The British car line at the parade marshalling point.
Photo by David Schwartz
The British Invade Arlington
by David Schwartz
ARLINGTON, MASS., May 9 — The Arlington Classic Car Club (ACCC) holds an annual parade every spring. I learned about it last year when Iain Barker wrote about it in the NEMO newsletter.
The ACCC is a Facebook group it’s been around since 2012. Membership is by invitation only. The standards are pretty low (“Do you like cool cars?”), so they let me join. Being an Arlington resident is not a requirement. In fact, some members don’t even live in Massachusetts. There are no dues, and members post a lot of fun (usually car-related) content.
The club has held several group drives and outings in 2021. For this one, it was a beautiful, breezy spring day and there was no rain in the forecast. My wife Betty and I were excited to get out of the house for the drive.
We arrived at St. Camillus Church, the parade meeting point, at 2:45 p.m. for the 3 p.m. start. We saw Rudy Koehle’s bright yellow MGB in the parking lot but were surprised there were no other cars.
Then a green-and-white VW Bus filled with kids pulled up. It was Gustavo, the parade organizer, who enthusiastically directed us to the other side of the Church. There we found many other cars and drivers, including Iain, his daughter Nuala, and their Mini KK.
A line of other British cars was parked up front. Gary and Meryl Hampton, along with their dog Monroe, were present with their TR3A. Monroe has his own Facebook account and is the ACCC member of the family. (We sometimes wonder if he owns the car, too, and just lets the humans drive it.)
There were 38 classic cars all told, including 11 British ones — two classic Minis, two Triumphs, two MGBs, an MGB GT, an MGC, a Ford Anglia, and two Catterham Sevens. Throw in the five Lotus-inspired Miatas and a total of 16 British(ish) cars attended.
French, Italian, German, Swedish and American cars were also well represented. Jon and Ginny Chomitz, core attendees of Goulds’ Microcar Classic, parked their 1971 Citroën ID20F station wagon next to the British car line.
My favorite American cars were a Dodge woodie wagon and an early ’60s Buick convertible complete with a “Kennedy for President” bumper sticker. There was even a 1962 Honda Cub motorcycle.
After a brief drivers’ meeting, we split into three groups with a leader for each group. Iain and Nuala waved goodbye — Iain wisely decided to skip the parade and do more gentle drives to break in his new engine.
Appreciative crowds greeted the invaders, British and otherwise!
Photo by Betty Lehrman
My ’68 Mini Traveller was in the first group, led by Gustavo in his ’77 VW Bus. We wound through the steep hills of Arlington Heights, never getting above second gear, with some of the hills requiring first. We wondered how any car could negotiate those steep roads in the winter, but the mighty Mini took it all in stride.
Traffic stopped to let us pass and large groups of families greeted us from front lawns and sidewalks. Even the dogs were fascinated — several of them turning their heads from side to side as each car drove by — clearly fans of classic cars! We felt like celebrities as children and adults smiled, waved, clapped and pointed at every corner. Gustavo reported that the Facebook route map had over 800 hits. Clearly, the people of Arlington appreciate the parade!
The crowds thinned after we reached Pleasant Street, though there were still some people seated in lawn chairs along Mass Avenue, and we pleasantly surprised many residents who were going about their business outside.
Unfortunately, the VW Bus had to drop out due to mechanical difficulties partway through the course. The driver of a bright green VW Karmann Ghia convertible took the lead of our line.
The parade ended at Arlington High School. Participants gradually peeled off to go their separate ways. We were all invited to Gustavo’s house for a beer after the drive, but we opted to head for a friend’s house for an outdoor dinner.
It was an exhilarating ride. We hope to go again next year!
Iain’s new engine on the hoist.
Photo by Iain Barker
Engine Swap, Part 3: The Starting Line
by Iain Barker
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” —Winston Churchill
With the Arlington Classic Car Club (ACCC) Mother’s Day cruise scheduled for May 9th, I set a goal for the previous weekend to get my Mini back on the road and ready to ‘run in’.
Installation of the engine and gearbox is most easily accomplished with the radiator and exhaust manifold pre-installed to the engine. On an Mk1 car, it’s almost impossible to fit them with the engine in position due to their proximity to the front subframe.
Lining up the engine mountings is always a ‘fun’ task on a Mini, because they are buried below the clutch housing on one side and the radiator on the other. However, there is a custom tool available that makes the job much easier by capturing the bolt head under a spring clip, allowing the bolt to be inserted blind when working underneath the car. A ‘shade tree mechanic’ version of this tool can be made up by bending the two center tines of a dinner fork.
After several seemingly endless weekends tinkering in the garage, I’m pleased to say that I successfully installed the rebuilt power unit in ‘Mini KK’. Initial startup shouldn’t present a problem, with the oil galleries pre-lubed. I squirted high-zinc 50-weight oil backwards into the oil pump, and forwards into the filter outlet.
I set the ignition timing very roughly by visually lining up the distributor rotor with points opening at #1 cylinder, and then cranked the key with the spark plugs out to build up oil pressure. Once a healthy 65 lbs. was registered on the gauge, and with no oil leaking out from anywhere obvious, it was time to go for startup.
Three, 2, 1… bang, bang! Two bursts of flame shot up out of the carburetors, then nothing.
With the law of averages, one would think if there are two possible outcomes for an event they should occur at roughly even frequency. I have rebuilt four engines in the last few years, and each time despite carefully assuring myself that #1 is on the compression stroke when setting the distributor timing, I’ve ended up with it being 180° out of phase. The pyrotechnic display was, unfortunately, not a new experience for me.
The remedy, however, was simple. Swap plug wires 2 with 3 and 1 with 4, which changes the firing order from 1-3-4-2 to 4-2-1-3.
Second turn of the key and… we have ignition. The engine burst into life!
I let it idle for a minute or so to check the oil pressure and look for leaks. For first startup I generally do not put coolant in the radiator, preferring to let it run dry to provide time for the shellac on the composite head gasket to seal.
I shut the engine off and let it cool. Happy that everything was behaving itself, I filled the system with distilled water plus a little water-wetter. I do not use coolant until the head gasket is completely sealed after a few miles of normal running in.
I re-positioned the distributor drive and spark plug leads to the correct timing, then ran the engine for 10 minutes at 2000rpm to get the engine fully up to temperature and let the flat tappet camshaft bed in. No leaks and nothing unexpected.
Before a test drive I needed to bleed the brake system, as I had replaced all the corroded lines while the engine was out of the car. The vacuum-assisted brake servo is still away being rebuilt. After some judicious bleeding of the system, there was sufficient unassisted pressure to drive safely.
Ready to go, I jumped in the driver’s seat, pushed the clutch down, and… oh, no. The gearstick wouldn’t move. The transmission was stuck in neutral, and regardless how much I heaved on the remote gearstick, the selectors wouldn’t budge. With a horrible, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I called it a day.
A week later, and one day before the ACCC cruise, my rage had subsided and it was time to try and resolve the problem. I put a shout-out on the Mk1 Mini Forum asking for ideas. One suggestion came from a classic Mini race engineer in Canada, Dermott Young, who suggested that the problem may be with the reverse gear selector shaft.
To cut a long story short, it’s possible to assemble the selector mechanism with a ‘detent pin’ in the wrong orientation. The net result is that the shaft locks up and the gearchange lever is unable to move left or right.
Fortunately, the detent can easily be freed up by removing a large bolt from behind the oil filter, disconnecting the remote gear linkage, and moving the levers into their correct location with a pair of vise grips. Certainly, much easier than pulling the whole power unit out again and taking the entire gearbox apart.
After spending an hour or so reassembling the linkage correctly, I drove the Mini gingerly out of the garage under its own power… and then the engine died. A definite “failure to proceed,” as Rolls-Royce would say. Hmm.
I restarted it, and went for a drive around the block, about half a mile in total. The engine stalled out two more times, and then started to run on just two cylinders. Was it ignition, fuel, or had something gone horribly wrong? Maybe it was a blown head gasket between two cylinders.
By pulling live spark plug leads off while the engine was idling, it was clear the #1 and #2 cylinders had decided that involvement in vehicular locomotion was not something they felt to be any of their business.
This was actually good news. The chances of two adjacent cylinders both failing completely due to something mechanical was unlikely even a Mini with a blown head gasket will still run with some partial compression, and a dropped valve will only affect one cylinder. The mild electrocution running up my arm told me that there was nothing wrong with either spark plug lead, and the plugs were brand new. Therefore, it must be carburation. The Cooper S has dual carbs, with one carb feeding cylinders 1 and 2, and the other feeding 3 and 4. My diagnosis made perfect sense.
With just three hours to go before the cruise, I cleaned out the carburetor float from nearly a year’s buildup of evaporated E90 fuel and drove the car another half mile round the block. Success! No more stalling. Although the gears were very stiff, they seemed to be working well.
Aside from a small fluid leak from the front driver’s side wheel well (it didn’t taste like brake fluid, so I decided it probably wasn’t important), we were ready to be off. At 2:30 p.m., Mini KK, my daughter Nuala and I drove the few miles to Arlington — and made the start line for the ACCC Mother’s Day parade.
Next station, Waushakum. Waushakum!
Photo courtesy Waushakum Live Steamers
Waushakum Live Steamers June 27!
by David Schwartz
Save the date and join us for a group drive, a most unusual steam train ride, and lunch at an outdoor brewpub. Our visit to the Waushakum Live Steamers in Holliston, Mass., will be a combined event with the Boston Area MG Club.
NEMO previously visited the Waushakum Live Steamers’ facility in July 2007 as part of Charles and Nancy Gould’s Microcar Classic weekend.
“Live steam” locomotives are scale models that operate the same way as full-size steam locomotives: a fire fueled by coal is used to boil water and make steam, which is then used to power the engine.
The locomotives are capable of hauling cars carrying several people with the engineer riding on the coal tender. The club maintains several gauges of outdoor track that wind through the woods. See the Steamers’ website, https://www.waushakumlivesteamers.org/, for photos and additional information.
Minis and MGs will meet at a convenient exit off Route 495 (either the Milford Rt. 109 Exit 48 or Upton/Hopkinton Exit 54) between 9 and 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 27th, with departure to the Steamers’ facility at 9:45 a.m. After the train rides, we will motor up to Framingham and go to either Jack’s Abby or Exhibit A for cold brews, food and good conversation.
Both brewpubs have outdoor seating. The event details are being finalized and will be supplied via e-mail.
And folks think old car nuts have an unusual hobby. Be sure to wear grubby clothes, as we will get covered in soot and ash.
Waushakum Live Steamers is located at 25 Arthur St. in Holliston. Hope to see you there.
David Schwartz and Ken Lemoine participate in the conversation on Zoom.
Photos by David Schwartz
Virtual NEMO Annual Meeting
by David Schwartz
The Annual meeting, held April 25th on Zoom, was attended by 14 people, including several new members.
Welcome to new member Wendy McGoldrick who attended the fall Mass Modifiers Kimball’s Ice Cream Drive in her husband’s GTO. There were four classic Minis on the Drive. Wendy was inspired to join NEMO and would like to buy a classic Mini.
Dani Baliani joined the meeting right at the end. He bought a 1989 Mini Mayfair from Hrach 23 years ago. The car needs new floors and is not safe to drive unless you are Fred Flintstone. Ken Lemoine provided Dani with a body shop recommendation.
Several members performed winter repairs, or had others do so. Bob Brownell is now an expert at replacing Mini front rubber cones as he installed another set to replace the defective first set. Wendy Birchmire spent $500 having mouse damage repaired to the wiring in her MINI convertible. A new warning light came on this week, so there may be more damage to deal with. Dave Black performed an engine rebuild on the Newman’s Mini Moke.
Dave Black gave a Treasurer’s report. The main expense was member subscriptions to British Marque. Ken Lemoine made a $250 donation from the Hrach fund to support the Smith children after the untimely death of their parents, Sam and Rachael. Sam was the proprietor of Brit Bits in New Hampshire and was known by many in the New England British car community.
The main order of business was an events discussion: cancelled, postponed, rescheduled. Several people are planning on attending the British Invasion in Stowe. NEMO was invited to participate in the Cape Cod British Car Club’s “Rallye Cape Cod,” a new event scheduled for July 24th. See the event calendar below.
We tried to gauge interest in a group drive or outing in June. About half the attendees were interested. Ken and I will explore group drive options in Metro West and beyond. Dave Black invited Wendy McGoldrick to join us in the GTO, which got a good laugh.
A new aftermarket water pump replaced the NOS one.
Photo by Iain Barker
Engine Swap, Part 2: Exhausting the Alternatives
by Iain Barker
Removing the engine from my 1967 Mk1 Morris Mini Cooper S cleared the way for the long and ever-increasing to-do list, which I hoped to attempt on some milder winter evenings and weekends. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The newly built engine has been sitting next to the old one in my unheated rental garage since November, and there are already a few small areas of surface rust to be touched up. But by far the worst part is the bare alloy of the NOS water pump, which has completely whitened from oxidation of the aluminium.
I was reconsidering my choice to use the NOS pump anyway, as I don’t know the condition of the internal rubber seal after it sat on the shelf for so many years. The first job of spring cleaning was to fit a modern Mini Spares Evo pump, and give it a coat of satin black paint to stave off future corrosion.
The next job was the exhaust manifold. I heard it “blowing” when the old engine ran, and more importantly, the amount of exhaust entering the cabin meant that driving with the windows closed was not a viable proposition. Something was definitely amiss.
My Mini was still running an original 1960s-vintage manifold that was well past its best, and definitely hadn’t benefited from lots of short runs over the last few years. There was no chance for the collected water vapor to boil off, hence it rusted through from the inside out. After removing the front half of the exhaust system from the car, a stress crack near the original 1960s gas weld was quite evident, along with several pinholes and a larger 1/2” gash in the down-pipe. ‘Roached’ would be an appropriate description.
Unlike the cast iron manifold used on all other classic Minis, the Cooper models were fitted with unique ‘extractor’ headers formed from roller welding of two pressed steel halves and then gas welding on a tubular mild steel down-pipe. Originality is king, and I really didn’t want to replace the original style with something that didn’t look to be factory authentic. Original pressed steel headers for the S are of course long since extinct as new parts.
Inspiration for Iain came from this period photo from Rubery Owen of ‘final assembly of the exhaust manifold for the Mini Cooper S type, 1965’.
Photo courtesy Fiona Pegley, Rubery Owen Holdings Ltd.
However, there was an alternative. The ADO16 series of BMC cars used the same A Series engine as the Mini, and the MG 1100/MG 1300 used a very similar pressed steel manifold to that of the Mk1 Cooper S. The main difference is that the MG headers do not have a downpipe welded on. The larger ADO16 engine bay allows a traditional slip joint to be used.
The Mini downpipe has a rather complex curve due to having to follow the route designed for the original 850cc engine’s ‘pea shooter’ exhaust. The Cooper downpipe is formed from tubing of twice the diameter and must clear the larger differential output flanges used on the S — definitely not something that would be easy for me to reproduce myself.
My solution was to buy a cheap tubular steel manifold, saw the down-pipe off and weld it to a more readily available MG 1100 pressed steel header purchased off eBay U.K. My inspiration for this act of barbarity was a photo I found of the Rubery Owen production line back in the mid-1960s showing that was exactly how Cooper S manifolds were originally fabricated! Rubery Owen has been producing steel components for the British motor industry since the 1920s, including the innovative Mini subframe.
A previous owner of my Mini had fitted a 10-row oil cooler similar to the MG Midget type. It was leaking from a stone puncture, so in 2018 I changed it for a new MOCAL 13-row cooler. I was never happy with how it fit behind the grille as it was very close to fouling on the edge of the distributor cap when the engine rocked back and forth.
The bottom lip of the Cooper S front panel is supposed to be folded flat, with two L-shaped brackets to support the taller 13-row cooler lower down in the aperture behind the grille. A previous owner fitted a standard Mini replacement front panel without that flat, and instead of using the proper brackets, just MIG-welded two flat plates to the edge of the lower lip. With this modification, the oil cooler mounting is too high up and too far back for the correct 13-row cooler to be used. That must be why they fitted the shorter 10-row oil cooler. One bodge on top of another.
Iain’s replacement manifold (left) with the ‘roached’ original.
Photo by Iain Barker
So, my next job was to install the new 13-row oil cooler kit — but this time, do it properly. First, I had to get the grinder out and slice off the incorrect plates, then carefully dolly the lip back so that it is flat enough for the length of the cooler, and finally add a lick of body-coloured paint to tidy it up. With a bit of adjustment to the new brackets, a full-size oil cooler fits snugly into the re-profiled front panel lip. Fortunately, my less than professional attempts at panel beating are not visible.
Next there is the matter of engine and gearbox compatibility. Most MOWOG engines have a casting code, and the B8J5 code on the old engine block indicates it was manufactured by the second shift on 8th October 1965 —whereas my car was built on 7th April 1967, so clearly the engine was not original to the car. The ‘new’ S engine I built for my car has casting code A1B7 for the first shift, 1st February 1967. That’s a lot closer to the build date of my car, so I am calling it period-correct.
The gearboxes on these two engines are very different and are not directly interchangeable due to production modifications to the driveshaft couplings. The old gearbox is a 4-synchro unit from the mid-1970s, and has Quinton Hazell driveshaft yokes, whereas the ‘new’ gearbox I built is a 3-synchro unit using all correct 1967 specification parts, including Hardy Spicer output flanges on the driveshafts.
Hardy Spicer universal joints were originally introduced for production homologation of the 1966 Monte Carlo rally cars, and are somewhat of a ‘signature’ for the Cooper S. They are far stronger than the standard part, but also cost a lot more to manufacture. Curiously, the only other Mini that ever used them was the Automatic.
Swapping over the driveshaft couplings is straight- forward, as both use the same number of driveshaft splines. The original rubber gaiters were still supple and given the poor quality of modern synthetic rubber the gaiters will stay in place. I performed a liberal re-greasing, and another job was checked off the list.
The final task this month was to fabricate a new brake line to go around the front subframe, as the old line was corroded, and the end sheared off when I undid the union. I will also replace the flex-hoses with original black reinforced rubber type since I’ll have to bleed the front brake circuit again anyway.
That’s it for now. Next month, the engine should finally be in the car and fingers crossed, dare I say, actually running.
Bonnet removed, ancillaries stripped off, engine removal begins — with only natural light available.
Photos by Iain Barker
Engine Swap, Part 1: Racing the Sun
by Iain Barker
With the dearth of summer car shows and cruises due to the COVID-19 lockdown, it looked like the season was at an end by late September, just as public event restrictions in Massachusetts were starting to lift.
We had optimistically booked our 1967 Mk1 Morris Mini Cooper S 1275 into one final “calling all cars” local car show. An early and unpredicted 4” Halloween snowfall together with salting of the roads put a swift end to those plans. With no other events on the schedule, it was time to plan removal of the old engine and gearbox to make way for the many odd jobs needed prior to installing the freshly rebuilt unit in the spring.
With the cold temperatures of late October, this looked like little more than wishful thinking. But then we had an Indian summer, four straight days forecast for high 60s to low 70s. Perfect for working in the unheated lockup garage that I rent.
However, with Daylight Savings Time no longer in effect, and no electricity for lighting the garage, time would be of the essence. So it was that I set myself a challenge on a Saturday morning: How quickly could I remove a Mini engine? I was already running late due to some pre-arranged chores and didn’t start working until 11 a.m. My chances of getting the job done before the 4.30 p.m. sunset were low. But nothing ventured, nothing gained!
I spent the first hour stripping off ancillaries such as the starter motor, twin carburetors, manifolds, the dynamo/generator, the oil cooler and the distributor. After a lunch break, Hour Two was spent disconnecting the drivetrain at the differential, draining and disconnecting the cooling system, and after a short protest (easily remedied with a medium-size hammer), releasing the engine mounts.
Disassembling the brake servo showed a leakage problem.
Photo by Iain Barker
This being a Cooper S, the last thing to remove was the vacuum brake servo/booster which bolts to the inner wing and blocks egress of the clutch housing. With that done and at least some of the brake fluid still inside the system rather than on the garage floor, it was time to winch the engine up on the picker and out of the car.
One lesson hard learned is that the speedometer cable on a Mini cannot be changed with the engine in situ unless you have either double-jointed wrists or a friendly trained octopus on hand. So, it’s always the last thing to be disconnected when the engine is hanging from the hoist, and the first to be connected when reinstalling the engine.
Engine out, actual working time 2 hours 32 minutes — a new personal best, and well over an hour left before sunset!
The weather here in Massachusetts is still too cold to work on the Mini in an unheated garage. Spring is hopefully just around the corner, so I figured I should get started on the long to-do list.
The first job is to rebuild the brake servo. Generally, it works okay, but makes a strange whooping noise when the engine gets warm. Also, the brakes have a tendency to bind due to the servo air filter being bunged up.
To clean the air filter, I took the vacuum control valve cover off the brake servo and found that it was full of brake fluid. Evidently the seals on the pistons are past their best, so it’s probable the bores aren’t in great condition either.
Servo (to be sent off to be rebuilt) and brake line adaptor.
Photo by Iain Barker
I decided that rather than trying to fix it myself, it would be better to send the whole servo off to be rebuilt properly by an Mk1 Mini specialist in the U.K., the same company from which I purchased the crankshaft and flywheel assembly last year.
In the meantime, I made up a brake line adaptor to bypass the servo temporarily, so the brakes will at least be usable (with a little more pedal effort) for the 2021 driving season.
Next job, dealing with a leaky exhaust manifold and down-pipe.
[To be continued.]
Virtual Annual Meeting Apr. 25!
We usually hold the NEMO Annual Meeting in March. It is a good time for socializing, event planning and club business. Once again, COVID has thrown a spanner in the works, so instead we will hold a Zoom meeting on Sunday, April 25th, at 7:30 p.m., and hope that “normal” events can resume by late summer or early fall.
Many spring and early summer car events have been postponed or cancelled. Last year numerous NEMO members participated in socially distanced drives organized by other groups. I would like to schedule a NEMO group drive and picnic for May or early June. We can discuss the details during the Zoom meeting.
A Zoom invitation was sent out in late March. Watch for a reminder this month. —David Schwartz