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Engine Failure on Homeward Evening Commute

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  • Engine Failure on Homeward Evening Commute

    Our Seven is nearing the 100K mark and has been running great. Then in mid-November on my commute home, we had a problem. I exited the freeway and came to a stop at a traffic light. When I pushed in the clutch, the engine died. I re-started the engine and heard a great squealing that would not stop. I thought something in the accessory drive was frozen, so I drove the car from the stop light to the first intersection where I turned onto a side street and stopped. After waiting a few minutes for things to cool down, I tried re-starting the engine. The engine fired, but needed throttle to run, and ran very roughly with a lot of squealing. The engine died as soon as I let off the throttle.

    I got a tow home and then pulled the nose off. The accessory belt looked fine, and after removing it, all the drive pulleys turned freely. No problem there. My next guess was one of the timing belt idler/tensioner pulleys has frozen, and the belt jumped a tooth or two or three when I re-started the engine. A little more disassembly and the timing belt looked okay. Turning the motor I could see the pulleys turning. A compression check showed cylinders 2, 3, and 4 with strong compression, and cylinder #1 with none! I still don't know what caused all the noise, but clearly there is a problem. Major surgery looms!

    My available options included ordering a re-manufactured Zetec, replacement with a used motor, personal tear-down and re-build, and a professional re-build. Each option had its pluses and minuses, but I chose the professional re-build option. Bruce Beachman (Caterham distributor in Washington) offered a high-quality re-build that seems like a good value. So, over the Christmas break, I pulled the motor out and crated it up for shipment. An LTL (Less than Load) carrier picked it up today and it should be at Bruce's shop by Wednesday. More to come!
    Happy New Year,

  • #2
    Sorry to hear that, Clark. But I suppose all engines go sooner or later. I'm sure you're looking forward to the new (or rebuilt) one! :)
    | | Sean


    • #3
      The crate and motor arrived at Bruce Beachman's shop in Washington yesterday. The adventure begins! I asked Bruce for forensic photographs. It will be interesting to discover what happened.
      Best wishes,


      • #4
        Sorry to hear about your misadventure. but happy to hear theat you are on a path forward. I have my fingers crossed for you.

        '62 Lotus Seven
        '84 Turbo Esprit (x2)
        '14 Evora
        '77 Esprit S1 (RIP) :(

        "A man must keep a little back shop where he can be himself without reserve. In solitude alone can he know true freedom." -Michel De Montaigne 1588


        • #5
          Hi Ron,
          I looked at several alternatives, including a crate re-manufactured engine from Summit Racing, installing a used engine that "ran when parked", finding a running junkyard motor, and doing a re-build myself. For awhile, I kept coming back to doing the re-build, except that to a one, all of the resources and machine shops I've relied on in my distant past racing a B/S BMW are closed, moved-away or otherwise no longer available. Even my friends in auto repair businesses were stumped when I asked for referrals. Then Bruce Beachman responded to my inquiry with a proposal to do basically a race-quality rebuild for a reasonable price. His turnaround offer was hard to resist. Also, going with a direct re-build, I'm assured that all the wiring/plumbing interfaces will be good - not much of an issue in the old days with carbureted / point ignition engines, but a potential pain with the computer controlled stuff we're running today. So, waiting for my motor to come back home and dreaming about the terrific drives to come!
          - Clark


          • #6
            Engine tear-down report #1
            Bruce Beachman pulled the Ford Zetec cylinder head and found the culprit of my engine problem. A small piece of a nylon nut was lodged under one of the #1 cylinder intake valves. Way back, almost twenty years ago when I built the car at Jon Nelson's Rocky Mountain Sports Cars, Inc. shop in Denver, Jon delivered the motor with no fittings for the the valve cover vent - no catch tank or air cleaner fitting. So after getting the car home, I went to an auto parts store and purchased some fittings and hose to run vent plumbing to the air cleaner. The fitting in the air cleaner had a nylon nut that I screwed onto the fitting inside the air cleaner. Twenty years and 100K miles later, that nut loosened and decided to take a hike through the car's intake system, past the MAF sensor, through the throttle body, then down and up through the intake manifold and into the cylinder head. It seems impossible. Amazing! Bruce found only part of the nut, so the rest may be clogging my exhaust somewhere.
            I told Bruce to proceed with the rebuild despite finding no serious damage. The engine has 100K miles and multiple track weekends plus three AROSC enduros. It's done its duty and it seriously won't hurt to freshen things up! Besides, my friend Roger Swift warned about the devil of the beckoning upgrade path ahead.
            - Clark

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            Last edited by Clark; February 22, 2020, 10:08 AM.