From Dead, to RED!

V8 Tear-Down; Bert's V8 is renovated from 'Knacker' to 'Cracker'

Bert's Transplant - Part 2

And so it continued........... in Bert's Transplant I've explained how a few 'niggles' eventually lead to an engine swap. With a 'dead' engine in the hole, the alternatives were to either scrap the car, try fixing the engine that was in it, or replacing the engine in it's entirety, and the solution was the latter for shear expedience.

This left the 'dead' original engine on a pallet on the drive, hedging my bets. If the replacement engine didn't 'shake down' and prove a 'good'n', then it could be worked on at my leisure, and go back in. If the donor proved OK, then it could sit there till doomsday as far as I was concerned......... (or I could find an excuse to use it for a V8 conversion on Wheezil!)

Any way, as mentioned in 'transplant', the motor ran, but there was a question over No.1 cylinder which had low compression, HOPED to be just rust on the valve seats. It did get a BIT better with use, but not much, and it became clear that the donor motor didn't have very much life left in it; it was a V7 until you revved the nuts off it (which the wife was want to do, much to the neighbours annoyance at 6am in the morning!) and it burned rather a lot of oil! So, the original engine I had taken out was going to have to be tackled.

So, tackle it I did, and over in the workshop section, there is another From Dead, to RED! a more 'hands on' article detailing the 'Project', so this is a more light hearted look at it without getting your hands dirty!

Elsewhere I've commented that you get a Land-Rover, because you either need one, or because you want one, and DIY mechanics is pretty much the same, you either do it because you enjoy it, or you do it because you don't have much choice. So, with a dead lump under the bonnet, three choices; fix the engine, swap the engine, or scrap the car.

And to be honest, the economics and practicalities for MOST would prompt scrapping the car. Bert had been bought as a 'bit' of a bargain for 500,.as an "unfinished project". I am always sceptical of that advert description; roughly translated it usually means "Insurmountable problems"! Which means you are often buying trouble! In Bert's case though, I'd anticipated those problems, and had budgeted the purchase price as the cost of a donor engine for a V8 conversion on Wheezil, so it was a pleasant surprise when he sailed through an MOT with no more than a bit of putting trim back in!

Any way, that 'bargain' aside, what we had was a car that was worth, or would cost to replace about 700 - 1000, and with a dead engine, was probably worth 200 to someone who wanted something to stick an oil burner in and use as a quarry toy or working 'hack'. So, doing the sums, the bottom line was that if ANYTHING on this car was going to cost more than 500 to fix, then it was going to be cheaper and an awful lot easier to simply weigh it in and go look for another..........

But there was just ONE googly in the offing; Bert was a three speed Auto. They didn't offer the auto-box until 1983, and the three-speed Chrysler unit was superseded by the four speed ZF unit by 1987. So the 3-Speed was short lived, and some of the 'bits' not that common, as I had found out. BUT, the old torqueflite was probably THE strongest, most durable transmission ever fitted to a Land-Rover product, proven taking the shear grunt of the big, (up to nine litre!),  American 'Hemi' in Yank muscle cars, and things like the Jenson Interceptor or big Bristol 'tourers'.

Looking around for substitutes, within or around the suggested budget, I'd have been struggling to find another 3-speed auto, or in fact ANY auto! Most Auto's were to be found in the post '87 offerings, with EFi fuel injection, and all the 'Vogue' spec electrickery, and the ZF transmission. And at the time, only the rougher examples were falling into our budget, usually with transmission problems!

So I was really back to square one. Bert COULD be sorted out with another engine swap, and it COULD be cheaper than scrapping him. But potentially any engine I found could be little better than what was already sitting in his hole, but there was just as much risk that any OTHER Range Rover, I got to replace him, could have as little  life left in it, and as many or more problems. Such is the 'risk' of old cars!

Time to take a step back. On the 'plus' side, we'd had Bert for nine months, and I'd got a fairly good handle on most of his problems. OK so I'd not sorted ALL of them, but I had formed a 'working relationship' with the car, and knew where most of the gremlins were or were likely to arise. Chopping him in then, would mean starting over, and might mean buying more, new unknown hassles.

Backing up from that conundrum then, time to look at the other option; trying to fix the original engine. The original 'problem' was a suspected head gasket failure, and potentially might be fixed JUST by pulling the heads and replacing the gaskets. If you take a look at the 'workshop' From Dead, to RED! I took some listings for engine parts from the Paddock web-site, and a head gasket set was just 15 a PAIR! The actual gaskets were only 2 each!

WARNING: The natural presumption of this logic is that I was making a mountain out of a mole hill; and I could have quickly and simply 'fixed' Bert at the very beginning, with little more than a torque wrench and 5 worth of gaskets and 'gloop'....... this is an all to common presumption, it would seem, from the number of queries on the Q&A boards where people have waded in and done just that, but failed to get the thing to run right afterwards...... usually getting themselves into frustrating tangles of ignition components and carburettor diaphragms!

You see, a gasket is simply a slab of 'stuff' that fills a crack in a joint, to help make a good seal. a head gasket isn't a lot different, the only thing is it has to seal the crack between the cylinder and the cylinder head in an engine, which makes it's job a bit tougher. Your typical gasket is made of paper, and seals the crack between things like the engine block and thermostat housing or engine block and sump pan. Some, like the rocker cover gasket are made of cork or rubber and a bit thicker, but the job is essentially the same, to fill the crack in a joint and stop it leaking.

The cylinder head gasket is no different, except that a thermostat housing gasket only has to keep hot water in, and a rocker cover gasket the 'splash' of hot oil, there's usually not a lot of pressure on the joint and it usually doesn't get all THAT hot, or at least as hot as it does in an engine's cylinder!

The head gasket, however has to fill the crack between head and block, and it's first job is to keep the pressure of the burning gasses in the combustion chamber from leaking.... these tend to be VERY VERY hot, like a couple of THOUSAND degrees Celsius, AND under rather a LOT of pressure, maybe 1000psi or more at the peak of combustion pressure! Obviously you need something a bit more resilient than paper, to withstand that kind of force and heat, BUT, it still has to be soft enough that it will mould itself to the crack and seal the joint.

Traditionally, when engines were made of cast iron, head gaskets were made of sheet copper, a metal soft enough to squash into the gaps in the joint, yet resilient enough to withstand the heat, and provided the gap was thin enough to withstand the pressure forces. On simple single cylinder motorbike or lawn mower engines, I have, learning at my Granddaddy's elbow, made new head gaskets from copper sheet cut from an old hot water tank! However, on more sophisticated engines, the tolerances are a bit more critical! On a car engine, there are usually four, much bigger, cylinders, in one 'block', and the gasket doesn't just seal the combustion chamber from outside, but from the water-cooling jacket and oil transfer galleries as well. So the whole assembly relies on the head and the block being as flat as possible to begin with.

Alright, that is how a head gasket 'works', why do they 'go'? well, there are a few reasons, but back to the old 'copper gasket' the main reason is fatigue. Every time an engine is run, it gets hot, every time it is switched off it cools down. when it gets hot, metal expands, when it cools it contracts again. On older, 'iron block' engines, because the block and head material was the same, they both expanded pretty much the same amount; BUT the copper gasket would expand more, which was good, because that would mean that it would try and fill the cracks better!

Copper though has one significant problem, and that it 'work hardening', get a bit of copper pipe and bend it, first time, its nice and soft and bends easily. Try and straighten it again



The first problem, of getting Bert mobile under his own (OK, 'borrowed') motive power was solved. The 'dead' engine, had been removed and substituted with a cheap take-out, that was better, in as much as it ran..... badly, but it ran!  70 and a week-ends work, I couldn't REALLY complain. But SHE did, but then she complained about everything and anything...... frequently.

I mention elsewhere, that matrimonial harmony at this period (spring 2004) was not exactly brilliant; But 'Phase 1' of Bert's transplant was accomplished under the dubious circumstances of a 'reconciliation', after a memorable incident during which the (now) Ex, had tried to cut my throat whilst I slept!

'Phase 2', making the original, dead engine good again, was similarly started under such conditions of cordiality; but things would deteriorate as I progressed! However; progress I did! With the 'new' engine in place, it was a question of seeing how it went, and whether it would prove a longer term fix, or whether I would have to tackle the 'old' engine fairly soon.

The smoke signals, and I don't just mean from the exhaust pipe, sort of told me that it was a case of sooner rather than later; so I set about the 'tear-down'...... I HOPED I wouldn't have to go much further than the cylinder heads..... but that Murphy!  Not a chance!  

The first job was to lift the heads and have a look at those gaskets. I hoped that I'd find that they were just 'tired' and had tracked between the pots and the water jacket, and I might just get away with replacing them; but, as I suspected, things were going to get a WHOLE lot more convoluted.


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