Run by Graeme Hurst
Owned since September ’1999
Total mileage 66,678
Miles since August 2014
Latest costs £580
ROUGH RUNNING FINALLY SOLVED
On paper, my Mustang is the most reliable car in my fleet. Pushrod V8, points ignition, mechanical fuel pump and a live rear axle with non-servo brakes. What’s not to like? It’s Car Design 101 when it comes to classic reliability and DIY ownership. Yet, over the past few months, the ’Stang has frustrated me with a series of mechanical and electrical maladies that had me convinced it was possessed enough for a role in a Stephen King film. It all followed a fresh set of sparkplugs, but that simple task – to cure a cold-start issue – seemed to disturb a hornets’ nest of issues.
And the plug swap had me baffled on two fronts. First, I noticed that the box of AC Delco items I bought on a parts haul in the US contained only seven plugs. Perplexing, until I recalled that my luggage had contained an inspection note from the TSA (the US’s Transportation Security Administration). I’ve since learnt that sparkplugs are a red flag to their screening software and need to be sampled.
The omission was sorted with an NGK equivalent but, even with all eight refreshed, I suddenly had an engine running on seven, as if the 289 was under the TSA’s spell. Oddly, there was a spark from each lead, albeit not a very bright one.
A set of leads and a new coil (the existing one looked to be the original) was my next move to beef up the voltage. Still no joy. Must be a compression issue, then? Nope – when tested, all eight cylinders measured between 130 and 150psi. That was followed by a blast around the neighbourhood in the hope that it would ‘come right’, but my efforts resulted only in a few spectacular backfires.
Then I discovered that the vacuum advance on the distributor wasn’t working. I couldn’t see how that could result in a misfire but I scrounged one off the old dizzy from the Cobra my brother Kevin built up. The Windsor still ran like a pig, and by then the frequent bouts of cranking were putting a strain on the car’s high-tension circuit because the starter solenoid cooked. That was easy to replace and, with cranking restored, the electrical gremlins moved on to the low-tension circuit – specifically the ignition barrel, which cried foul and came apart under the dash.
Taking out the instrument panel revealed a shattered housing. Here on the southern tip of Africa, sourcing bits involves a 10-day delivery process plus punitive courier and customs charges. All of which turned a $14.95 barrel into a 1500- Rand (£73) purchase, on a car that cost only 20,000 Rand in ’1999.
With the new barrel in place, the engine was back on seven cylinders but I was at my wits’ end. Fortunately, there was another diversion because the accelerator pump called time with a fan-shaped spray of unleaded over the engine when I blipped the throttle. Local specialists don’t stock FoMoCo carb bits
In fact, even the Mustang parts suppliers in the US are light on them, so I opted for a new 600CFM Holley. Luckily, those are a dime a dozen here thanks to the hot rod scene. Swapping it couldn’t have been easier – it’s the most bolt-on bit I’ve ever fitted – and I only had to reposition the fuel feed.
Of course, it still didn’t solve the misfire but stripping the distributor showed up some play in the shaft – perhaps that was causing an intermittent contact across more than one pickup on the dizzy cap?
That was just before Christmas and my brother Kevin, who was coming over from Australia, suggested a fix by simply adding a new dizzy to my list for Santa, who was due to shop at a vast #V8
parts specialist in his part of the world. Done, along with a request for a high-power MSD coil. Thanks to a packaging error, though, the dizzy-shaped item that I opened under the tree was not for a Ford small-block!
By then, I was so desperate to get the right bit that I simply waved the credit card and ordered a stocklooking, Pertronix electronic distributor from Mustangs Unlimited. I then waited for salvation in the form of a courier van.
And when it came it was salvation indeed. Installing it was an absolute doddle, and bingo – a spark that was probably fat enough to register on the TSA’s surveillance systems across the Atlantic, and a Ford small-block running on all eight. Result!
Now that its mysterious misfire has been sorted, the Mustang is finally fit enough for Hurst to enjoy on South Africa’s stunning coastline.
Shiny new coil and starter solenoid fitted. The ignition switch had seen better days. Holley carb proved a welcome distraction. Pertronix distributor was an easy solution.