Monday, January 3, 2011

the engine that came home in a box

First, a bit of back story: When I was tearing down the car back in the Spring of 2010, I started at the rear, moved on to the interior, and then, after pausing to move the seats and large parts out of the garage, I attacked the front trim and the engine compartment. Here's an early photo after I took off the air cleaner, fan and radiator hoses:

Then, after removing the distributor cables, carburetor and a few other easy-to-get-at-pieces I had something that looked like this:

Those large white blobs are actually corks!

I knew the motor was going to sit in the car for a while longer, as I had neither a cherry picker or somewhere to store the removed engine and plugged up the water pump passageways with some champagne corks, and made a piece of cardboard to cover the fuel intake.

Here it is bolted into place:

And that is exactly how the engine remains to this day.

So that's the back story, now it's time for another tale, one that is very, very famous within my family. As a small boy I first heard this story from my Grandfather when, on one of our infrequent visits, I demonstrated a child's interest in transport by driving a toy motorbike round and round the living room. The story goes that my Uncle C, at the age of around sixteen, was absolutely set on acquiring a motorbike of his own - so much so that, to quote my Mother, he "saved every penny he could get" to put towards the purchase. Eventually, when the funds finally reached an appropriate level, a 1955 James 98cc Comet bike was acquired...only there was a twist: he brought said conveyance home in a bucket! Yep, that's right, in a BUCKET! In later iterations, the story was condensed down to the single sentence: "Oh, your Uncle C, he brought his first motorbike home in a bucket you know." I remember, as a child, trying to imagine how one would fit a fourteen inch wheel into a bucket?

As with all family stories, the bare truth is slightly less sensational: Basically, Uncle C bought the James secondhand from some chap who had started taking it apart, and had then either lost interest, or been unable, for whatever reason, to complete the project....the memorable bucket just contained some of the smaller parts while the frame, wheels, and whatever else were transported to the family garage in my Grandfather's Ford van....whereupon Granddad and Uncle C slaved away until the bike was rebuilt and running. The James actually had only two gears and, with such a small motor (98 cc is equivalent to a paltry six ci!) struggled to climb every steep hill it came across (note: the picture below is the same model but not the actual bike of which sadly no photographs survive).

James Comet, an exceeding rare bike these days

The first James didn't last long before it was superseded by a 1956 model with a larger 150 cc engine.

Uncle C astride the 1956 James 150 cc

This bike was replaced in 1961 by a brand-new-from-the-showroom BSA 250 cc C15, which in turn gave way to a Vellocette Viper 350cc single. Like James, both these manufacturers fell victim the the Japanese decimation of the British motorcycle industry in the late 1960s.

Restored example of the BSA C15

My Mother once claimed that each bike was involved in at least one serious accident, and that the ensuing insurance payouts financed the next bigger and faster machine. Whether by accident or design the Viper's time was up in 1963 when it made way for the legendary Norton 650 SS. The SS stood for Super Sports, and with a twin carburetor engine capable of 110 mph, the machine quickly earned a reputation as "the best of the Dommies". After this jewel in the crown Uncle C moved into cars for many years until the two wheeled dynasty continued at the end of the 90's with the purchase of a Kawasaki ZX1100, a bike that still gets used as regularly as the harsh Northern English weather permits.

The immortal Norton 650 SS outside my Grandparents bungalow

The Norton pictured in 1964 after it was joined by a 1947 Morris 8 (in background)

The first convertible, a 1961 Triumph Herald

So, what's this all got to do with the Mustang project that this blog is supposed to be about? Well, I was reminded about the bucket story very recently, and here's how: Back in February 2010, when I was just getting going on my I6 to V8 swap, I started asking around in BAMA for a suitable motor. Somebody suggested posting a wanted ad in the NorCal section of VMF, which I duly did...and then promptly forgot all about it. Apart from anything else, the more I got into my project, the more I realized that changing the motor would probably be the final step in a very long process - a new rear end, 5-lug axles, bigger suspension, disc brake swap, steering upgrade and a five speed transmission were just some of the other things I had to figure out first, not to mention body and paint. So my quest for a new motor never really got beyond a quick flick through the Summit Racing catalog and posting the wanted ad.

And then, when I was least expecting it, I got a note through VMF about a 302 motor that guessed it...mainly in pieces after the owner stripped it down and then moved on to another project. Best of all, the price was way cheap, as the seller was desperate to get shot of the beast from inside his garage. Here it is, apparently complete apart from a pair of valve covers...

The engine that came home in a box!

There were a few other bits that came with the box: the block, with  a cradle stand...

The original heads (not sure if the plugs are original?)

And, wait for it, an Edelbrock aluminum intake - I got the original intake too, although I don't plan on using it, as well as the oil pan, air cleaner, exhaust manifolds and a load of other parts in labeled bags. All in all it was a great deal!

My progress so far consists of wrapping the block in some plastic, and that's the way it will be staying while I finish the bodywork...

Eventually I hope to transform the motor into something a little bit more like this space!

No comments:

Post a Comment