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John Beech
Experienced User
Username: jbeech

Post Number: 32
Registered: 10-2016
Posted on Friday, 18 November, 2016 - 01:48 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

So I go to GA with my pal Keith to test drive a car reputed to be a driver despite spending 39 years of its life in air conditioned storage. This sentence leaves out details of the many, many emails and faxes, which had criss-crossed the ether as part of my due diligence. And upon arrival, all was as had been represented in photos except for one little detail. The seller had removed the license plate and said while we could start the engine and hear it run, we couldn't test drive the car because it wasn't insured and did not have a current tag.

Without a word I turned on my heel as Keith said, "Let's go." having done the same. This, despite having just arrived following a three hour drive north from Orlando to Saint Mary's Island (an affluent part of the deep American south near where the the Federal Reserve was created at Jekyll Island about 100 years ago).

The seller immediately capitulated and allowed as maybe we could drive within the gated golf community (private roads) as long as we didn't exit onto the public roads. This was good enough for me as I merely wanted to test drive the car and consummate the deal that had been weeks in the making because I had already fallen in love.

The car, a rich Astrakhan in color, fired right up. I knew the seller had warmed the car up before our arrival because I had touched the hood and felt the warmth emanating. This irritated me because I had specifically asked the seller to let me cold start the automobile. However, I said nothing about it and instead, listened intently. The engine sounded nice.

Represented as having something less than 17,000 miles, with suitable documentation attesting to this, I was nevertheless suspicious. I've been car queer my entire life and being nearly 60 years of age, means I've made nearly all the mistakes a man can make when buying and selling cars. As cautious as a scout in the jungles of Vietnam, I was looking for the signs of tampering, the telltale marks of a re-spray, damage repair, uneven gaps in the panels, doors, or hood, and even looking for little things like more wear than would be proper on the brake pedal's rubber pad. Everything checked out.

Elated, Keith and I settled in for a brief test drive. A mere formality because a) the seller had assured us the car was a driver (slang for a car you can hop in and go across country in faith of making the journey without issue) and b) the engine sounded great. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be.

As we pulled out of the driveway, a loud retort filled the inside of the car. It was a monumental backfire the likes I'd not heard except after eating tacos and refried beans. Keith and I looked at each other in surprise because the engine had sounded so sweet in the driveway with an eager vroom-vroom to the tap of the accelerator pedal. What was this?!?!

The private road looped around the golf course and a lake. A matter of a mile-and-a-half, maybe two. At the first stop sign the car stalled. Restarting it was a non-event and we proceed - but cautiously - and the car had no power. I mean zero! And it bucked and snorted, backfiring the whole way. Clearly unhappy. This was NOT a driver by any stretch of the imagination.

Anyway, I missed the turnoff to the the seller's home and thinking, "I'm not stopping to make a u-turn!" proceed on another lap. Basically, I believed the car just needs some exercise and perhaps an Italian tune up would quickly sort things. It wasn't meant to be because I couldn't even accelerate to 25 miles per hour!

The second time I passed the sellers home on purpose - essentially intent on completing a third lap because I had, after all, driven more than three hours to test drive this thing and by God I was going to get my money's worth! That was almost a mistake because somewhere on the back 9 the engine quit. As we coasted to a stop, the fuel gauge indicated empty and I was thinking about the longish stroll back to the seller's home when the engine caught (we were still coasting a bit) and with a silky snick, the gearshift went back into drive and we continued.

Yup, all the way back to the turnoff - and the base of the seller's driveway - where a 3' grade defeated us. The car just would not go up the slight incline (another 50') into the driveway where the seller stood mortified. I started it maybe three or four more times before, left foot on brake and right foot on accelerator I managed to gingerly keep the engine running long enough to return the automobile to its lair whereupon a large puff of white smoke emanated from the left front wheel arch just as I switched off the engine. Hmmmm!

Perplexed, I looked at Keith and he looked at me with a, "What the Hell?" look plain on his face. Going through my mind was how the service records the seller had faxed had detailed a previous incident with locked brakes resulting in a trip to the shop on a flatbed wrecker. Thinking this out loud, I voiced my fears to the seller despite the fact the car had not pulled while driving or when we stopped. The stumbling engine, complete with bucking and loud backfiring were another negotiating point. And the cloud of white smoke coming from the brakes, oh boy! So we crawled beneath her and couldn't see any drips coming from the brake lines. Keith opined quietly how perhaps it was a stray drop of brake fluid. I agreed but was nevertheless worried because we have lots of work and I wasn't seeking a project but instead, wanted a driver.

In the end, I offered to buy the car for the agreed upon sum - but only if they had it taken to the dealer and paid for the repairs, e.g so that it was in the condition they had represented it to be, and into which I had entered good faith negotiations - a driver. Or, I'd buy it 'as is' for a lesser sum than we had negotiated. They agreed to the latter, I rented a trailer, and we loaded her for the drive home (we'd come prepared as there was no way, seller's assurances or not, that I was going to drive a 47 year old car 3-hours back home through Jacksonville, FL rush hour). Wasn't going to happen.
Loaded for the return home
- Securely strapped down for the trip to her new home.

Once home, I set about going through her. However, and quite frankly, I found surprisingly little wrong. For example, there was a stuck air piston in one of the carburetors. It had corroded to the vacuum dome. But this was a minor matter and soon sorted. However, the engine, well it still wouldn't accept a load, and because in my experience almost all carburetor problems are really ignition related, next I turned my attention to the classic bang portion of suck, squeeze, bang, and blow. You know, an apt description of how infernal combustion engines work.

First I removed the condenser. I've never had one fail but well knew how to test one. Measure resistance with a volt/ohm meter, which charges the capacitor. Next, switch to microvolts and watch the readings drop off to zero as it discharges, which it did. FWIW, I started with testing the capacitor because it's easy.

Second, I pulled a plug. Well, I pulled a plug boot and checked the spark. Hmm, yellowish and not especially vigorous. So I went ahead and pulled the plug (I had selected an easy one, A3). This, mostly for shits and grins because I now knew the fault lie in the ignition. Mostly I was curious to see the electrode condition. Anyway, the plug smelled of raw gasoline and had obviously not been firing well because it was quite sooty. Moreover, there was virtually zero electrode wear, which confirmed the mileage since the records indicated a reasonably new set of plugs. As I surveyed the job of changing the remaining plugs (and realized what a pain in the hind quarters spark plug changes would be) I made an executive decision. I hopped in the car and went to purchase a set of NGK Iridium GR4IX spark plugs. Spark plugs costing more that USD$8 each (which had you told me 30 years ago I would pay - for just one spark plug - what I had routinely paid for 8 of the buggers, I would have thought you nuts). Why? I did it because these would be the last set of plugs I'd ever put in the car.

As it turns out, the job was a little bit less troublesome than I anticipated. Maybe it's because I had the easy half. Did I mention Keith had driven up from Tampa to lend me a hand with another project and we had become sidetracked with the car?

Anyway, I attacked the A-bank because he was standing at the driver's side. Had I slyly set him to the more difficult B-bank on purpose? Oh no, I'd never do that. And it certainly wasn't because he has slightly more slender hands (though that would not be an unkind interpretation of why it worked out this way). In fact, it was just chance.

As it turned out, he finished all four of his while I had yet to figure out how to even get to the A1 plug. Impatient, he elbowed me out of the way to clean the distributor rotor and then did the A1 cylinder's plug. Me? I wielded the camera (my phone). The really hard part of changing the spark plugs? Replacing the stinkin' spark plug boots - argh!
Keith patiently cleans the distributor button
- Keith patiently cleans the distributor button

Finished with plugs, we started Tootsie who made the appropriate vroom-vroom sounds. I slipped her into gear and while wearing a big grin, I reversed her nicely. Putting her into drive to move her to another bay where we wanted her presence to actually measure for a lift I had purchased. She quit. And no amount of cajoling would suffice to bring her back to life. We resorted to brute force and pushed her into place. The purpose? I had purchased a 2-post lift and wanted to be certain I could close the door with her on the lift so she had to be inside with the door closed before I'd mark for where to drill the floor. That done, we fired her up and she cooperated. E.g. I reversed and moved her back to the other bay in the building (there's a clue within this sentence; to wit, time to cool off). Then we began the job that had brought my long time pal, Keith up from Tampa for a visit, the installation of the lift.
In the huddle, John on the left, Keith in the middle, Ted on the right
- In the huddle, John on the left, Keith in the middle, Ted on the right

We soon raised the first post. A fork lift is your friend. That, and a web to sling the load. Basically, we wrapped and choked it, e.g. let gravity pull the web tightly enough to hoist it using the forks. I'm the lift truck operator and Keith is watching and guiding me since I'm being blocked by the hydraulic cylinder and the forks so I cannot see. We make a pretty good team because knowing each other for three decades means we almost know what the other is thinking without needing words.
Slinging the load with the help of a fork lift
- Raising the 1000lb posts isn't for the faint of heart because one little mistake sends it toppling

Once the second post is in place, drilling commences. That's my job because thus far Ive just been sitting on my fat ass (in the forklift seat). There are five 3/4 holes to be drilled with the hammer drill and I am soon busting a sweat. Note, I pre-positioned the forks to each side of the post for added safety (just in case it tilted).
Busting a sweat whilst drilling into the slab
- Drilling is hard work

By 7PM the posts were set in place. We had spent 30 minutes leveling them to a fare-the-well using a machinist's level (versus the cruder carpenter's level) because the thought of 2-1/2 tons of Rolls-Royce falling over because the posts aren't perfectly level is too much to contemplate. It would result in bad ju-ju for the rest of my life!
Keith and John smiling after a job well done
- Keith and John smiling for the camera after a job well done

The title of this thread is coil connections, backfires, and solutions. Today I figured out what was wrong so here's the rest of the story. Perplexed at why Tootsie would start and go vroom-vroom so nicely but wouldn't accept a load all that was reasonably left to replace was the coil. I would have done this ahead of the plugs except I knew they'd be a pain and beyond looking at them for what they might tell me, I wanted to install the iridium element plugs. This, because the weak, yellow-ish spark had already told me where the problem lay. This afternoon, I returned to the problem. I was perplexed because I couldn't find the ballast resister. Frustrated, really. In my opinion, the designers who created this engine compartment should have been condemned to changing spark plugs every day for 6 months before being allowed back into the drafting room, but I digress. So, being unable to spot the ballast resister, I broke out the probe to take my eyes where I cannot possibly stick my head and bingo, I found it attached to the aft end of the B-bank cylinder head in very close quarters to the firewall.
Magic, or close enough to it
- Magic, or close enough to it, the videoscope is no longer just for looking up your bum after turning 50

While I was eyeballing the ballast resister, I looked closely at the coil. What I discovered made me blanch because what I saw was the + (plus) wire from the coil going to the distributor . . . oops! As we all know, the wire from the ignition switch first goes to the ballast resister and then goes to the + (plus) side of the coil. And it's the - (minus) side of the coil that goes to the distributor. I quickly switched the leads and not only does Tootsie still go vroom-vroom in park and neutral, but now she goes like Hell in drive, e.g. with a load, also. Problem solved.

Postscript . . . in conversation with Keith, he and I have been perplexed at why the seller would represent the car as a driver when nothing could be further from the truth. Putting on my Miss Fisher cap, here's what "I" believe happened. The seller told me about a guy who had been hot to trot to buy the car. He had made a three trips to look at and drive the car. Ultimately, negotiations had broken down - and with some acrimony. My theory is this fellow switched the leads. Why? Maybe to preclude the next guy driving the car, or to force the seller into the expense of having it having it taken to a shop, who really knows? As for the white smoke from the left front wheel arch? This has not been explained. We found no oil or brake fluid leaks and remain befuddled about it.

Lastly, Tootsie's accumulators are low on pressure. I've purchased a nitrogen tank and the appropriate regulator to recharge them. As soon as I wire the lift, I will get her in the air so I can see about getting that done. Then I'm going to take her to get a tag so I may legally drive her on public roads.

John, who is tickled pink with his first Rolls-Royce and quite excited. Life is good!
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Brian Vogel
Grand Master
Username: guyslp

Post Number: 2110
Registered: 6-2009
Posted on Saturday, 19 November, 2016 - 01:31 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP


Talk about an epic post!

It looks like you're setting yourself up to have a DIY facility that most of us would envy. That lift you installed looks precisely like the Rotary 2-post lift that I have access to at an acquaintance's house. She has very kindly given me almost unlimited access to it when its use is either preferable or essential, often for days.

Make sure you take a look in the workshop manual, or better yet, Tee-One Topics, Issue 38, so that you have a clear understanding of what you need to do before you try to place this car on a lift (or even lift it with a floor jack).

More damage occurs to these poor beasts from improper lift technique, jacking technique, and tie-down for transport technique than anyone cares to recount.

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Larry Kavanagh
Experienced User
Username: shadow_11

Post Number: 23
Registered: 5-2016
Posted on Saturday, 19 November, 2016 - 06:32 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

Good story with a good ending John. I would guess that the white smoke could have come from the exhaust manifold, the bolts are known to loosen and should be checked annually while the engine is cold. Or perhaps brake fluid or WD40 may have been spilled on the manifold and burned off causing the smoke. Maybe replacing the exhaust manifold gaskets and fitting new bolts (threads coated in copper grease) might cure the problem. Easy fix - especially when you have access underneath using your new lift. Happy motoring, Larry
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Patrick Ryan
Grand Master
Username: patrick_r

Post Number: 674
Registered: 4-2016
Posted on Saturday, 19 November, 2016 - 10:25 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

Great read John.
You do know how to string words together to make for a very enjoyable happy ending tale.
Great work, on Tootsie as well.
Glad she is now firing well on all 8
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Bob Reynolds
Grand Master
Username: bobreynolds

Post Number: 426
Registered: 8-2012
Posted on Sunday, 20 November, 2016 - 01:54 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

I am amazed that the problem was a simple reversal of the coil polarity. Normally if the coil polarity is reversed, the spark is very slightly weaker, but it is still enough to fire the mixture, so it doesn't make any noticable difference.

I remember this being discussed on here in the past and some members discovered that their coil was connected the wrong way round and they weren't even aware of it.

Do you think there was a secondary cause, like a bad connection or something?
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Patrick Lockyer.
Grand Master
Username: pat_lockyer

Post Number: 1051
Registered: 9-2004
Posted on Sunday, 20 November, 2016 - 03:04 am:   Edit PostDelete PostView Post/Check IP

For what its worth coil polarity reversed the firing voltage required for the spark plugs will increase 20 to 40%.
If you use a scope the display pattern will show the firing lines downwards [abnormal].

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