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1980 Austin Princess

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Not only that, before this gasket was fitted the head was pressure tested and skimmed.  Passed the pressure test no problems and needed a 10 thou skim.  Put it all together, then smashed all the valves into the pistons when I cocked up the cambox end gasket, put it all together again without getting the head retested because I hadn't actually run the car at that point due to valve smashage, and it was fine for the last 70ish miles.  It might actually be more than 70 miles since I have put fuel in it since then.  It's probably just shit luck, I have a lot of it with this car.  It'll be fine for ages and ages and then it'll break totally randomly.

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I don't know if it's likely to be a problem on the O series, but on the Somerset/Devon 1200 engine (which is renowned for blowing head gaskets) some people have actually discovered the block face is warped after blowing a couple of gaskets. Blocks can be skimmed but it's obviously a bit more involved. Just a suggestion.

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  • 2 weeks later...

To recap on the HGF history with this one:

First HGF, 2013/14 I think, happened on the motorway.  Original head put away because I'd got a spare that we plonked on with a new gasket set and valve stem seals.

Second HGF 2019.  Original head pressure tested, skimmed 10 thou, fitted with all new gaskets, spare head put back into storage.

THE COMPLICATION - the cambox end plate gasket was leaking.  Tightened a bolt which pulled the thread out of the head, removed the gasket, didn't realise its important, refitted the plate after helicoiling the thread and used Wellseal.  Camshaft bound on end plate, belt slipped, all valves bent when they met the pistons.  Head came off again.  Head rebuild with new pistons, valve stem seals, and valve shims.  Head was not pressure tested or skimmed because it hadn't even been run in from the last time it was done.

Third HGF 2020.  No idea of the cause yet, not had it apart.  Happened a few minutes after replacing two leaking gaskets, one on the fuel pump blanking plate, and the other on the cambox end plate.


So really, it's not been blowing head gaskets repeatedly, it's had the job done more often than usual because of the valve-piston-interface incident, rather than some sort of recurrent issue.  When it blew the head gasket most recently it wasn't due to overheating, in fact since the last gasket set was done, it's never overheated, never got above 3/4 on the gauge in fact and it's normal for these to run 1/2 to 3/4 gauge.  The car is always well cared for, mechanically, regular fluid changes and all that good stuff, and I never treat it unkindly.  It's probably something simple like a bad head gasket, I won't know until I pull it all apart.

This is my sticking point.  I'm at a point where the car would benefit from a proper bodywork, engine, and suspension overhaul that I lack the funds to do.  If I could sink £5-10k into it I could get it all sorted and end up with a car worth... £4k?  That doesn't really matter, I've already spent more on this car than it'll be worth because it's not an investment and I am likely its last owner.  I have to admit I've been very tempted by the Renault 11 that @colc is selling but I don't think it's going to solve any of my current problems, rather it's likely to add to them because I could see myself easily getting attached to the Renault when what I really need at the moment is something that's totally disposable that'll see me through the next six months or so without me having to spend on it.  I actually had to talk myself out of the 11 on the grounds that I don't need another car that needs something fixing on it, and it would be unfair of me to use a car like that through the winter.  I also really don't want the stress of trying to sell it once I'm done with it.

The Princess is at no risk of scrappage or sale, it will get sorted, it's put me through worse than a mojo slump because of a job I hate doing and apart from this one issue it's actually in pretty good shape overall.  For now, I'm just going to put money away until I can make a decision to either DIY or send it off to someone else to go through properly.  I feel like I've done as many of the DIY jobs as I personally can do on it.  Seeking advice on engine stuff tends to result in a lot more stress because whatever I do I always end up feeling like I've done it wrong somehow and because it's not something I'm passionate about I've not that much mojo to deal with any engine work in the first place.

I suppose the TL;DR is that if anyone out there wants to help out by letting me pay them to actually find out what's wrong and fix it for me, I'd be happier to go that route.  Don't all rush at once.

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  • 3 weeks later...

OMGHGF happened a month ago.  I still have no desire to do the job, and since I've had the time to really think about things I've decided to decline the offer of help to just swap the head gasket etc. in favour of getting the engine fully rebuilt.  A little drastic, perhaps, but there's good reason for it.  The engine has always consumed a little oil and that consumption has been steadily increasing so something is worn out somewhere.  The head gasket issue has really knocked my confidence in my own abilities a lot and since engine work isn't something I enjoy to begin with, you can well imagine why I don't want to venture back into it.  Also, if I give the engine to someone I can trust (someone I trust has offered to help when he's able) then that takes some stress out of the whole endeavour.

Since I'll also be repainting the car when the weather allows - paint, brushes, and sundries are all got for the job now - it will be  alot easier to get a nice finish in the engine bay if the engine isn't in there.

Other big expenses are the suspension regas that I cancelled the booking off when OMGHGF happened, and a new windscreen to go in with the new windscreen seal I STILL haven't fitted.

My goal at the moment, at least, is to finish the existing projects before starting new ones and since I can get by with lifts from the other half and my own legs, I can live without a car of my own for a few months I reckon.  It's annoying, but at the end of it I should have a nice car I like a lot.  If all else fails, work on the Lanchester will be progressing alongside this anyway and if it's ready before the Princess is then I shall just use that instead.

EDIT:  There's also that as-new engine that was linked to me which is still available, so that could be an option.  Either way the engine would want pulling apart to check it was good so it might be better to stick with what I've got.

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The weather was ideal for a bit of painting today, so that's what I've done.  Those of a nervous disposition should look away now.


In some lights, the pink is really shockingly pink.  In others it's more orange looking, and in others it has a grey-ish look to it.  I love how much it varies depending on the light and I actually really love how obnoxious it is.  What I didn't love is that the new door mirrors I bought have already gone rusty so that makes up my mind about putting the black wing mirrors back on which are still my favourite mirrors I've ever put on this car.


I have the same problem with this pink as I had with some red I used a while ago in that the paint dries too fast so I haven't the working time to dress it and let it level out.  I'm also out of practice and I found my technique was almost where it ought to be just as I finished the job.  Never mind, I knew more than one coat would be needed so I'll just flat this all back to prep it for the second coat and improve the surface.  I enjoyed doing this significantly more than spray painting and I know from experience that this paint will flat and polish quite well once done so I'm not that worried about the imperfect surfaces.

The boot lid isn't done because I was limited on time and wanted to avoid anything going wrong.  I wasn't sure on exact drying times and since the spoiler is what stops water getting into the boot through the fixing holes and the car lives outdoors, I chose to leave it until I have more time available and knew what to expect from the paint.  I'll be able to tackle this properly with the next coat of paint.

What I do love is the contrast between the stainless trim, the pink, and the satin black of the C pillars.

What I'm not sure on at the moment is what to do with the engine bay.  I'm considering doing the panel under the windscreen in pink, and the slam panel at the front in pink, and having the rest of the engine bay in black.

I will be doing the door shuts and any other bits of the car that are visible outside of the trim, but I won't be going to the extent of repainting the floors or any other parts of the car that aren't seen.  There's no point pulling it apart that much.  I am happy to see the beige going away.  

Today's efforts was 3 hours of work and I had 4 available, 5 in a pinch.  I'm not sure what time I'll have between now and my next time off to do more, so I'll just have to do it as an when.  One advantage of how quick the pink dried is that no flies got stuck in it, so that's something.

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It's synthetic enamel, tractor/machinery/modern coach paint basically.  Roller or brush on, fairly low odour, minimal fuss, single stage.  I probably would have got a better first finish with rollers given how quick the paint's drying but that's much messier to apply so I'll persevere with brushes.  The Rustoleum is what I used before and it's okay, but does need a lacquer to stop it fading on top so it takes a lot longer to do and is much more pricey than going the brush-paint route.

Engine wise, there's one popped up in Buckingham on eBay (well two, technically, with the same seller) that's NOS from a Marina and I'm probably going to go for that one since it's easier to collect and we've made a space for it to live until I'm ready to fit it, providing it remains in budget.  Have decided to not worry about having the Princess on the road just at the moment and instead concentrate on all the jobs I want to get done, so that's paint and new engine, suspension when I've saved up for it, and windscreen when I've saved up for that.  Next year it should then all be sorted I hope.

Hopefully this focus on the existing projects is going to pay dividends even though there's strong temptation to adopt something new while I'm without personal transport.

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The synthetic resin enamel does dry a bit quick,I used a lot of it over the last few years on motorcycles. My dad had some craftmaster coach paint which I used on a few projects and it is simply the best brush paint I have ever used,it is more expensive than what you would be used to paying but I would hundred percent recommend trying some if you want a satisfying painting experience.oh,and you have turned a car I hated into one k like,so top marks!

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The black should go better, it always has when I've used it before.  I was toying with going for a more expensive paint (didn't know about Craftmaster), but instead went for somewhere in the middle.  Had I not bought enough to do the whole car I'd definitely go and buy some more, as it is I'll just stick with it and adjust my technique.  Small areas, worked quickly, seems to be the best approach.  Get it nice and smooth and very quickly dress it lightly once or twice and then leave it alone was giving me the smoothest results so that's what I'll go with.  I'm used to putting on long slow strokes and then dressing a few times in opposing directions before moving on.  This will just have to do for now.  Nothing a bit of wet and dry and some elbow grease with the polish can't sort after.

The brushes, I should mention, were recommended by @puddlethumper and are Hamilton Perfection pure bristle, a very comfortable brush to use, and really nice bristles, a very well behaved brush too so the paint actually goes where you tell it to.  Definitely worth the asking price which seems much more reasonable once you've used the brushes for a bit.

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That was a fun project. I have been plotting some more lace paint, as it happens, I just haven't settled on a design yet and I want to see how the car looks in just the black and pink before I start making it any fussier.  The black wing mirrors are making a comeback, and the Lotus wheels too once I've got the paint to sort those out.  This was 2013/4, how time flies!



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28 minutes ago, vulgalour said:

I was having the most trouble on the bonnet and roof, as it happens, I imagine a roller would help me get the paint down quicker in a thin even coat compared to the brushes?

For roof and boot I would definitely use a roller first then a brush with very little paint on it. Work the brush towards where  you have painted to blend it. Keeping a wet edge as short as possible is best so the edge where you began is not starting to dry before you get back to it. 

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26 minutes ago, vulgalour said:

That was a fun project. I have been plotting some more lace paint, as it happens, I just haven't settled on a design yet and I want to see how the car looks in just the black and pink before I start making it any fussier.  The black wing mirrors are making a comeback, and the Lotus wheels too once I've got the paint to sort those out.  This was 2013/4, how time flies!



I remember some sort of lines with lots of 90* angles? Bit like the tubes screensaver from Windows 95?! 

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Just had a quick browse of the archives for some engine refs.  With the clutch assembly being on the end (or back, in the Marina) of the block I'd being working on the understanding it would be the same crank application since the crank is driving all of this to connect via cogs to the gearbox in the sump, rather than the gearbox sticking off the back of the engine.




But if that's not the case, I'm happy to be educated before spending money.  On all of the pictures of the RWD application I've seen, all the bits look the same except for the gearbox which is the conventional long thing for the Marina etc, and this stubby satellite thing on the Princess.  I honestly don't know which approach BL would have taken in the development on this, the gearbox in sump is already weird enough so it wouldn't surprise me at all if the actual engine, crank, etc. was exactly the same between the two.  Then again, I say that as an engine luddite so I'm probably talking out of my bottom.

Edited to add:  the gearbox end of a Marina/RWD application engine.  I'm guessing/hoping the shaft in the Princess clutch housing thingy goes into the end of the crankshaft just the same on this engine as on the Princess.  Everything else (sump aside) looks identical between RWD and FWD application.


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6 hours ago, vulgalour said:

Engine wise, there's one popped up in Buckingham on eBay (well two, technically, with the same seller) that's NOS from a Marina and I'm probably going to go for that one since it's easier to collect and we've made a space for it to live until I'm ready to fit it, providing it remains in budget.

Don't know how far away you are but I am in Buckingham so if you wanted me to give the engine(s) a quick once over and maybe take some photos of the crank end let me know the address and I could pop round.

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Thank you for the offer, if I need to call you in as our expert in the field, I will :) We're about 2 hours drive from Buckingham, as it happens.

Been doing some more searching and I'm moderately certain the crankshafts are actually the same.  Over on LeylandPrincess there's a handy engine rebuild with a useful shot of the gearbox end http://www.leylandprincess.co.uk/enginerebuild.htm


This looks, to my eye, the same as the same end on the Marina.  Aronline has an article on the O Series and it's suggested there that the benefit of the O Series was that it could be mated to both the FWD gearbox and the RWD gearbox and used pretty much across the entire range as a result with minimal cost.  Additionally, there's a couple of crankshafts listed on eBay as being suitable for both Marina, Sherpa, Princess, and Ambassador applications and while none of this is absolute knowledge, it does all point at it arguably being a straight swap for the engine at least.  I feel like it's a calculated risk at this point, though an expensive one.

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Another little paint update.  With what was left in my first 1 litre tin I had a bit of an experiment off car with some thinners and found that if I thinned the paint to more the consistency of single cream it actually didn't dry as quickly and could be dressed out.  However, once thinned and done on a larger area than my test sample, I found the paint wasn't actually flowing as well as I'd like and drying with brush streaks in.  This isn't the end of the world, however, because I now know roughly how much to dilute the paint so that I'll have enough time to dress it with a brush after applying with a gloss roller, per @puddlethumper's recommendation.  I feel like I'm in a more comfortable place with it.  The bonnet was easily one of the worst panels for the streaky look, as you can see in this close up.


The other issue is that the first coat of paint hasn't hardened as much as I need it to in order to take out the worst of the problems on the surface so I'm going to leave this for about a week before having another stab at it.  Experience has taught me it takes 4-6 days with synthetic enamels, when used outdoors in cooler weather, before it gets hard enough to really cut it back heavily.  At the moment the paint still feels a bit plastic-y, for want of a better description, it's hard enough you can't dig a fingernail into it, but if you go at it too much with sandpaper it just clogs the paper after a while.  After a few days, this plastic feeling goes away and the paint usually sands very nicely.  If you do this job indoors in a heated environment, it hardens much quicker.

It looks okay for now, though I do wish I'd gone with a different, and probably more expensive, brand.  Ah well.  Worst case is I waste my time with this pink and have to redo it with better paint, that's hardly the end of the world.  Also of note is that with the second coat, in person at least, the pink isn't so vibrant and is more towards the colour I expected, more of an orange hue to it in all lights now.


I ran out of thinners today too so I'll get a fresh tin ordered and some decent gloss rollers before we try for coat three.  The first two coats were done with just one litre so I should have more than enough to do the whole thing since I've still got two litres of paint that aren't thinned down just for the pink, and another three litres for the black which is less surface area.

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      1977 Ford Capri II 1600 GL. SMY 675R. I can't remember why I bought this, other than I thought it'd be amusing. It was bought from Norwich for £350 and was perfectly well behaved for the 8 months that I had it (other than a flasher unit expiring). I remember being shocked just how much the windscreen would ice up inside, and duly sold it in November to a guy who was going to drive it daily! It's still alive and now, apparently, black! (Update - it's now silver!!!)

      1989 Volvo 340 DL by Bornite Identity, on Flickr
      1989 Volvo 340 DL. G67 AVN. I bought this for £80. Unbelievable. It was utterly bloody perfect. I wanted to do a banger rally which is why the guy gave it to me so cheap. I'm still yet to do that rally, but no longer have the car. I sold it for about £300 to a family who were clearly down on their luck who, I hope, still have the car.

      1996 Toyota Granvia by Bornite Identity, on Flickr
      1996 Toyota Granvia. N775 JEV. My wife and I decided to increase our numbers further and, with our 4th son on the way, larger transport was required. We quickly realised you can either have 4 children and no apparel, or apparel and no children. After trying a very tired Mercedes Viano, the Granvia was found for 1/4 of the price and it's still here 2 years later. I can safely say that we'll never sell it - it really is another member of the family.

      1993 Mercedes 190e by Bornite Identity, on Flickr
      1993 Mercedes 190e. L795 COJ. I've admired these cars since I was a child. In fact, one of the very few toy cars I still have from my childhood is a Mercedes 190e. Regular readers of "Memoirs from the Hard Shoulder" will know what a PITA this car has been since day 1, but I get the feeling it's a keeper. We'll see!

      1983 Ford Sierra Base 1.6 by Bornite Identity, on Flickr
      1983 Ford Sierra Base. GVG 510Y. Not explicitly my car, but it should be documented here for reference. Oh - and the V5 is in my name. The story is online for all to read as to how five of us acquired what is believed to be the only remaining Ford Sierra Base. Make a brew and read it, it's a fantastic story.

      1982 Ford Sierra L by Bornite Identity, on Flickr
      1982 Ford Sierra L. LCR 503Y. I accidentally won this on ebay for £520. Upon reflection, I shouldn't have sold it - but short stop of saying I regret it. I could never get truly comfortable driving it and, in fairness, I could scratch my Sierra itch with the base if I wanted. Sold it at a stupid profit of £1250. It is believed to be the oldest remaining Ford Sierra in the UK.

      1979 Volvo 343 DL by Bornite Identity, on Flickr
      1979 Volvo 343 DL. DBY 466T As you'll see above, I'd had a 360GLT as a younger lad and fancied one of these earlier cars. The variomatic is, frankly, terrible but amusing. This car has just 8000 miles on the clock and inside was absolutely timewarp. Sadly, the huge bill for the Mercedes 190e cylinder head rebuild meant I had to sell this car shortly after acquiring it. Since then I've had a bit of money luck, and now realise I didn't need to sell it after all. Typical.

      I think that's it. My arthritis is playing up even more now. I've left out a few cars that were actually my wife's, but if I find pictures will add them in at a later date. I'll run this as an ongoing thread on cars and what's happening.

      Current SitRep:

      Purple Avensis: Just about to click over 185,000. Minor drama this week when an HT lead split but otherwise utterly fantastic, fantastically boring and boringly reliable.

      Granvia: Just done 1000 miles in a month around Norfolk, 6 up with suitcases. 31mpg achieved on the way up which is good for an old tub with a 3.0 Turbo Diesel on board. ODO displaying 175,000 which is a mix of miles and kilometers. Say 130,000 miles for argument's sake.

      Mercedes: Being a PITA. It's had the top end completely rebuilt after the chain came off. Now needs welding to pass another MOT and the gearbox bearings are on strike. It's about to go into the garage for winter until I can stomach it again. 151,000 miles on the clock.

      Sierra bASe: Still on sabbatical with AngryDicky who only took it bloody camping in cornwall! Legend.
    • By captain_70s
      I'm a masochist from Leeds who is running two rusty, worn out Triumph Dolomites as my only transport in rural Aberdeenshire. You might recognise me from various other forums and Facebook groups. Realistically I need to buy a modern car of some sort, but instead I find myself looking at £300 Citroen BXs and Triumph Acclaims on Gumtree and thinking "yeah, that'd fit right in with the rest of the broken cars I can't afford".
      On to the cars, the main attraction being my 1976 1850HL "50 Shades of Yellow" that I bought for £850 and is currently my daily driver, here is a picture of it before I sanded off some surface rust and sprayed it badly in the wrong shade of yellow with rattle cans:

      Within a month of purchase I managed to plant it in to a steel fence backwards after a botched gear change on a wet roundabout and ruined the N/S rear wing, although judging by the other dent that's packed with filler it looks like somebody had already done the same. I also managed to destroy a halfshaft and one of my Sprint alloys (good for an extra 15hp) in the incident, so now it's sitting on it's original steelies but painted black (good for an extra 5hp).
      It's only broken down on me twice. once with some sort of fuel delivery related problem which may or may not have been an empty fuel tank and once when the thermostat jammed shut and it overheated and blew out some O-rings for the cooling system. It has recently developed a taste for coolant and oil which is rather annoying, although it's done 89,300 miles which is about 80,000 more miles than BL engineering is designed to last, I'm keeping my eye on eBay for replacement engines... 
      I tried to keep ahead of the rust a bit by rubbing down the arches and re-painting them, but apparently rattle can paint isn't great when you are spraying it at -5C, it also highlighted how although my car might have been Inca Yellow in 1976 it's now more of a "cat piss" sort of shade. So I ended up with the wrong shade of yellow which has rust coming back through after 5 weeks. Did I mention I'm incompetent?
      The other car is the first "classic" car I bought, so I can't bear to sell it. It's a '77 Dolomite 1300 and it cost £1400 (about £400 too much) and has been nothing but a pain in the arse:

      It looks much prettier (from 100 yards) but that's most due to the darker paintwork hiding the rust. It lives a mollycoddled life in my garage, where it somehow still manages to rust, and is utterly rubbish. 0-60 is measured on a calendar, top speed is 80ish but at that point it uses more oil than petrol, it rarely ventures over 50mph and if you encounter an incline of any sort you can kiss that sort of speed goodbye, along with about £20 of 20W50 as it vanishes out of the exhaust in the form of blue smoke.
      One of the PO's had clearly never heard of the term "oil change" so it developed into brown sludge that coated everything internally with the next owner(s) blissfully pouring fresh oil on top of it. This lasted until about 600 miles into my ownership when there was muffled "pop" from the engine bay and the car became a 3-cylinder. The cause was catastrophic wear to the top end causing a rocker arm to snap:

      As this was my first classic car I'd assumed it was supposed to sound like the engine was full of marbles, it wasn't.
      I put the engine back together with second hand bits declared it utterly fucked and promptly did another 5000 miles with it. After about 3500 of those miles the oil burning started, valve seals have gone so it's been relegated to my parent's garage as a backup car and something to take to local car shows as the 1850 is now embarrassingly ugly. I'm keeping my eye on eBay for replacement engines (deja vu, anybody?) Oh, I also recently reversed it into a parked Ford Fiesta and royally fucked up the rear bumper, rear panel and bootlid. Did I mention I'm incompetent?
      There have been two other cars in my life. My first car, a 2008 Toyota Yaris 1.0 an it's replacement a 2012 Corsa 1.4T. I didn't really want either of them, but it's a long story involving my parents and poor life choices. Ask if you want to hear it!
      So that's a brief summary of my current shite. If you want more pictures or details of anything do say as I've got photos of almost everything I'd done with the cars.
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