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Project Lucas, Fuelly Fixes and Bad News

It’s been an afternoon of working on Lucas today, with the intention of sorting the fuel tank once and for all but ending in a bad discovery.

I noticed when the car was still on the transporter for delivery that the fuel tank wasn’t looking too hot, and sure enough a quick peek under the car shows there is a fairly significant dent in the rear of the tank, denting it upwards. Worse than that, was that there seemed to be a lot of moisture/melting paint in a couple of spots on the underside. Yay.

Tanks for the EFI cars are borderline unobtainable, and no one is reproducing them, so my only real option was to work with what I had, or try a source another good used one, which was fruitless.

I’ve been putting this off for a bit because I haven’t had the motivation to roll around under the car on the cold garage floor, but today was the day I couldn’t put it off any longer.

I got the car in the air, and sure enough, the back of the tank has a nice dent. It’s hard to tell in the photo but the whole back of the tank is pushed up a CM or two with some rippling and creasing along the back edge.

You can see the dark damp spot on the inner edge, along with the one in the middle of the tank

I lowered the rear seat, lifted the carpet and exposed the fuel sender

I wanted to see what the inside of the tank looked like (if it’s rusty, it’s trash) and see if the dent could be pushed out, so using a hammer and flat blade I removed the locking ring and removed the sender.

The sender had some surface corrosion on it, but nothing major. The inside of the tank was a massive relief though; the tank is shiny and silver, no obvious rust. The exception is some flakes on the bottom of the tank, and the pickup swirl pot has a covering of rust flakes on the bottom (the strainer was still in place on the outlet). The tank will need to come out for a proper cleanout and fix, but that is a future issue.

So the good news is the tank is worth persisting with and I’m not chasing rust holes.

With the sender out the dent was right there, below the hole. I tried to use an old Toyota suspension arm to hammer the dent out a bit, but it kept slipping. I would’ve liked to use something like a broom handle or other length of wood, but didn’t have anything on hand. I’m not sure I made any difference.

I cleaned the areas in question with brake cleaner and a rag before giving it all a sand with a coarse grit paper

You can actually see the two pin holes that are leaking; immediately after cleaning the area, these two spots would have a growing ring of dampness around them.

The tank is super low on fuel, it ran out of fuel on the drive when I got the car, and I have put about 8L into the tank since. I’ve kept it low waiting for this repair, as this allowed me to raise the rear of the car and slosh all the fuel to the front of the tank, away from the damaged area.

I started with the weird leak in the middle. This looked like someone had driven a screw into the tank and then soldered around it. I cleaned it up, sanded it and then scuffed it with a file before mixing some steel reinforced epoxy putty up and squishing it into place

This stuff is meant to bond to steel and is impervious to fuel, so should seal the leaks, in theory.

Next, I did the same to the pin holes and sealed them with the putty too

I had to redo the one on the right as it wasn’t bonding to the tank too well and had a growing ring of dampness around it. I chipped it off, scuffed the area with the file again, and then using force, smeared some of the putty hard into the area. Once this was slightly cured, I then used more of the putty over top of it. This seems to have worked.

The putty is currently curing, and I will lower the car down tomorrow and see if there is any further fuel seeping around the repairs. If not, The area will get some paint and that’s the job done.

The other issue with the tank was that the breather hose in the rear wheel well had done its dash

Strangely I don’t have any 12-13mm-1/2″ fuel hose on hand, so I’ll pick some up on my way home from work tomorrow. It’s no wonder the tank was dry, it just either leaked out or evaporated away.

Before working on the tank I checked the fuel pressure, just as a matter of course. It’s all within spec, 36psi with the engine off, and 30psi at cold idle. No issues there. It was a bit slow to build pressure when cranking, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was due to the low fuel level.

The last job I did in the engine bay was to look at the coolant leaks I found last time. I tweaked the hose clamp on the waterpump hose and found the radiator top hose wasn’t fully on the radiator fitting, so loosened that and pushed it further on.

A pressure test now results in no coolant on the ground, which is a major achievement for one of my cars. The hoses still need to be replaced, but that should keep it happy for now.

Now for the bad news. I poked the orange scab on the floor.

I knew the driver’s side of the floor wasn’t in as good shape as the passengers’ side, mainly because I could see the “paint tin lid” trying to make a break for it on the underside of the floor.

By the way, the reason they are called “paint tin lids”? Because they literally are, people have often used the lids from 1L tins and found them to be the same as what Rover supplies. They are bonded into a recessed hole in the floor and are a massive trap for water.

After the success of the passengers side last time, I was hoping for something similar, but with having to replace the tin lid. Sadly that was not to be.

I removed the driver’s seat, as I needed to lift the carpet further. To do this you remove the two nuts from the front of the rails, these go onto studs

And then slide the seat all the way forward and look inside the rails for the four torx T40 bolts (two per side) that have square washers

Undo those and the seat will just lift out of place. I tipped it over and into the back seat, but if you wanted to completely remove the seat you would also need to disconnect the seatbelt from the seat.

With the seat out of the way I lifted the carpet further and found despite the car being in the garage with the carpet partially lifted for a week, the underlay was still sopping wet in the footwell. I also started poking around at the cracked underseal and orange scabs, and ended up with this under the car

Some stabbing with a screwdriver and scrubbing with a wire brush and I revealed this

Damn. The hole for the lid has become somewhat overside, with some thin metal towards the inner sill, and another hole formed near the inner sill toward the front of the car.

I’m pissed off it’s that rusty and the seller swore the car was rust-free, but I’m not too daunted by it (I’d be crying in a corner if I discovered this a couple of years ago). I have a plan of how to fix it already, which will get rid of the paint tin lid completely and restore good metal to the area, but that’ll take some time to do since I will need to strip a bunch of the interior out to make it safe to weld.

So that’s where we are for now. I’m still trying to dry it all out, but I’m tempted to just bin that underlay and use some of the jute underlay I have to make a removable mat for under the carpet, so if it gets wet again I can just pull that out and dry it out. Foam is never a good idea where it might get wet.

This whole car has been one step forward and three steps backwards. It’ll be a great car once I’m done with it though, I’m sure.

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