Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rebuilding a Valour Formula Ford.

April 1999
The advert read "Early formula Ford chassis and body panels, offers over $600". Then the phone number, no more and no less.I got this message over the cell phone from Graeme Banks whilst driving home on a Friday evening and stopped off and purchased a copy of New Zealand Classic Car from the next Shell station. I thought well for $600 I may as well ring, as I would prefer a Formula Ford rather than the Formula Vee that I had started to rebuild. My first phone call ended with an answering machine so when Lindsey the seller did not reply by mid Saturday morning I gave him another ring.If I could get there before lunchtime he could show me the car as he was going to work in the afternoon. All I could glean from him was it was green in colour, had been raced by a Steve Grant who lived in Tauranga and the radiators and petrol tank, seat and dash were also there.As he was only in Onehunga I shot straight over. The sight that met me was not the most inspiring. Behind the rusted out Vauxhall Viva was a rotten blue tarpaulin over an equally rotten trailer. Around each of these two items which were for sale was long grass and weeds. We removed the tarpaulin, to find a single seater with the belly panel and top panel in place. There was a seat and dash panel in place, no nose (but he did have the mould), no engine cover.We removed the top and seat and the original fuel tank was in place and on the floor was a set of totally rotten front wishbones with one bent rose joint and a cracked front upright. Also a stainless steel oil tank.The bottom chassis tubes had been lying in water and were only half there in places and for some unknown reason the diagonal bracing had been doubled up. I could not determine the manufacture so we did a deal and I left it that I would return with someone who would probably know its origins. Enter Nigel.The rest of the weekend I tried to convince both my wife and myself that the car was a "bargain" and repairable. We went over on Monday and the car was definitely a New Zealand built Valour of about 1972 vintage. We loaded the bits onto a trailer and asked Lindsey if he knew the whereabouts of the rear engine cover. Down the bottom of the "garden" under a pile of weeds we found it.

Now is not the time to recall the words used by the lady in my life when this "Heap of junk" (part of her words) arrived on my trailer in the driveway.So what did I get for my money:- The original Valour 723 parts were:Chassis, Undertray, Rear body, Cockpit, Nose mould, Dash panel, Seat, Fuel tank, Screen, Front, lower wishbones, Front uprights, Rollover protection, Fuel pipes, Brake pipes, Oil tank, Dzus fasteners, Both side mounted radiators

Valour Formula Fords were copied from the Titan and used basically the same running gear. The main difference in the chassis is in the front top chassis bracing. The single diagonal is replaced by two, and the cross tube is curved upwards. The pedal bracket is a sheet steel fabricated type on top of the front bulkhead. The rear bulkhead behind the seat is square tube. The rear G/B bulkhead is the same as the Titan.Having looked at the photos of the restoration of a MK6 Titan car on the internet the resemblance between the condition of this car and mine as it was found are so similar. Unfortunately all the additional bracing that had been added and the number of holes in the frame meant that I had very little option than to rebuild the chassis entirely. The removable rear G/B mounting which was chromed looked as if it could be saved until I took it down to be stripped. It was cracked badly and there were a goodly number of pinholes through the tubes.

July 1999
A quick trip to Hamilton to see John Hyde helped considerably and I am grateful to him for his help with information and the loan of the wishbone jig. That and a visit to the wilds of Franklin County to see Frank van Lingen put everything in place.Rebuilding the chassis was no major problem as I had the original to take all the measurements from. I made a liquid fluxer device that allows flux into the acetylene supply line thus dispensing with the tin of flux. This ensures a clean and very tidy joint. The original car had the cockpit opening bracing that goes past the dash bulkhead in two parts, but with a slice of luck I was able to make this in one piece.

Sept 1999
The chassis welding finished I took it down to the powder coaters. I had made up the aluminum bulkheads from 2.0mm material that was powder coated grey on one side so the chassis had to match this colour. I have riveted a 2.0mm Alloy undertray from the front bulkhead to the rear of the cockpit as a little insurance as the original fibreglass body does not give the impression that it will stop a kerb or stone that may decide to enter from below. The frame etc now looks as if it was new and I am back in favour with the wife.

Oct 1999
From the excellent photos of the Titan car and taking the dimensions from the original chassis I have manufactured the new pedal assembly. The front discs have been skimmed in my Myford lathe and the uprights have the bottom trunnion machined down to fit a ¾" spherical bearing.

Nov 1999
There is a now justification to buy a TIG welding set!!! Fortunately British Oxygen has a small unit on special for the month so one unit is now in the garage. The front suspension is welded up and along with the uprights and pedals have taken them down to the nickel platers.

Dec 1999
With the suspension fitted at the front a temporary set of rear uprights have been fabricated until I get the alloy units and the rear suspension is underway. Hopefully this will be ready before Xmas.

Jan 2000
Work started on the body with the main task to see what panels can be re-used. The top cockpit panel had 17 coats of paint on it and in places this seemed to be the only thing holding it in place. The repairs carried out over the years had been done without cleaning off the dirt on the old surface and when attacked with a wide blade wallpaper stripper can off easily. 40 grit paper in a dual action sander knocked most of it off with a few hours work and the original colour was a purple/blue. Grinding out the cracks and refibreglassing put new life back into the body. Much the same story with the tail although this was in a worse state have been buried.

Feb 2000
The nose cone mould was washed out, cleaned and polished ant then covered with PVA release agent and put outside the garage to dry. The crunch of fibreglass as a son returning home and drove over it did nothing for parent/child relationships. I have resurrected it enough to allow a copy to be taken out using copious amounts of plastacine.The belly mould was beyond it! It had been through a number of wars and had been attacked where it fits over the chassis. Don Short came to my help with the original mould and the moulds for the radiator ducts. The pleasing thing was to find evidence of the original colour gel coat on these moulds.

March / April / May 2000
Dark evenings and a warm fire has meant that progress has been slow with only a part of the week end available for work I have molded the new radiator ducts and had the belly pan spray molded. This is now fitted on the car. The brake pipes have been installed and the master cylinders rebuilt. Following advice a pressure regulating valve is installed in the rear line.The rear upright moulds have been taken to the foundry and needless to say I pick the busy time of the year and they will take 6 weeks to have done.

June / July / Aug 2000
Another trip to Hamilton to see Don Short to return the moulds has allowed me to check out the rear hubs. These use a Triumph 2000 disc and caliper grafted to a BMC 1300 hub and drive shaft and an aluminium spacer.As I had not been able to find a Hewland bellhousing I borrowed Dons and by building it up with body filler this was used as a mould so a casting could be obtained.The uprights were cast at the end of August, taken for heat treatment and then passed to the machinist.The paint for the car was bought (the same colour as the original) and work was done aligning the nose to the car.

Sept / Oct / Nov 2000
I took the rear uprights to Robin who machined them beautifully. There needed to be a 35mm alloy spacer made up to give the correct track and this I used to change the wheel stud spacing to allow me to run Ford alloy wheels. This spacer can be replaced if I decide to go back onto steel original wheels. I now have front and rear suspension on.

Dec 2000 / Jan 2001
Things slowed up a little over the holiday period and whilst I changed employment. During the warm weather I sanded, primed and painted all the panels. The cockpit came out very well in its original colour but the tail was basically beyond repair. Much of it was distorted from standing in a squashed up state for some considerable time.I decided it was time that the engine was looked at and this was stripped down ready for the reconditioners. There were a number of jobs that I completed on the rods including changing the oil holes and polishing off the flash marks. This brought the rods down to almost minimum weight so there was not a lot left that could be done to lighten them. The flywheel was on minimum weight so I have left it alone. The only addition to it was a couple of Mig welds to hold the ring gear.
Feb / Mar 2001
The original radiators are looking a little seedy and need an overhaul. The top and bottom tanks are fine and I took the opportunity to increase the number of core tubes as all indications were that the car suffered from overheating.After numerous visits to the engine reconditioners the bill started to grow. The rods were shot peened, the block resleeved, genuine FF pistons put in and the block was shaved to raise the compression ratio. I opened out the head ports and had the valves reseated. The guides were marginal and a number of these were changed.The rotating parts were then taken down and balanced and the engine built up.The engine runs a dry sump and the pan was made from the existing sump cut just down from the lip. A Pace dry sump pump has been fitted.
April / May 2001
The problem of connecting the gearbox input shaft to the clutch that I had been putting off for a long time finally came to the top of the pile and it actually became much easier than I thought. There are 3 lengths of gearbox-input shaft and where I thought that I would have to weld a spacer into the existing shaft I found that I had the middle length and the longer one, which I obtained from a VW specialist, was correct. A standard VW clutch plate required machining down on the o/s diameter in order to clear the Ford pressure plate.The radiator ducts were modified to fit the radiators and painted.Stainless steel brake pipes were installed and the Bundy pipework for the brakes and clutch finished off.

June / July 2001
Most of these two months were taken up with installing the cooling and oil systems. The radiators which are side mounted are a plumbers nightmare with the flow passing from the bottom of the first radiator to the top of the second. This meant that I had to install two air bleed valves in the top of the radiators.With a front mounted oil tank the pipework was run in aluminum alloy tube and the remote oil filter mounted on the nearside of the engine.Wiring the car was simple with only two switches and a starter button.

Aug 2001
Time to turn to the other subject that I had left, the gearchange linkage! After a look at Jim Baird's car and with the position of the bearings already in the chassis it turned out quite easy. The use of good quality universal joints is paramount, as is a solid mounting for the lever.I used the Formula Ford Underground web site to determine the "correct" spring rates and with all the dimensions visited the spring makers. The rears proved fine but the fronts needed resetting as they turned out an inch too long. The shocks on the front came in for a modification and they were shortened so that on full droop the springs were still under tension. This also allowed me to fit bump stops onto the shocks and spherical bearings.

Sep 2001
At last the car hits the ground and stands on its own wheels. The brakes and clutch are bled using Silicone (expensive) brake fluid. On Installing the original seat I found that can't fit into the car both in width and length. The seat was remoulded using expanding foam and fuel tank was slightly modified so that I sit lower and slightly more upright to give me legroom. I decided to have to seat upholstered to improve the appearance.

Oct 2001
It was time to circulate the oil around engine without the plugs in. Despite filling the filter and oil pipes to the front tank I could not get pressure on the gauge. I even installed a header tank of oil above the pump inlet and still no pressure.After some considerable trying I removed the engine because I was concerned that either a plug had been left out by the engine reconditioner and also to settle my fears that the engine may have sustained damage to the bearings with all the turning over. It was also sluggish on the starter and a bit tight. There was no marking on the bearings, all plugs in place so I put it all back together, liberally covered all the bearing surfaces in Moray's, turned the engine on its side, filled all the galleries up and all the pipes, and refitted the engine to the chassis. Everything should be OK. No oil pressure. Despite the comments of "Don't do it" from the Historic Formula Ford aficionado's I decided to put the plugs in and start it up!On 28th October I hit the button and it fired up with 80psi of oil pressure coning up 2 seconds after it started. There was no tick over but above 2000rpm everything seemed fine. I have had the same problem with an earlier engine and found there was an air leak and this time I found an air bleed that I had not blocked off when I took off the automatic choke.It was now necessary to find if the clutch worked and give the car its first run so on 24th November I took the car over to work and gave it a blast around the car park. This showed the gear selection was wrong and needed completely rebuilding, oil surged out from the oil tank through the breather and I had to increase the ground clearance.

First Outing.
Taupo 8th December 2001 Historic Racing and Sports Car Club Event
This event is best left in the memory as "Rain stopped Play."
Second Outing

Pukekohe 22 December 2001 Practice Day
Loaded the car onto the trailer in the sunshine and ran over assistants (wife) foot.The forecast had been rain later in the day so I might have get some time in.As we unloaded the car from the trailer for the first run, the drizzle started. I then started up, put the gear into 2nd and ran into the better half's leg. Having paid for a days testing I was going out but half way down the main straight the engine cut. I just made it back to the pits and loaded up. The fault appeared to be a blocked fuel filter that was replaced back home.


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