Mini caliper rebuild – Part 1

Austin-Rover Mini City E

Mini gets a brake overhaul. Citroen BX rear seat should be back in the car, rather than being a Mini hat...

It was going so well. Despite a hectic week with much writing work, I actually managed to find some time to work on the Mini’s brakes. They’d started binding really badly and before Christmas, I had the pads out and discovered seriously manky pistons (see below). Rebuild time.

Rimmer Brothers were able to supply the bits I needed and after finally getting my hands on the necessary tools (Ebay saved me a fortune) I could begin work. Being a bloke, I decided to find my own way, rather than lower myself to reading instructions. This was how I ended up removing the caliper BEFORE undoing the main driveshaft nut. That made removing the brake disc (I decided to replace everything) impossible. Fortunately, I managed to put the wheel back on, jam a ramp underneath and then undo the driveshaft nut without having to go through the rigmarole of lowering the car of its axle stands.

When putting the wheel on, I noticed that I’d managed to damage one of the wheel stud threads, so work has come to a stop while I await a new one. I did get as far as fitting new pistons and seals to the caliper on that side though, so progress has been made! Once I get the new stud, I can put it all back together again and do the other side…

Corroded Mini brake piston

No wonder the brakes were binding - and this is the better side!

Addicted to dreadful motoring

Yeah, I might as well admit it. I LOVE crap cars.

Skoda Estelle and  Rapid

Hmmm. A sight to make our ClassicHub journo go weak at the knees

I realised that I had a problem when a ten-year old me was reading a copy of Auto Express in 1988. I still have the copy now. In it is a budget car group test between the Citroën 2CV, Fiat Panda 750, Yugo 55 and Skoda Estelle. So far, I’ve owned two of the four and deeply want to own the Fiat and Yugo that I haven’t yet sampled.

In a way, I find it frustrating that the Citroën 2CV now has an established classic car following. I think I preferred it when everyone derided them. That was one reason I got into them in the first place. I’ve never paid much heed to the opinions of others – I always have to try things for myself.

And I have too. In fact, my first Skoda really was quite crap. The starter ring gear was worn, so I’d often have to bump start it. In fact, I had to do that having handed over my £150 to buy the thing. The ignition timing was so retarded that sparks would come out of the exhaust at motorway speeds. Exciting! As I wasn’t much of a mechanic at the time, and couldn’t afford to pay for the labour involved in replacing the ring gear, I scrapped it. I still wish I hadn’t. Not only because I only got £30 back for it. I will own another.

I realised that I still had a problem when someone on the Autoshite forum saved an FSO Polonez from being scrapped. Most people would ask “why” but I thought this was brilliant. I’d love to try an FSO Polonez. Were they really so awful? Yes, they probably were but I still want one anyway.

So, why do I like shite? Well, cost is a large part of it. People’s snobby attitudes cost them a lot of money. I rarely if ever pay more than £2000 for a car, and most often, quite a bit less than £1000.  There are a lot of really quite good cars available for less than a grand, and some awful ones too. It doesn’t matter, they’re all an experience.

This is why I need to sell my Land Rover. It’s getting in the way of me continuing to own shite cars. Wonder what I’ll end up with next…

 

Victor Victor!

The Vauxhall Victor FE. A bit like a weak cup of tea

The Vauxhall Victor FE represents the last slice of hope for Vauxhall as an independent entity within General Motors. Sure, the basic structure was shared with the Opel Rekord, but Vauxhall still had an opportunity to style its own nose and use its own running gear.

Sadly, the nose they chose was frankly, a bit hideous – rescued only by the quad-lamp attractiveness of the hotter VX4/90. Sales were not a huge success – even when the ageing victor name was tossed aside for the much more exciting VX1800 and VX2300 – and it proved the final nail in the coffin of Vauxhall’s independence. Well, unless you include the Chevette, which was just an Opel Kadett with an ancient Viva engine stuffed in.

Compared to other European express arrivals during the 1970s, such as the formidable Citroën CX, Lancia’s wacky Gamma, Rover’s SD1, Ford’s Granada and the futuristic Princess, the Victor really did look a bit lame and very much of another, older era.

Still, an opportunity to take a 1975 Victor 2300S on a trip to Devon was not to be missed, especially when said car belonged to Vauxhall itself – part of the impressive Heritage Collection housed in Luton. Sadly, by this stage, the overdrive option had been removed. Did Vauxhall up the gearing to compensate? Well, no. They didn’t really.

But we jump ahead of ourselves. The Victor is sitting all shiny and beautiful on my driveway – let’s take a closer look.

With only 12,000 miles on the clock, it’s every bit as immaculate and tidy as you’d expect. Already, fear was starting to mount. I lived in East Anglia at the time and had to drive this beautiful machine to Devon and back – a round trip of some 500 miles. I may have said ‘eep’ when this struck my mind.

The metallic blue paintwork is rather fetching, allowing the eye to almost ignore the slab-like snout and rather feeble grille. Stepping inside was a wise move, with delightful seats finished in that fake cloth that was everywhere during the Seventies. Finished in blue, the seat trim is matched by blue wooly carpet smeared all over the centre console, why a slab of fablon fake-wood stretches across the dashboard.

At rest in Devon, during a 500 mile roadtrip

There’s plenty of space, front and rear, and the driver sits low, which gives a surprisingly sporty feel. Mind you, this is a 2300S which means there are twin-carburettors bolted to that familiar 2247cc four-cylinder engine. This unit is a touch raucous perhaps, but has oodles of grunt, making progress rather effortless. All of which shows up the low gearing even more alarmingly. Motorway progress is hard work, because the engine is spinning so frequently that any attempt at relaxation is met with the same success as trying to sleep upon a washing machine.

Head off the motorway, and things improve. The rack-and-pinion steering was not shared with the Rekord and is light and accurate, if a touch devoid of feel. The suspension is soft though, and this car doesn’t really beg you to enjoy the corners, rather it just eases you through them. The low gearing is a positive boon on twisty roads as due to the torquey engine, downchanges are rarely required. That’s a good thing as the long lever, angled towards the driver, is not particularly pleasant to use.

Yet the car made the 500 mile journey without issue and certainly without causing its driver to break out in a sweat. Ventilation is good and the weather was horrible – mind you, this was British summertime.

Overall then, this is a car that doesn’t excite, but at the same time is a very acceptable way to travel. It certainly doesn’t disgrace itself, but nor does it make the driver eager to head back outside for another drive once the destination has been reached. In other words, it’s like a cup of weak tea – does the job, but rather forgettable and a little disappointing.

 

 

Datsun 240Z Quick Guide

DATSUN 240Z QUICK GUIDE

Japanese, but with a Big Brit Bruiser feel - Datsun 240Z

The first Japanese sportscar to score international success and a Japanese take on the Big Healey format. Great fun to drive with a lusty six-cylinder engine and values have really started to take off. Watch for rot and see what the fuss is all about. Production ran from 1969 to 1973.

WHY YOU WANT ONE:

  • Wonderful driving experience – bellowing straight-six
  • An improving Oriental car club scene
  • Reliable and great for regular use
  • Easy to work on
  • Still rising in value

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

  • Corrosion wherever there is metalwork – some panels hard to find
  • Poor running – could hint at major problems
  • Market prefers genuine UK cars – check the history
  • Trim very hard to find
  • Noisy or crunchy gearboxes

RIVALS FOR YOUR AFFECTION

  • Austin-Healey 3000
  • MGC GT
  • Triumph TR6
  • Ford Capri

Lusty big-six sounds fabulous

Let the ol’ girl go?

Is it time to bid farewell to the BX?

You are looking at possibly the best car in the world. It has the ride comfort of a Rolls-Royce, the practicality of a small van, the quirkiness of a true Citroën, easy motorway cruising yet also 50+mpg. It was stupidly cheap to buy, and despite what people believe, really quite simple.

And I’ve decided that I no longer want it. The problem is, I do rather tend to get bored of cars, and am always seeking something better – or at least different. Hence why I find myself wanting to get rid of probably the best car I’ve ever owned.

I bought the BX in September 2009, primarily to take part in the BXagon Rally – a drive around the circumference of France  to raise money for Cancer Research UK (hence the tiger stripes – well, you’ve got to look the part). It covered the 3500 with aplomb and I liked it so much that the car remained on the fleet, clocking up 20,000 miles in my ownership this week. That’s a total of 162,500, but you wouldn’t really know it. These cars eat up miles.

In that time, I’ve used it on my daily commute, towed car trailers with it, filled it with stuff when moving house, collected a new oven and a new washing machine, driven it around Scotland, Wales and the South West of England – as well as through parts of Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Spain on that epic trip around France.

It cost £266 to buy, and that included tax and MOT. I’ve since probably spent £1000 on upkeep – including a pair of brilliant Hankook tyres, a hydraulic flush, the odd pipe repair, a new rear axle arm bearing and basic servicing. That’s cheap motoring in anyone’s book.

So, it’s bloody good at everything, costs pennies to run and garners attention like nothing else. It is the curse of the car enthusiast with wide tastes that I now want to sell it. Yes, it’s good, but it’s not ‘something else’ anymore. £300 anyone? Then I’ll go and buy something completely impractical, that will cost a fortune to run. With a £300 budget. Should be fun!

Imp-ressive!

Ian reveals the Imp that won him over

Sometimes, you leap behind the wheel of a classic and quickly search for the door handle, wanting to escape as quickly as possible. Some classics are really not that pleasant to drive. Others take time to win you over – you need to travel at least 100 miles in most Citroëns before you get ‘it.’

The Imp was one of those classics that had me falling head over heels in love. Yes, I liked the Porsche 928 a great deal, and a day spent with a TVR Chimaera was utterly joyous, but then you expect a sports car to deliver. The downside is that they often have far too much power to use on the road – a 440bhp Lola T70 replica I once drove in the depths of winter was absolutely terrifying. And cold as it didn’t have a roof…

Where the Imp really delivered is that despite only a short time behind its tiny steering wheel, I could explore the perky engine on the public highway without risking the wrath of PC Plod. Sure, it had considerably more than a standard Imp, but we’re talking of only 39bhp to start with. Exact figures for this ‘hot’ Imp were not available, but I’d estimate it was somewhere around the 55bhp of the sporty Stiletto sibling. With my foot right down, the Coventry-Climax-inspired engine barked its desire to the world as we hurtled along – feeling much faster than the speedometer was telling me. Quick, communicative steering left me in no doubt about its cornering ability, and with that engine slung out at the back, once I’d steered into a bend, all I could do was balance the throttle to stop the pendulum effect from hurling me into the weeds.

Being a stripped out rally car, the experience was noisy but thoroughly dramatic, despite the lowly spec. The quick gearchange was a delight and time and again I’d ease off and drop a couple of cogs so I could begin the exciting rush of acceleration all over again. The ride was a revelation however – surprisingly comfortable, despite being firmed up over standard. Thankfully, it had not been lowered too much, in anticipation of forest rally stages.

Too soon, it was time to head back, but the car’s deed was done. I loved it. The Imp may have been something of a failed Mini rival when new, but right now? Sorry Mr Cooper but I’d rather take this cheeky little Imp.

Oil cooler hints at tuned-up engine

Rally spec clear to see here - note passenger foot rest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vauxhall PA Cresta Quick Guide

VAUXHALL PA CRESTA/VELOX QUICK GUIDE

British Americana in extremis with dog-leg windscreen and obligatory tail fins. Lusty engines ensure performance is not a disgrace and these models have developed quite a following. Finding a rust-free example may be tricky, but very rewarding if you do. Velox was lower spec, with a few less thrills.

WHY YOU WANT ONE:

  • Classic American looks, built in Luton
  • Lusty engines offer modern-era performance
  • Seating for six
  • You can work on it yourself
  • Rare and eye-catching

Rare Friary estate based on the Vauxhall PA Cresta

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

  • Rust. Panels hard to find and they really do rot!
  • Perished window seals which hasten the above
  • Engines that knock or produce blue smoke
  • Worn transmissions
  • Bodywork bodgery

RIVALS FOR YOUR AFFECTION

  • Ford Zephyr/Zodiac Mk2
  • Anything built in America in the Fifties
  • Humber Super Snipe
  • Austin Westminster

SPECIFICATION

  • Engine 2262cc 6-cylinder OHV
  • Power 78bhp
  • Top Speed 90mph
  • 0-60mph 18seconds
  • Economy 22-24mpg
  • Gearbox 3-speed manual