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Mods 2


Despite finishing the scuttle panel and bonnet on time, the bodywork won't be going to the spray shop tomorrow. The paint sprayer is in bed with flu, so in the meantime I'll carry on with the other jobs on the list. I've received the new spring for the brake balance valve, so I'll start with that. I drained all the brake fluid, took off the O/S side panel and removed the valve.

The internals of the brake balance valve. The spring is replaced with a lighter version supplied by Onyx, which reduces the pressure to the rear brakes. After cleaning all the parts and soaking them in fresh brake fluid, I reassembled and refitted the valve. The brakes were then bled using my Eezibleed.


I've stopped being a lazy, greedy, drunken Christmas slob and ventured back into the garage...

After replacing the original instrument cluster connectors with two new multi-connectors (in the middle foreground), I wired up the warning lights, instruments and clock. With that done, I pushed the car outside and started the engine, to make sure all the gauges worked properly - they did.

As I haven't run the engine for nearly a month, I allowed the car to reach full working temperature and let the cooling fan cut in and out a few times. I then jacked the front of the car up and ran through the gears, to check the speedo operation, which was fine. While the car was outside, I tidied the garage and even managed to vacuum the carpet.

Next on the "to do" list was the rattle from the rear of the car, which was easily rectified. After removing the rear boot panel, I found a loose 8mm nyloc nut that had been bouncing around on the floor of The Snake Pit. Who put that in there?


Another job (that wasn't on the list) done. I've wanted to replace the front wishbone inner bushes for a while, but was put off by the prices - usually around £60 + P&P for four. Eventually, I found a Superflex polyurethane set for £48 including next-day delivery (from DPR-Racing). After removing the wishbones, the first task was to remove the old bushes...

The inner sleeves from the old bushes pulled straight out with hardly any effort. I don't think they're supposed to do that. At least it made removing the bushes easy - I just cut off the rubber flange on one side with a hacksaw, then pulled the bush out from the other side.


The tubes were thoroughly cleaned using an electric drill and a decoke brush. Then, after smearing the new bushes with the supplied lubricant, I used a length of 8mm studding, two nuts and some large washers to pull them into place. As long as the bush starts off perfectly parallel with the tube, they go in quite easily.

The new stainless inner sleeves are a tight sliding fit in the bushes and were installed with some gentle persuasion from a rubber mallet. The wishbones were then refitted to the car. I feared these bushes would be a real pig of a job to remove and replace, but thankfully that wasn't the case.


I've finally emerged from hibernation - I hate January! The car still isn't painted but it will be next week, honestly. As the sun was shining and the car hasn't been used for a month, I put on approximately 200 items of clothing and went out for an hour-long blast this afternoon. Just like the Quantum, the car goes really well in the cold weather. A test session on a rather greasy minor road proved that the brake valve mod was a total success, with the front wheels always locking before the rear. The repositioned instruments are a huge improvement as well, with all the important information just a glance away.

The bad news is that on a road I wasn't familiar with, the car bottomed out on a wide but shallow dip. The twin downpipe section of the exhaust (just in front of the sump) took most of the impact, resulting in two large dents that will definitely restrict gas flow through the pipes. Also badly grazed was the aluminium housing below the rear engine/gearbox stabiliser and the bottom of the front silencer. Thankfully, the sump was untouched.

The belly-flop casualties.

I wasn't going ridiculously fast, the hollow in the road wasn't very deep and I'm not running the car particularly low to the ground, so I'm surprised that the car took such a knock. To prevent a re-occurrence, I plan to do the following:

  1. Remove the lowering plate from the N/S engine mounting.

  2. Make four 25mm spacers to fit between the O/S tubular engine mounting bracket and the top of the subframe.

  3. Buy a Metro downpipe with the proper flexible section (I'm currently using a modified 414 downpipe without its flexi bit). This will allow me to tilt the engine back slightly to give more clearance at the front of the engine.

  4. Remove the front silencer. If the car then becomes too noisy, I'll use a longer rear silencer.

  5. Buy some bump stops for the front shock absorbers.

Hopefully, the result of all this will be an extra 30mm clearance at the front of the engine and about 20mm extra at the rear. The lowest point under the car will then be the bottom of the stabiliser bracket. In the event of further grounding, these are cheap, readily available and easily replaced.

Two other things I'd like to do soon are:

  1. Get the car accurately weighed.

  2. Build a trailer for it.

This lot should keep me busy for a while. I always seem to be making extra work for myself, but I do enjoy my time in the garage (as long as it's above freezing in there) and it sure beats watching the current crap on the telly.


Despite the cold, I've managed a couple of evenings in the garage and started on the tasks listed above. The car has been put up on axle stands again and the exhaust system is off. With a trolley jack and a plank of wood supporting the engine under the sump, the N/S lowering plate has been taken out and the bolts holding the O/S mounting removed. Using blobs of Blu Tack, I checked how far the engine could be lifted before hitting the underside of the bonnet. Raising the engine by 25mm would be a bit too close for comfort, so the spacers will have to be 22mm high. I've ordered the four spacers from a customer of mine that owes me a favour. They should be ready next week.

Rather fortuitously, I've managed to purchase a shop-soiled Janspeed tubular exhaust manifold from a local motorsport supplier that's closing down. It's a bit scratched in places, but there are no dents or cracks. It has the flexible section in just the right place for the Firefox chassis and also has the threaded boss to take the oxygen sensor. It should save a bit of weight compared to the original items and might even liberate a few extra horsepower. For £100 cash, it was about half the normal price. I now owe Tony a pint or ten for spotting this bargain.

The new manifold ready to fit.

At last, the painting process has started. I stripped the scuttle and boot lid last night and took them to Derek the painter this afternoon. The nose cone/bonnet will follow next weekend.


The spacers have arrived (thanks to Paul at Whiteway Precision), so the engine now sits 22mm higher. After fitting the four spacers (only the front two are shown here), I re-drilled the mounting holes for the rear stabiliser bracket and fitted it back on. With the engine secured at the right height and angle, the new exhaust manifold was bolted on.


Removing the front silencer meant that the centre exhaust section was now too short. I cut off one of the flanges from the 414's catalytic converter and cleaned it up as best I could. It was then taken to Longlife Exhausts, who welded it to a longer piece of 2" stainless tubing. The flange mates perfectly with the rear of the Janspeed manifold and the rear of this new pipe pushes into the existing silencer, which is still in its original position.

The new centre pipe and flange.


The new manifold and centre pipe in place. The gasket was free from Kwik-Fit.

Derek rang this afternoon to say that he'd finished the boot lid and scuttle and that he was ready for the bonnet. I managed to squeeze the bonnet into the Astravan and took it over to him after I'd finished work. I'm amazed at the finish of the first two parts - a nice deep colour and a dazzling shine. What a transformation! I'd told Derek that this car didn't need a show-winning paint job, but his philosophy is "if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well".


I must get used to treating the painted body work gently. Up until now, I've been a bit rough with it - scraping it against the walls, dropping it onto the floor and placing tools on top of the boot lid and scuttle. That'll have to stop now.

The boot lid only needed the hinges and catch re-fitting, so that was finished in a matter of minutes. As with the Quantum's body work, my digital camera makes the red paint appear rather orange. It's actually Ford Radiant Red.

The mirrors, indicators and a few brackets fitted...


...followed by the dash and aero screens. The screens have got badly scratched due to poor storage, so I'll try and get another piece of polycarbonate (tinted if possible) to make another pair. I'm going to leave the centre mirror off for now, to see if I can do without it. If I can't, I'll buy a smaller race-car mirror, as the Metro one was rather large.


The remaining leftovers from the Metro were sold this evening. A local lad has bought the cylinder head, manifolds, injector unit and engine loom to convert his 8-valve GTa engine to a 16-Valve version. I still need to have a good clear out soon - that 414 block in the picture above is getting in the way now. Good used Rover engines are so cheap and plentiful, it's not worth rebuilding the old one as a spare.

I've booked a track day through Motorsport Events. It's at Hullavington airfield on March 17th. As a thank you to Rod for his help and advice, I've paid for him to be a second driver. We're both looking forward to it!


The bonnet was collected last night and fitted this evening.

I suppose that the car could now be described as being finished, although I still have some upgrades planned for the future. I'll list the costs of any replacements and upgrades separately from now on. A glance at the Build Costs page reveals that the car has cost £4,339.35 to get to this stage. Only £40 over my original budget and within £2 of the "+50%" rule I mentioned in the Introduction page. That's not bad considering what a complete dog my donor car was. Using more parts (including the wiring loom) from a better donor car would probably keep the cost well below £4,000. That's damn good value in my opinion.


With the car back in one piece again, I took it for a good test drive this afternoon. The car does seem noticeably louder with just one silencer, but I have no means of accurately measuring the noise level. I don't want to fail the noise test (100dB(a) at 500mm from the tail pipe at 4500 RPM) at Hullavington, so I've borrowed this additional silencer from a rally-driving friend (thanks Chris!). It fits in place of the shiny tail pipe and apparently can reduce noise levels by up to 6dB. Fingers crossed.


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