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Project Lucas, Fixing Stuff

It’s no surprise that Lucas wasn’t in the best shape when he arrived, so I have been doing small jobs here and there to try and fix some of the more annoying issues he’s had.

This post will be a bit of a mess; I have been pottering away on and off with this car for a while now but have not really had enough to bother making a post. Stick with me though, as we adventure through Rover SD1 ownership after someone has bodged a bunch of stuff.

The first job on the list was to try and seal the windscreen trim. I had a leak when it rained, and it was coming from high enough up that it was getting water into the relays under the dash (halfway up the bulkhead), so the logical choice was to try sealing the windscreen first (after checking the sunroof drains, of course).

Windscreens are common to leak on SD1s, as the original sealant perishes over time. The best option is to remove the windscreen and seal it properly, but since that’s not really a DIY option, the other recommended option to try is to seal the gap between the stainless trim and the glass, so water can’t get under the trim.

First I had to clean out the gap and dry it out. There was a ton of water and mud trapped in here even though the car had been dry for a day or two. I used an air gun on my compressor, a toothbrush and lots of rags to clean and dry it out.

Once it was clean and dry, I used windscreen sealant to carefully run a bead around the gap

It took a ton of cleaning after that to get any excess sealant off the trim and glass, but the overall result looks good. Thankfully it has worked too, even though I still have water ingress, it’s not coming from high up anymore. If I still had ingress up high I could also try sealing the other side of the trim, between the trim and the body.

Next was to investigate an annoying and potentially risky issue; the fuel pump running whenever the ignition was switched to ON.

The fuel pump is triggered by a switch inside the airflow meter (AFM) so that the pump is only running if there is air passing through the airflow meter and opening the “flap”, so if the engine stops, the fuel pump stops.

I have a spare AFM, so I connected that and sure enough, the fuel pump only ran when the flap in the airflow meter was opened, indicating the issue lay within the AFM.

I removed the AFM and took it to the bench to inspect. Of course, the black plastic cover on the top that protects all the precious internal gubbins had been sealed on with clear bathroom sealant… not even BL was that shite, so someone had been here before.

The top cover basically fell off

The fuel pump switch is here, on the left

It’s quite a simple little switch. When the contacts (cyan arrow) are closed, like they are in the photo, the fuel pump circuit will be connected and the pump will run. The thin metal strip on the left side of the switch (orange arrow) is flexible, and is meant to be pushed away from the other contact by the big grey lever at the top of the switch (pink arrow) which swings to the right the moment the flap opens even a crack.

As a bonus in the above photo, the green arrow points to the pair of wipers that run on the carbon track, which is what the ECU is reading data from as the AFM opens and closes with airflow.

Basically, someone has straightened the flexible strip (orange arrow) so that the contacts are always touching, instead of being bent to the right at the top, allowing the lever to push the contacts apart.

I could have just bent the strip again but I wasn’t sure if someone had messed with the calibration of the AFM (which can be done in the same general area), so I opted to install the spare AFM instead.

It’s a bodge; Someone trying to mask another issue by just running the pump constantly.

What would the issue be, I hear you ask? Well, cold start was the obvious one. Without the pump running constantly it was suddenly hard to start and real temperamental when it did. That’s an issue for future me though. For now, more poking and prodding.

With the AFM off it was easy to remove the air filter housing and check the air filter. I’m glad I did, as someone had once again fit the wrong filter.

NP70, my first SD1, had the same issue. From my investigation, I suspect this filter is suitable for a carb SD1, but keeps getting sold for the EFI SD1 which had a very different intake setup. The photo above is the intake side of the air box, so the only space the air has to get into the engine is the TINY gap between the outside of the rubber seal on the filter, and the metal filter housing. Such a small gap two leaves and a ciggie butt couldn’t even get through.

I don’t have a spare filter, and I’m not sure if there are even any suppliers other than Rimmers, so in the meantime I have fitted a manky old pod filter I had on hand.

It’s noisy as hell and whistles (so did the ones on both NP70 and Effie), but it has to breathe better. I noticed a huge increase in power and response when I swapped out NP70s restrictive filter.

Whilst in the general area I had a quick look at the ignition coil and noticed it was an aftermarket Bosch GT40R coil. Now, there are two issues with this. First, you aren’t mean to use the GT40 coils with electronic ignition (which the EFI SD1 has standard). Second, the R means it’s suitable for a 6v ballast resistor ignition system, where the voltage is stepped down so the coil runs at 6v (and may see switched 12v for a boost on start up). The EFI SD1 doesn’t use a ballast system and powers the coil with 12v-14v all the time.

Not ideal.

Luckily, I pulled a 12v GT40 from the TVR when I fitted the Lucas coil, so had it sitting around. No, still not ideal as it isn’t meant for electronic ignition, but until the car is on the road and driving, it will do and is better than running a 6v coil at twice the rated voltage. I don’t know how that coil was still working.

I will swap it with the correct coil later on.

Next was a bit of a luxury item, but for me it is one of the little touches that bothers me when it’s not there. The washer bottle strap.

When I got the car the washer bottle was held in place with hopes and dreams, holding on for dear life so it wouldn’t drop down straight onto the exhaust manifold. I quickly wrapped some zipties around it so that didn’t happen (as the bottles are EFI specific and unobtainium).

For Effie, I contacted the SD1 club in the UK and purchased a reproduction fabric strap which was very well made and clipped in place with the built-in snaps. I contacted them again and purchased one of the last ones available for Lucas.

The nice new strap shows up how stained the bottle is, but oh well. Along with the missing strap, was also a missing cap, so a replacement was purchased for that too (the same as a standard carb SD1 bottle cap).

It’s funny, I have photos of this car from back in 2015 when it was for sale then, and sure enough, the correct cap was missing then, and some weird clip-on cap had been bodged into place. The bottle was also held in place with a ziptie.

See glorious cap and strap (along with the new long breather hose, which I also fitted as the old one was hard as a rock and cracked)

In my quest to find out why it runs a bit like a bag of rubbish, especially when cold, I dug into the engine systems a bit more.

The worst issues were cold starting (lots and lots of cranking before it reluctantly stumbles into life) and then having to wait for it to warm up a bit before even thinking of touching the throttle or the revs would die out. Really made backing the car up the drive a pain in the backside.

I started with the ECU, mostly because there had been water ingress in that area and I wanted to check the ECU had not suffered any water damage since they aren’t sealed.

The ECU is an odd one. I removed it, and it looks nice and clean. Good start, no corrosion or moisture in the pins. It doesn’t have the usual Lucas sticker on the cover though (it did have screws, including undamaged anti-tamper screws, I have removed them). Yes, my work bench is a 31A Rover V8 Block.

It does have this sticker on the side, which seems to indicate it is the correct 83986 model, but had maybe been replaced in 1992?

Regardless, I whipped off the covers and had a look. Nice and clean.

Unfortunately no microscope this time, but I had to make do with a torch, a good squint and the zoom on my phone camera. Nothing sticks out, but I have ordered a USB microscope and will have another look when that arrives. I will probably resolder the voltage regulators anyway, along with the circuit that runs the enrichment.

The main reason I pulled this to bits was to see if there was any obvious reason why I have no acceleration or full throttle enrichment. When the key is turned to ON, if you open the throttle quickly or to wide open throttle, you should hear all eight of the injectors fire in one big CLICK. I have nothing. The throttle pot is set correctly (or so I thought), and even a test throttle pot from Effie made no difference.

I even went so far as to connect my spare ECU, but that made no difference. So either there is a wiring issue (I have checked and all pins at the ECU have the correct readings), both ECUs have the same fault, or Lucas is living up to its name.

Since the ECU was out, it was the perfect opportunity to have a play with a toy I purchased a while ago, before I had an SD1 again. The Austin Rover Fast Check unit for the EFI Rover V8.

This thing is cool. It plugs into the engine harness instead of the ECU and can test various sensors and see if they are operating correctly. You can also use the dial and push button to fire individual injectors.

The little booklet with it gives you a step-by-step test procedure, including a guide on what to check if things don’t go right.

I plugged it in, turned the key and the lights lit up

Unfortunately, as you might be able to see in the picture behind the unit, there should be LEDs lit for the AIR FLOW, IGN, COIL, and TWO for the THROTTLE POT. One of my throttle pot lights wasn’t lit.

The diagnostic procedure advised to check the calibration of the sensor, so out with a screwdriver, and a little tweaking later we had both lights.

The other tests all did as expected, so by all accounts, the injection system is electrically working as it should. Still no enrichment though…

Moving along, since the enrichment wasn’t playing ball, I set off to do something about the horrible state of the pipes around the inlet plenum.

The first issue was the hose clamp on the throttlebody end of the main intake hose from the AFM was loose, to the point the hose was just sitting in place. The clamp wouldn’t tighten either, so a quick trip to the vice, and some swift reshaping with a hammer later, and the clamp was now tight.

Next, the hoses from the over-run valve and the the throttle body to extra air pipe were both secured with zip ties and basically fell off when touched (hoses at top of the photo below)

I didn’t have the right size clamps for these but made do with some slightly bigger ones in the meantime. These are tight now.

Basically, anything that can allow unmetered air (air that hasn’t entered via the AFM and been measured) is the enemy. Unmetered air will cause the engine to have more air in the engine than the ECU knows of, so the air-fuel ratio will be on the piss.

What’s the result of this then? Well, this is how it starts now, stone cold, with no throttle or constantly running fuel pump

I blip the throttle a couple of times there too, which is something I would never dream of doing before this work, it would have stumbled and probably cut out. Now it’s sharp and crisp to respond.

When warm, the engine is running very sweet indeed. It’s idling well and responds to throttle quickly and smoothly.

I’m not saying it’s perfect, it’s not, but it’s running a damn sight better than it has since I got it. It also seems to be running a bit quieter, but I won’t know how the lifters are doing until I take it on the road again. Fingers crossed its a bit less clattery than it was.

To celebrate a job well done, I decided to pressure test the cooling system and find out where the green excitement juice on the garage floor came from.

Sure enough, two leaks. One is easy, it’s leaking from the top hose where it meets the radiator

The other is a bit harder; it’s leaking from the small bypass hose behind the water pump. I will try to tweak the hose clamp, but ultimately I will replace this when I do the thermostat as it should give me better access then.

That’s not too bad; I had expected to see coolant pouring out from under the inlet manifold since no doubt the under intake heater pipe will be on its last legs (they all are).

For the last two jobs, I did a couple of small things that should make life better. First, I replaced the tailgate struts with new ones. I used similar to the ones on Tess; Ford Falcon BA/BF (02-10) WAGON tailgate struts. They’re a smidge longer than the standard ones so the tailgate opens a bit further, which can chip the paint on the top edge if you aren’t careful, but they’re cheap, available, strong and work perfectly for opening and closing.

This means I can finally get rid of the garden stake that I have been using

Finally, I sorted some rust on the passengers floor where water had been collecting. I had to remove al the drain plugs and drill a couple of extra drainage holes since it was filling up each time it rained, but after a couple of fixes it’s now drier than it was, but it means the surface rust was starting to take hold.

I wire brushed the area, rust treated it, and then gave it a coat of black zinc. Finally, once the zinc was dry, I used a can of Mercedes metallic paint I have had for a decade or so to give it a nice protective coating of actual paint. It’s not a terrible match either.

The steel is a little frilly around the square drain plug, but that’s not major. Otherwise, it’s solid, thankfully.

The drivers’ side needs the same work, but I’m struggling with the carpet on that side, so once it’s dry I will attack that too. I know on that side it needs at least a new “paint can lid”, but they are just stuck down with seam sealer, so I might just chop some plate up into a circle and glue it down after treating everything.

I’m finally making some headway with Lucas. It’s not huge, but after having so many setbacks it’s nice to be moving forward.

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Mr Steve
Mr Steve
1 year ago

Good work!

Rob Murray
Rob Murray
1 year ago

Great post as per usual.
Good to see a good understanding of the issues and a way to fix them.