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"Here in my car", said 80s pop hero Gary Numan, "I feel safest of all". He obviously never shared the same stretch of road as me, then. Automotive tales of mirth and woe, please.

(, Thu 22 Apr 2010, 12:34)
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The Volvo 340 sleeper
I bought an old Volvo 340 as my second car, to replace the Volvo 340 my Mum had given me when she bought her Fiat Regatta 100S Weekend (green, 1600cc twin-cam, all the toys, and one of the worst cars I've ever driven). The green Volvo, my first one, had rusted along the front chassis legs and was threatening to drop the engine into the road at any minute. The second Volvo was a little bit newer, much more solid, and had been one of the local garage's loan cars until the engine had blown up. No problem, I thought, I've got a rotten one with a good engine and I can borrow a big shed and a tractor with a front loader to lift the engines out and in. Car duly purchased (100 quid if memory serves), engine swapped, insured, tested, taxed and I was on the road in my second car for less than 400 quid. Awesome, especially considering the ink was barely dry on my licence. So there I am in my maroon Volvo 340, with big comfy seats, big stereo, sunroof and electric windows in the front. It looked pretty good, it went well, and it was very affordable. That last part was good, because I had bugger all money.

A few months later and it's becoming clear that all is not well with the Volvo 340 of Doom. It's misfiring at idle, but not too badly once you rev it. Getting worse though. Oh cock. Compression test reveals that the number 3 cylinder has almost no compression. "Oh cock" isn't quite strong enough a term. Cylinder head off, and oh - there's a crack between the valve seats. I stuck the head back on, figuring that it would have to do until I could find (or indeed afford) another engine. Wait a minute, I know a guy with a scrapyard, and he wants some electrickery sorted on his bike.

So off I go, and as I poke the bike wiring into life I recount my tale of cracked cylinder head woe. "Ah, hmm," says my mate, "I'm sure there's something here. Must be. Ah! Here we go, head, manifold and carburettors off a Renault 5 GT, that's the same engine. Stick that on and see how you go."

Off with its head! And out came the 17mm socket. Dropped the new head in place (with a new gasket this time). Hm, that carb really is quite a bit bigger than the old one. Have to make up a new linkage to go around it. Oh, now the air cleaner doesn't fit - oh well, at least the bonnet still shuts. A bit of fiddling with the timing and mixture (this is what is meant by "tuning", not sticking plastic crap all over a shitbox Clio) and it was running pretty well. Test drive time!

Ye ghods. Either the old engine was particularly bad, or the new head made it particularly good, or (more likely) a bit of both. What was once 0-60 in about 20 seconds was now 0-60 in 10 seconds. It didn't slow down on hills, either, just kept pulling like a train. It wiped the daft grins off the faces of a few boy racers. I wish I hadn't sold it now...

Length? Don't worry about it, it won't be hanging around for long.
(, Thu 29 Apr 2010, 7:50, 1 reply)
I have lifted the bonnet on my car once.
I couldn't find the spark plugs, so shut it quick.

I miss the days of DIY mechanics.
(, Thu 29 Apr 2010, 8:56, closed)

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