Aug 312012

The section in the service manual for removing the independent rear suspension (IRS) unit gave the false impression that it was simply a matter of disconnecting the handbrake cable, the hydraulic pipe and prop shaft, undoing the roll bar mounts and knocking off the radius arms. The IRS cage could then be lowered after unbolting the four cage mounts.

It probably is that simple for well maintained cars but mine had seized solid, resulting in bloodied knuckles and much cursing. In fact I couldn’t even get the wire wheels off as they were rusted to the hub splines! The brake connections and prop shaft were fairly easy to undo but everything else was struggle after struggle! The radius arms connect to cup fittings secured to underneath of the floor pan by what look like rivets. However the radius arms had well and truly rusted to the cups. Wooden wedges were hammered in but they still refused to budge.

I later found out from the E-Type forum that they are not rivets but something called Huck bolts, which are designed to shear in the event of an accident. I also found out others’ tricks to release the radius arms from the cups once the retaining bolts have been removed. Too late for my removal but no doubt they’ll be very useful in future. The first is to drive the car slowly backwards and forwards, with the aim that the changing loads breaks the radius arm/cup bond. The second is to chock the rear wheels and then jack up the front creating a load in the radius arms.

I briefly tried applying heat but all this did was burn the rubber bushes, producing acrid smoke. They eventually came free after applying penetrating oil over a period of several weeks and then jumping up and down on the end of a very long lever, inserted between the floor pan and the radius arm. To the untrained eye, the jumping up and down in a frustrated, childish manner while shouting ‘aaaargh!’ might have come across as a method of last resort …. but it worked!

The next setback was the removal of the roll bar. The bolts securing the mounting brackets were also seized but as they angled slightly downwards it wasn’t possible to apply penetrating oil so that it could soak in. Again I tried using localised heat but, like the radius arms, the bushes started to burn. By this time patience was in short supply, so I gave up and ground off the bolt heads to release the roll bar brackets.

The bolts securing the four IRS cage mounts had also rusted but fortunately they could be still undone. The main problem was the confined space so initially they could only be undone a 1/4 of a turn at a time. As I’d been unable to get the wheels off, it was rather an unconventional removal. Wooden blocks were placed under the cage’s base plate and the car raised away from the supported IRS.

The final dismantling of the IRS was equally unconventional for the same reason. The wheels and hubs were removed with the drive shafts and lower wishbones still attached and taken to a local garage so the hubs could be pressed out of the wheels. There was quite a build up of oil on the differential which suggested some of the seals might have perished. Although they’re interchangeable, and I didn’t know at the time, the aluminium hub carriers are not correct for the E-Type, which should have straight rather than sculptured sides.

 Posted by at 8:49 pm
Aug 312012

When I first contacted Hutsons, I was warned that they estimated it would be 10 months + before I would get the completed, painted body shell back, such was their current work load. So my aim was to get all the other components completed for its anticipated return in May 2011.

I tend to be rather optimistic (read extremely optimistic!) in the time it will take me to completed things. Even so I knew I wouldn’t be able to tackle everything in that time. The plan was to get the engine and gearbox reconditioned by reputable companies. In the meantime, this would give me the space and time to renovate and restore the other components.

I chose VSE to recondition the engine, based both on recommendations from others and price. I wanted to see their operation first, mainly out of interest, and to discuss the rebuild in person. So I headed off to see them in mid-Wales. It the last place you’d expect to find an engine reconditioning firm – it really was in the middle of nowhere in converted farm buildings with sheep for neighbours!

VSE offer a number of performance levels for their rebuilds and those that had recommended them suggested to go for maximum torque rather than headline BHP, which made good sense.

I think it’s all too easy to go over the top seeking greater performance with loony cams and excessively lightened clutch plates at the expense of drivability. So I opted for mildly tweaked performance which is in between their VS1 and VS2 levels, a 123 Electronic Ignition distributor and adapted to accept a modern oil filter.

The first thing to do was to build a suitably sturdy trolley which was low to the ground to avoid the problems encountered during the engine removal. The trolley base was made from two sheets of 22mm wooden boarding with castors that could be bolted directly to the base.

Even this wasn’t strong enough partly because I had used a coarse resin chipboard. Additional sections of wood were attached to the underside to stop it bowing in the middle.

It was far easier to get the engine delivered rather than trek out to mid-Wales again. In due course the engine arrived wrapped in cellophane, strapped to a pallet.

Unfortunately the body shell hadn’t even been started at this point which was annoying. My regret is that, if I’d have know how long it eventually took I’d probably have taken on the rebuild of the engine myself, farming out the machining tasks.

Below are a few more photos of the reconditioned engine, more for interest than anything specific to mention …..

Aug 312012

The two tried and tested methods for the engine removal are either lifting it out from above or lowering it onto a trolley and then lifting the body sufficiently until the engine is clear of the sub frames. Although I’ve heard of people, doing full restorations, who have lowered the engine onto a trolley and then removed the surrounding engine sub frames.

The difficulty with the removal from above is that the engine and gearbox come out together as a single unit and this requires it to be tilted at the same time as it is being lifted clear. I didn’t have a controllable method of tilting and wasn’t too keen on having such a weighty item dangling at such a height.

All the ancillaries had been removed and the lifting frame ready to drop the engine. The off-side front suspension still refused to come off!I was also doubtful that my home-made lifting frame, scaffolding cut to make a cross beam supported by A-frames, could raise the engine/gearbox unit to a sufficient height to clear the sub frames. So my only real option was to drop the engine.

The bottom out approach is documented in the Haynes manual and required the removal of all the engine ancillaries, the exhaust and inlet manifolds, alternator, oil filter etc. Once these had been removed I was then ready to lower the engine. Gulp! So far, so good.

At this point I must have taken leave of my senses when making some key decisions and the removal process descended into more of a farce!

I had some 1″ square Dexion speedframe lying around which included a set of castor wheels so I set about making a makeshift trolley. I’d lower the engine and gearbox on to the trolley, lift the car and then pull clear.

The first issues were the length of the 3-pronged corner connectors and that a length of 1″ square would be required between the connector and the castors. This resulted in a considerably higher platform that I’d originally envisaged.

The knock on effect was that, not only would I have to raise the front of the car even further, I would have to raise the rear of the car to reduce the body angle when the front was raised. This would allow the engine & gearbox to be dropped without hitting the sub frames. At this stage I should have reconsidered my approach to how I was dropping the engine.

The car was already supported on axle stands so once the ancillaries had been removed, the hoist could be used to lower the engine onto the waiting trolley. The castors were already showing signs of giving way, as can be seen in the photo above! I really should have reconsidered whether it was wise to continue. However, again, I ploughed on. Dooh!

The ridiculous height of the makeshift trolley caused no end of trouble! Not only that but it shows the first signs of the castors giving way under the weightThe front and rear were then raised alternately, supported by axle stands on building blocks. The rear was just about within the range of my trolley jacks but the front needed to be lifted via the lifting frame.

Once the front sub-frame was clear of the engine, the lifting frame was used to take the full weight of the front of the bodyshell. The supporting blocks were then removed to provide an exit route for my wobbly trolley. The trolley castors didn’t approve of being moved and their jaunty angle worsened severely as the trolley was delicately pulled clear!

At this stage I would have been in all sorts of problems had the trolley collapsed “mid-extraction” as the only lifting gear I had was in used supporting the bodyshell!

I did have to realign the trolley legs several times, taking the weight by an extended crowbar. It was very close but fortunately the trolley lasted just long enough to pull the engine clear. It was then mounted on a proper engine stand.

On a positive note, the lesson learnt for the rebuild is to use a more substantial trolley which is as low to the ground as possible and to have a backout plan in case something does go wrong. Even with the self-induced problems, I still think dropping the engine is the way to go!