DIRTY STUFF

THROUGH THE RAIN AND REAR-TYRE SPRAY, AYRTON SENNA SAW THE SINGLE RED LIGHT ON THE BACK OF THE CAR IN FRONT OF HIM, BUT HAD HIS FOOT TOTALLY FLAT AND SIMPLY SPEARED INTO THE UNLUCKY DRIVER IN FRONT

WILLIAM PORKER

I BRIEFLY thought that maybe this was the new method of assembling cars! This yellow Mitso buzzbox I was working on had a feature that had me totally gobsmacked. This Japcrap car had lots of plastic panels, and apparently most of the plastic clips holding the lower shovelnose, bumperless front panel to the right front mudguard had expired, so somebody had gone to great lengths to hold these panels together. Stitched along in a carefully spaced double line, through precisely drilled holes in these panels, were a dozen plastic cable-ties, with the lock ends on the inside, and to make this clever stitching of the panels even less obvious, all the cable-ties were colour-coded in body-paint yellow!

A couple of months back, I was asked to rebuild a broken four-cylinder Ford race car engine Ė one of the one-litre Formula Three screamers that breathe through a single-throat downdraught carby. With their billet steel cranks and rods, these can rev to 11,000.

This one had a major crankshaft and piston problem, so when these were fixed, I assembled the engine and tried for a floor firing, but the huge 48IDA Weber carby, combined with the bighole downdraught manifold, kept flooding the cylinders. So it took a while to discover that it would only fire on an almost zero slide-throttle opening.

Anyway, I finally got this heavily modified Ford four-pot to roar into high-rev life, with good oil pressure and healthy noises. Ran it long enough to bed in the new cam, and then shut it down. Ripped the downdraught cylinder head off to refit the outer valve springs, because new cast-iron cams are soft and the lobes have to be workhardened on a light load with inner springs only, or the cam lobes will lose their noses real quick. Then I reassembled this short-life mill, and sealed the ports for transport.

Weeks went by, and then I got a call from the race car owner. They had tried real hard to get the engine going, and there was no compression lifting the gauge needle on three cylinders, and tappet clearances were all over the place. They were about to lift the English Richardson head to check for bent valves. I thought I may have stuffed up the cam timing, as the valve-to-piston clearance was only 90thou. But I had a rethink, and remembered the timing had been set with a dial indicator and degree wheel, so I knew that couldnít have changed, plus it had run so well on the floor.

Coupla days later, I rang to check on the situation. Almost apologetic, Alan said that they had too many blokes refitting the engine, and had overlooked the obvious. Before I sealed the engine for transport, I had removed the tall inlet manifold, with its slide throttle-controlled Weber, so the engine would fit into the back of Alanís SUV. And as the huge inlet ports are vertical, I had plugged these with balls of clean rag. Which the refitting team had totally missed. Cranking the engine had sucked rag down to jam open the inlet valves. They discovered this after lifting the inlet manifold, and then spent half an hour with tweezers, pulling out pieces of rag! So after that patient exercise, the screamer fired up real quick and ran just fine.

I dunno about some people. They must be feeling so inadequate that they dress their mainly Japanese little trayback utes with two and three spotlights on the roof. Plus rows of clearance lights along each side of the tray, imitating interstate truck haulers. Maybe they are would-be B-double drivers that couldnít get a licence ícos they didnít make the grade.

But as I was tootling along the highway in a gaggle of light traffic, I was about to pass an older Korean grunge vehicle. I noticed it was showing a large red light, prominent on the beaver panel, below the rear bumper bar. There was a light mist of rain falling, but it was mid-arvo daylight, and I was puzzled as to why this red light was shining, when none of his other lights had been switched on.

Then I figured it out. I reckon the bloke driving this thing must watch a lot of international Formula One races, and he probably saw Ayrton Senna tail-ending another GP car in the rain on Adelaideís street circuit. Ayrtonís race car was carrying a camera, which was peering through rain and rear-tyre spray at the end of the main straight. Clearly seen through this wall of water was a single red light, mandatory to be switched on during conditions of poor visibility so an approaching driver could see that it was the back of another car in front of him. Ayrton saw this light, but had his foot totally flat and simply speared into the unlucky driver in front.

THROUGH THE RAIN AND REAR-TYRE SPRAY, AYRTON SENNA SAW THE SINGLE RED LIGHT ON THE BACK OF THE CAR IN FRONT OF HIM, BUT HAD HIS FOOT TOTALLY FLAT AND SIMPLY SPEARED INTO THE UNLUCKY DRIVER IN FRONT

I reckon the guy I passed on the highway had copied this and fitted an idiot rain light as well!