Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Land Rover, Weather and Spitfire Fuel Pump Woes

It hasn't been the best of starts to 2013. Not long after the first road trip of the year in the Spitfire back in February (see previous blog post) I started work on our Land Rover Defender's suspension. The Defender has done a lot of off-loading in the last eight years and its suspension has been needing a bit of TLC for while. All four shock absorbers had reached the point where they weren't doing very much damping at all and the rears, in particular, were in very poor condition and not that far from starting to rust through. I had decided to strip and rebuild the entire suspension replacing all four shocks and all the bushes. As usual with this sort of thing, it ended up being a much bigger job than originally planned. The rear upper shock mounts, the front turrets and a lot of other miscellaneous bits and pieces were in such poor condition than I ended up binning them. I decided to use the "opportunity" to fit a Gywn Lewis 4x4 Challenge Kit (with Rough Country shocks from Llama 4x4). Thanks to this, and the Baltic weather that set in not long after I started, what I expected to get finished in two or three weekends has taken all of two and half months to complete.

The end result was quite an impressive collection of scrap metal:

In the middle of all of this - at the end of March - we were looking forward to the Spring Fell Run organised by the Cumbrian TSSC. Unfortunately, the day that we were supposed to be travelling down to Cumbria was the day that ended with 15-feet deep snowdrifts on the A595! It wasn't particularly bad in central Scotland but much of the route we would have had to take ended up suffering severe problems. Needless to say we decided to stay at home and as it turned out the event had to be cancelled (for the first time ever I believe). There are tentative plans to run the event later in the year, in Autumn, and if it happens we'll be there!

A month later we were looking forward to CCHMSC's Argyll Classic event, if for no other reason than it was to be the first classic car event to visit the newly resurfaced Rest and Be Thankful hillclimb. I spent a couple of evenings the week before the event fettling the Spitfire. It was all was going so well. The final shakedown was to be a run into work on the Friday. I got into the Spit, turned the ignition on - and silence! When you have an electric fuel pump complete and utter silence isn't a good thing! I had to leave it and jump in the modern to get to work. Frantic tinkering later in the day confirmed that the fuel pump was dead and that there was no way I was going to get it sorted out in time for Sunday. So, we had to miss our second event of 2013...

The fuel pump is a Facet Red Top and we were already on our second one. The first was replaced when it started to become unreliable in 2007 after five years use, having covered 11k miles. The second one has lasted six years and 11.5k miles. Unlike the first one, which was replaced when it became intermittent, there were no warning signs that the second one was about to go. The failure rate seems unusually high and this got me thinking about the installation. It's somewhat unusual, with the pump mounted below the fuel tank, horizontally, but upside down, tucked up beside the chassis at the front of the N/S rear wheel arch. I started to wonder if there might be an issue with the installation.

I asked the question in the Club Triumph forum which elicited some useful information and suggestions. Info on Facet's own web site and numerous other sources confirmed that horizontal mounting was perfectly OK but I couldn't find any reference to what effect (if any) the upside down orientation might have. So I asked the question directly of Facet:
This is an installation question. I am trying to establish if upside down horizontal mounting as per the attached photograph is likely to cause any operational or long term reliability problems with Facet Red Top electric fuel pumps. It has been suggested that horizontal mounting with connections pointing downwards may result in the pump not being able to clear all its air which in turn may result in the pump running hotter than it should. Would it be advisable to re-engineer the installation so that the pump is mounted the right way up?
Within 24 hours I got the following reply:
Thank you for your email and interest in Facet fuel pumps. I have never seen anyone mount the fuel pump in this way buy I don’t believe it will harm the pump or cause it to function improperly.
Having got the new Red Top installed I've decided to leave it as is for the time being and get on with using the car.

It would be a fairly simple exercise, however, to re-engineer the installation to flip the pump the right way up by fabricating two brackets and mounting the pump to the brackets rather than the underside of the floor. I might just do this later in the year when I have a spare weekend.

So, hopefully, it'll be third time lucky and we'll actually get to the start of the next event in our calendar - the CCHMSC/Club Triumph International Auto Ecosse at the beginning of June!

It goes without saying that not much has been done on the Saloon during the last two months! I've not been completely idle however. We travelled down to Coventry at the beginning of March for the Triumph International Spares Day at Stoneleigh and also to visit Canley Classics on the Saturday morning to collect an original OE N/S middle sill for the Saloon from Dave Pearson. At Dave's suggestion we visited the Coventry Transport Museum on the Saturday afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed it. We spent about four hours there then enjoyed a pleasant walk through the city centre visiting the Cathedral and Spon Street. Didn't find anything of interest at Stoneleigh on the Sunday but the trip was worth it just to get the OE N/S middle sill.

OE O/S sills seem to be much rarer beasts so I've decided to go with repro items and got O/S full inner and full outer repro sills courtesy of Rimmer's New Year sale. I believe that the repro full outer sill is an Earlpart item and it's very good indeed. Not sure of the provenance of the full inner sill but it's also very good.

This year's purchases for the Saloon so far, from top to bottom: Repro O/S inner sill; OE N/S middle sill, Repro full O/S outer sill.

I now have a full set of OE sills for the N/S, whereas the O/S sills will all be repro parts. It'll be interesting to see how they go on and whether or not there are any significant differences between fitting the OE sills and the repro sills.

I've decided that the sills that are currently in primer, and also the OE middle sill, will be going for blasting to get them back to bare metal so that I can paint them with modern weld through etch primer before fitting them. I've found a place fairly local to me that can do this and - would you believe it - the chap I'm speaking to is also restoring a 2000 Saloon. I wasn't expecting that!

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