THE LTD’s 351 bent-eight was rattling badly, and James, who owned this Canberra-origin luxury Ford, was worried. It sounded like somebody had tipped a bucket of bolts deep into the sump, and although the engine still ran, it was not happy.
Nothing on the instrument panel suggested a reason why his mill was so sick, so James spoke to his neighbour Jimmy, who then rang me.
Over-the-phone diagnosis is often difficult.
Jimmy said they had no oil feed to the right cylinder bank at all, so I said maybe the pump is broken, or the mongrel has spun a camshaft bearing and cut off the oil supply. Get hold of a good oil pressure gauge and plug that in, to see if there is actually any oil pressure happening.
They checked out the oil pressure switch instead with compressed air and a test light, discovering that this vital piece was stuffed. So they found a parts dealer who could supply a brand new piece. Screwed that into the block, fired the engine and the oil indicator on the dash didn’t even flicker. Where do we go from here?
More phone conversations. Pull the distributor out to check the gear that mates with the camshaft, I suggested. But this only showed shiny wear marks. Okay, look at the hexagonal shaft that drops down from there to drive the gear pump in the sump. Did that, the shaft was intact and they were figuring the pump coupling must have broke. To test this, as the shaft sat in the valley between the heads, James and his mates rigged up a drive with a socket and a drill to spin the pump via the original shaft, and there was resistance and gurgling so they figured the pump was okay.
This test proved that something had to be stuffed at the distributor end. A serious look at the female hex drive below the intact gear revealed one side had blown out of the coupling, and dropped down somewhere into the bowels of the 351.
They couldn’t see this fractured piece. They talked about wire hooks and magnets and studied a workshop manual until it went all blurry, finally figuring that as this was only a small metal bit and the oil pump had a steel mesh bottom end on the pick-up where it sits close to the bottom of the pan, the piece was unlikely to go anywhere much and it would be real unlucky if this chunk got caught up in anything that was vital to the internals of the engine. Otherwise it would be engine out and sump off, which was just about beyond their field of expertise and would really upset the fishing.
But James now needed another distributor, or at least the drive piece, which was available priced at around 60 crisp dollar notes. He went and talked to the local wreckers about a secondhand distributor and yes, they had one – 300 bucks and no guarantee. Figuring there had to be a better way out, James got on the internet and found a mob who could supply a brand new distributor, with all the little internal bits and a new gear and cap, all for just $80, and obviously made somewhere really cheaply in Asia. As this had to be the best deal of the lot, he hit ‘add to cart’, the box was quick to arrive, and then began the difficult task of trying to slot this in, and also get the ignition timing right.
The damn new piece wouldn’t couple into the oil pump driveshaft. Oh, the book says this shaft is on a seven-degree angle, so it falls to one side in the hole, and that’s why the distributor won’t slot over it. We’ll just pack around the shaft with Vaseline, which will keep it central and allow the dizzy to fit. Did that, managed to fire up the 351, but it was bleeding obvious the timing was wrong. They kept pulling the distributor out and refitting, but now the Vaseline had melted because the engine was hot.
Then they finally checked the drive end of the original distributor against the new one, and discovered that while the hex hole in the old unit was chamfered to make picking up the pump shaft almost easy, the hex hole of the new assembly had been made without a chamfer.
Just a small thing, but this machining omission was making the job really difficult.
So James and a visiting mate made an executive decision: Grab an electric drill and a bit, and delicately chew away at the open end of the hex hole to create a chamfer on the new drive. Did that, finally got the right teeth of the gear and the cam lined up with the dizzy body in the exact place to miss everything, which isn’t easy, and fired up Henry’s 351. Without a timing light,they timed it by ear to get the highest idle rev point, which is difficult with the hunting of a mild hydraulic cam, until the rev counter indicated 700 and the engine sounded real happy.
Out on the road and slotting in and out of the four-speed manual ’box, they figured this long and fiddly job was finally over, and I reckon they might have had a cold one or three to celebrate! s
THE 351 IN JAMES’S LTD SOUNDED LIKE SOMEBODY HAD TIPPED A BUCKET OF BOLTS INTO THE SUMP – THE ENGINE STILL RAN, BUT IT WAS NOT HAPPY TH