Timing is everything

In which we prepare to dig into some unplanned and undesired motor work.

As everyone knows – because we tell everyone we can – we finished Pines 2016. That’s 3 finishes for 5 starts, which for Pines is actually pretty good. (It’s a different story for Black Bear for us, but let’s not go there). After the rally Ryan from Rally/Race Development hauled The Manchurian and our other crap back to his new house (and future new shop) near Guelph and it sat outside for a couple days (ok it was a month or so) before we headed down to load up the van with our crap and drive the car the hour or so back to the shop. That seemed to be going fine and we were even planning to wash it before putting away when it stopped. Rolling along at 80 kph in 4th gear one second, coasting to a halt on the shoulder the next. Bump starting it as it coasted to a halt didn’t work; just nothing. Starter just whirred, but an alarming sort of a whir because it sounds like the starter wasn’t turning anything.

We were guessing – ring gear? timing belt? some mysterious electrical kill switch? – but none of those were ‘easy to fix on the side of the road in the dark in the rain’ so we called CAA to flat bed it to the shop. We did check the timing belt and it was still there and tight on the cam pullies so we were hopeful it wasn’t that. Oh, and then the van battery died and we had to get CAA to jump start the van after loading the car. And the CAA truck almost took out the ‘Welcome to’ town sign turning around to jump the van. Of course, because Rally Sputnik.

So at this point we dropped the car at the shop, unloaded the van and went home. We even managed to put it enough out of our mind that we could enjoy Christmas before we grabbed our buddy Mike and a compression tester and went back up. However, turns out we didn’t need the compression tester because when we tried to start it the timing belt wasn’t turning. Guess we should have checked that in the rain at the side of the road, but we didn’t.

Anyhow, here’s what the timing belt looked like, which is also pretty strange. That groove on the non-toothed side is not normal. However it had teeth where we could see it, no obvious crack, and the belt is attached, but seems to have a small amount of play in it, which was also a bit on the not-good side.

So we went home. Again.

Last weekend we plucked up our courage and headed back up, this time with a scope so we could see what was waiting for us in the cylinders. We started by removing the valve covers, where we saw…a whole lot of free roller bearings. Like ‘all of them on the exhaust cam’. Our assessment: that’s not good.


If that looks like some kind of modern art to you, here’s an effort to show what the difference is. The green circles are what it should look like. The red circles are where the roller bearings are absent from their appointed posts and just lying around on top of the valve springs, under the cams, etc. Your question is probably the same as ours. Why? Only we were more angry. So we took some pictures with the scope and went to drink beer.

When we used the scope on the pistons the end two looked ok, but the middle two were covered in some kind of goop that had grit in it. That shows up as speckles in the pictures from the scope. So not so useful, we know.

The cutouts for the valves are normal, but beyond that we have no idea what is going on in there. It appears we’re going to be pulling the head off the motor to start so we can actually see what’s what; from there it’s either replace the head, replace the whole motor, or have the motor rebuilt. Given we want to race at Lanark in May we’re thinking that if we need to go beyond a head swap it is faster and easier – and probably cheaper – to throw in a new to us motor with some fresh bits (we figure we may as well replace the timing components just to be safe, right?) and then deal with this motor later. The history on this motor, BTW, is that it is original to this car (as far as we know) but was rebuilt in 2013; since then it’s gone about 10,000 kms – less than half racing, the rest recce or moving the car around.

Any suggestions are welcome and any that do not involve an LS or rotary swap will be considered. Hit us on Facebook or Instagram or email or whatever, and otherwise stay tuned when, after further procrastination, we do some more investigation.


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