1971 Triumph Spitfire Rebuild.
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My Great Engine Fiasco
Otherwise known as "Fix It Until It's broken"

It was a cold winter night here on Hazard Heights. I decided not having had any abuse in at least 2 hours, I'd connect
the battery charger to the Spitfire. That went just fine.

I then decided Oh what the heck and went to start it. As a point of reference, I do not have my choke cable
installed. So the way to start this when it is cold is to reach over the engine and operate the choke with one hand and
reach through the windscreen that is not there and operate the ignition switch.

This is somewhat awkward, but usually works if you hold your mouth just right.

This time, it didn't want to start and I thought I flooded it, so I took the plugs out. Sure enough they were wet.
So I dried them off and tried again. This time it wanted to start, but didn't and I repeated the process of drying the wet plugs.

After re-installing the plugs, I tried again and it started. There was only one problem. The was a very serious bad rapping noise coming from the engine.
Click here to listen

Well after much consternation, and some "Vocabulary Enhancement", the oil pan was removed, the timing cover was removed, the valve train was inspected,
everything that I and folks at the Triumph Experience could come up with I pulled the head.

There it was sitting on top of cylinder #3 piston. It is, or should I say was an aluminum top to a spark plug.
The NGK plugs I have installed have been in the engine for about a year and a half.

The only thing we can think of is that this piece may have been floating in the spark plug well for some time and
I managed to push it in when replacing the plugs. All the plugs do have their tops on them.

Fortunately it was aluminum and did no damage. It was also stuck to the far side of the piston and was not visible through the plug hole.
Also, it being aluminum, was not attracted to the magnet that was used in each cylinder.

Of course trouble finding involved removing bearing caps etc so now the engine will require removal and through inspection
before reassembly.

Here is the culprit. By the way, the head took some special language to get it removed.

There is no scoring or marking in any of the cylinder walls. What ridge there is on the top of
the cylinders appears to be carbon buildup. These photos were also taken before all debris was removed.

Cylinder #1

Cylinder #2

Cylinder #3

Cylinder #4

Cylinder bore measurements were taken for each cylinder.

A telescoping gauge and a 3 inch micrometer were used. The accuracy using this method is probably within +/- .001 inch
Measurements were taken near the bottom, the middle and the top of the bore.
In each case a measurement was taken perpendicular, and one parallel to the center line of the car. (Left to right and front to back.)
Measurements A, C and E are perpendicular. Measurements B, D and F are parallel.

Results of the measurements show that all 4 cylinders are very close to the bore specification of 2.900 inches. This is probably
the limit of my ability to measure this. The couple measurements less than the specification may be measurement error, although all measurements
were made multiple times.

Measurement Location Cylinder #1 Cylinder #2 Cylinder #3 Cylinder #4
A Bottom 2.901 2.900 2.900 2.899
B Bottom 2.900 2.900 2.900 2.901
C Middle 2.900 2.901 2.8995 2.900
D Middle 2.901 2.901 2.900 2.901
E Top 2.901 2.9025 2.9015 2.901
F Top 2.901 2.903 2.9015 2.901

Crankshaft and big end bearings:

Measurements were made of the crank journals using both a micrometer and a caliper. No measurement was made of the center main bearing.
The front and rear main bearings were not disassembled.

As the engine is still installed in the car, I find it difficult making these measurements laying under the car. I have decided that the engine must
be removed. I understand it is possible to make measurements and replace bearings etc with the engine in the car. However I
can not do this job properly this way and I currently do not have access to a lift.

The big end bearings all measured 1.875 inches, which is the specification. It was difficult to obtain multiple measurements around each journal.

In the following photo from left to right are cylinders #1 through 4 big end bearings.
They are arranged to show the worst wear spots.

The is the lower bearing shell for the middle main bearing. This one is showing a lot of copper, but no scoring
of the crank shaft.

1971 Triumph Spitfire Head And Valves

Head as it was found after removal.

Head after removing most of the carbon

Valve seats after cleaning. Note that the flash on the camera accentuates roughness in the metal.

I made measurements of valve stems, valve guides and valve spring free length. The latter is probably not very useful as the springs have one side slightly shorter than the other.
I tried to get the longest side. This was more just to see if there were any really big differences.

The valve stems were measured at three points of the traveled part of the stem. The were also measured at
the same point but 90 degrees apart. So point A would be closest to the top of the stem and B would be at that
same length but after turning the valve 90 degrees. Likewise C and D would be at the mid point and E and F would be
closest to the valve head. This was to get some idea if anything was out of round or worn substantially different
over the length of the valve stem. All measurements were made with a micrometer.

The valve guide diameter was not easy to measure. My smallest telescoping gauge will go down to .308, but I question the accuracy of
the measurements. I was however, by sliding the gauge through the length of the valve guide, that there were no
substantial differences noted from one end to the other. The measurements recorded were at the valve head end of the guide.

Valve Measurement Data is Here

Triumph Spitfire Cam Followers

Cam Bearings
Unlike some of the other engines this particular one does have cam bearings. The front bearing did not look all that great so
I decided to replace them. I even have the proper tool to do so, NO threaded rod.
I opened up the bearing package to have a look, unfortunately this was after removing the old bearings.

The new ones are County bearings made in India, which have been reported to have issues with the shell thickness.
We'll see. The parts source is very reputable so no worries.

Checked the thickness of the cam bearings the other day. Everything looks good so far. I won't install until the block has been cleaned.

Today checked the diameter of the cam follower bores. All look on the money at .800 inches.
Ran a quick 320 grit ball hone on each one to break out the crud. Measurements before and after the same.

Bored the oil passage to the middle main out to 5/16. Tapped and plugged the oil passage from the rear cam bearing to the head. Tapped and plugged the same oil passage
in the head. The rocker oil system will be taken from the rear oil gallery adjacent to the rear main bearing via an external line to the rear oil port on the head.

The other day I pulled the transmission and bell housing from the car separately. I now remember the bottom bolt of the transmission is not blind and
the transmission oil will leak out, so I put the bolt back in right away. (Don't forget where the copper washers go.) I then set the transmission on the passenger floor.
Today I find that the oil leaked past the finger tight bolt and the passenger floor is now well lubricated.
Well it is a bit of a mess to clean up..... but I don't think it will rust. My stupidity but not the end of the world.
Oh... there are no carpets or anything other than some oily speaker wires laid in there.

Anyway the plan is to put the engine and transmission back in as a unit rather than trying to mate the two in the car.
Installed new cam bearings and the cam.

Installed new main bearings, Custom Thrust Washers and the crank shaft.

7- 5 to 7-15-2015
Cleaned pistons, which are in really nice condition. Little to no carbon. Replaced rings. Originals were out of spec.
Replaced rod end bearings and connecting rod bolts. Various people disagree on this. These are not torque to yeild bolts
so they should be OK to reuse. Others disagree. So be it. I just replaced them being sure they did not come from China.

Installed new head studs. Not that the old ones were manufactured bad... but to get the head off required removing studs. A few were hard to remove and the threads did not encourage reuse.

Installed cam followers, assembled head, new push rods, the new rocker assembly.

Spent a lot of time on valve timing and timing chain. I think I've got it right after checking so many times.


Installed rear crankshaft seal plate. I think I figured out where the lone bolt with the copper washer goes.
Cleaned up oil pan gasket area. Had my 32nd CT scan today. That makes 64 bottles of Barium
glop. No need for lights in the Spit. I'm glowing in the dark.

Hopefully this weekend I'll get the oil pan on.

Monday we see if the cancer is back.

Installed the oil pump and oil pan. Used a little aviation form a gasket on the pan side only. Just a small dab in between bolt holes to hold the gasket to the pan while installing.
The engine is inverted on an engine stand. For $60 at Harbor Freight, the engine stand has been a real big help.....Even if it comes from China.
I would however throw their hardware in the trash and get some good #8 hardware to replace it.

With any gasket sealer, I don't go crazy with it. Just use a minimal amount. The idea here was to just hold the gasket in place
not to use it as a replacement for the actual gasket, and do not over tighten things.....

I also tighten the oil pan in the same manner as I would tighten a head, starting in the center and working out. I have
no scientific evidence that this is a better practice. It just seems to make sense. Oh, and use the proper torque specifications.

Had my 61st B day yesterday. Eric was here as well as Lee and family. Mom and dad showed up also. Never thought I make it this far with the cancer.
Grand Son Lucien seemed to like the ride on the tractor. Did a little more on the Spit engine.... mainly just checking my work.

Got the fly wheel and the clutch assembly mounted. All this should be no big deal but my back is being like Rice Crispies.
Snap Crackle and Pop. When you can not only feel it but also hear it.... time to slow down a bit. The fire wood can wait.
BUT! The blueberries are ready to pick.......

Have the engine and transmission together. No oil in the transmission though. This uses the scroll "seal" and don't want the oil
leaking out when lifting into the car. Remind me to put oil in the transmission.

Checked the valve timing about a thousand times.... well not quite but went through that a lot. I hope I have it all sorted with valve and ignition timing.
It all seems to look good. Now to get the beast together and see if it runs. Still have not done a compression check. New rings are not yet bedded as the engine has not been run yet.

Trying to make progress on the Spitfire. Tonight I finally did a compression check. 155-155-155-155! This is with new rings not bedded.
That is the good news. The bad news is that 44 year old starter is having trouble. I tried to get new brushes for it, but could not find any.
It is an odd number on the old Lucas starter. It also chews through the battery in good shape and as soon as the engine fires, it disengages.
So...... you probably already guessed, I ordered a new gear reduction unit. It will go in before the engine goes into the car.

Gear Reduction Starter Motor      
Received the new whoop de do gear reduction starter the other day. This was purchased from a reputable supplier of
British parts and not a Flea Bay purchase.

Finally got it installed tonight. Yes you do have to rotate
the mounting flange. This of course puts the electrical connection facing the engine block making it very difficult unless
one makes the connections before installing the starter motor. Swell! Suppose for some reason you need to get to that connection.
OK one more difficult thing

So I get my battery, charge it up, get out my Snap On alternator / charging system test system so I can measure the cranking current on this
starter motor. Golly Gee, it is 90 amps cranking, THE SAME AS THE ORIGINAL! Unless someone has changed the laws of physics, I
don't see how this will be any less stressful on the battery. The only redeeming thing, perhaps it will stay engaged when the engine attempts to start.
For the money, I am not all that impressed.

The engine is still out of the car, so one concern is the starter clearing the steering column during engine installation.
I was hoping not to have to install the starter motor after installing the engine and go through that PIA.
Oh Well!


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