'm thinking?". But for the sake of the narrative I'll say that what you're actually thinking is "Lewis, why on earth would you be weighing a Corvette engine?"

That's a good question! And well, things just escalated, a little...

Experiments within a project within a project

This is my brake servo.

I removed it from the car as part of the "refurbish the brakes" subproject of the "financially ruinous Rover P5" project. It's a separate unit from the pedal-activated cylinder unlike it is on almost any other car, because Rover loved overcomplicating things back then.

The vacuum chamber (the large cylinder on the right) was half-full with brake fluid. As the name "vacuum" implies, there is not meant to be any fluid in there at all. That was quite the surprise when I took it apart, and also a surprise which caused me to lose a full set of clothing. There was little way the servo could have been functioning, and I suspect that aeration of the brake fluid would have caused the braking system to be minimally-functional even without the servo's assistance.

I suspected this seal may have been the problem:

But, the unit was so ugly that I cannot say for sure that any single component was at fault. The photos you see here were after a blast of electrical contact cleaner (which is great for cleaning up anything that isn't an electrical contact).

I take a lot of photos in the course of doing things as reference for how things need to go back together. In the above one, you can see quite a lot of mank in the servo's internals.

Under other circumstances, I would have considered giving it a wire brush on the outside, a soak in petrol and a skim with very mild abrasives to clean the cylinders. But while I was ordering an electroplating kit for the various fasteners I have removed from the car, it seemed a good idea to order an electrolytic cleaning kit` as an experiment! As if I didn't have enough new things to learn...

Electrolytic cleaning is, in my head, electroplating in reverse. Rather than using an electric current to attract material onto a thing you want to plate, you operate it in reverse so an electric current attracts material away from a thing you want to clean.

It works quite well. In the process of working quite well, it turns the electrolyte (this is water mixed with powdered sodium carbonate) into the only thing I would like to drink less than brake fluid or Foster's.

The exterior of the servo still required some love from a wire brush on the outside after the cleaning. The two bores feel very nice after the cleaning, so I will leave them be.

And the part that makes me happiest, is that the Girling wordmark is now visible!

And that...means that after two weekends I am half-way through rebuilding one of the components of one of the sub-projects of the P5.


The little things

I love good documentation.

The Rover P5's workshop manual - the original one written by the engineers at Rover - is the best manual I have ever used. I especially enjoy that the manual sets out exactly what tools you will need including the sizes of spanners in the preface. This is the only workshop manual I have seen that does this, and it makes every job a tiny bit faster and a tiny bit more fun.

How many times did I work on the Mazda and read through a 20-step walkthrough and then in step 19 it says "use special tool, part number F-U, which is obviously completely unavailable for any amount of money to remove this delicate thing that will definitely break if you try to use cruder methods to remove it"?

Good documentation is important, and I believe in thanking people for good work even if I am late to their particular party. So, thank you, Rover engineers from 60 years ago. You did a fantastic job.

In which I explore just how bad a decision this P5 was

On the weekend that has most recently passed, my mission was to find out exactly how bad or good Penny the P5 is. The good news is that everything is very good and really solid, despite the scruffy appearance. South Africa was very kind to Penny. There's only one little bit that looks a bit sketchy on one of the front inner wings and where it joins to the sill.

Also, there's almost nothing missing. Those bits that are missing might be a pain to find, but none of them would stop me getting it running. (I was immediately 250 quid poorer from buying three of those bits on Saturday. It's only money...)

What is not missing is this. Behold, 3 litres, 6 cylinders and 115 horsepower of IOE Rover FURY:

If you look at the far bottom right you can see a glass washer bottle! I was last-Saturday-years-old when I learned that was a thing.

I do wonder how necessary that gigantic airbox is. I also wonder if it could be replaced with a tiny K&N or Mishimoto cone filter. Or maybe a Range Rover airbox, since that's what I know to be sensibly-sized and what I know to have very little intake noise. Or maybe it can wait till I pull off my next terrible idea!

So, back to what I should be doing, which is to get the engine started. I said there's nothing that would stop me getting it running. But it's clear that all the wiring is not in a great state.

The wires exist and have not set on fire yet. It will almost certainly work to whatever extent it can, until it sets on fire. I can certainly foresee a situation in which I am going to replace some substantial part of the wiring just to get the engine started...and if I'm going to do that, then I might as well go all the way...

...which is to say I have decided to rewire the entire car, and do so for negative earth & an alternator, before I even attempt to get the engine running. This might be a bit of a brave move given that my knowledge of electrical circuits is limited to basic knowledge of how DC circuits work. Oh well, as a wise man said one time, the best way of getting started with something you don't know how to do is by starting to do it. Fortunately, you can buy entire wiring harnesses off the shelf from Autosparks, which should be about £512.40 if you add in the optional wiring for an alternator, electric fan, and radio feed (I don't intend to fit a radio to it, but I don't want to rule it out). Yep, it's only money...

As I knew before I bought it, the interior is totally shot:

It's not just the cover that is torn; whatever previously resembled foam on the seats has turned into something that is not at all like foam. It has the texture of compressed sand, in that it crumbles into dust when you squeeze it in your fingers. Also, almost every piece of woodwork has delaminated, and those bits of wood that are covered in other materials have had their coverings disintegrate. I think I might be able to learn enough woodwork by myself to fix some of those bits. The upholstery almost certainly needs to be done by someone else.

So, this isn't going to be an easy recommisioning - not that I thought it would be, even before I introduced this new complication. And definitely not cheap, though I knew that would not be the case either. I can afford it, but I will say that I will definitely be eating a lot of instant noodles over the next few months...

...and these are the God-tier mother of all instant noodles. Something, almost certainly, for a future review on the very website you are reading now.


Introducing Project Penny

I've been thinking about a backup car for Amy, my Mazda 323 GTX, for quite a while now. Not because I don't like her. She rules. She also doesn't work all the time. I've been wanting to take her off the road and get her indoors for a while now. I'd like to modernise & rationalise the turbo setup and the engine management. I'd also like to get her bodywork sorted once and for all, rather than the remedial work that I am doing now.

And also...a tiny, ridiculously rare turbocharged hatchback with poverty-spec features (wind-down windows, no air conditioning, no safety features at all) isn't exactly what I need in a daily. I'd actually like to make it to destinations, and get there in comfort, without spending three million pounds on fuel.

So. I needed something cheap, economical, sensible, modern, reliable, easy to find parts for, and with at least a few modern creature comforts as well. And that is why I bought

a three-litre Rover P5 from 1964, which might work, because Lewis Logic fucking rules. Say hello to Penny the P5!

(The car purchase is real, but the narrative may or may not be. All I'll say, is that when I first started writing this the narrative hook was along the lines of "I realised I could not officially be an old man unless I was driving a Rover". It's up to you to decide whether I was completely making shit up.)

This car spent most of its life in South Africa. The chap that owned her brought it over here about four years ago, then got ill, and died. Penny made her way to a dealer, who then advertised it on Car and Classic. Car and Classic's Chris Pollitt did a "Project Profile" feature piece, which was a great article that you should definitely read for more background on the P5 in general and the 3 Litre in particular.

I saw the article, and I immediately knew I had to have that car. I've had a bit of a soft spot for the P5 since I saw one at the end of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but I do not think I have ever been emotionally affected by one. I don't think any car ever has affected me as much emotionally as this one did via mere pictures on the Internet.

I sat on those "I need this car" thoughts for an entire work day. When I clocked off, I called the chap and provisionally reserved it. Exactly one week later, it was delivered to my driveway. And she is every bit as beautiful as she was in the photos.

So what's the plan?

My immediate plan, as in tomorrow lunchtime and this weekend, is to make everything watertight. Brand new door seals are included with the car, but not fitted. I'd also like to make the boot latch work (it does not work), and the bonnet to close (even better if I can open it again).

Next up, of course, I want to make it solid underneath. Because the car spent most of its life in South Africa, I am hoping that I will not have too much to do. South African weather is much kinder to cars than our own climate is. But the car is 57 years old, so no doubt I will be able to poke some holes in it.

In the meantime, I will have to go through some paperwork and some small amount of arse to get it registered in the UK. The guy who imported it never did. I am hoping this will not be too difficult. While this happens, I will not make any modifications to it - and by that, I mean not even replacing any parts with functionally identical modern ones. My reading of the rules for getting an age-related plate when "naturalising" a car is that every component must be original. My reading might be unreasonably strict, but I'm erring on the safe side because I do not want to end up with a Q plate.

After that, will be the slow process of recommissioning; replacing every consumable part, checking every safety-critical part, getting the engine working (it may or may not work, though it does turn over by hand), source the very few bits that didn't come with the car, and eventually getting it to a state in which I can MOT it. (I'm quite aware that at its age I don't have to MOT it, but with the amount of money this will cost me it would seem foolish to not spend an extra few dozen quid for an extra set of eyes to ensure that I have not done something stupid). My hilariously-over-optimistic timeline for this is to have this done before the end of Summer.

After that, let's talk about what I will not do. I want to do nothing that will change the car's character. It was designed to be a big, boaty cruiser for important people, and it will continue to be a big, boaty cruiser for some idiot from Norfolk. It is a silent straight 6, so it will stay a silent straight 6. (And if I was going to do a 3.5 litre V8 swap I've got one kicking around which is much more interesting to me than a Rover one.)

I also don't want to change the car's history. There are dents and scars on the body, and those are part of the car's past. I don't think I should attempt to do much with them. I probably will stabilise those scars where they are showing surface rust, so they don't turn into something worse. And even though the metallic paint is almost certainly not its original colour, that too is part of the car's history and not something I want to change. Plus, I love that colour.

What I will do are some tiny modernising touches. I'll definitely convert it to use an alternator & to have negative earth electrics, and replace any invisible electronic components with modern solid-state ones. It will definitely get seatbelts at some point, because I do not want the tiniest low-speed shunt to cause a brief, very exciting trip through the windscreen. I might do something about the distributor having points, and about the fact that viscous fans are wank...and probably a lot else, but you get the idea. Tiny modernising touches, as I said, that will make her a more viable daily.

That's all for now. Onwards!