WHEN you reckon you know all there is to know about cars and engines, some gremlin pops out of leftfield to present a totally new problem. Like what happened with a neighbour of mine, who’d made a magic barn-find in Forbes.
This was a slightly rusty XP Falcon two-door coupe, covered in chicken shit and straw, a deceased estate gem that he got for a good price off the rellos. Hauled it home on a rented trailer, ripped in and after an eight-month restoration, had a shiny new six-pot-powered XP in brilliant polar white. Rebuilt brakes, suspension, auto, rear axle, interior and engine. All back to Ford original, which was just the way he wanted it.
The bloke knew a fair bit about stuff and was handy with tools. If he couldn’t find something out from reading a workshop manual, he would drop over to pick whatever is left of my brain.
Which is where the drama began.
I gave him a hand to fire up the engine and get it mobile so he could run it in for a rego inspection. It zipped through the tests and he gave it 1000km of quiet driving before taking it to his first All Ford Day. On the way back to base, it boiled, for no apparent reason. He had to stop every couple of kays until the mongrel thing cooled down, and drive home in stages.
He looked for leaks and busted hoses, borrowed my radiator pressure testing device, and came up with absolutely zilch. The radiator had been thoroughly cleaned at an expert radiator shop, but I said: “Maybe there was mud and gunk left in the block after you pulled the Welch plugs and hosed it out, and that’s ended up in the core?
Pull it out and get it checked and maybe that will fix it.” Did that; damn thing still boiled after a couple of kays.
What to do? I didn’t reckon it was a head gasket blown, or a plugged exhaust, as that was all new, so I said: “Go borrow a two-tube-core radiator instead of the three-tube you’ve got, and see how that goes.” Because I have seen this same situation happen before, where two-tube cores somehow cool better than three-tube radiators, which has something to do with coolant flow and a more efficient heat transfer to the air.
He got a unit from the radiator fix-it people, put that in and the damn thing still boiled. Okay.
We’ll rip the head off and check the condition and placing of the gasket, in case it wasn’t fitted right. Did that, the gasket was on the right way and totally intact, the head face and block were flat, no cracks anywhere. So we fitted a new gasket and crossed our fingers. And the damn thing still boiled.
Only one thing left to check, as we had been right through the rest.
“What about the water pump?” the XP owner asked. “I know it was new, but maybe that has stopped working.”
“No chance,” I reckoned. “The fan belt is tight and water pumps don’t just stop spinning.”
“But can we have a look? It’s only a few bolts.”
“Okay. If that’s what you want. But we won’t find anything.”
I gave the bloke the honour of pulling the pump off, and there it was – not a single blade left on the cast-iron impeller. Bloody hell! All neatly machined off, and he swore on a stack of Bibles that it hadn’t been that way when he had fitted it.
So I got out his lead light and put on my best glasses, to have a really close look at the blades, and then turned the attention to the cavity at the front of his six-pot block. And like a true detective, the real cause for the mystery impeller-blade wipe-out was suddenly obvious: slivers and chips of shiny brass, stuck in the block space directly under the pump. I fished them out and wiped them across a clean cloth for an inspection.
Brass? Where the bejesus did that come from?
Bits out of the radiator tanks? Not a chance. This metal wasn’t thin tin brass; the mangled pieces were a good couple of millimetres thick. And then I looked accidentally at the side of the block, and it was a light-bulb moment when I saw shiny new unpainted brass Welch plugs, surrounded by the usual coating of Ford Blue engine enamel.
“Did you replace the Welch plugs?” I asked the bloke.
“But how did you take the old ones out?”
“I got the big ones by using a chisel and screwdrivers.”
“And the little ones?”
“I punched them straight through into the cylinder head.”
“Oh shit. One of them has travelled through your water jacket, jammed in the pump and chopped off all the blades!”
Like I said: You never know what new stuff-up you might run into! s