Engine rebuild? We’ll take two.

So you may be wondering when we’re going to be ready for the 2017 rally season. Yeah, us too. But we have some plans afoot…

The main part of those plans is the rebuild of our ordinarily trusty 4G63, which decided to fail catastrophically on the way back to the shop back in December. You’ll recall we finished Tall Pines (where despite the quick work of the Sweep team a spin cost us a whole lot of time and a flat in one of the night stages sealed the deal for us to be at the bottom of the standings…although still ahead of the half of the field who didn’t finish) in late November. After what felt like a success Ryan hauled the car back to his place where it sat for a few weeks before we could get to pick it and all our misc. rally stuff up. We were heading back to Alliston in the rain and looking forward to getting all the mud and crud off the car when just before Rosemont, in 4th gear at 80 kph and slowing down, the engine stopped.

Now if you have read our accounts of any event we’ve participated in, or ever owned a rally car or Astro van, you know that having something stop working on a country road somewhere is not exactly unexpected, although it is annoying. So this wasn’t the moment of panic it might be for your average motorist, more of a ‘huh, well, the lights are still on so lets see if I can bump start it before we lose all momentum’ moment. That didn’t work so Derek brought the van around and we put the hazards on and stared at the engine. There was nothing obvious but the starter seemed quite energetic. Almost like there was very little resistance. However with The Manchurian it’s usually something electrical so we started there, and fortunately we had all our tools in the van so we decided to poke around while we waited for CAA. Just for fun we also pulled the top of the timing cover off but the belt was still there and had tension and looked ok, there was oil, there was no loud bang or anything, it just stopped working as an engine. So that was it for our roadside diagnostics; time to put it on the flatbed.

The CAA guy thought a race car was a pretty neat thing to pick up so he got a couple of pictures before tipping it into the shop in Alliston, where it then sat – muddy and sad – until February and we had time to look at it.

The first thing we found was yeah, it really doesn’t seem like it has any compression.

So we pulled the head and found that yeah, those rockers shouldn’t be scattered around the top of the engine like that, and yeah, the valves were all bent and the pistons were all scored so that would need fixing, but we still couldn’t see what the problem was.


So then in March we got the bottom end of the engine out and here’s what we found: something went wrong. No crap right? The belt was clearly stripped around the balance shaft pulley but we couldn’t see what caused that. The belt wasn’t snapped, the balance shaft had been deleted on the first rebuild so it couldn’t be that; we just couldn’t see a simple cause for our issues. Despite being shade tree mechanics at best – more like shade shrubbery mechanics – we thought the cause would be obvious, but…nothing.

So we stripped the engine down – something we didn’t do the first time, our bad – and dropped it off last week to RTM to get it rebuilt. The best guess there was something got into the timing belt and caused the belt to skip, but as to what we have no clue. There are a bunch of pictures below so we welcome your best guesses.

Anyhow, the engine is out and we have a long list of things to upgrade before the next rally. What, you ask? Oh don’t worry, we’ve got a list. Lots of engine bay cleanup; not just the rally mud but also terminate wires that don’t need to be there, make more room for the alternator, replace some sketchy hoses, replace the intercooler and hopefully get all our rightful boost back, etc. Then we have a new (to us) 4-blot limited slip rear end to install, rear brake lines to extend, and a suspension to clean and lube. Then we get to stuff like fixing up the headlights, clean up the hood, replace some of the missing light bulbs in the interior, and replace our light switch electrical mount panel with one that doesn’t fall out sometimes. We were also motivated to figure out a better mount system for the spare tires, the tools we use to change the tires, and the lights we need to operate the tools and the spare tires in the dark woods in the cold. And of course we need to sort out what rims and tires we have left, because there aren’t many left. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get to touching up the paint where the gravel has blasted it off…

We won’t be racing at Lanark but we’ll be there in spirit and hopefully volunteering. More updates when we have cool pictures.


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