RESTORING A CLASSIC 1970’S FRONT ENGINED V-12 FERRARI

 

I drove the car the 200 miles home & parked it overnight in my garage. I could not wait to get at it & the next morning& I was messing bright & early.I moved the car & there was a pool of oily water under the front end

The leak was a mixture of oil & water coming the front of the engine & the likely source was the oil/water pump assembly.The water/oil mixture leaked freely from where I suspected & the cause was a defective  main  seal.

First step is to drain all the fluids,engine oil,gearbox oil & fuel & then remove the bonnet.

I then began making  the engine smaller & lighter by removing the carburettor air cleaner boxes & disconnecting everything in sight. It was a really long task & some things were easily done & others not so easy but eventually all was disconnected.

Inside the car it was necessary to remove the gearstick & this entailed taking the centre console apart. I eventually got down to where the gear stick was attached & removed the stick as a complete assembly. Taking the engine out in one piece meant that the gearbox had to pass through a really tight space between a chassis member below & the engine firewall above

After separating the engine from the gearbox  I degreased  a small area on the top of the engine sump. I was really surprised that  so much oil & road dirt had accumulated there

My original plan was to replace the water pump seal & replace anything that was likely to be worn.Replacing the water/oil pump seal led to me fitting an uprated tensioner for the se pumps but one thing led to another.

The only thing I was not doing was lifting the heads but everything else came under “The Midas Swell” umbrella

Removing the cylinder heads is one of the most difficult & time consuming jobs

on these old V-12 engines & requires more than a little patience & persistence & is done a little at a time.I have since found a design for a metal plate to lift the head at  www.365gtc4.com which is an excellent site for all things GTC4.I would definitely have made such a plate if I had my time over & would recommend to anyone needing to lift the heads.

July 2005

A fully charged battery was connected & the engine fired first time & ran perfectly-for about 2-3 minutes.I noticed some fumes/steam from the exhaust but I was unable to immediately check  the coolant level.A check of the oil level showed water contaminating the oil on the dipstick. Water in the heads  was  finding its way into the oil drain tubes & was collecting in the sump.This is the worst engine nightmare & I was  to go back to square one. Much time & money had been spent but my rebuild was unsuccessful  yet  there were many positives.

Both block surfaces would be refaced  & all  24 cylinder head studs had to be removed. Extracting these from an aluminium V-12 block 35 years was the  remit of a skilled engineer to.The block faces were machined true & a new set of custom 0.5 mm oversize pistons  came from J.E Pistons in California They were extremely helpful & made me 12 balanced pistons a further 50 thousandth inch valve cut out to accommodate any machining.

The decision to take out the engine & do the top end repairs rather than doing this work with the engine still in the car is a wise choice. I have now heard of several similar attempts which have produced the same result. An expert mechanic who did the head job with the engine in the car & is now doing it again with the engine out.

Bill Badurski, Ferrari Club of America Technical Chairman said that the only way to rebuild the motor was properly. This I have done & he was correct. It took about a week of intermittent persuasion to release both heads. The corrosion product of aluminium heads steel head studs fine white aluminium oxide)which forms a really efficient bond.Repeated application of  penetrating fluid does eventually break it up but getting the heads up vertically is a difficult job.

The heads were sent to Headshop(UK) for report & overhaul.The heads were tested,skimmed  & all valves,guides & seals were were replaced together with their guides & seals in a 14 day turnaround. The heads are now back on the block & I have reset the valve timing,clearances & ignition timing & rebuilt the engine.

I was hardly pleased with myself as I had spent a whole morning pre purchase checking everything out including a full engine compression test.The oil/water leak was not apparent when I checked underneath but the 200 mile trip home revealed it

Removing the engine & gearbox together is best achieved by jacking the rear end  up & placing the chassis on 24” high axle stands.The engine slings are positioned to angle front end upwards after disconnecting the gearbox.These angles enable the removal without much interference from the chassis cross member or the firewall.

You will need short slings & a high roof to your garage or workshop.As you can see when replacing the engine I had the front end outside to be sure of the height required

Removing the engine was not something I had planned to do & there were two ways to do this.The first was to remove  the engine alone after splitting from the gearbox.The alternative was to remove the engine & gearbox in one unit & I opted for the latter. I was told it was the easier option & it was then much easier to replace clutch parts & check out the gearbox

The cam covers which incorporate the carburettor inlet manifolds were stripped & repainted with PJ1 Fat Black Wrinkle finish paint.The exhaust  manifolds were gently bead blasted & painted with VHT exhaust black & look really good & the stainless exhaust was painted with the same paint
The carbs were stripped down & overhauled with new jets, seaL float levels were reset ready for reassembly

Most of the engine paint had degraded to a from a silver to a dirty grey so these parts were thoroughly degreased & painted with simple engine silver paint.Initially this was far too bright but after a few weeks & now months has become an almost perfect colour. Attention to the detail of all these parts makes a huge difference to the appearance of the finished motor & is worth the effort.

The Ferrari engine number & engine type is located on the flat piece between the banks of cylinders. It is j behind the twin oil filters & is not be seen easily.The construction & thickness. of the head gasket can clearly be seen. It consists of a  metal core & a neoprene coating together with red silicone beads to prevent water & oil contaminating. If your replacement gaskets aren’t like this do not use them!

Peter  has stripped the engine completely apart & after examination was convinced that the problem was caused by slight movement of the cast iron cylinder liners. This resulted in my not being able to tighten the heads down sufficiently to compress the head gaskets. The tolerance for the protrusion of the liners above the block is 0.07mm to 0.11mm., any greater & is not possible to achieve the seal.It does not take much

Peter has done a first class job & the engine is back in the car. It started first time & runs perfectly & has now done almost 1200 miles since the final rebuild.The heads needed retorquing after this running in period & the valve clearances & timing have been checked & reset. I am pleased that the engine is runs beautifully & I am  very relieved despite the major additional time & unexpected  extra cost.

The lesson to be learnt is that cutting corners on any work on these cars is folly.I made every effort to do the remedial work correctly  & still ran into serious issues.My friend Mike Meehan once told me : It is  strange that  there  may not be enough  time or money to do the job properly first time around but there is always enough of both if  the work  needs to  be done  again. 

Neil Lefley suggested I got advice  from an expert & recommended a former -Graypaul  engineer Peter Higgins.

Neil, was a former Cosworth engineer so I was happy to take his advice.Peter   has a workshop at Loughborough & undertakes all work personally. I had  messed up & was not sure where. If I messed up again a good deal  of effort & money would be wasted.A pair of Ferrari supplied  head gaskets is almost £300 & was just one reason for getting an expert’s help. 

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Copyright© 2013-Ian Levy

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