Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Like Fingernails On A Blackboqrd

Tam was reminiscing fondly of cars, garages and mechanics she has known, describing a very common, taking a British sports car otherwise destined to rust away or end up as well-used spare parts, and giving it an American Engine Transplant. This is especially popular to apply to the years when the Brits were struggling to meet U.S. emissions standards and sacrificing engine performance on the the altar of being able to sell cars in the States. It's popular, too, for some of the engines that don't fare well when neglected (Jag's straight 6, for example; you can kill 'em dead if you treat them like Toyotas).

And she's right -- the cars usually have good suspensions, they look nice, why shouldn't J. Random Car-d00d have a peppy, low-maintenance engine in 'em, instead of the whole thing being a hanger queen?

Hey, it's not my car.

...However, the practice grates on me. It smacks of vandalism. Why not keep the darn engine the designer stuffed under the hood? I was sad when the original ignition system of my MGB had to be replaced by electronics -- the vacuum advance in the original distributor had a cam matched to profiles of the needles in the carburettors, you see, and when the distributor died, there was no replacement with that profile to be had.

Still, I tried to keep it original. The idea of pulling out the British Leyeland 1798 cc, "siamesed" 4-cylinder and dropping in, say, a Toyota 1800 (very nearly the same engine, with most of the bugs hunted down and tamed to harness) makes my skin crawl.

So while I appreciate her relishing a Jag-with-Detroit-inside, the machine itself, not so much; to me, it's a monster.

...To the driver, I suspect, it's a "monster," too, but in a good way.

And if the choice is that or a pile of rust? Rust isn't any fun! I still don't like it -- but the owner who does that is keeping one more oddball car on the road, and helping keep the parts suppliers going. So there's a benefit from it even for refeeeeened purist esthetics.

Still kinda makes me itchy. I can live with that.


Jeffro said...

I see your point and understand where you are coming from, but if I ever have a '34 Ford three window coupe, it's gonna have a Chevy small block, four wheeled disk brakes, some sort of independent suspension, and A/C. Not quite what Henry built.

R said...

Somewhere in Aspen, Colorado there lives a Yak-3 (iirc) with an Allison V-12. The supply of Klimov engine parts being what it is...

Anonymous said...

I can see both sides. On the one hand, cruising around in an E-type or Seven with a nice modern fuel-injected mill under the hood has got to be oodles more fun than staring at it in your garage and dreaming of cruising around in it when-and-if you can get the parts to repair the engine. On the other hand, if I want a zippy modern sports car, I can get an S2000 and leave that E-type for someone with the time and money to repair it properly.

I will say that anything with a rotary engine in it is awesome above reproach, whether it started with a Wankel or not.

Anonymous said...

R at 11:55 pm:

The Yak 3 in Colorado is not the only one. As a matter of fact, it is one of many. An enterprising US citizen discovered that the Yak production line had never been dismantled, and was basically sitting there in Russia just the way they left it at the end of WW II. Said enterprising US citizen just happened to have several boatloads of cash at his disposal, so he approached the local authorities, and had them start the Yak 3 production line up again!

Lacking the appropriate Russian engine, he agreed to supply them with Allison V-12s of the appropriate hp rating. The Allisons were adapted to the Yaks at the Yak factory, and fitted with Yak data plaques. When the production run was completed, the aircraft were shipped to the US of A.

Yakity Yaks, down in Oregon, had three of the "new" Yaks sitting in their hanger all at the same time, waiting for US buyers not too many years back.

And if the use of good 'ol American Allison V-12s in WWII vintage Russian fighters isn't your cup of tea, check out what Flug Werk in Bavaria did with a couple of them. Not content to start up production of WWII vintage Focke-Wulf FW-190 A's, they also produced a couple of the incredible Dora 9's, probably the finest production fighter the Germans produced in WW II. The Dora 9 was the long nose FW-190 which used a water-cooled Jumo V-12 engine instead of the original BMW radial. To adapt the Allison to the FW 190, a special gearbox had to be made, but it was beautiful when finished. Check them out at www dot Flugwerk dot de.


Justthisguy said...

I knew a guy who had a Chevrolet-Healy. The 327 was lighter and more powerful than the Meadows truck motor it came with, and much more reliable. Mid-Atlantic motorcars have a long and honorable history. Remember the MGV? That BOP V-8 is what you'll find in any Range Rover.

Maybe you're just one of those folks who actually like playing with SU carburetors.

Kirk A said...

New pairings like these created the Shelby Cobra too.

Anonymous said...

Do you like warm beer also?

(Why do the English drink warm beer?

Because they have Lucas refrigerators.)


ps loved the aircraft story from BSR.

Gewehr98 said...

I drove a 240Z "Scarab" once. After that, I was forever cured of the notion that a sports car had to stick with the original powerplant as delivered.

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember reading the that the Brits came up with replacing the origional P-51 American engines with their Merlin power plants.

Turn abouts fair play old chap!
Pip Pip!


CGHill said...

From what I hear from Jag enthusiasts, dropping a small-block Chevy under the bonnet was the most common replacement.

Several rolling-chassis manufacturers in Britain in those days would order American engines for their customers, and even the sainted Bristol Motors, once they ran out of BMW parts they'd acquired as war reparations, switched to Mopar.

Tam said...

I think if I had an E-type, it would definitely remain stock, since it would be a weekend playtoy anyway.

But an XJ6 as a daily driver? I mean, first, it's not an E-type; they made over 300,000 XJ6's between '68 and '92 alone. And daily drivers that need extensive preflights and constant weekend fettling in order to avoid having to take a cab to work are no fun.

Having come close to losing a job due to an unreliable car, I have strong feelings on the matter.

Plus, there are plenty of '70s and '80s Jaguar sedans sitting quietly in the carports and back lots of America with trashed engines. Every one that gets a 350 and a THM is one fewer to rust away or get parted out and scrapped.

(Personally, my dream engine swap car is one of those first-generation Miatas with a Mustang's fuelie 5.0 shoehorned into the engine bay. I knew a guy that had one, and it was just absolutely brutal. It was painted like a Cobra, too. :) )

Tam said...


"Several rolling-chassis manufacturers in Britain in those days would order American engines for their customers, and even the sainted Bristol Motors, once they ran out of BMW parts they'd acquired as war reparations, switched to Mopar."

...and let's not forget Iso Rivolta in Italy. :)

(WV: "saufful". Noahsnot.

Ken said...

I rise to respectfully disagree with the hostess. Noting the mention of Allison V12s (and meaning no disrespect to Allisons), what was fairly unremarkable with an Allison became superlative with a Rolls Royce Merlin. I give you, ladies and gentlemen, the P-51.

Second, I wondered if someone would mention a Scarab Z.

Third, could I have a Jag with a 350 and a Muncie Rock Crusher or Borg-Warner T10 instead of the Turbo 400? If I were going to pump sludge, I'd be more inclined to use a MoPar 340 and a 727. Yes, I'm approximately that old (my dad and my younger brothers are the real car guys in the family, though).

Fodder4Thought said...

Counter example: Jeeps.

My '91 Wrangler is only barely adequate with its anemic 4 cylinder engine, drum brakes and sectional axle. The most common nontrivial modifications for this model include an engine swap and replacing the rear axle with a particular model of ford axle, which has the added benefit of having disc brakes.

The vehicle is nothing but improved by these changes, though jeeps are of a different character than jags.

That said, if I were to inherit a 40's Jeep Willys, I don't know if I'd have the heart for surgery.

John A said...

Well, if I had a '38 Duesenberg SJ, uh, I'd probably be able to afford a refinery to make leaded gasoline for it...

Back in the early 1960`s I read about a guy who replaced the engine of an MG-TD. Horrible idea, except - the way he got an engine to fit was to cut a Corvette engine in half. Yep, 4 cylinders lopped off. Insane! But, well, very interesting. Especially that he actually got it to work.

Tam said...

John A,

A very common mod for MGB-GT's is to replace the Rover V8 (which is basically a light alloy Buick 215, except built by drunken unionized soccer fans) with a small-block Chevy. Those things were terrifyingly fast, so long as you didn't need to turn or stop.

CGHill said...

the Rover V8 (which is basically a light alloy Buick 215, except built by drunken unionized soccer fans)

As good a description as I ever expect to hear.

og said...

Let's not forget cars like the AC which were built with any old engine that came along, but were all pretty lame until Carrol Shelby shoehorned in the 427.

Better is just better.

Kevin said...

This is the same attitude people have with "sporterized" military rifles. My opinion: it makes the owner of the sporter happy, and increases the value of the unmodified originals. Win-win. I have a 1917 Enfield that someone put a lot of care into - they milled off the rear sight ears, installed a gold-bead front sight on a barrel-band, a micrometer-adjustable rear peep sight, and put it into a really nice piece of walnut. It's pretty, and it shoots very, very nicely, and I picked it up for $200. Some people would cringe at this. I paid money for it.

WV: mentical. Some things drive certain people mentical.

Ed Foster said...

I'd have to back Tam on the e-type vs. XJ-6 meme. I wouldn't "sporterize" a clean Mark 1 '03 Springfield, but a beater 03-A3 might not make me weepy.

As for the Jag 6-banger, with which I am quite familiar, there are thousands of blocks scattered around Britain collecting surface rust.

The low compression version of the engine was a standard powerplant for Brit military vehicles for 30 years. Mill the heads and you have a state of the art (circa 1968) 3.8 liter sporty car mill.

Perhaps somebody should make an offer on some of the engines on display models of Alvis AFV's and fire engines. I imagine the Brit military probably still has a few wearhouses filled with the critters.

Jerry and Ken, the handmade British Merlins ran about 1200 horsepower and took forever to make. The Packard folks made them better and faster on an assembly line, and boosted the power 50%.

Anonymous said...

Ed F:

When talking horsepower numbers for Merlins (Rolls-Royce), Packards, and Allisons, you gots to talk dates, dash numbers, and (aircraft) applications. The Merlin is actually an entire series of engines which nominally started at 990 h.p. in about 1936, and progressed to over 1,700 h.p. in 1945, by which time they were being supplanted by the Rolls-Royce Griffon series of engines.

The Packard-Merlins used in the first P-51s were just license-built versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 (V-1650-3) fitted with two-stage, two-speed superchargers and an intercooler to give better high-altitude performance.

Likewise, Allisons ranged from early dash numbers producing nominally 1,040 hp, to later models producing about 1,450 hp. The biggest problem with most Allisons produced was their lack of a two-stage supercharger for high altitude performance.

(all HP numbers given are maximum hp rating, NOT the war-emergency ratings, which could be 50% higher or more)