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  •   Alain De Cadenet reacted to this post about 2 years ago
    CAR: Alfa Romeo 8C
    Run by Alain de Cadenet
    Total mileage 150,230
    Owned since 1972
    Miles since February
    report 230
    Latest costs £50 (petrol)

    / #Alfa-Romeo-8C / #Alfa-Romeo / #1931-Alfa-Romeo-Touring-Spider / #1931-Alfa-Romeo-8C-2300-Touring-Spider / #1931 / #Alfa-Romeo-Touring-Spider / #Alfa-Romeo-8C-2300 / #Alfa-Romeo-8C-2300-Touring-Spider /

    For various reasons, FLC didn’t get much use during last summer. So, when an 8C Monza drive at the Goodwood Revival fell through, I had no option other than to nominate FLC instead. Short of time to prepare her properly, I paid most attention to the motor.

    There’s nothing like a nice fresh oil change as you know – cheapest maintenance you can ever do for a car. I bought a 20-litre container of Extol 20w50 and added a couple of pints of Torco MPZ concentrate. Traditionally, flat tappet surfaces – as often encountered on overhead- cam engines – are in need of the lubricating properties afforded by the presence of zinc. Coupled with phosphorus, these two elements offer great benefit to an #8C-motor , but they are usually lacking from today’s oils. Something to do with the environment, perhaps. The valvegear on an 8C is simple but effective, with Vittorio Jano’s version of the instantly adjustable tappet. The valves have the upper stem threaded (8mm x 1.25), with two grooves cut down the sides.

    The actual tappet has serrations around the periphery and an 8mm female fitting that threads onto the valve. Underneath this tappet is another fitting with a larger diameter, also serrated, that acts as a locking device to stop the tappet self-adjusting while in use. Between the two discs are interlocking ridges that give a satisfying ‘click’ when rotated against each other. A special tool anchors into the hole adjacent to each valve and thus enables it to be rotated, either opening or closing the tappet clearance.

    The 8C feeler gauge allows ‘Passa’ at 0.45mm and ‘Non Passa’ at 0.5mm. In fact, this is another process that is easier done than said because it takes me only about half an hour to remove the cam boxes and check all 16 tappets. Like all Jano engines, the valve springs are not stiff and the valves can easily be pushed open with your thumb.
    Checking the differential housing for oil allowed me to let out a little EP90 and put it back into the gearbox, from whence it had dribbled over time. Quite normal. The diff mounting bolts needed a tighten, which they always do. I’ve been meaning to drill off the bolts and lock-wire them for 40 years.

    Must do it next time, of course. Using this car spiritedly tends to wear the front brake linings, which allows the rears to lock up – especially the offside – so I undid the adjusting nuts two turns to fix that. The only other prep I had time for was to change the Blockley 500-19 tyres on the front wheels. I did this and the balancing myself because I have the use of a machine and have the right mandrel to fit the hubs. Anything under 20 grams out is excellent going for old wires.

    The drive down was great – no trouble pulling 4000rpm in second and third. So I saw no reason why I couldn’t hit the revs in top. I have rather a lengthy crownwheel and pinion fitted to FLC, which gives 27mph per 1000rpm. Anything over 4000 at Goodwood would be good enough. Before practice, I put in five gallons of Lord March’s 110-octane rocket fuel to give me a little more advance on the sparks and tightened up the front friction dampers with my special spanner. The lovely Siata knob on the dashboard got three turns, too, which sorted the rear dampers.

    Practice was a disaster. The motor wouldn’t pull over 3400rpm in top, although the handling and brakes were brilliant, plus the oil pressure and water temperature etc were fine. What little spare time I had to rectify the problem was spent believing that I had fuel vaporisation in the copper pipe down to the single Weber. David Biggins, with whom I worked on Sicilian Dreams, gave me the silver foil from his Naafi wagon bacon bap, which I wrapped around the fuel tube. This, surely, would cure the problem.

    Idiot that I am, that wasn’t the fault. My race was spent trying to keep in front of Chloe Mason in her Aston Ulster and I couldn’t. I think I may have come last. Back in the paddock, I discovered that a tiny sliver of polythene had lodged in the float valve – starving the carb of fuel. So I picked it out. Problem solved. It pulled 4800 on the way back to London that night. Very boring because the next Brooklands Trophy race probably won’t be for another three years. Doubt I’ll get an entry after 2015’s effort…

    Not so glorious Goodwood, when de Cad was stymied by the Alfa’s unwillingness to rev – traced to an errant piece of polythene in carb. Inset: slotted valve visible through tappet adjuster.

    Alfa valve adjuster tool and feeler gauge. Valve is grooved and threaded for setting. It slots in and engages on ‘teeth’ of tappet.
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  •   Quentin Willson reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    CAR: #Alfa-Romeo-8C / #Alfa-Romeo / #1931-Alfa-Romeo-Touring-Spider / #1931-Alfa-Romeo-8C-2300-Touring-Spider / #1931 / #Alfa-Romeo-Touring-Spider / #Alfa-Romeo-8C-2300 / #Alfa-Romeo-8C-2300-Touring-Spider /

    Run by Alain de Cadenet
    Total mileage 151,187
    Owned since 1972
    Miles since May 2016 report 901
    Latest costs £374


    I was out on a run in the Alfa in March when a loud screech started coming up from the front of the gearbox. I was stationary with my foot off the clutch, and pressure on the pedal stopped the sound immediately. The clutch worked fine, but I couldn’t work out what could cause such a din. I didn’t think it could be the thrust bearings, which are beefy, modified affairs that run on a throw-out ring manufactured by Paul Grist.

    For some reason, I jumped to the conclusion that the ’box had to come off to investigate the problem. So, floorboards out, pedal board out, pedals off, bell-housing nuts off… With the chassis perched in the air on decrepit axle stands I withdrew the cart spring through-bolts to drop the banjo/diff unit complete. Next came the oil lines, speedo cable, front brake rods et al. After hours on my tod, cussing like a navvy, I finally got the gearbox/ torque tube/propshaft and banjo on its brake drums rolled back to investigate the cause of the problem.

    You’d think that after looking after the old dear for more than 45 years I’d know better than to go through the above. What a goon I am. All that had happened is that the clutch pedal rear limit bolt and lock nut had worked loose. As a result, the two thrust roller races were able to come back too far and mill away the aluminium collar that goes over the input shaft to protect the bearing from ingesting grit.

    A 10-second adjustment was enough to cure the fault, but trying to get everything back in place was going to be impossible without skilled help. Fortunately, I managed to recruit C&SC’s international editor Mick Walsh, who’s even more afflicted by 8Cs than I am. He even turned up with his own overalls – eschewing my offer of genuine Alfa factory gear – and with work shoes, to boot. Impressive. Cool colleague to have come and sort it out.

    The old bird is back to exactly how she was again, having had one over on me right royally. I’ll have my revenge. At least it gave me the chance to grease the shackles and bolts, and re-adjust the speedo drive, which is on an eccentric bronze mounting that has to be correctly positioned to give a gnat’s of backlash on the gearbox internal drive.

    While everything was down I decided to replace the exhaust gaskets, which had to be made from solid copper and then annealed. I also fitted an in-line petrol filter to avoid a recurrence of the fuel starvation that I had at Goodwood a few years ago.

    I have also finally managed to obtain a pair of the desirable Bosch tail-lamps that contain a 5W festoon bulb for the rear light and a 15W single filament brake light. I’d been after some of these for years, but when I took them to pieces I discovered that one of them was only made with the festoon, and no cutout for the numberplate light or a brake light. Should I perform surgery on it, or try to find another partner for the good one?

    The total cost of repairing FLC was four gallons of Exol 20/50 oil, one paper filter, a cartridge filter, gearbox oil (EP90) and a Thai lunch for Walsh, all of which came to 130 quid. Labour would have been costly, I suppose. Thankfully, I still have a decent toolkit and a sort of brain from the old days.

    ‘The old bird is back to how she was again, having had one over on me right royally. I shall have my revenge’

    Just who needs a fancy workshop, anyway? De Cad with the Alfa Romeo after stripping and rebuilding it in his London mews garage.

    Only one of the recently acquired lamps is correct type. Offending clutch-pedal stop bolt and nut. The bronze eccentric speedo drive housing. Races were grinding the input shaft collar. Outside The Black Lion on Chiswick Mall.
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  •   Quentin Willson reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Car #Alfa-Romeo-8C / #Alfa-Romeo / #1931-Alfa-Romeo-Touring-Spider / #1931-Alfa-Romeo-8C-2300-Touring-Spider / #1931 / #Alfa-Romeo-Touring-Spider / #Alfa-Romeo-8C-2300 / #Alfa-Romeo-8C-2300-Touring-Spider /

    Run by Alain de Cadenet
    Total mileage 150,286
    Owned since 1972
    Miles since February
    report 56
    Latest costs nil


    I’ve not done too much on the car recently, due to not being around and the ghastly weather. All quite normal for winter of course, but I have finally got over the nightmare of finding original-style 18mm spark plugs. From the 1930s right up to the late ’70s, the ideal fitment for the Alfa was a Lodge platinumelectrode long-reach item that was listed as an HL1P, and for which you needed a 1in AF long socket to put them in and take them out.

    Today, such plugs are unobtainable. I used to advertise for them in the 1980s, and was surprised when the late Hon Patrick Lindsay called to say that he’d bought some brand new from the old KLG/Lodge office that used to be down by the Kingston bypass. Originally they were 15s each (75p), which was expensive for the time. You can’t clean a platinum plug using glass beads without causing damage to the electrode, but I’ve used a baking soda blaster and done quite a good job over the years. The only real solution is to fit 18-14mm adapters and run modern alternatives.

    So, after spending many hours on the Myford drilling, turning and threading some phosphor-bronze hexagonal bar, I’ve ended up with eight inserts that now enable me to use #NGK #BP6ES plugs for tootling around and B7ESs for racing. I even have some B7EVs for use with methanol. Three different types, whereas one used to do all three jobs. If I was judging 8Cs at Goodwood, Pebble Beach or Amelia Island, would I penalise an owner for not having 18mm plugs? Yes, I would. Going is one thing, showing is something else. I notice that new-manufactured heads are all drilled for 14mm plugs, anyway.

    Alfisti par excellence, Chris Mann, runs an early Weber carb on his 8C, as indeed do I. He told me of his modification that lets him adjust the main jet needle from the cockpit by way of a cable drive. This enables him to fine-tune the mixture with a lambda sensor placed in the exhaust.

    He leans off in towns to avoid stinky black smoke and richens up when on the open road. Healthier for the environment and his wallet. Considering that these old birds were always run rich in period (to lessen the likelihood of combustion chamber cracks), this struck me as something that I had to try myself.

    It works beautifully. I do plug ‘cuts’ at various settings and can get them from off-white on the electrodes via the ideal coffee colour to black and sooty, just by twiddling my home-made cable system. Horrible ethanol petrol works fine with this device, as does Goodwood Mega Gas. Thank you, Chris, for that one.

    All this makes me realise how terribly boring modern cars are in comparison, and how lazy we get letting science do all the work. I much prefer being the #ECU myself.

    Our Leica stalwart pays a visit to the camera manufacturer’s Mayfair outlet – the Alfa isn’t afraid of London traffic.

    Old 18-14mm adaptor served as template. Lodge HL1P plugs are no longer available. Electrode is easily damaged by cleaning. Weber carburettor has been modified to allow adjustment of main jet needle on the go.
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