Neil Fletcher Racing
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Ė Rebuilding my Mexico Part 5.
The last article finished with me having painted the last remaining panels of the car, but there was still lots of work to be done in the next few weeks leading up to our first event, the hillclimb in May and then AVO Day in June. Around the same time as I was painting these last panels, I also started to refit the glass to the car, I thought of using my new rubbers but then decided to clean up the best of my old ones and keep the new ones for my next project, cellulose thinners did a great job of removing the remains of the old sealer etc and bringing the rubber back to a nice fresh black colour. With the glass now fitted and the doors etc painted, I turned my attention to the brakes. The calipers along with new armoured flexies had previously been fitted at the same time as the suspension, they had been in very good nick and had needed no work, but I knew the pedal box had been leaking a little fluid as there were signs of it having run down the pedals. The two brake master cylinders only needed new rubbers but the clutch master was badly worn down the bore and needed replaced with a new one from my stock of spares. After being painted and rebuilt the pedal box was refitted along with the three fluid reservoirs and new copper pipes were fitted around the car where required, that along with new pads all round completed the work to the brakes. While working inside the car I had also refitted the freshly painted rollcage and added plenty of padding, in the form of plumbers pipe lagging to any areas of the cage with which ones body might foreseeably come into contact.
Another job which I knew would need my attention was the radiator. The one I had been using was one of the tall 2 core big header types which I had got converted to three core many years ago, I think it was originally converted way back in the early 80ís for my previous rally car, the RS1600. Over the years it had sprung a couple of minor leaks which had been soldered up, because of these repairs I decided to keep it to one side as a spare and build up a brand new one. At some time in the past I had been given an old busted up big header radiator from a Mk1 Cortina or similar Ford, it was one of the shorter type from a car that had been in an accident and the engine fan had gone straight into it, destroying the core. I got my local radiator firm to remove the sides of the radiator and fit one of the taller three core centres. I then set about making side mounting panels to suit my car, my slam panel is modified a-la RS1600 to allow the radiator to sit further forward, this along with the fact that I was making my own mounts allowed me to position the radiator exactly where I wanted. There was a fair bit of cutting, bending and trimming to be done before my mounts were ready to fit to the two sides of the radiator. Once I had all ready I took everything back to my radiator specialist, they soldered on the side panels and gave the finished article a nice fresh coat of radiator paint.
Next on my list of jobs were the essential items of engine and transmission. The gearbox was lowered into position first, I didnít bolt it in at this stage, there were two reasons for this, firstly it leaves it easier to put the engine in if the box is just loosely in position, and secondly I had made new gearbox mounts and I wanted the engine in place so I could then see where the holes would need to be drilled in the new mounts. With the date of the hillclimb getting ever nearer, I decided to fit the engine just as it had been removed from the car a couple of years ago, I didnít really have the time to give it a rebuild. It was one of the very few parts of the car that didnít get rebuilt Ė well not just yet anyway, oh I should have known that this would be a mistake. One thing I did do was fit a new AP Racing clutch plate and cover, one minor hassle with this was the fact that my last clutch had curly fingers and therefore had a flat faced thrust bearing, the only cover I could get now was the straight fingered type and I therefore needed a curved face thrust bearing, things were further complicated by the fact that I use the larger Gp4 thrust bearing rather that the standard Mexico sized one. Luckily I just happened to have an old dud one lying about (I never throw anything out) and my local bearing supplier was able to get the part number from it and track down an old stock one from his suppliers in England. Once it arrived and I ascertained that it was the correct item I went ahead and ordered another two just to put in my spares stock for future use when they may be a lot more difficult to track down. While fitting all the parts of the clutch actuating mechanism I checked that I was getting the required amount of movement in the thrust bearing carrier, previously nearly all the adjustment in the adjusting rod was being used up as the clutch wore down, I put a little spacer underneath the pedestal on which the arm pivots. This left everything at a better working angle as well as leaving me with plenty of adjustment in the rod if it should be required later. Plenty of measurements were taken i.e. block to flywheel and clutch cover fingers, and bellhousing face to thrust bearing at both ends of its travel, once I was happy with the clutch mechanism I was able to continue on with fitting the engine.
The World Cup x-member was unbolted from the chassis rails and the steering column was also unbolted from the rack, this allowed me to push the x-member down about 5 inches and left it easier to lower the engine into position. Being careful not to bash my new paintwork too much I lowered the engine into the engine bay and bolted it to the gearbox, I then bolted my new set of engine mounts, that I had bought to replace my old crappy home made ones, to both the engine and crossmember. I then hoisted the engine, gearbox and x-member back up into their proper position, all looked fine until I went to lift the tail of the gearbox up into position. The rear end of the tailhousing was fouling against the driverís side of the tunnel and at the same time the top rear corner of the bellhousing, an old Burton Rocket to BDA one, was fouling against the navigatorís side of the tunnel. It was then that I realised why there was an old home made set of engine mounts on the x-member, basically with the extra width of both the gearbox and bellhousing, they needed to be lined up much straighter in the narrow Mexico tunnel than the usual offset Mexico style engine mounts allow. This meant I had two options, one, beat the living daylights out of the freshly painted tunnel or, two, fit the old engine mounts again. I decided to refit the old mounts, they had always worked fine, I only wanted to change them because they looked rather rough especially the one on the driverís side which had been modified a couple of times. Before refitting them I did a little bit work on them to beef them up a bit and tidy them as well.
Once the engine mounts were sorted I was able to continue on with the fitting of the engine. When fitting an engine to a Mexico I always set the starter motor in position before screwing on the engine mounts, otherwise itís very difficult to get the starter in past the big wing sump, the steering column, oil pump and engine mounts. Changing a starter is always a problem in a Mexico, I have heard of people removing both the steering and/or the oil pump, I usually just remove the engine mount entirely and take the starter out upwards. With the mounts now fitted I was able to hoist the engine and crossmember back up into position, this time everything fitted nicely and I was able raise the tail of the gearbox into position and drill the holes in its new mounting. Bolting on all the engine ancillaries was fairly straight forward with the only slight problem being the fact that the rear end of the new exhaust manifold was very close to the floor under the navigatorís feet, a slight bend soon cured that little problem.
With all the pipework and wiring connected up I was almost ready to start the motor for the first time in four years, at the same time I was also continuing on with all the other minor fittings of the car. Two new batteries were bought and fitted, the new radiator was filled with water , some petrol along with octane booster was put in the tank, a new oil filter was filled with oil and screwed to the oil pump, the engine was filled with oil and more oil was squirted into the oil pressure take-off union, the plugs were removed and the engine was turned over on the starter until there was oil pressure showing on the gauge and oil could be heard squirting around the engine. The oil was topped up, the ignition timing was roughly checked, the plugs and leads were refitted and at long last the engine was fired up. Apart from the bark of the exhaust (I had only the manifold fitted) everything seemed fine, there was good oil pressure and I let the engine warm up. I got my timing light out to set the timing properly, I also got a short length of hose to listen to the carbs (to balance them) and to adjust the idle stops and screws. Everything still seemed OK until I stopped the engine and checked the oil level again, on pulling out the dipstick I found it covered in grey sludge, a sure sign of water mixing with the oil. Straight away I knew that water was leaking past the head gasket. I suppose with sitting for so long it was only to be expected, with less than 10 days to go before my first event, the hillclimb, and lots of other little jobs still to sort out, this was the last thing I needed. Find out more about these last hectic days as the rebuild concludes next month.
All the best.
377F - Twin Cam
FMX 800J - RS1600
JIJ 9975 Ė Mexico
FIA 6386 Ė Mexico
Membership No. 1472
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