Lawrence Buja’s Timing Chain Saga

Please enjoy this classic tale from our archives, written by the very talented Mr. Lawrence Buja.


Subject: Step 1: Remove engine and transmission.
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 1994, 13:21:58 MST

“Step 1: Remove engine and transmission.” were the first instructions Scotty intoned from the Jag repair manual. “Next remove timing chain cover and….”. My heart fell as the words sunk and the dollar signs started flying by; my thoughts vacillating between “This can’t be real” and “Oh maaaaaannn, I’m hosed”.

It had started out as just another day. Anne said she wanted to use the Daimler that day to meet with a client down in Denver. So I ran the kids to school in the LSTT (Large Swedish Troop Transport) and went up to work. At noon, I get a call from Anne on a Denver Cops cell phone, “Help, the car’s died on me on I-25.” To keep a long story short, the police took _excellent_ care of Anne: they shooed away the predatory tow trucks ($45 to hook up, $2/mile afterwards), had one cruiser with a raisable warning light-bar block traffic while the other pushed her to a safe spot. Then they let her make a bunch more calls on their cell phone to get the logistics settled with both me and her client and finally gave her an express ride downtown in a cruiser to make her meeting (that’s what happens when you’re a talky interior designer with an easy smile, dressed up in a nice suit on a great-hair day, driving a Jag. If it’d been me, they`d probably have given me tickets for being a public nuisance and a hazard to navigation, then left me there on the side of the road to fend for myself).

I rousted Scotty Paisley to assist, went home to load all my tools into the LSTT and we drove the 30 miles to where Anne said she left the car. Naturally the Diamler was nowhere to be seen, so dreading that it had gotten impounded already and hoping that Anne had returned from her meeting and got it going, I called Anne. No such luck. After getting some revised the directions to the car, we located it and started operating.

I expected it to be a easy repeat of the vapor lock which we’ve experienced before, but as soon as the Daimler started cranking over _real_ fast Scotty and I looked at each other and said, “This is not good.” A look thru the oil filler hole showed the overhead camshaft not moving when cranking, “This is definitely not good.” We pulled the cam covers to see one end of a broken upper timing chain resting comfortably in the upper camshaft pulley. Game Over.

We hooked the two cars up and towed the Daimler back to the safety of Anne’s work. After dodging dead-ends, a car parked in the middle of the road on a blind corner and a couple rope breaks, we made it. By the time we got there, Anne had already had our friend Tom The Parts Guy getting two new timing chains up from his warehouse. As a baseline, Anne called the dealer and got a $600 ballpark estimate for the repair. At this point, the best case has the do-it-yourself parts coming in under $100. So far, so good (hummm, isn’t that phrase on someones famous last words list?).

– — ———————————–

Postmortem: In talking thru what had happened, we decided that the clicking noise I had heard a couple weeks ago was one broken link on the triple row chain. I had tensioned up the chains with the special tool, thinking that it was just a loose timing chain adjustment. That quieted the noise down, but then it was just a matter of time before the overstressed remaining links at that spot went tits up.

After a quick phone call to our jag club’s mechanical guru, it appears that I’m looking at a couple scenarios (1981 4.2L Jag straight 6):

1. Best case: Simply replace the upper chain in Anne’s parking lot and drive it home. We get a chain with a master link on it, successfully thread it in, get the timing lined back up and it’s done. Requires a couple special tools, a master linked chain, two valve cover gaskets and an oil change.

2. Next case: The front cover needs to come off to do the job. Trailer it up to Scotty’s warm garage and start dismantling it. Pain in the ass, but doable, additionally requiring the lower chain (since we’re in there anyway), a radiator drain/fill and other misc.unhooking, more gaskets and more beer.

3. Worse case: Dinged valves and shrapnel in engine. I don’t even want to think about this one…

So, can any of you with experience with the Jaguar engines give me any advice on what I`m likely to run into doing this job and which of these scenario I’m likely to realize?

/\      Lawrence "You don't need to be in school to pay tuition" Buja   
  \_][  National Center for Atmospheric Research

“Today I am going to show you how to install a gull-wing door in your car
using just some ducttape, an ax and an old garage door opener” Red Green


Subject: Step 2: Gimme Shelter
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 1994, 15:51:05 MST

Friday, after giving Anne the proper amount of grief for breaking the Daimler (“Ya send a woman out with a perfectly good car and the next thing you know you’re calling around for a trailer to haul the carcass home.”), it was time to decide how far I was going to rip into the engine. Bob Grossman, a member of the local Jag club was kind enough to offer me some space in the shop that he uses to work on their vintage racing Jags. Tristan (my 6yr old son) and I had done some light crew work with them this summer at the Steamboat Springs vintage races, so I didn’t feel too guilty about taking them up on their offer. With a well equipped shop available and the net.consensus of the high probability of a valve strike, that head was definitely coming off. The decision to drop the suspension to lower the oil pan to get to the lower chain would be made once things were opened up. I ordered a set of upper and lower gaskets ($96 at SICP) and picked up the chains, master-links and other assorted stuff from my parts guy.

The first item of business was to use Scotty’s Jeep to trailer the Daimler over to the Grossman’s shop. We drove down to pick up the trailer and it turned out to be a 3600lb fully enclosed racing tailer. That was out; in Scotty’s words, “We wouldn’t be driving it, that sucker would be driving us.” So we went to plan two and drove over to the Grossman’s house to pick up their little open trailer. We pushed the VW that was on it off and drove over to get the Daimler. By this time it was dark and we didn’t have an adaptor to fit the trailer lights. We hand winched the Daimler up onto the trailer, it was a close fit, with just an inch to spare. We tried to convince Peg, Scott’s wife, that she should ride in the Daimler and press the brakes whenever she saw the Jeep`s brake lights come on (“But you look so good in there”), but she was too wise to our ways to take the bait. So we just turned on the Daimler’s flashers and hit the road.

The drive back was mentally exhausting. Scotty`s Jeep was just strong enough to do the job. The fishtailing we experienced while gaining speed to make a hill was quite exciting. But, we made it in one piece, unloaded the Daimler and then reloaded the VW back onto the little trailer. It was one of those “easier said than done” things. I was surprised how exhausted the whole exercise left me. Next time, I`ll just pay the bucks for a flatbed tow truck so I`m not killing myself worrying about something going wrong. We headed out to meet some friends downtown in Denver for beer and pool, only to be too tired to do much of either.

/\      Lawrence "Wiggle waggle went her tail..." Buja
  \_][  National Center for Atmospheric Research


Subject: Step 3: Headin’ Out.
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 1994, 16:06:59 MST

Bright and early Saturday morning, Tristan and I arrived at Bob Grossman’s shop to start work. We were in the Jaguar dream shop from hell, the world headquarters for The Mighty Roar Jaguar Racing Team. It sports a major league lift, hoists, solvent baths, air lines, light and heavy machine tools of every kind and, most importantly, lots of heated space to work in. Outside the shop was an XJS and a derelict MkII, inside was their MkII racer, a MkII in progress and his _beautiful_ BRG tri-Weber’d 4.2L S1 E-Type Coupe boy-racer project (this is only half their Jag collection). There were XK engines everywhere, manuals, racks of Jag parts; basically everything you could want. But, knowing how real-world mechanics work, I had brought all of my tools down and I was determined to use his tools _only_ if mine absolutely couldn’t do the job. I had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done, but I wasn’t so cocky that I wouldn’t hesitate ask advice when I had a veteran XK builder at my elbow.

Bob lent me a wheeled cart to put my tool box on and the disassembly began. As we started working, I had a strange feeling of being tested, of being given enough rope so Bob could see if I knew what to do with it, for example, Bob would give deliberately vague instructions to see if I knew how to proceed with the disassembly, then a tool of his mysteriously showing up in my tool box, I made sure it got right back to him. It was a friendly environment and it’s nice working in a situation that if you get stuck, there’s someone there who knows exactly what to do. The coolant was drained, the radiator yanked, then I started on the exhaust manifold while Bob kindly chipped in to pull all the fiddly bits of the FI. Ironically, just then, when I was elbow deep in broken Jag engine, PBS’s Click and Clack were on, responding to a listeners question of “Should I drop a 350 in my XJ6?” We both just laughed. Tris was a real help, being our gopher and “helping” by pressing the button on the electric wrench. I pulled out the broken upper timing chain and close examination showed that I only had one small piece of it end up in the basement.

Soon (an hour or two), I had both manifolds off and started in on the head bolts. Awhile later, the head was dangling from the hoist. There was a definite strike on the #1 intake valve with a little matching half moon ping on the head of the piston (The Daimler is a gray market import from Belgium, so it has the high, 9:1, compression pistons :-). We put the head on the bench and filled the ports with solvent to check for leaks thru the valves. #1 and #2 intakes leaked. #1 due to the strike and #2 due to an obscene amount of deposits built up on the back of the valve (no wonder all those 4 cylinder cars were blowing me off, my engine couldn’t breath). It’s strange though, I had gotten 149’s across the board when I did a compression test two months ago even though it is now apparent that #2 intake was not shutting all the way. I pulled all the intake valves and wire brushed the deposits off them. Bob then showed me how to lap the valves to match them to their seats. It was really neat and I only did one so that I could show Scotty and Johannes how to do the others when they came down to help on Sunday.

Both the mechanical condition of the Daimler and some amazing receipts which the PO (previous Owner) gave me made it obvious that he had taken very good care of this car (he once paid $40 to have a license plate installed and never seemed to make it out of our $9 emission test for less than $100!). One of the long head studs had come out with the head nut and I was amazed to find absolutely no corrosion on the part of the stud which sits down in the coolant. It looked brand new!

By now it was late, we cleaned and locked up the shop. Too exhausted to join Anne and the rest of the Front-Rangers who had spent the day in the mountains 4-wheeling and who were now drinking beers and lounging in Bizzer’s hot tub high up Four Mile canyon, Tris and I got some takeout dinner and went home to soak in the tub and hit the sack.

/\  Lawrence "Can I drop a 440 in my XJ6 and still have it corner?" Buja
  \_][  National Center for Atmospheric Research


Subject: Step 4: With a Little Help From My Friends.
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 1994, 16:41:33 MST

Sunday was more of the same, but with some company. Bob stopped in to check on progress before heading off for the Donkos game, giving me some warnings on what to expect when pulling off the front engine cover. I pulled the water pump and used his air gun to remove the main pulley. Tris delights in cleaning things so I gave his an little oil can with some solvent in it and set him to work outside despooging the water pump. At 1, Scotty showed up with some subs for lunch and Johannes, our big Dutch gearhead^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hgeography professor friend visiting from UCLA who was our ringer for the Lucas Flamethrower Rally a few weeks ago, pulled in shortly afterwards to help out. After gawking at the shop for awhile, I showed them how to lap the valves. Everyone, including Tris, got a shot at lapping until Scotty decided that it was so much fun that he was taking over the operation.

Johannes and I tackled the front cover and it turned out to be much harder to pull than I expected. I unbolted all the bolts, then doubled up two nuts to removed the 4 studs which join it to the oil pan. Still it just didn’t want to come off. It was nice having a couple disassembled engines sitting around to look over to make sure we had all the bolts and studs off. We worked on the front cover carefully with my BFScrewdrivers and finally got it to pop off over the main seal. I dropped it in the solvent bath to soak and we removed all the rubber hoses that we could reach to take to our parts man to replace.

I fished around in the oil pan with a long magnet and retrieved the missing bit from the chain, but also came up with a few disturbing casting chunks. As an excuse to work the lift, we decided to drain the oil. Soon the Daimler was 6 feet in the air and draining oil. Further fishing in the oil only turned up some very small slivers. At this point, it was time to halt work pending further consultation with Bob. We ohhed and ahhed over Scotty’s beautiful valve work, then cleaned up and played speed racer on the backroads back to Boulder to catch the end of the Broncos game (Around these parts, if they win, they’re the Broncos and if they lose, they’re called the Donkos until they win again).

— ———————————–

As things sit now, I’m looking at three choices: A) Drop the suspension and lower the oil pan to install a continuous lower chain or B) Split the existing chain and install a master-linked lower chain or C) Simply leave the old lower chain in place.

A) is nontrivial and means that I am only 1/4 of the way thru the job. I will end up with a continuous lower timing chain and I will have a whack at freshening up the lower bearings, but it involves getting much deeper into this project than I’d like to be. My clock runs out Nov 24th when I head to Canberra for a week.

B) means that that I am 1/2 way done, but will have a potentially weaker master-linked lower chain.

C) I’m not really comfortable with this option given what just happened with the old upper chain.

I’d love to hear some opinions on this from any interested parties.

/\      Lawrence "Can someone send me sections 5 & 6 of this
  \_][              story?  I'd like to know how it all turns out." Buja


Subject: Step 5: Harder…. Deeper….
Date: Fri, 18 Nov 1994, 13:04:44 MST

To recap the adventure so far:
Step 1: An certain womyn blows up the engine in my precious Daimler.
Step 2: Risking life and limb, we trailer the carcass to the Mighty Roar Racing Team’s Jaguar Dream Speed Shop and put it up on the lift.
Step 3: The head comes off revealing a bent valve.
Step 4: The front cover comes off revealing a hoseified chain sprocket.


It seems that in the previous steps, I usually end up with three choices:
1) A no brainer, bandaid fix that would end up putting me back in the shop after a week to repair the resulting massive collateral damage.
2) A moderate fix that would kinda repair the problem (“This’ll be just a temporary fix, unless, of course, it works.” Red Green) and
3) The Right Fix, which involves getting further into the engine than I ever imagined.
And once again, I seem to be heading down path number 3. After finding the chipped timing chain sprocket and retrieving small chunks of shrapnel from the bottom of the oil pan, the decision to drop the suspension was easy.

Over the next couple days, I went slow, getting stuff unhooked. I removed the clamps securing the power steering hoses, disconnected the brakes (5/16 Whitworth!) and the shocks. After wrestling for 20 minutes with hand wrenches on one of the upper shock bolts, I broke down and got into Bob’s tools to use his main 600 ft-lb impact air wrench. One tenth of a second later it was free.

Thursday afternoon, we got an early start since this was the night to drop the suspension. Pat, Bob Grossman’s wife and pilot of their fast MkII, stopped back to say Hi. Among her comments was the inspired suggestion that, since it was all apart, we might as well take this opportunity to drop in a V12. Great idea. She also noted that the smart Jaguar owner keeps a spare engine or two around to just drop in when you experience problems like this. Point taken, I guess I’ll put a couple of those on my Xmas list.

We cut two 2×4’s to fit across the engine bay and ran a chain over the 2×4’s and bolted it to the front of the block to suspend the engine when we dropped the suspension. Johannes and I were confused for awhile with the spline on steering shaft until he discovered that the whole locking bolt had to come out to separate the spline. We disconnected the motor mounts and were ready to drop the suspension. With the car a foot off the ground and a floor jack under the back of the front suspension, I undid the two bolts securing the back of the cross member. Johannes slowly lowered the floor jack and the suspension rotated down an inch until getting hung up on the top of the shocks. We raised it all back up, dealt with the shocks and finally got it rotated the suspension all the way down, pivoting it down around the front mounts. We raised the lift to put the Daimler 6 feet up in the air and stepped back to marvel at the incongruity of the obscene sight before us. Johannes noted that with all that suspension travel, we could have us a four wheel drive Jag. We told him to get his mind off that splayed-out suspension and get back to work.

But, after his brilliant stint at the helm of the floor jack, Johannes, mumbling something about some sweet young blonde thang that he recently met, deserted us to go enjoy a Thai dinner with his new squeeze. Hummm, sounds like that boy’s got his priorities straight. I sure hope she didn’t mind that “Le odor de motor oil” cologne we sent him off wearing. Scotty and I soldiered on, unbolting the oil pan. Working on the gunky lower end of the engine made it clear that wives should be reminded to carefully steam-clean the engine _before_ they break it. We finally got the oil pan off, revealing the chocolate brown bottom end of the engine in all it’s glory. At this point, this is all new to me, but Scotty had been here before with his TR-6.

I cleaned up the oil pan, finding some more chain bits and random chunks of sprocket teeth (I’m sure glad I did this). While I cleaned, Scotty removed the bottom end bearings, finding a few with some slight scores and one just worn thru the silver coating. But overall, they didn’t look too bad and the crank looked beautiful. I ran out for some STP oil treatment to use as prelub and installed the new connecting rod bearings while Scotty finished lapping the exhaust valves. We did experience a slight disaster when Scott bravely used his eye to keep an errant squirt of brake cleaner from getting on Bob’s tools. That prompted a quick trip to an eye bath station. He was really hurting, that stuff really stings.

So, it looks like I’ve reached the 1/2 way point and am now assembling rather than disassembling. It`s sure been educational. Now if I can just remember what my wife and kids look like.

/\   Lawrence "I wear 'Scent du Steering Fluid' or I wear nothing." Buja
  \_][  National Center for Atmospheric Research


Subject: Step 6: Crank..Crank…KABOOM!!!
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 1994, 9:03:39 MST

It’s been a couple weeks since the last tale about the Daimler repair. I wrote this two weeks ago on the flight to Sydney:

Sitting in the dark comfort of a half-empty 747, 8 miles up somewhere over the western Pacific, it all now seems like a blur…

The race was on. It was Monday afternoon, I was leaving for Australia on Thursday evening and I wanted to have the Daimler out of Bob’s shop and back home by the time I left.

Assembly proved not to be the reverse of disassembly. The basic steps were 1. Find the part, 2. find the bolts, 3. clean the part, 4. clean the bolts, 5. bolt the part on. Despite boxing and labeling most of the fastener systems, there were numerous instances where we were reduced to scrounging thru the bottom of the tool box, then thru Bob’s supplies for the right bolt.

I was given the “You’re only allowed one screwup per day and you just made it” award when I fit the main seal in the seat on the front engine cover, then slid the front cover on, only to discover an hour later, when we were finishing bolting the engine pan on, that the lip of the main seal had folded when I slid it on the crankshaft. That cost us two hours to disassemble, fix and reassemble back to the same point.

During this stage, the parts washer was of great help. It’s _so_ nice to work with clean parts. Johannes was the master valve installer, patiently seating the little keepers under the springs. Once the head was complete, Bob took over measuring the valve clearances and setting the shims. I couldn’t believe it when the catalog, which Bob had set his 50-drawer box of valve shims on, shifted and fell, scattering his whole collection of carefully measured and collated shims all over the floor. We all watched it happened in a weird slow motion, yet too fast for any of us to do anything about. We measured and measured and got a reasonable collection of shims together and finally had a complete head.

The next night, we put the head on, torqued it down and Bob gave us a seminar in the delicate art of getting the overhead cam timing aligned with the rest of the engine. After that, Bob left us to bolt on the intake and exhaust manifolds. Finally, at midnight, we got it all back together. Scotty grounded the coil and I cranked it and cranked it until we got some oil pressure.

We put in the spark plugs and I carefully hooked up the spark plug wires in the chanting Scotty’s 6-Cylinder Mantra: “15 is too young, 36 is too old, 24 is just right”. Scotty connected the coil and now came the magic moment. Crank..Crank…KABAM!!!! Standing right next to the intake, Johannes just about jumped out of his shoes. Crank…Crank… KABOOM!!! The top of the AMM got blown across the shop (“Anything that flys that far should have a stewardess aboard”). We were getting some very impressive backfires thru the intake manifold but no start. I rechecked the wires “15 is too young, 36 is too old, 24 is just right”, Yup, they were hooked up OK. Let’s try it one more time. Crank… Crank..KABLAM!!! OK, something’s really wrong. Scotty immediately deduced that the wires were hooked up backward and we must be firing the plugs when the intake valves were open. We pulled the distributor cap and, sure enough, while the engine turns clockwise, the distributor turns counterclockwise. I had assumed they both rotated the same direction. A few more cranks and it started. But, it was making enough valve noise that we though it best to consult with our mentor, Bob, before attempting to drive it the 20 miles back home at 1AM

When we came down Wednesday afternoon, the Daimler was running, and Bob was just getting done tinkering with the mixture setting. One of the injectors wasn`t firing well and it was still making some excessive valve noise. I added some injector cleaner and Bob said to put a 100 miles on it to let everything seat, then we’ll do a final valve reset and decide whether to replace the injector. We cleaned up the mess, pushed the MkII racer back in it’s place. Victory was ours. I drove it home and the next day drove the family to Scott and Peg’s new house where we were all shared a wonderful Thanksgiving Feast. At 3, I said my goodbyes and left for the airport, looking forward to the coming weekend of surfing and lounging on Sydney’s wonderful beaches, where the most taxing question would be what kind of beer to order for the next round.

/\      Lawrence "Unfortunately, it`s not even close to being over" Buja
  \_][  National Center for Atmospheric Research


Subject: Step 7: Go back to Step 1.
Date: Wed, 21 Dec 1994, 13:09:59 MST

With the Daimler reassembled and back on the road, life was good. My week in Australia was a wonderful interlude; sun and surf, parrots and palm trees, seafood, beer and babes^H^H^H^H^Hsightseeing. I had lunch with Jag-net’s John Barlow while I was up in Canberra porting some modeling code to their fast Fujitsu VP unit and generally had a nice relaxing visit.

Things went to hell in a handbasket very quickly when I got back. We didn’t even make it home from the airport when the fuel pump on Anne’s Volvo died. In a fog of jetlag, we got it to Scotty’s house to start debugging it. Anne needed to get down to work in Denver on Monday. I really wanted to reset the valves on the Daimler before driving it anymore, but she had an important meeting to get to, so, in spite of my misgivings, I told her to take it.

At 4PM I got the call: “The Daimler made a horrible noise and quit.” Great, so now I’ve got both cars down, I couldn’t putz around anymore. I had the Volvo shop pick up the wagon and get it fixed, right now. Anne had the Daimler towed back to the safety of her work where I could assess the damage. It was getting gas, spark and air but wouldn’t start. The timing appeared right. I began pulling spark plugs and things started looking very ugly. One plug had taken some light valve hits on the electrode and another was completely trashed. It appeared that I had at least one dropped valve since the #2 intake valve had a clearance of 2mm and wasn’t following the cam.

I had the Daimler towed to Bob’s shop and pulled the head last night. The engine is toast. The #2 intake valve head had broken off from the stem and bounced around in the cylinder for a bit. The top of the #2 piston is completely hammered, with a walnut-sized hole in the top. The aluminum headspace for the #2 cylinder is badly sliced up from the sharp, hardened valve slamming into it. The cylinder wall also has some light gouges in it. A complete postmortem will be done after Christmas to try to determine exactly why the valve broke and the total extent of the damage.

Bob’s theory is that the #2 intake valve got slightly bent _before_ installation of the head. The valve eventually stuck open, then got struck by the exhaust valve and broke, causing further demolition. He said that valves can be bent when the head is set down on a flat surface with the cams installed, bending whichever valve happens to be open at the time. I don’t remember this happening, but it’s not inconceivable. No matter what the cause, somewhere along the way I screwed up.

In talking it over with Scotty, he remembered that we were seeing very little change in engine speed when the lead wire to fuel injector #2 was disconnected. We had diagnosed this as a bad #2 injector and added some FI cleaner to try to fix it. What Scotty figures is that the injector probably was firing OK, what we were seeing was a symptom of the sticking #2 intake valve. Damn that kid’s smart.

To Bob’s race-trained eye, this disaster isn’t nearly as bad as I felt it was when I looked down the #2 cylinder and could see the wrist-pin and connecting rod thru the jagged hole in the top of the piston. I was thinking “Game Over. I’ve got to pull the engine and get it on a stand, push the Daimler out into the lot, disassemble the engine completely, resleeve the cylinder, find a new head….. It’s going to be August before it’s running again.” But Bob was much more relaxed about it. On the phone the next day he said, “Yup, that’s just what it looks like when you eat a valve. Don’t worry. I`ve got a line on another piston and a set of valves for you. Once we get your headwork done and the cylinder checked out, we’ll have you going again soon.” That was music to my ears.

Anyway, it looks like it’s back to square one, but with a slightly different spin this time. One thing this experience has proven to me is that, in spite of it all, I _really_ like this car and I’m willing to do alot of work to get it going again.

/\      Lawrence "I'd much rather be back at the beach." Buja  
  \_][  National Center for Atmospheric Research


Step 8: Rebuild:

Now that the Daimler has been up and running for awhile now, I guess it’s safe to finally put some closure to the Daimler rebuild story. For the new folks, the whole tale is archived on the british-car anonymous FTP archives as

Anne’s interior design business was still in it’s infancy, so money was tight enough such that I couldn’t afford to do a complete overhaul. I’d just do whatever’s necessary to get it back on the road. Bob sent the head out to his favorite headshop to fix up the damage and replace the valve seats and guides in the grenaded cylinder. I ordered a single piston and a gasket set from Engles Imports and when they arrived, I pulled the engine apart and encountered a rude surprise and asked the list for advice:

Last weekend I pulled my holed #2 piston and it’s OK mate #5 (These guys are the domed high compression pistons in an ’81 4.2L FI Daimler XJ6). To our surprise, my pistons are the heavy old-style full-skirted pistons.

Naturally, the replacement piston which I had ordered came in the form of a new-style short-skirted piston. So we dug thru Bob’s piston collection and come up with an old-style piston which should be similar in weight to #5. I put the rings from the dead piston on the replacement piston and Bob took them down to his favorite balance shop to get their weights matched up.

The bad news came back that the weights are: #5 piston 626 gm, replacement piston 617 gm; a 9 gm differential – in the wrong direction of course. Since the replacement piston weighs less than the #5 piston, I can’t turn some metal off the replacement piston to match the weights. The out of balance problem amounts to approx 1.4% OOB. According to Bob, this is a livable number, though not a particularly desirable number.

Does anyone have any input on this, whether it’s inadvisable to assemble it with this much difference?

The general consensus was “Don’t use it. Get a balanced set and do the job right.” I couldn’t afford the time or money to do that, so I used what I had. Bob honed out the cylinder and I installed the two pistons and got the suspension back on. Assembly was much quicker this second time around.

It all went well until I was reattaching the brakes. All of the Daimler`s bolts are SAE, but the brake line nuts were metric. It was around midnight and I didn’t feel like going to the other side of the car to get the other 15mm wrench, so I grabbed an adjustable box-end wrench to tighten the last nut. I was pulling with all my might when WHACK!!, the wrench let go and the end smacked me square in the forehead. First, I saw stars, then I saw blood, lots of it. Bob came over and put his Vietnam medic experience to work. We got the gash closed up and called it a night. I suppose I should have had it stitched up, but I didn’t and it’s since healed into a little scar above my left eye. Slashed by the big cat.

The next day, a friend from work pitched in and the rest of the reassembly went quickly. By two that afternoon, we had the sway bars reattached, the steering hooked up, the head back on and the manifolds attached. We were on a roll and were about an hour away from starting it. As an extra precaution, I stuffed rags in the various openings to make sure we didn’t drop any bolts down into the engine. Though the timing chains felt tight, I got the timing chain tensioner tool to make sure the tension was set right. The tool is a cylinder with two studs sticking out of the face, which is inserted thru a port in the front cover and engages two matching holes on the tensioner. I loosened, then tightened the chains to the proper tension.

I pulled the tool out of the engine and was stunned to notice that one of the little metal studs on the tool was missing. The only place it could have gone was down into the engine. We looked down and sure enough, it was dangling down on the bottom edge of the middle timing chain sprocket. There was only a tiny bit of room to get to it. We tried magnetizing some looong drill bits, but no luck. We tried making a grabber out of some welding rods, but no luck. Finally, we managed to knock it off the sprocket and down out of sight, somewhere onto the lower sprocket. As a last resort, I phoned Bob and asked if he had any mechanics tricks to get the stud out. After informing me that he had tensioned the timing chain for me the day before and let me realize that there was no need to have had the tool in there at all, he rattled off all the tricks we had already tried. After fishing around for awhile some more and coming up empty, then going thru a period of denial, it became obvious that there was no choice, the bottom of the engine had to come off again.

It was one of those cases where the decision to proceed was more agonizing than the deed itself. Once we started, the suspension was down in record time and we had the oil pan off before it was time to call it an evening. The one thing I wanted to avoid was having to pull off the front cover since it meant removing the radiators, the main pulley, and the cover itself (which is a pain).

The next morning, the stud was nowhere to be seen, it must still be higher up in the engine. We laid down clean paper so we couldn’t miss the stud when it fell out, bent some coat hanger wire into hooks and started fishing around. About 30 minutes later, I dislodged it from the top of the lower chain sprocket and it clattered to the floor. We dipped into Bobs large supply of gaskets and learned how to use water to lengthen oil pan gaskets which were a bit too short. After another hour or so, we were back to where we were the previous afternoon. The rest of the FI system was hooked up and, after 5 minutes of dry cranking to pressurize the oil system, I connected the coil and it started right up.

So that ends the story. There are still some small things to be addressed, the engine is boggy at low revs and I’m losing some water somewhere, but, overall it’s running well for the last month or so. I am proud to report that it performed flawlessly yesterday when Scott, Bob and I played hookie and flogged the Daimler up and over the Continental Divide for a wonderful day of spring skiing at one of the high mountain ski resorts.

/\      Lawrence "It's pronounced Damn-ler." Buja  
  \_][  National Center for Atmospheric Research