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Cluffy’s Corrado VR6 - Love/Hate/Love saga...


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Some have indicated a write up of the VR6 head rebuild would be of interest. This began as a mission to as reasonably as possible fix the blue smoke on overrun (sign of valve stem oil seal wear that these all suffer from) so replacing the stem seals and cleaning up valves, re-lapping them and building back up. What ended up happening is a £1200+ "while you're there" activity to keep me, sometimes @grogeeand my wallet busy over the winter period!

Part 1

So here's the car before it all began. Fresh from a "Big Clean" by my own hand. I am not one for the patience or expense of "detailing" but I do get satisfaction when time allows of properly washing and then polishing / cutting back the car to be as good as it can be (and still be useable!)


First thing was to get as much access as possible. I had never removed the slam panel before but as I'm fortunate to have other daily wheels, no rush in this job and a learning opportunity for this whole job. Lights off, Grille off,  Front bumper off, coolant drained, radiator off and said slam panel removed:


Hmmm, rather grotty lower panel there... First extra job, but I've seen worse. Cleaned up, painted with some black metal paint I had lying around. Job jobbed, minimal spend. Winner. Then to start taking more bits off... Inlet manifold is easy.


Next, Cam cover. Turny bits looking OK. Next for the exhaust side. I decided to leave the manifold on as I read removal is easier with the head off. Well I went through every sodding tool in the garage it felt but finally got all of the bolts off for the manifold to down pipe clamps...


Now for the Upper timing cover - and this is where I was preying the chains would be OK / guides have been done before my ownership..:
Oh shite, cracked guides / missing guide material... Well well well. Full chain set needed. Meaning lower cover needs to come off (and with that do the cover seal). Meaning Gearbox needs to come off... Meaning I should do the Clutch.... I took to the swear jar, sent expletives down WhatsApp at anyone who would listen and had a beer or three. I then spoke kindly to my wallet before pillaging its depths (very tough for a Northerner)

So we continue on. Now for the head bolts. No pic but I destroyed some of my own and @grogee's tools at this point before realising the purchase of some proper 1/2 inch torx sockets would shift the naughty bolts that didn't want to yield to the persuader...


Heavy bugger but on the bench. First use of a valve spring tool. Manly. Got all 12 valves out. Lovely and clean... no, no they weren't:


Old vs new valve stem oil seals. Old ones rock solid and squashed:

So now how far to go with the head... On to part 2...



Edited by Cluffy
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Part 2

I got a quote from a local guy to clean the head but as with all these things, he offered his services to not only do that, but clean the valves, swap out the valve stems as he showed me some that were clearly worn and he'd build it all back up and pressure test etc... Wham. There's £300 gone. But worth it I think... Shine shine shine!


Now for the gearbox to come off and what a fun job that was. Pulled in the big guns with @grogee helping on Sunday morning fuelled by tea and cake. Driveshafts off, bolts undone, starter off and it was loose. Next was how to get the bugger to come out. Eventually we put a load of cushioning underneath and just let the bastard fall out of the car!


Obligatory picture of me where it once resided (the beard is much improved at this moment):


Now for me to spend a long time with various grade of sandpaper and scotch brite... Not bad from where it started. Bores were clean so good to go - here we are just before fitting the MLS head gasket with a little sealing compound on (I cleaned it up considerably before putting together!):

More new parts - MLS head gasket. Apparently it's betterer...


Then head back on and time it up with the new chain kit. A few missteps with tensioners upside down etc but got there. No pics of this stage but checked for rotation on completion and all good with no binding. Hoo and indeed, Ray! While doing the work Lord @grogee noticed a little play in the Waterpump pulley (cheers mate), so another task for the list. Luckily a new one was £40ish...
I fitted a new seal to the lower timing cover and then fucked up putting it back on as it's one of those that needs aligning in about 9 geometric planes.. Ended up removing the seal, fitting the cover and using the persuader to fit the new seal in situ....



Then for the CLutch, but Flywheel first and these bolts are BASTARD tight (for good reason). As I had no tool to hold the flywheel, I got a mate to hold the crank while I muscled them with the breaker bar. Strong gin after..:

Clutch replaced and then the Gearbox which I did by lifting it with two jacks, manipulating it close and then lying over the engine to pull it into place! I should say at this point that I had supported the engine from underneath and wasn't just letting it flap about on its sole remaining mount..!
I then thought I'd have a surprisingly good run at things. Driveshafts back in, exhaust linked up, inlet manifold on... Ah shit, alternator in the way as I'd taken he lower part off when the head was on the bench. That needed another persuader to remove:

Once I'd done that I did the water pump. A little tricky as I needed to get the engine really high but got there in the end...:



I then decided I wanted to replace the sump gasket as it was leaking and the sump itself needed some paint as lots of surface corrosion. Horrid job and one that really needs more patience than I have but I got there:


Now that's done it's on to the last leg... Putting bits back reasonably close to where they came from...!


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Great to read more about this one. I don't think I've ever seen inside a VR lump before - interesting to see how it's laid out. I do wonder how many VR6s have had the chains and guides done by now? Their age is against them but I guess if they're relatively quiet it's easy to assume someone else has done the expensive work! 

The front end looks surprisingly solid despite the surface rust too. It looks to be a decent example!

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Part 3 (final for now...!)

Home stretch pretty much...

Before going too far I wanted to test if the bugger would run. So threw the battery on, Coil pack, HT Leads, Cam sensor and plumbed in the air side. And Yes, after turning a bit it fired up! Only ran for 10-15 seconds or so as no cooling system... Nice and tappety...! Hopefully with some high RPMs / load that should slowly quieten down....

Then back to the putting back together... hook the gear linkage back in place and then clutch bleeding. I had no pedal at all. But after both pedal pumping and @grogee's bleeder working together it's now working. It's not perfect but will do for the installation runs in March...


Manifold cover dropped on:


I then set to work on tidying some of the wiring, new cable ties in places. Much better. But there's always on random wire that goes to nowhere...:


Inlet manifold back home:


What's this? A broken sensor? Oooh lovely, a spare on the "Corrado bits" shelf:


Well, it didn't work. So a new one off eBay with some Nectar voucher help meant replacing for just £3. Marvellous. After a fight with the Aux belt (me being cack handed with the crank pullet arrangement) I was ready for setting up the coolant side of things.

Spring clips are a bastard but they do a fapping good job. After finally getting the stat housing with new thermostat and seals in (and one new sensor), then all of the hoses and the rad and wiring, I found I had a pretty big leak. Turns out one of the fittings had trapped a seal holding the joint open. More swearing at having to take the whole lot apart to find that... But fortunately I had a spare seal to fit and also that I managed to save a fair amount of the new coolant that spilled out! No pics, I was running about with hair on fire mostly at this point...! After testing the stat housing at the failure point, it held water with new stuff in place so, on putting together the second time, no leaking. I watched like a hawk for along time after that..!

Then a couple of longer runs getting up to temperature. New oil temp sensor giving a reading. Great Success:


OK, so time to put back on the ground. First up, face back on. Slam panel went on OK (no idea why pic is upside down):

But SHIT! Bonnet wont open! I did fear this weeks back that I'd get so close and this would happen. Anyway, I found some patience from somewhere and got it open having good access still. Some trial and error adjusting each side got it sorted to my great relief. Then bumper on as the bolts go some way to supporting the engine in the car.... Was able to then throw the front wheels on and drop down:
Then on to the pretty bits - final engine bay trims:


All done!!*
*Minor Snag list:

1) Slightly lumpy idle when warm but sorts itself out....

2) Clutch needs another bleed

And that's it! My "To Do" list on the car is still there but much smaller now..! Thank you for all the help along the way @grogee. Absolute Legend. I definitely made my fair share of errors along the way, probably more than half were just trying to do things in the wrong way or order... But I'm chuffed (so long as it keeps working!) as that's the first time I've done a complete top end on a car..!

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22 minutes ago, Dick Longbridge said:

Great to read more about this one. I don't think I've ever seen inside a VR lump before - interesting to see how it's laid out. I do wonder how many VR6s have had the chains and guides done by now? Their age is against them but I guess if they're relatively quiet it's easy to assume someone else has done the expensive work! 

The front end looks surprisingly solid despite the surface rust too. It looks to be a decent example!

Yeah it's a solid car. Tatty paint but virtually no rust on the thing. I have treated as much as I can in the last few years without taking the whole lot apart. 93k on it and it's all present and correct. Lovely thing. Should've got one years before I eventually did!

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7 hours ago, dome said:

Excellent work! Was removing the engine and gearbox together not an option? It might've been easier to do all that with the whole lump on the floor.

I agree, but even though I have  decent sized garage, I still don't think I'd have had the space. Plus I don't have an engine hoist either. But if I'd had a hoist and stand you're right after the initial lift out, pretty much all of the jobs I did would've been easier, especially GB off and the sump..! But I'm sure that may well have lead to even further mission creep..!

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  • 6 months later...

A while since I've touched this thread... I've been chewing @grogee's ear off on this for a fair few days. I used the car lightly after all the work but it wasn't running right. Life took over a bit and a busy summer has seen me only really getting round to trying to sort recently...

I did a compression test and I only have 125psi all round... This is low - from memory, before all the work I had good compression at 170-180 all round... I then did one of those CO2 tests with the blue fluid and sure enough, within a minute or two it turned green/yellow. I've since repeated with same results. ARSE.

The Cylinder Head was pressure tested when the refurb was done. I've been on to the guy and he has said he always does it and even remembers doing it on this as it was the first VR6 head he had done. My only reservation looking back is on the picture attached below. The opening for one of the waterways on the left has a mark where there is damage and I wonder if this is the issue as that's right next to the opening...? Or between me getting it back home and fitting it's cracked somewhere/how....?
OR, I am wondering if the face of the block wasn't flat enough. There was a lot of pitting on the surface which I cleaned and wet sanded as best as I could in situ... I then tested with my straight edge and feelers with no issue... Maybe I didn't test enough spots? Maybe the pitting is sufficient to be the source of the issue...?
And I have looked a number of times at the headgasket pictures and it is definitely right for a VR6... 
So - I put it to you folks for your thoughts..!? I am resigned to having to take it apart again and likely will go to the time, swearing and expense of skimming the block and the head if there is sufficient meat on it.... Gaaaaaarrrgggh!!



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Just now, Cluffy said:

On the left hand side of the picture - from the top, beneath  and slightly to the left of the top two valves, there is a circular hole. The mark I refer to is on the right of that...

That's what I thought, but it is well clear of the pots.  Consider where it would sit on the block - I think over one of the oval slots, which are probably present in the gasket anyway?    

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I researched the gasket for a while so I am pretty confident it’s right. I will be speaking to stealth soon as they are specialists in these things. 

Checking the timing is an excellent idea. Should be a mornings effort getting manifold off etc 

Thanks for the ideas so far. Like I say I didn’t rush this work at all but never done before so a boo boo could easily have been made...

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  • 3 weeks later...

Evening Folks,

Taken about a week on and off to get the engine bay pulled apart, ancillaries off, head off and now Valves out. 

I have found the following:

- timing was still spot on. Camshafts exactly where they are supposed to be with No 1 at TDC

- head bolts would not turn with torque wrench to necessary setting (it then needs another 180 degrees for each bolt)

- areas of damage to the head where the piston tops have been chipping away at the surface. I’ve included a couple of pictures. I don’t know if it’s clear, but it’s like the pistons (mainly rear bank) have somehow got damaged and slightly “spikey” and they’ve then been grinding/gnawing into the head... 😳

- only other thing to note is that the coolant was really rusty when I drained it (was fresh a couple of months back)


My only thought is that because the head clearly hasn’t sealed correctly (I found water in the bores and as mentioned before exhaust gases leaking into the chambers) maybe some of that rusty / contaminated coolant has got in and caused this....? Otherwise I am at a complete loss. This damage was not there last time I did this...

thoughts please!! Anyone seen this before!? Thanks in advance





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Evening all,

After speaking to Stealth (we’ll renowned VR6 whispers), they have suggested I could’ve got the timing wrong on the intermediate shaft, causing this level of pinking. Fortunately the pistons cleaned up and the block is flat. Head is going for a skim tomorrow. Then I shall hopefully get the timing 100%. Watch this space. Valves to clean, lap in and squeeze back in first...

I also need to replace my fuel hoses. Can anyone recommend a good brand to use? eBay is full of it. I need R9 these days but where to get it from...!?

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  • 1 month later...

Good Morning all,

As I have good access to the water jacket, can anyone recommend a method / products to help clean the crap out of the block/clean out the rusty flakes that are left...? I will of course be replacing with fresh coolant but I can get in with some long and thin tools to clean. I intend to flush it all through with the “old” coolant when done (6 months old and has done about 40 miles..!)

I was thinking something like bottle brushes just to clean at least the thick off but happy to take advice to those who have been here before 👍

Also, any advice to getting collets/keepers back in to hold valves? I’ve tried a few of the youtube tricks but I seem to be getting nowhere and really don’t want the expense of dedicated tool (£50 it seems)

Thanks in advance!

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18 minutes ago, Mr Pastry said:

1.  Just flush it out with something and don't bother too much otherwise.  The rusty flakes will sink to the bottom and stay there. 

2.  Use a proper valve spring compressor.   Sorry if that sounds harsh, but that's how it is.


I have a spring compressor but it’s bulky and so far I’ve not managed to get the collets to sit as I want. PITA. I’ll see if I can find something else for reasonable money. 

I’ll just flush it as planned, then. I’m not too worried but as it’s sitting all “open” it’s worth doing

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  • Cluffy changed the title to Cluffy’s Corrado VR6 - Love/Hate/Love saga...

Not all compressors fit all heads, so you may not have the ideal one.  While you can manage without a compressor if sufficiently skilled there is quite a risk of damaging something and especially bending a valve, so best not to as you want to do a decent job.  "Experts" on Youtube have a lot to answer for, imo. 

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