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Newsgroups line Classic Cars in the UK

Last updated; 4th Septemberl 2001



This is the Frequently Asked Questions (and answers) list for the newsgroup You should try and avoid asking the questions in this list on the newsgroup, since they have been beaten to death there over and over again, and we really don't want to go over the arguments again.

The more contentious questions in this FAQ have no real resolution; they come down to people's beliefs. In these cases I will present all sides of the argument, and leave it up to you to decide. If you have more facts about either side of these arguments, then please feel free to post them, or mail them to me for inclusion in the FAQ. Please do not post trolls designed to provoke flame wars.


The FAQ is maintained by me, David Roberts (oss108{at} but the information is provided by you, the readers of and contributors to I should like to thank all of them for their contributions and patience at the length of time it takes me to incorporate them. I'd also like to thank Hugh Davies for allowing me to use the layout of the uk.transport FAQ (

Request for material

It would be nice if this FAQ becomes a useful source of information, but it is unlikely to happen without some extra help. So if you, the readers of urcc, see anything which you feel should be included, please send me a copy (to oss108 {at} preferably in an edited form, with an indication of which section it should come under.

Corrections / Disputes

relating to content should be highlighted on the group where they can be argued about by everyone concerned.

Email me tocorrect any administrative points like incorrect attributions.

Copyright and other necessary stuff.

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A spaghetti publisher is one whose philosophy of publishing is to "throw it at the wall and see if it sticks." Recently they been very busy putting out badly written Internet books, and are looking for yet more material they can rush into print in their ever greedier search for easy money.

Lately, spaghetti publishers have taken to exploiting FAQs and lists, often publishing them without obtaining written permission. This is an abuse of the copyright laws, and threatens the continued viability of the FAQ system which benefits us all. These are the same publishers who would sue at the drop of a hat if anyone so much as used a figure from their books without permission.

This FAQ are Copyright © 1995-6-7-8-9 by Hugh Davies and David Roberts, and are made available as a service to the Internet community. It may not be sold in any medium, including electronic, CD-ROM, or database, packaged with any commercial product, or published in print, without the explicit, written, permission of Hugh Davies or David Roberts, where appropriate. The copyright of included material is acknowledged under the 'fair use' guidelines.

This language comes [mostly] from the comp.protocols.tcp-ip.ibmpc faq, maintained by Bernard Aboba.


This FAQ is presented with no warranties or guarantees of ANY KIND including correctness or fitness for any particular purpose. The author(s) of this document have attempted to verify correctness of the data contained herein; however, slip-ups can and do happen. If you use this data, you do so at your own risk.

The FAQs.


What is a classic car?

One man's true classic is another man's modern junk box David Pipes

I'm afraid you'll never get agreement on what is a *true* classic. To some it's nothing short of a Ferrari, to others a humble Ford Popular. The Ford popular, essentially a pre-war design, was made well after the introduction of the Mini, and was hopelessly outdated, but few would now object to a proud owner calling it a classic. So it will be with the most mundane of modern cars in 40 years time, if cars are still around by then. Dave Plowman




There are three key steps to getting an electric weld (MIG/TIG or arc) right.

Preparation, Preparation and Preparation.

You can't successfully weld if the bits being welded have any rust/scale, paint, or other surface-treatment such as galvanising or cad-plating on them.

This is what angle-grinders and rotary wire-brushes were made for - you *must* ensure that the bits-to-be-welded are pristine before you reach for the welder. (Pete Lucas)

Types of welders:

ARC - This process uses a rod coated in flux that is fed manually into the joint. It is by far the cheapest process and is reasonable flexible but it does require some skill and can be particularly challenging on thin sheet (fixing cars).

MIG - Wire is driven out of the torch providing the filler material and making the arc. This is the easiest of all the processes to learn and well suited to DIY car fixing and light fabrication. A 150A MIG is a good compromise as it will (just) run from a 13A socket but will weld 4mm steel. MIG welding comes in two flavours, either it uses an inert(ish) gas and plain steel wire or flux cored wire and no gas. The flux cored wire is expensive but so is using throw-away gas bottles or hiring a large cylinder for a year...

TIG - The arc is between the base metal and a tunsten electrode. Filler material is added separately. This is more difficult to learn and the kit is more expensive but it is possibly the most flexible of all the welding processes. DC only TIGs are available which are much cheaper but will not weld many materials.

GAS - requires oxygen and acetylene cylinders so the yearly hire costs are significant but the remainder of the kit is reasonable. It is a flexible process but requires considerable practice. This is unlikely to be a practical option in a built up area because of the risks associated with storing the highly reactive gases.

What ever you choose try to get second hand name brand kit rather than new cheapie stuff - it will cost about the same but the name brand stuff tends to be much better built. (David Round, posted to uk.d-i-y)

Where can I get large bottles of CO2 for MIG welding

2 options:

Buy "proper" welding gas from a recognised source, such as BOC. This gives you the option of pure CO2 or Argon/CO2 mixes, but you will have to pay an annual rental for the cylinder. "I have a BOC account and checking the latest price list they charge £7.15 for a Shieldpak 6 size and 17.21 for a K size industrial cylinder. On top of that you pay £30.34 or £58.70 respectively per year rental on the bottles - prices include delivery. Argoshield is £17.45 for a Shieldpak 6 size which makes those tiddly DIY bottles look like toys."(Steve - prices relate to late 2000)

Use gas not specified for welding. Find a local supplier of pub gas. This will be very cheap but make sure that you are getting pure CO2 and not a CO2/Nitrogen mix which would lead to unsatisfactory welds. Or find a local fire protection service - they often sell pure CO2. Initially, you will have to pay for the cylinder, but an annual rental is unlikely to be charged - though you may have to pay for pressure testing every few years.


Looking after leather seats

I use hide food, obtainable from horsey shops. If you prefer automotive products, Gliptone Liquid Leather seems OK. Use it about once every three months, with intermediate wipes with ArmourAll to bring up the shine. This is assuming the leather is clean to start with. If not, use a gentle scrubbing brush with ordinary toilet soap to clean it then wash off with clean water. DO NOT flood it - damp at most. Let it dry thoroughly before proceeding as above. (Geoff MacK)

Seat padding

Adam - look for a source of Temperfoam and Sorbathane. The former is the stuff astronaut couches are mad of, and the latter the same stuff as anechoic tiles on SSBN's. It's also available as sound deadening in top end stereo shops. about 1cm of Sorbathane is as good as 15cm of foam rubber, and the temperfoam conforms as well as supports. Between the two you can build a seat cushion that would be comfortable for a 1000mile day without being numb or needing new kidneys (Mark Becht)

Sunroof - Britax or Webasto?

If you can see the cross-bars from inside the car when the sunroof is closed it's a Britax. If you can't (ie headlining covers them) it's a Webasto. Both sorts were fitted to Heralds and their relatives. (Ian Johnston)

Making carpets

Making your own carpets is not as difficult as you might think - I even made one for the gearbox tunnel on my Vitesse which fits better than the original. Edges can be made quite simply by cutting the carpet well oversize and cutting slits inward from the edge. The edges are then folded over and glued (spray glue from carpet shops is easiest to use). Where the carpet bends, pieces can be joined with a heavy-duty stapler or stitched (across the bends like this >-< ) with copper wire (0.5 to 0.7mm is the sort of size). If you mark the carpet roughly with chalk, you can cut the slits and fold it in the car to get it right, taking it out to glue when you are happy. The chalk rubs off easily. You can then glue underlay (rock wool) afterward - make sure you leave room for it on areas like the gearbox! Oh, BTW, leave "tails" without underlay where the carpet goes underneath a different section. (Anthony New)


Freeing a stuck clutch

With Heralds I normally start the engine and get it running nicely - all warmed up - in neutral. Then I start the car on the level in 1st gear with the clutch depressed, and alternately give it full throttle and none with the clutch still down. It normally breaks free after about three cycles.(Ian Johnston)

Have someone depress the clutch-pedal, then wedge something in the hole where the release-arm goes into the bellhousing to keep the clutch linkage in the "depressed" position.Then leave it for a few days. You'll generally find that, in the absence of clemping force from the clutch pressure-plate, the driven-plate will unstick itself from the flywheel, given time. (Pete Lucas)

My favourite technique (never failed yet, and used on lots of different Triumphs, amongst others) is to get the rear wheels off the ground then run the engine up until it's warm. Once warm, switch off and engage top gear, and run it again, periodically depressing the clutch pedal and holding down for 30 seconds each time. Eventually, the clutch should break free. Do not remove the rear wheels, as their rotating mass will help. When the car is off the ground, find some way of supporting the rear end under the vertical links, as otherwise the half shafts will rub on the chassis. (William Davies)

Seized pistons

Plus Gas is generally regarded as the best pentrating oil/dismantling fluid so soak this into the bores Before you remove the crank and rods try rocking the crankshaft back and forward repeatedly over a period of days at first it will only move a few thou but with persistance this method usually works. If all else fails use a stave of wood to drift the pistons out.(AWM)

Also get yourself the largest hammer you can find. A gentle tap with a 28lb. sledge is far more effective and much less damaging than belabouring something with the average 2lb. hammer. If it doesn't go first time, soak it some more. (Ron Robinson)

This is a no-brainer as they say over the pond. Remove the crank, fit the rod caps back on the rods, belt them with a 4lb lump hammer with a piece of aluminium as a drift to prevent damage. The pistons will move in short order and there will be no damage other than to the rings which are knackered anyway. Just make sure you don't bang the rods into the bottom or sides of the bores. A friend to hold them central helps unless you have 3 hands. It won't hurt to clean the worst of the rust out of the bores above the pistons with a bit of 80 grit wet&dry first so the skirts don't get scuffed. (Dave Baker)

New pistons : which way round do I fit them?

The gudgeon pin will be offset towards one side of the piston - only by 1mm or so. That side of the piston will face the thrust side of the engine. If you don't know how to tell which side of an engine is the thrust side. Look at the front pulley end of the crankshaft - the crank will turn clockwise from this point of view - the thrust side of the block is on the left. (Dave Baker)

Have they split 'skirts', if so they MUST be on the NON thrust side. i.e. (IIRC) the split should be facing the side that the distributor is on ('A' series engine in Austin A35). Also is there a little triangle 'stamped' on the piston crown near the edge ? If so that should face the front (timing chain end). (J.L.E.)

Noisy tappets

Firstly, I would check that the tappets _are_ correct rather than take his word for it, and also do a compression check on all six pots. This might pinpoint a problem. Secondly, using a wooden stick pressed against the bone behind one of your ears, touch the stick to various points around the block to check where the ticking is coming from, it might be something like a noisy cam follower or a chipped tooth. I once found a distributor making just such a tick due to poor bearings. Thirdly, put a timing light on the engine and try to relate the tick to when a particular cylinder fires, you might find the click is every revolution instead of every other one, so that's something on the crankshaft. It _might_ be a creaking valve spring - or broken. (Adrian Stapley)

Had similar problem on a Volvo 144 once - it was a worn rockershaft bearing.(Chris Holbrook)

Practical Classics about Scimitars. Re tappets, the following comment is made :"Engines are generally robust though faults include rocker posts pulling out of the head (be suspicious of noisy tappets)"(Rumfoord)

As a more general point re tappets if the case hardening wears through the valve head can wear a circular depression in the tappet face. When you measure the gap with a feeler gauge it spans the depression, you get a false reading and the tappets continue to rattle.(Roger Chapman)

Oily Mayonnaise (blocking breather pipes)

Could be caused by condensation. Sounds like the engine is never really getting hot enough, try putting in a different thermostat to raise the running temp. Most modern cars now use the closed loop emission control system where crankcase fumes go back through the intake side under vacuum and are burnt. This seems to prevent the mayo, possibly by thoroughly scavenging the crankcase of all moisture. (Adrian Stapley)

If you are not already doing so, use a high grade engine oil. Two years ago in a fit of meanmindedness, I used el cheapo discount store oil in my partner's '76 Mini. Within 10 days of daily driving the rocker cover and cam-chest was chokker with mayo with clear beads of water evident. Doing an immediate oil change back to good old Castrol GTX fixed the problem on the spot. (Jet the Cat)

Laying up a car - drain old oil?

It's best to drain out old oil when storing a car; some of the combustion products are acidic. The newer oils protect against this a certain amount, but for long storage periods it's still best to use new oil. (Rocky Frisco)

Running on

Running-on is normally a combination of too much advance and a hot engine. When I converted my engines to unleaded I noticed a tendency to run a bit hotter, about 5 or 6 degrees C. I didn't have to alter any of my timing settings, but did have to make sure the radiator was in A1 condition. You could also try richening the idle mixture, this has a similar effect to cooling the engine in that a lean mixture is more likely to pre-ignite. (Adrian Stapley)

It's caused by something within the combustion chamber getting so hot it ignites the fuel without a spark. Another name for it is 'dieseling' IIRC, on the A and B series engines, there's a small spike as part of the swish chamber between the valves which causes the problem even on a 'new' engine. Older ones have carbon build up as well. ( Dave Plowman)

Midgets are prone to running on. Retarding the ignition to run on Premium unleaded will make matters worse. You could try richening the mixture slightly, but this won't help the running costs. It might be more economical in the end to use Super unleaded on standard timing. The other trick is to fit an anti-run on valve as fitted to many carburettor Fords etc (Also as fitted to A-series Metro, so should be OK on a Midget. (Rob Pearce)). When you switch the ignition off, it opens and lets in air to the inlet manifold. ( Dave Plowman)

You may find that the carburetters may need to be O'hauled and the shafts and needle and seats replaced. Air will suck into the inlets via this and if the mixture is rich then running on will occur. Oil in the dampers also helps. The flapper valves in the butterfly in later model polution SU's if defective will cause the cars to run on. (WhOop's)

I've seen some engines where the reason for the running-on was that the distributor was seized - the centrifugal advance weights would stick "out" [advanced] after a run, leading to the engine running advanced, and then running-on. Of course, once the engine stopped and had a chance to cool down, the advance-weights returned to normal, so this fault didn't show up when you statically-timed a cold engine! (Pete Lucas)

Other things you can try are (a) fitting a cooler thermostat (often improves engine power, incidentally) or (b) fitting slightly cooler plugs, eg the __CC copper-cored type. Have a look at them first, to see if they have been overheating. (Anthony New)

Gearbox oil GL-4 or GL-5

GL5 grade gearbox oil (which is more expensive than GL4) has an additive in it that attacks copper thrust washers fitted in some differentials (Steve)

Theoretically, yes it is true. But the specific tests which these oils need to pass are at temperature extremes well beyond what you would actually experience in a gearbox or differential. I should add that though I don't consider the risk to be great, I still avoid GL5 like the plague in my vehicles - it's not like GL4 is hard to find! (William Davies)

John Kipping said 'GL4 for back axles/gearboxes and GL5 gearboxes only' (Andy Jones)

As a good rule of thumb, if the drive turns through 90 degrees in a box, it needs a GL-5. If the angle of rotation of the shafts is all in the same plane, a GL-4 is fine.

Propshaft vibrations

If you suspect propshaft troubles, take the whole damned mess off the car. Vibrations from props are as often caused by a tight joint as by a loose one with noticeable play in it. Whilst it's connected to gearbox and diff you won't be able to articulate it to feel for tight trunnions. (Chris Wilson)

Gunson's Clickadjust valve clearance tool

I recently acquired one of these from another TSSC member - very useful tool! The table included suggests one click equals 2 thou, so your 0.012 inch would equal 6 clicks. I checked mine against feeler gauges (difficult on the Triumph engines I have, because the wear pattern forms a groove on the rocker where you need to insert the feeler). (William Davies)

I'd suggest trying to calibrate it with a feeler gauge. I used a Clickadjust and found that when I tightened up the locknut on the tappet the clearance changed (as is normal), so I had to go back and use a slightly different number of clicks from that specified. Once you know the error its fine. (Richard Evans)


Do I need a thermostat?

Two reasons for having a thermostat. 1) It stays closed so that the engine gets up to running temperature quickly. 2) When open - it controls the water flow so that the radiator is able disperse heat to cool the motor. If a motor does not have a thermostat they usually run with a restrictor in its place for the above.( item 2). (WhOop's)

Ineffective heater (on Morris Minor)

I am assuming that the water pump is working and that all the galleries and coolant runs in the engine are free of any sediment and other gunge. When draining and refilling the cooling system make sure that the heater control is set to the 'Hot' position. Also ensure that coolant is actually being pumped around the system by checking that there is a flow through the heater. Just remove the outlet hose and check the flow rate. Check all hoses for breaking up internally, or simply replace with new. Some heater controls have a rubber diaphragm so make sure this has not collapsed.It is possible to get an airlock where the heater unit is mounted in a high position. Also check that the thermostat is functioning properly, if in doubt replace it. Make sure that you add a good quality anti-freeze solution to the system. (Trojan Horse)

Carbs etc.

Carburettor spindle wear

BTW, I don't think anyone gave a quick way of checking for worn spindles. Smear a thick layer of grease all round the spindles where they enter the bodies. This will provide a temporary seal. Do it with the engine running, and if the speed changes, you have wear. (Dave Plowman)

Another quick check for this: If you can't wobble the shaft easily, use a rubber tube with a funnel on it as an ear trumpet - you can hear the hiss of air near a worn spindle bush. (Anthony New)

Are K&N air filters worth the money for the performance increase?

They might be, but only if you use appropriately larger jets in the carbs and also take care of the other end of the engine (ie. exhaust). Be prepared for more intake noise, too. (Yippee)

SU Carbs

After cleaning with carb cleaner or cellulose thinners, the trick is to seal up the holes in the piston with rubber bungs, and invert the assembly over something soft. The outer should drop slowly, taking a couple of seconds or so to fall off. Don't use any polish on the *inside* of the piston assembly, only solvent type cleaner. If you wish to polish up the *outside*, metal polish will do. (Dave Plowman)

If the piston doesn't fall freely then you have to centralise the jet in the lower housing so the needle isn t rubbing against the side and causing problems. The needle has to be in the middle of the jet. (Andrew John Wall)

SU carbs - HIF6: loose pipe problem

The brass pipe pulling out of alloy carb. bodies is quite commonplace - the early Reliant Scimitars were known for this, and quite a few ended up burned-out as a result. The problem is caused by different expansion-rates between the alloy carb. body and the brass pipe - high under-bonnet temperatures exacerbate the problem. The fix is indeed to "pin" the pipe in place - drill a small hole through the alloy body of the carb, then when it hits the brass tube, switch to an even-smaller drill-bit to breach the wall of the tube. Then get a suitably-sized self-tapper, slather it with a suitable jointing compound (I use Blye Hylomar) and screw self-tapper into hole. Look up the tube to check that the tip of the self-tapper has come through the small hole in the brass pipe, and is now locking the pipe into the carb. body. (Pete Lucas)

I repaired one by tinning the pipe with solder to increase the diameter slightly, then pressing it back in place with some Hylomar. (Dave Plowman)

Petrol Gauge

The Sender can be removed by twisting the sealing-ring in the tank. Once out, the Sender is a cigarette box sized thing with an arm. The box can be delicately opened with a pair of pliars to lift the 'wings'. I use WD-40 to clean off all the Gunk and deposits around the arm-wiper the earths and the wiping surface. The Sender can be tested by wiring the two wires up to it outside the tank: Fully one way reads empty and Fully the other reads Full - it really is that simple. (Donald McCabe)

Even if you can't easily get another of the exact type, most of the period senders had the same internal mechanism and they are usually around in scrap yards. I repaired my Triumph one last week by fitting the old arm and float onto a spare mechanism from another car (a "chocolate block" electrical connector suffices for the join). On the usual old British type the resistance usually varies from about 0 ohms at full to 200 ohms (roughly) at empty. IME the usual problem with duff senders is the resistance wire inside breaks. Virtually impossible to repair except by substitution. (Anthony New)

Unleaded Petrol

Bayford Thrust have started to list the sites where leaded fuel is now available again. Click on "leaded". (splashlube)

Also Motordata

If your classic has soft valve seats designed to run on leaded petrol, you have several possible courses of action:

1, Fit a modified cylinder head with hardened valve seats.

2, LRP - lead replacement petrol, now sold in place of 4*.

3, Use a fuel additive. But make sure it's one approved by the FBHVC and don't mix it with LRP - you could cause more damage.

4, Do nothing. The "lead memory" effect may prevent any damage for several thousand miles after which go to 1) above.

There has been considerable discussion about "catalysts" claimed to allow the use of unleaded petrol in vehicles designed to use leaded only. It is the consensus of the newsgroup, the AA, the Federation of British Historical Vehicle Clubs, the Advertising Standards Authority and various classic car magazines, that these products do not work and that any apparent benefit can be accounted for by the "lead memory" and/or placebo effects.

"Lead Memory"

Any (Triumph) engine which has done 50-60,000 miles will have built up considerable "Lead Memory" - a buildup of Lead Oxides - on the faces of the exhaust valves and their seats. This tough coating will protect the valves for some considerable time after you stop using leaded petrol (this is the factor which allows the Catalyst people to claim their products work - they are in fact a fraud). Several members of the TSSC in my area have run Heralds on unleaded for at least 3 years without problems. I would expect an engine treated in this way to expire through natural wear and tear before the valves recede! On the other hand, if the valves have been replaced or reground, or the engine is a low mileage unit, the Lead Memory will no longer be a factor. (William Davies)


Battery draining after lack of use for a few days

Disconnect the battery at night and see if it still does it (sludged battery discharging itself internally - replace it with a modern battery with plate separator bags). If it only discharges when connected, try pulling fuses and measuring current flow across the gap. It could be the clock, or it could just be brittle and cracked insulation on Lucas' wire. (Andy Dingley)

Pete's Guide To Jump Leads

1) Always connect the positive lead first, if you did the negative lead first and then accidentally dropped a positive lead on the engine it would short a battery (not pretty)

2) Connect the flat battery first - less risk of mega-explosion if you make a mistake

3) Before you disconnect, turn off all lights, stereos and electronic equipment and turn ON the rear window demister and set the blower to max. When you remove the jump leads you occasionally get a large back emf which is not nice to electronics.

4) Before you put a new battery in, having purchased it from Kwik-Fit around the corner only ten minuites before hand - check that positive as labeled really is positive...

5) Contrary to what your neighbours believe - if the points are knackered, there ain't no point in trying to jumpstart the thing! (Peter)

Changing polarity of a car

If it is equipped with an alternator, (rare) you will need a new one. If it has a dynamo, it is rather easier. First, the battery. The terminals are of different sizes so new leads will be needed. Most decent motor factors should have them in an assortment of lengths. If the battery has to be turned round physically, make sure there is no danger of the terminals touching bodywork etc - this could easily cause a fire. It might be necessary to change the battery for a similar sized one with the terminals in the correct place. Connect the battery earth but not the positive at this stage. Disconnect the two terminals from the dynamo. There is a large and a small one. The small one is the field winding which needs re-polarizing. Make a connection to it with a length of wire. 'Wipe' the other end of the wire across the battery positive - there should be a small spark. Reconnect the dynamo. Swap the LT connectors on the coil. They might be marked + and - or CB and SW. On some coils, these are male and female connectors which will have to be changed on the wiring loom - but this is fairly rare. Other thing that might need changing can be the heater - likely - and or windscreen - less likely - motors. An ammeter will also need its connections reversing or it will read in reverse. If the car is fitted with a transistor radio (comes on instantly) this will need to be replaced or altered. Many of the period are selectable between + and - earth, and have the instructions on the case. A valve radio is OK either way. Look out also for any aftermarket accessories, like cooling fans and revcounters. Anything with electronics could well be damaged beyond economic repair by the wrong polarity. Things like permanant magnet motors will just run in reverse. Most motors of this period which had field windings like the starter motor - are OK. (Dave Plowman)

First check that no electronics have been fitted. Radios, tachos electronic ignition as these require some mods to work with the "wrong polarity. Right basic warning over. So swap the battery leads. The dynamo starts itself by the residual magnetism in the body left from the last time it ran. This will be the wrong way round. To change the way round identify the field connector. There should be 2 connectors on the dynamo the field one is the smaller one. Take a piece of insulated wire and strip both ends. Connect one end to the battery live and brush the other end over the field connector. This is flashing the dynamo and should be done after any dynamo rebuild to restablish the correct residual magnetic field. It should take 1 second max to do. It takes far longer to describe and find the wire than to do. (Ian Sumner)

In addition to the dynamo and battery as Ian describes, you should swap the low tension leads on the coil. Spark plugs work better with a -ve HT voltage, so you want to maintain that. (Robert Pearce)

Unfortunately if you do that the internal wiring of the coil may be wrong. Better to use a negative-earth coil. (Ian Johnston)

Checking a dynamo

To check the regulator, disconnect A and A1 and link the two wires. Measure the voltage at dynamo D terminal to earth, with the engine at approx 3000 rpm. Should be 16-16.5 volts. To check the armature, remove D from the control box. At 1500 rpm approx, check the voltage from the D lead to earth. This should be 1.5-3 volts due to residual magnetism. To check the field, disconnect D and F from the dynamo. Link D and F at the dynamo via an ammeter, and a voltmeter from D to earth. Run the engine up until the volt meter reads 12. The ammeter should read 2-2.5 amps.

> Also ... if I do buy a new dynamo I expect I'll have to convert it to > positive-earth. Can someone remind me how to do this?

Earth the casing. Briefly touch the field terminal to the live of the battery. You are now polarised. (Dave Plowman)

The standard way to test a dynamo is to disconnect both terminals from the rest of the car, and then to short them together with a small piece of wire. Connect a voltmeter to measure the voltage between these two joined-together terminals and the chassis of the car (i.e the engine or dynamo case) Start the engine and increase revs to no more than about 2000RPM. The voltmeter should show incising output as you accelerate the engine. Do not allow the voltage to go above 20 v or so (you risk burning the dynamo out). If you get 16V at about 1000-1500 rpm all is OK. If you have no voltmeter, a 12V bulb - the bigger the wattage the better - will do. Stop accelerating the engine before the bulb glows so brightly that it burns out. (Alan Teeder)

Using a dwell meter

Connect the meter, red croc clip to +ve, black to -ve of battery and the third lead (blue I think) to the coil (+ side I think but if it don't work just try the other terminal, it'll either work or not work) start the car and run at idle, your manual should give you the required dwell angle. If the reading is too high that means the contact breaker gap is too small and vice versa. Adjust the cb as necessary. (Graham)

Just to add to that, if you get a reading that is fluctuating, it could indicate a worn spindle/distributor.(Natalie Softley)

Testing a condenser

If you have an analogue voltmeter, you can test after a fashion that the condenser is storing charge. With the condenser out of the distributor, connect it across a 12 battery for a few seconds. Then set your voltmeter to a range greater than 12 volts, and connect the multimeter across the condenser. If it is storing a charge, the voltmeter should flip up to 12v very briefly, then decay down to 0v, the decay becoming slower as the reading tends towards 0v.

What I usually do if I suspect a condenser failure is to (a) use a multimeter set to ohms to check that it isnt short circuit, then (b) leaving the condenser inside the distributor, hang an extra condenser between the switched side of the coil and earth using a couple of short leads with croc clips. If this cures your problem, the condenser inside the distributor is probably at fault. (Mike Rose)

Coil getting too hot and then failing

I assume that you've checked the most obvious thing - that the + and - connections are wired correctly? If the coil is wired the wrong way round, an engine will run OK for a while, then will suddenly die. Although the coil usually gets hot under such circumstances, it's unlikely that it would be damaged permanently, though... (Alan Eardley)

Try checking the ignition dwell angle and/or contact breaker points gap. Also check or replace the HT leads - if you have a gap or high-resistance somewhere it can overstress the coil and perhaps lead to internal arcing. (Anthony New)

I just wonder in case you have accidentally replaced a ballast resistance wire with ordinary wire and so the coil is now getting too much power. Or perhaps your replacement coil was designed to run with a ballast resistor but your car doesn't have one. (Ian Edwards)

Coils run surprisingly warm, but should be touchable after a run. ( Ian Johnston)

Testing coils & capacitors

The only easy way to test a coil at home is to put it into service. You can test it with a multimeter, get a perfect set of readings, and it might still fail under load. The intermittent type of failure is the worst - you just can't detect it until the coil is up to working temp and load in the hostile environment under the bonnet. As far as capacitors go, once they've been in use and then left lying around for ages they can't be relied on. Sure, keep a couple kicking about just to get you out of trouble, but don't be too surprised if they're no good. A new, boxed capacitor will generally last for years, so keep one as a handy spare. (Dave Curmudgeon)

Electronic Ignition

The lumention is an excellent device. I've got one, plus a CD-ignition module (Sparkrite) to give extra spark energy - one drives the other quite happily. If you do fit the lumenition optical system, buy a new dizzy backplate and install it on that - you can carry the old one *still correctly set up* with CB points as a spare in case the lumenition fails (they don't very often, but when they do it can be *very* inconvenient)!

An optical unit reduces wear and timing drift. To improve mpg over a correctly adjusted standard set-up you need to increase spark energy, either by fitting a hotter coil with an ignition amplifier, or an inductive ignition unit which optimises dwell at high rpm, or a capacitor discharge unit.(Anthony New)

If you're only really looking for extended contact life then use a booster type unit. Maplin sell a kit (if you're half decent with a soldering iron) for under 15 quid, which I have found to be very effective. (Rob Pearce)

Lucas 18ACR Alternators from scrapyards

Two things to look out for. I'm by no means an auto-electrician, but I know the alternators come in "left hand" and "right hand" versions. Check which type of brackets are needed for your car. Watch out for the type of connector plug. The "European" plug was most common. This had two large terminals together with the smaller one alongside it, but some of the later MGBs were originally fitted with the "BSH" termination. This had one large terminal in the middle with one smaller one on each side. If you come across one of those, make sure you get the plug from the wiring loom.(Martin Watson)

IIRC, the third connection was a 'voltage sensing wire' meant to give more accurate control of the output, presumably for 'sealed' batteries. Avoid this if possible. I had one such alternator on a P6 3500S. Probably the worst alternator known to man (Dave Plowman)

Mending electric windows (Merc 280CE)

I found it necessary to mend a rear window winder for a Merc 280CE recently and was surprised how easy it is.The new motor is £127 from Merc. I bought a s/h mk2 Astra winder from a dealer because it had the same looking Bosch motor on it.The failure occurs in the resistor inside the motor, put there to control the pressure of the window at the top of its travel. The resistor is the size of a small cough sweet and will burn out if the switch is pressed for a long time.

There are two methods of mending the motor:

1/ Remove the winding mech and its motor. Remove the motor from its gearbox. Grip the back end in a vice and knock off the terminal block. The plastic front of the motor is attached as are the brushes. The resistor is part of the plastic front and brush assembly. Throw it away and replace it with the one from a DisAstra. The resistor might not be the same, but it seems to work ok.

2/ Remove the motor but not its front. Solder a wire across the two solder pins that are only 10mm apart (ends of the resistor). Fit an appropriate resistor safely in the wiring. You might need to measure one in a good motor, or guess the resistance. Unless of course someone can de-cipher the motor code. I assume there are different resistors to apply a known force between the top of the glass and the roof. (Colin Gibson)


Pulling to one side (after replacing dampers)

If it brakes more to the nearside, then that brake could be okay; it's maybe the offside which isn't braking enough. Check it's bled properly. Also, were the struts in good condition. One could be worn more than the other. Always replace in identical pairs. The struts (including springs?)can affect the braking if the car dives more on one side. You should also check tracking after getting new struts.(Alison Moorcroft)

Check the front springs are not under tension, Many years ago I changed the front struts on my 1600E. In my eagerness to tighten up the springs they both got wound up tight, the symtoms were similar to yours. A old garage chap tipped me off about springs winding up so all the time they are trying to uncoil themselves! His trick was to slacken off slightly the top nut on the struts and drive down the road slowly weaving the steering. After only a couple of feet clunk clunk and both the springs twanged back into position. (Mike Blakesley)

Silicone Brake Fluid


Doesn't act as a paint stripper (except on Hammerite).

Non-hygroscopic - doesn't draw in moisture from the atmosphere with subsequent lowering of boiling point, and corrosion problems.

Doesn't need changing every few years.



Can cause major problems if the car is subsequently painted. It is very difficult to remove entirely and causes bad paint reaction (also applies to e.g. silicone based tyre dressing products, polishes).

Some say it is more compressible than normal brake fluid resulting in a spongy pedal feel.

"Any water which enters the system will now become "pooled", rather than distributed in the fluid. One reported problem (on the Triumph mailing list) which sticks in my mind is localised corrosion of the braking system." (William Davies)

Tips on usage:

When bleeding silicone, use a pressure bleeder - especially on Herald clutches. Pumping the pedal tends to froth silicone fluid. (Andy Dingley)

How do I swap from DOT3/4 to silicone?

Opinions vary. I've seen advice from DOT5 producers saying it's OK to just drain a DOT3/4-filled system and fill it with silicone fluid. But I've seen many people (mostly racers, dealing with high performance systems) on the Internet warning against it. Personally, I'd only use silicone in a reasonably clean system, just to be sure. (Yippee)


There are three basic paint types used on motor vehicles:

Enamel - agricultural type paint, ideal for chassis etc., but can't be cut back for a high gloss finish. Cheap and easy to apply by brush.

2 pack - used on all new cars and by professional paintshops where environmental controls forbid the use of cellulose paint. It is tough, hard wearing and can give a good finish straight from the spraygun. However, finish looks "plasticky" which some say is inappropriate for classic cars. Due to toxic fumes, application requires externally fed breathing apparatus not usually feasable for amateur/d-i-y use. Dries by chemical reaction rather than by evaporation.

Cellulose - the traditional paint for classic cars. Can be cut back and polished to a deep shine. Environmental controls now prevent its use by professional paintshops, however it is still available (with some restrictions) for d-i-y use. Dries by evaporation of thinners - typically 50% volume (hence the environmental concerns).

How do I remove "blooming" (in cellulose paint)

Try using a polishing or rubbing compound if it's not bloomed to much. If the paintwork has gone totally white you'll need to respray, but remember to use anti-bloom cellulose thinners when repainting. If it's particularly bad just denib and flash over a couple of coats.(Steve)

Just used some rubbing compound by hand and then T Cut polishing off with a sheepskin on a drill.....looking good. (Buddy)

Seam sealer

I have just gone through this process with my car. I can reccommend you zinc primer ALL joints before sealing. In the past I have just sealed the bare/jenolite joints only to find them rusting UNDER the sealant. The modern sealants stick like S**t to a blanket and do a great job so good quality zinc primer then plenty of seam sealer. (I gunned mine and then used a good spreader to overlap the joints) finish off with good quality undersealer and you 'should' have a good protective coating on your car. (Mike Blakesley)

Every thing said above I would agree with, but if you want to 'go the whole mile' it might be worth thinking about using the thick type of stone chip coating on the underside and then paint the under body with the correct body colour, the use 'clear' underbody wax as added protection. (JLE)

Check with the seam-sealer spec sheet if it is OK to paint the metal first or not, some sealers seem to work better without painted metal & others work better with... Give the sealer time to dry, so to give up any thinners before painting, otherwise you may get problems. (JLE)

Remember when using many modern gun applied sealants , they can be over painted immediately.If you leave them over 24 hours they need to be rubbed with scotch brite so overcoats adhere. 3M 08851 Sprayable Sealer 3m aerosol weld thru 05913 I believe has the highest concentrate of zinc. The key to good prep is to clean the area's to be coated very well. (g middleton)

Where to buy engine paint?

Try going to your local agricultural merchants and look for "tractor enamel". Available in a whole range of colours, and it's quite heat-resistant enough for use on things like cylinder-blocks. ( Pete Lucas)


Hammerite (Hammerite Smooth - the stuff that used to be Smoothrite) seems to be very brittle and chips easily - a small stone can easily break the seal allowing rust to start increasing again. (Aaron Timbrell)

Hammerite applied 3 coats to well de-rusted metal will stave off rust for a couple of years, but eventually it comes back. Once you've used Hammerite it tends to bubble and lift if you try to use other types of paint on top. The nice shiny Hammerite finish tends to disappear after a few months. That said, it's good for engine bay, under chassis, under wheel arches, inside doors etc, particularly if you are prepared to wire brush and re-paint every couple of years or so. (John)

Ignore what the instructions say about painting on bare metal, the only way you'll get Hammerite to stick properly is by priming first with No. 1 (Rob Pearce)

Rust Prevention

Rust Removal

Clean to bare metal. Treat with phosphoric acid (eg. Jenolite - Ed). Paint with Bondaprimer. Prime with primer. Paint. (Hugh)

"bare metal" means clean rust free bare metal. Use a scotchbrite disc on a drill (available at B&Q these days) to get it shiny. If the other side of the panel is rusty, no amount of work on the exposed surface will stop the rust getting through. (Rob Pearce)

I would always use the needle scaler, they remove the loose stuff, and also burnish the surface slightly with a sort of peening action. I wouldn't use grit-blasting again because of the mess, and the abrasive effect. I used the scaler on the Sabre chassis and found that in most cases I didn't need to use the angle-grinder before welding in new metal, the peening effect was enough. (Adrian Stapley)

For small areas a vibratory engraver with tungsten tipped bit will do instead of a needle deruster. (John)

I'd say a needle scaler is much too violent. It's a bundle of thin metal rods which are agitated by air, so they poke into the metal surface and remove the rust. I've seen them in use on bridges and boilers, but not car bodies, though I guess a chassis might hold up to one. (Andy Vevers)

Be careful because shotblasting leaves steel in ideal condition to start rusting again immediately, so by the time you get whatever it is back from the shotblasting firm the whole darned corrosion thing is starting all over again. (Ron Robinson)

Which is why most grit blasting specialists will also prime the shell for you. Well worth getting that done, even if there's further work needed. (Rob Pearce)

I use a 3M Scotchbrite disk on an electric drill. Available from Frost, and even from B&Q. It works well because it's flexible enough to get into shallow pitting, harsh enough to remove the rust thoroughly, but not really hard enough to remove any metal. (Rob Pearce)

I tend to use an electric drill for this, but if your angle grinder slows down enough, effects should be similar. Of all the cheapish options I found wire brushes and Scotchbrite(?) type discs to behave and last about the same. I ended up applying a chemical stripper and then removing the softened paint with the drill mounted wire brush. You have to work quickly as the stripper dries out fast, only do about a square foot at a time. It takes about three lots of stripper then brushing to get down to bare metal. Obviously, the stuff goes everywhere, so wear old clothes - preferably leather, and cover over any sound paintwork. Also, wear a decent face mask and eye protection. (Willy Eckersyke)

Surface Rust: strip area and large area around with angle grinder and wire brush (don't lean heavily on the grinder) and ensure any spray of sparks avoids glass/mirrors/upholstery etc. Remove all areas of metal that look sound but have darkened. Treat area with Jenolite (the gel stuff works best) and follow the instructions on the tub, alternately use the gel initially, and the liquid for the removal. Use zinc based primer then (if needed) building primer then paint. (zzz)

Red Tape

Tax Exemption

From the DVLA web site in the FAQ section:

"5. My car was constructed before 1st January 1973. Am I entitled to free vehicle licences?

A vehicle qualifies to enter the "Exempt Historic Vehicle Taxation Class" if it was constructed before 1st January 1973. [If the date of manufacture is not shown on the V5 Registration Document, you will be asked to produce a certified extract from the manufacturer's records or evidence from an appropriate vehicle enthusiast's club]

To license a qualifying vehicle for the first time in the new class, you must make your application to a Vehicle Registration Office (see DVLA Offices for the postal address of your nearest office). Vehicles licensing in the new class will continue to be subject to the requirement to licence annually. This will require the production of an appropriate test certificate (if applicable) and a certificate of insurance in order to obtain a nil licence for display on the vehicle."


Horse-power calculations

The RAC Formula is (switch of fixed pitch for all formulae) :

D*D*N H.P. = ------- 16.13

where D = Diameter of Cylinder in centimeters and N = Number of cylinders

So if you can find out / remember the bore diameter, you can work out the H.P.

Out of curiosity the Dendy Marshall Formula is

D*D*S*N*R H.P. = --------- 200,000

where D & N are as the RAC formula and S = Stroke in centimeters R = Revolutions per minute

The A.C.U formula is 100 c.c. = 1 H.P. (Peter Jones)

Marque specific FAQs

(new section - may be moved to seperate pages if it gets too big)

Reliant Scimitar

Scimitar SE6a water control valve location

I've got a 6b, which is basically the same as a 6a. They don't have a water-valve, the heater hot/cold mechanism operates by a diverter flap that feeds air either through the heater-matrix, or bypasses it. If you pull one of the big flexy air-pipes off the side of the heater- box, you can stick your hand in the hole and feel the top of the heater matrix, and the flap moving. The heater-blowers (two of them...) are mounted right in the nose - behind the headlights, one on each side. Take the spare wheel out, and look in the space behind the lights. (Pete Lucas)


Would a 2L engine from a 2000 saloon fit a Vitesse?

You would need to swap over the manifolds, sump, rear plate, flywheel, engine mounts, front plate (or at least chop off the 2000 engine mounts) and maybe the front pulley. I'm sure someone will point out anything I've forgotten. However the job shouldn't be as bad as it sounds from this list. The other point to maybe consider is whether your Vitesse is Mark I or II and likewise the 2000 engine. Mark I 2 litre Vitesses and (I think) Mark 1 2000s had a less efficient cylinder head easily identifiable by exposed alloy push-rod tubes. However it will still fit in a Mark II Vitesse. (Charles Jackson)

Also the saloon engine was in a lower state of tune than the Vitesse (milder cam and possibly lower compression). Oh, and keep the Vitesse manifolds, because Mk1 saloons had small bore inlet tracts and late Mk2s had extra large ones for commonality with the 2500S. (Rob Pearce)


Morris 1000 Convertable. Original or conversion?

Yes, you can tell from the Chassis numbers. and in your case I have the following from the original BMC workshop manual. The car number ID code consists of three letters one number then one letter followed by the number off the production line. the first letter is the name (A=Austin M=Morris) the second is the model cubic cap A=800to999cc. G=1000to12999cc the third and the most important is the body type, and if yours is not a J for convertable, then its been converted from something else, most likely S, which stands for Saloon and in the case of 2 doors it was marked 2S (4 doors was just plain S). I would also like to mention that you get good and bad conversions, and you should check that it has strengthening in the right places. (Bob Taylor)

1. Check the chassis number plate under the bonnet on the left of the bulkhead as you look in. if it includes MAT your car should be a genuine convertible (T means 'tourer'). If it includes MA2S it was a 2 door saloon!. But of course as this plate is just screwed onto the bulkhead it could have been replaced by a replica. 2. Write to the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon, Warwickshire, England quoting all idenifying numbers/codes that you can find and any additional information you have. They should be able to trace your car and tell you its origins. There is a charge of around £20 for this though. 3. Have you got bracing at each end of the dashboard to the front door pillars which is spot welded ? Have you got thick strengthening at the base of both 'B' posts ? Does the top of the windscreen with the hood down look VERY tidy? If yes to these then this is a good sign that you have a genuine convertible. 4. Join the Morris Minor Owner's Club (GAB)

'A' series engine. Original Morris 1000 or later conversion

Unlikely to be from a Metro -- the engine was sideways in the Metro whereas it is fore-and-at in the Moggy. Much more likely is that it has a Marina or Ital A+ engine. Leyland did a lot of mods on the old A-series around 1980 and called it the A+. The A+ had all sorts of modifications, almost all of which were good, to both bottom and top end. AFAIK, the only in-line A+ engines were 1275cc. Certainly, the manifolds on the A+ are the only factory A-series manifolds (Cooper S excepted) that are even satisfactory. In fact, some of the A+ factory kit (MG Metro) is as good as the many after-market stuff, and can be had for next to nothing.

Alternatively, you may have just an A+ top end out of a Metro on an old A-series block.

Now, how to tell...

First, look at the block below the carb(s). If it is basically a solid wall of metal (with lumps and bumps; not smooth) it is a 1275, either A or A+. OTOH, if it has two covers each secured in place by a bolt, it is not.

Now, look at the top of the cylinder head around the rocker box. Early engines have a smooth surface to the top of the head. OTOH, if there are smooth machined regions just next to the rocker box and around the head bolts and thermostat, surrounded by slightly recessed rough regions, it is a later (maybe A+) head.

No A+ had twin carbs. All had a single SU HIF.

Now look at the front of the head. Is there a pipe connecting the water pump to the underside of the head? If so, it is almost certainly not an A+. These all did without this horrid bypass hose. (Alistair

Hydroelastic suspension pump

I made one out of a large grease gun, just changed the connector, filled the container with fluid and away it went. In fact the idea came from an original BMC 1100 workshop manual. Its ok for topping up, but if you have replaced pipework you really need to evacuate the system first. (Tony Simons)

Importing a Classic

You are due to pay duty on all goods imported into the UK unless you have been none resident for over 12 months AND have owned the goods for at least 6 months. For a motor vehicle you must also produce proof that the vehicle has been registered and insured in your name during this qualifying period. (David A. Jameson)

Practical Classics, Feb '99, selected bits..

Basically you will usually be charged Duty on the purchase price of the car (or whatever customs decide it is worth if your sales receipt looks to be dodgy!) You will then be charged VAT on everything (Price of car+shipping costs+duty) ie the total 'landed cost.' You will also have to factor in the actual shipping charges, port fees etc. though there are many specialists who will quote an all in price (excluding duty/VAT as this is up to customs on the day) Beware there are a lot of places- especially US ones that quote very cheap shipping which will then turn out to exclude port fees etc. which can end up *very* expensive if you are unlucky to have something stuck in the port for more than a couple of days. (Bob)

Registering an imported car

    1. Get it roadworthy and insured.
    2. Book it in for an MOT.
    3. Take for its MOT without number plates.
    4. Get MOT certificate without a reg number (presumably with chassis and engine number).
    5. Take or send the MOT to your local VRO, fill out a form and pay a reg fee.
    6. Get age related number from the local VRO, who also fill in the reg on your MOT and free tax disc.

This procedure is as spelled out for me, by Shrewsbury VRO (because I applied for mine early and could not believe I had to drive without a number plate).

Check it at your local Vehicle Registration Office. You will get an age related number, but you will not be able to transfer it. (Colin Gibson)


You will need ( for UK reg )

  1. V55/5 from DVLA Swansea, or your nearest DVLA office
  2. C & E 386, from Customs and Excise (or garage that imported it)
  3. MOT Get it MOT'd on the vin number ( if its more than 3 years old )
  4. Log book (title) from country its been imported from. ( or a dating letter proving when the car was manufactured )
  5. £25 registration payment plus 6 or 12 months road tax payment
  6. Insurance cover. ( they will issue you a cover note on the vin number )

Depending which DVLA office you use they might want to inspect the car, you normally get a UK reg. number within a few days of he paperwork being processed. (Steve (cb)R)


Apply to your local licensing office not Swansea otherwise you get a remote Scottish reg number.

If you do not have the Customs and Excise 389 form you will have to pay 17.5% vat on the purchase price! (Dixie)


Do you still need c&e 386 if the car is from Europe?

If the car is already here you will need to contact the "Inland Customs and Excise" : Portcullis House, 21 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff CF11 9SS. If the car is not, contact the Customs and Excise office at Dover.

Generally you should not pay duty or full VAT on a car over 35 years old (some move the age - not sure how discretionary that is) The rate from the USA is 5% VAT on your purchase price and no duty. I have only experience of two cars from the USA (none from Europe).

You may be asked for proof of its age, what it is and that is interesting or historic. A car club letter is acceptable at this point. You may be asked for confirmation of its import category, this is a BTI (Binding Tariff Information) and is not as bad as it sounds - ask Dover or Cardiff. (Colin Gibson)


Classic car policies from specialised brokers often offer substantial savings and advantages such as agreed vehicle values and the opportunity to retain the vehicle following a claim. Membership of an appropriate owners club is sometimes necessary. The car may have to be valued by the club - usually from photographs.

Some or all the following limitations may apply:

However, policies vary considerably, so it's always worth trying a specialised broker before resorting to more conventional cover.

Can I insure my classic while it is in storage or undergoing restoration?

"Unused classics can be usually be insured relatively cheaply on "laid-up" policies via specialist brokers, though they will probably need to be kept in a locked garage.

How do I find a specialist classic car insurance broker?

Recommending or listing companies is beyond the scope of this FAQ so check the classic motoring press, ask for recommendations within the group or access a usenet archive site (links below) to search for previous recommendations.

If you haven't found the information you're after, try searching with one of the online newsgroup archives such as:


Groups at Google

Or to search the web:

A useful source of links (owners' clubs etc.) can be found at:

Classic Motor Monthly

Other motoring FAQs:


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