Project Bluebird: Actual roadtrip

Finally, on Friday 21st July, I actually set off to drive somewhere further than 12 miles away in the Bluebird. It was time to test my abilities. Would the head gasket survive? Would the JB Weld Waterweld hold on the thermostat housing? Would I discover that the car was actually completely knackered?

The first destination was SNG Barratt in Bridgnorth, where I had to spend some time peeking at the underside of a 340 saloon.

Success! First destination reached.

That was dealt with quite pleasantly, though the Bluebird was starting to cause some concern over broken surfaces. The front end would shake alarmingly. It feels like the dampers are shot, so the front wheels are ‘pattering.’ This means they’re actually not in constant contact with the road, though thankfully it would still go around corners.

With the visit complete, I checked the coolant level. It had dropped only very slightly, though the heater output had once again gone horribly cold when I tested it. Oh. Bother. After an overnight halt in Buckinghamshire with some friends, it was time to head to Hagerty Insurance’s Festival of the Unexceptional. This is a classic meet I’ve long desired to attend, and it is chock full of the sort of cars I love – ie really ordinary ones. The Bluebird was ideal. Look in the background of the shot below and you’ll see such luminaries as a Volvo 66 estate, a Lada Riva estate, a Nissan Terrano II and a Patrol! People were dead keen to ogle the Bluebird’s immaculate* engine bay.

Bluebird engine

Bluebird at The Festival of the Unexceptional 2017.

It was a great show, though the Bluebird developed a fault, when the sunroof refused to close. Just as it started raining. UGH! An umbrella saved us from a soaking, and, with help from other Bluebird owners, we eventually managed to force the sunroof closed using a screwdriver and the manual winding override.

Oh dear! Sunroof jams open.

I’d been forced to ditch the spoiler on the driver’s wiper blade by this point, as it was fouling on the black trim at the base of the windscreen. Then the wiper started clicking quite horribly. I prayed it wasn’t the usual Bluebird wiper linkage problem, where it falls apart. I distracted myself by leading a merry convoy of Japanese metal to a Little Chef.

A fantastic convoy of rare Japanese metal. And my Bluebird.

Horrible weather, but a lovely mix of Japanese classics, including Dan Hirst’s fabulous Honda Quintet, and the green Sunny of Mark Ashbridge that won car of the show!

After that, I headed to Bromsgrove, for an overnight stay with relatives, before heading to Shelsley Walsh hillclimb and a very different event – Classic Nostalgia!

Parked up at Classic Nostalgia, Shelsley Walsh.

This was also a fantastic event, which I’ll cover in a video shortly. After that, it was just a two-hour drive home, with my sat nav choosing some particularly entertaining roads!

Well, they would have been entertaining had I not been in a Nissan Bluebird 1.6 with knackered shock absorbers. It wasn’t terrifying, but it wasn’t exactly fun. I eventually arrived home, feeling just as knackered as the shocks.

Back home, with milk for tea!

Overall then, a bit underwhelming, though very pleasing that an engine I repaired seems to work very nicely. We covered probably 360 miles, though it’s hard to be exact. The trip reckoned about 400 miles, but the tyres are the wrong size – 65 profile instead of 80 – which means an indictated 83mph is a sat nav-confirmed 70. This means the trip distance is also wrong.

But, I can’t help thinking there’s potential to explore here. Could some aftermarket goodies transform the Bluebird into a car that actually handles? It’s so utterly dreadful at the moment that I can’t help thinking it’d be an ideal guinea pig. I do actually like it, despite its drearyness. On motorways, it’s remarkably composed. Let’s see what happens…

Video: The Shitefest Series

UPDATED!

Shitefest has been and gone, already a week ago, but I’ve been working hard on getting new video content uploaded since the event. Here’s what I have so far. Do keep an eye on my channel, as further videos will be forthcoming over the next few weeks. I’m afraid the day job is about to get seriously busy again, which may delay things, but there are already three videos for your enjoyment, with a wealth of unusual car content!

First, an overall event report, including my visit to the 2CVGB event Registers’ Day.

 

Next, a thoroughly boring review of a Renault.

 

And for variety, the Innocenti Small 500! Daihatsu power, in a Bertone/BMC spin-off. Wonderful.

Now with more videos!

Do subscribe to my channel, and you’ll automatically be notified when new video content has been uploaded.

I’m quite proud of that channel. It now contains over 120 videos, covering cars as varied as the Tesla Model S, LDV Pilot van, Innocenti Small 500 and Nissan Bluebird. It also now has over half a million views! My videos will never have impressive production values, nor an actual script. It’s just me and my mobile phone. I’m thrilled that folk appear to enjoy them!

A Mini, but with Italian styling and Japanese mechanicals. Pic courtesy Michael Carpenter.

Project Dirty Daimler: Collection

I’ve edited three different magazines this year, but that’s about to change. Rolls-Royce and Bentley Driver will be passing to a new editor, because I’m busy enough with Classic Jaguar and Retro Japanese. Indeed, Classic Jaguar has been selling rather well, so we’re moving to six issues per year instead of four.

I already have the Honda S-MX (and to a lesser extent the Daihatsu-based Perodua Nippa) for Retro Japanese, but lacked a Classic Jaguar to call my own. So, I decided to do something about it, in the way only I know how. By rushing out and buying the worst one I could find. Not only that, but it was over 300 miles away in Glasgow. Oh, and it had a fuel leak. So, how did that pan out? A full report will be in the next issue of Classic Jaguar magazine (June/July 2017), but here’s my video of the day itself.

Project OMG: Work begins

Now I’ve got the car home, I can focus on making it better. Naturally, curing that diesel leak is a major priority. It turns out, diesel leaks from the Bosch fuel pump are hardly rare. Anyone who has a BMW with the tds engine, or that engine installed in an Omega or Range Rover will be well aware of it. In fact, stands a chance that if you own a Volkswagen diesel, it may also suffer in the same way. There are two seals in the pump housing, and it seems they do leak with time.

I don’t have the new seals, but I thought that I might as well make a start on the job. We’re having a few issues with the paperwork, so I can’t actually tax it yet. May as well take it to bits then. To make life a LOT easier, I decided to remove the intake manifold. There are only a few bolts holding it in place, though access to all of them is not easy. I also found I had to clamber on top of the engine to reach those at the back. It’s quite a long motor!

Eventually, success was had.

The inlet manifold is successfully removed.

The inlet manifold is successfully removed.

I plugged the inlets with paper roll to stop any foreign bodies getting where they shouldn’t be. I also removed my tape bodgery, which had stemmed, but not stopped the flow of diesel. I have since ordered up a seal kit, but it’ll likely take quite a few days to arrive. That’s ok. I’ve got work and minibus duty to attend to this week.

Here’s a blurry shot of the pump though, now access has been granted.

The pump. Note the anti-tamper screw. Defeated!

The pump. Note the anti-tamper screw. Defeated!

While I was here, I thought I’d check whether I could defeat the anti-tamper screw. You really need a special tool to undo it. I smashed a spare 7mm socket over it. Does the same thing.

You can just see diesel pooling in that little recess. There’s one failed seal at that level, and another slightly further up, where you can see the next line. I need to scribe the pump on two sides, so that I can line everything up again. It seems that tiny amounts of movements are absolutely critical here. If I don’t get it back exactly where it should be, I’ll disturb the fuelling settings, which could leave the car not running at all, or producing black clouds of soot. Neither are desirable outcomes.

Incidentally, that black and blue pipe you can just see was not attached to anything. It’s part of the EGR valve set-up, so I think I’d better connect it up when I’m done. EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) shoves some of the exhaust gas back into the engine, to burn some of the impurities. To be honest, they’re a bit of a flaky idea, as you need a valve in the exhaust, and they can get gunked up with time. It seems quite easy to disable the EGR valve, though whether this is desirable is up for debate. It can improve the engine’s performance (especially if you have a faulty EGR valve), but it can also increase harmful nitrous oxides from the exhaust – these are what diesels are currently making the headlines because of. I’ve got time to think that one through.

In other Omega news, I’ve started touching up some of the rust spots with Vactan rust converter, and got the windscreen washers working again. I also found that I’d been sitting on the locking wheel nut tool all the way home. Not sure how I didn’t spot it, or feel it!

You can now also watch the first part of the Collection Caper, right here.

And the second part is now live too!

A tale of four Citroens – new car!

I’ve sold several cars via the raffle system on a favoured car forum – members only deals linked to the Lotto bonus ball. A dreadful Volvo 740, the Honda Prelude and a Mitsubishi Colt were sold by this method, with a great deal of success. I’ve also taken part in a few raffles too, as a hopeful buyer. Without luck. Until now! EDIT – Video now available here.

When a Citroen ZX was offered up for just £2 per ticket, I had to have a go. In fact, I had to have two tickets. Value! £4 spent, with two lucky dips. Now, following the Lotto draws is annoyingly difficult, so I wasn’t really paying attention. Then, the forum thread was updated to reveal that I was the winner. Oh dear. I then had to break the news to my wife…

Surprisingly, Rachel was sufficiently interested that she decided to accompany me on the collection caper. Perhaps it was because I said I’d sell the RAV4 to make room for the new arrival, and she wanted to make sure that I really did…

That itself went very smoothly, when a friend agreed to have it as it seemed ideal for his needs. I don’t doubt that. It’s a great little car, albeit one that isn’t very comfortable for long journeys. Which was unfortunate, as I agreed to deliver it most of the way to him, by leaving it with his dad in Sutton Coldfield.

So, that’s what we did yesterday morning, timing our run to perfection to avoid the hideous traffic chaos of both Newtown and the M6/M5 interchange. Remarkably, we got there in 2.5hrs. That’s an impressive average of 48mph!

Bye bye RAV4. First Citroen of the day next to it.

Bye bye RAV4. First Citroen of the day next to it.

A lift to the train station, in Citroen number 1 of this adventure, was much appreciated. We got a slightly earlier train into Birmingham, so I foolishly decided we’d have a quick nose about the City Centre. This required us to walk very, very fast, and occasionally run back to the station, where we got to the platform with minutes to spare. We hopped aboard a Cross Country Trains Voyager, where the catering chap was making apologies for the lack of service previously – the exact same thing happened the last time I travelled on Cross Country. Thankfully, we had beef sandwiches and drinks with us. Nae bother.

After some time, we reached Reading, and eventually managed to find our way out of the station and down to a subterranean car park hidden beneath. There, we found Citroen number 2.

Olympic Blue! A favourite colour, on this BX14. Citroen number 2.

Olympic Blue! A favourite colour, on this BX14. Citroen number 2.

The owner promptly delivered us to Citroen number 3, which is the one we were driving home in. That was meant to be all the Citroens on this trip, but it turns out we’d meet one more…

Citroen number 3 - my new £4 car.

Citroen number 3 – my new £4 car.

There was a bit of a wait while I sorted out bureaucracy – change of owner, vehicle tax and insurance. I also did a few videos, most of which were rubbish. After a check of the levels, I declared the car probably alright, and we headed straight onto the M4 motorway. I did notice a bit of a droning noise at speed, but thought it was probably due to cheap tyres. In this, I was quite wrong.

Still, we covered over 100 miles without issue, other than slight discomfort due to the seats. I need a bit more lumbar support than these seats provide, though I say that about pretty much every car, so maybe the problem is me. After over three hours of driving with only a brief stop for fuel, I’m probably not being very kind to my back.

Hereford was horrible – traffic everywhere. At least I could be glad that the clutch is fairly light and the gearchange remarkably pleasant. I’m used to PSA diesels being a bit rubbish in this regard. At 112,000 miles, it’s pretty much run in for one of these.

Herefordshire would not get any better. It started raining, and then the car began to feel very wayward. As we drove, pretty briskly, through the enjoyable curves of the A480, I felt the car begin to move in unexpected ways. Its progress began to feel interrupted, and it was feeling as if the rear end was steering. ZXs do indeed have passive rear wheel steering, but this was far stronger than that. As we limped towards Kington, it stepped slightly out of line while I was driving on a straight. Already, my speed had dropped. It now dropped further, especially as the tired wiper blade was making vision rather tricky.

We pulled in to a car park and I quickly assessed the car. Neither front wheel had play detectable in it, and the nearside rear was ok. The offside rear? Bloody hell! No, that was not right at all. Rocking the top of the wheel back and forth, I could feel the hub moving in a way that hubs should not. I could see the hub nut dust cover moving with the wheel, so that ruled out loose wheel bolts (though they were checked anyway). We were tired and hungry, and went in search of food while pondering our next move.

Handily, we had friends a few miles away, and they very quickly offered to put us up for the night. We could limp there, down a largely single-track road, in relative safety. We’d investigate in the morning.

And, this morning, investigate we did.

Investigating the rear wheel bearing on the new ZX, while Citroen number 4 looks on.

Investigating the rear wheel bearing on the new ZX, while Citroen number 4 looks on.

Well, if you’re going to break down, break down near a friend who owns the same car, has a load of tools for them and knows where to get parts!

It didn’t take long to form a diagnosis. On removing the hub nut dust cover, we could see metal fragments. We dashed off in Citroen number 4 to see if we could purchase a solution. My friend Adrian let me drive his ZX, which is a much later, turbo diesel version of my new car. This was an unexpected pleasure, even if it did remind me of the turbo lag my ZX does not have. Mind you, this ZX also didn’t have a horrible droning noise…

We found a garage that was open, were just about in time to request a ZX wheel bearing be added to their van delivery for that morning and agreed that they would fit it to the drum. Back to the car, off with the drum and sweep up the wheel bearing parts…

Yes, that wheel bearing is pretty knackered!

Yes, that wheel bearing is pretty knackered!

We think one or two of those rollers had broken up completely, with the heat generated from the failing bearing them removing any grease as it overheated, leading to it pretty much destroying itself. This causes a droning noise… It also causes the wheel to try locking up, which might explain why it felt like the car was occasionally losing power the night before. It also allowed a huge amount of play at the wheel, hence the curious handling.

With the drum off, we went back to the garage, who had now received the new bearing. It was pushed in, money was handed over (and I bought a new wiper blade) and we returned to the car, refitted the brake drum, put the wheel on and pretty much drove straight to a local gig that we were very keen not to miss. Thankfully, we arrived ten minutes before it was due to start. It was rather enjoyable, and THEN we finally made it home.

Home at last!

Home at last!

I’m very thankful to our friends Adrian and Ellie for helping us out when all seemed rather bleak. That truly is what friends are for. Now the editor has helped me out so selflessly, perhaps I should join the club whose magazine he edits…

A full review on the car itself will be forthcoming. Suffice it to say that I think it’s a good’un. It even managed to liven up an otherwise rather boring collection caper!