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Project Lucas, Its an Engine, Kinda

Well, it’s most of the bits to make an engine, anyway.

As part of the purchase agreement of the car, the seller said he had “Some spares” that would come with the car. I didn’t know what and didn’t really bother to ask (any spares are a bonus, and I have lots of spares as it is, so it’s just more to add to my collection).

When we were in good standing we were going to meet up a couple of hours north of where I live, as he was coming down to visit family, and I would collect the parts then. That all turned to custard once I realised what a bastard he was, so I decided to just write the spares off.

A week or two ago the seller got in touch and said he had the spares and was willing to crate them up and ship them down, at no charge to me. This time he alluded to what the spares were “it’s the original engine and some other bits”. As this was the first time he had mentioned anything about the car not having its original engine, I was a little taken back by this revelation, not to mention this would have made collecting the spares a bit of a surprise if I chose to take the Swift that day.

I would be stupid to say no, so after some back and forth on things like “how heavy is it?” “will I need a forklift to move it?”, we arranged for the crate to be sent to my local freight depot and I would collect it with a friend that has a van.

As it turned out, the engine was in more bits than expected, which made it much easier to work with anyway. It arrived in a big crate, but we ended up unloading it into the back of our trusty Honda. The block being the heaviest part, and even that is only 30 odd KG and can be (just) lifted by one weakling.

It’s funny how much space an exploded diagram of an engine takes, compared to the assembled unit.

The Honda took it like a champ, riding low in the back but with plenty of suspension travel

After work I unloaded the car and got my first look at what I had obtained. First, I could see in the photos, but it was good to confirm it was the correct stamped 31A engine, with the correct 9.75:1 compression ratio.

I was wondering if it was the original stamping or not, but the layout and font style is consistent with the stamping on the 11A engine in the car currently, it just looks rough as guts.

I purchased an engine stand, but haven’t set it up yet, so I’m yet to remove the pistons from the block and check the bores, but from the top of the bores I can see, they look like they would go again with a light hone. The pistons appear to be the correct high compression ones too (shallower recess in the crown).

The engine is completely stripped, other than the pistons being left in their bores, and the lifters all being stuck in place.

The crank isn’t looking too hot. It has light surface rust on it, but the journals are all scored to some degree too. It should be reusable with some machine work though, even if oversize bearings are needed.

The cam behind it is looking quite tired too. I plan on replacing that anyway, so no issue.

The first signs of issues began when I found the oil pump gears. I was told by the previous owner that “it looks like something went through the oil pump” and he ain’t wrong. One of the gears is properly chewed up, but only one…

The bottom of the oil pump housing looks fine, with only minor scoring, which is about what I’d expect for a high KM, somewhat badly looked after, engine

The bearings were next. These were all nicely dumped into a cardboard tray, and they’re all kinds of bad. The majority were through to the copper, and all of them had some scoring. They should be a nice dull grey with an even, smooth coating.

The big ends were worn. Ignore the scuffing, that’ll be from knocking around in the box.

And the main bearings are really worn. This one even has an extra oil channel ground into it

I don’t know what on earth happened to this bearing, and if it was whilst it was in the engine or not, but its ugly

From the numbers on the bearings, they appear to be standard size, original bearings. Likely the ones the engine was built with.

The good news is that the heads are the original EFI heads

This is most obvious due to the injector cutouts in the intake ports. I bet the heads currently in the car don’t have these.

Annoyingly as far as I can see, the rocker assemblies weren’t marked, so I have no idea which side of the engine they were originally on. Same with the pushrods, they are all just dumped in the box, so I don’t know if I can/should use those again. Probably not to the pushrods, but maybe the rockers will be fine with new pushrods? Pending inspection of them and their shafts, of course.

The plan this weekend is to get the block on the engine stand, get the pistons out, and see what the liners/bores and pistons are like. If they aren’t too bad, this engine will be saved. I will need to measure the heads, as going from the used composite gaskets in the box, they have likely been skimmed once already, and they can only be skimmed so far before needing replacement. I will also look into whether I can use the newer 3.9 heads as the valve stem seals are far better than the SD1 style.

It looks like the engine was super tired, and not that well looked after, even before the oil pump shat the bed and dumped bits of metal throughout the engine. I did want to upgrade the car to a 3.9 or 4.6, but if I can put the original, numbers matching, 31A engine back into the car, I think that is best.

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1 year ago

Great to read an update! Hope the engine can be saved.