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An easy French affair, right?

Rosie the 504 – still in the garage

23/09/2013 12:40 |  Comments: 


Former car restorer, damper designer, rotary-engine guru and also an automotive engineer, but generally doesn’t talk much about his former activities. András is our mag’s Leatherman tool: when there’s a project no-one would poke with a stick, he’s the one usually assigned to carry it through. When he’s in Hungary, he works 16 hours daily, then every once in a while he disappears from the horizon. Last time he’s been seen in Auckland… Has a huge garage, lives with a girlfriend.

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  • Peugeot 504 'Rosie' (1972)
  • BMW 1602 (1975)
  • Yamaha FZR1000 Genesis (1988)
A broken alternator, a messy injection pump and some oil drops. Nothing to be worried about when putting together an old Peugeot.

It's late, well after 10 PM, bugs are humming around the neon tubes in the garage. I'm sitting wearily on the stool, working all day has sapped all my energy. I'll just pump up the tyres and drive home, straight to my bed. I can just reach the valve of the front tyre from the stool, and grab the hose of the compressor. I pull on it but damn, it won't come loose, it's stuck under the boom of the engine crane which is sitting around on the garage floor. I reach out with my left hand to free it. Thud, the heavy piece of iron falls on my thumb. Ouch!

I'm crawling back on to the stool to examine my finger. It moves. I take a deep breath, maybe frown a bit, and as if I had called him, Lucifer appears next to the Peugeot. His sulphurous smell is coming through the garage's greasy odour, his face is black as if he had been grinding coal-bricks for two days in a row. He's as small as a hundred-year-old dwarf, his head is at the same height as the roofline of the 504. He releases a bit of white smoke through his ears, knocks once on the floor with his rusty three-pronged fork, and says with a mean look: “Told ya!” Then he disappears.

It's time to think over how I got on here with Rosie. Now, I happen not to be in a rush, while my finger is pulsating and swelling.

Let's see: problems with the injection pump, a bit of oil dripping, a faulty alternator, a broken ignition switch and a wobbly suspension. The to-do-list for Rosie wasn't too long when I bought her, nevertheless it's been months since I started repairing her, and last time I reported on the progress it seemed as if we were close to the end. And only now she is creeping back on the streets, frightening the passers-by like Frankenstein, while I couldn't say she's finished by any means. But I have good excuses, as always.

Even though buying my 504 started off as an inevitable, fatal, self-destructive process, with good humour I could have called it an interim project. While my BMW 1602 was spending some time in the body shop, my vacant garage was yawning, waiting for fresh rust. I couldn't spend all my time looking for Bimmer parts, I just needed some grease under my fingernails. An easy affair as with Rosie should do it.

Okay, when I bought her, the experienced eye could already tell it was more than a weekend's job. But nobody expected me to spend months to get her running. I guess she was upset, because I left her standing around for a while when I bought a Fiesta XR2. That must be the reason why our relationship started off a bit bumpy.

Take the alternator, for example. I can put together such a primitive thing in half an hour while watching TV. In fact, I didn't want to put it on the to-do-list, because it takes longer to write down the ten letters than to solve the problem. I even had a spare one, although a different type, but it shouldn't be a complicated task to repair one of them. So, in the end it turned out that the diodes were burnt out in each one, and new ones would have cost just too much for this project.

No big deal I thought, the very same engine was used in Ford Sierras as well, so I'll quickly get an alternator from a Sierra. This one should be easy to come by. There are enough V-belts on the pulleys, I'll pick one to drive the alternator; the only important thing is the mounting bracket on the engine block.

My guess was close enough. I managed to find a used, but neat Bosch alternator, sold together with the mounting bracket. It wasn't exactly cheap, but to make things worse, after trying all the 68 possible positions to fit it to the engine, it turned out that none of those worked. In the position in which it looked like it should be – hanging on the side of the block –, it was almost perfect, only the cross beam holding the nose of the Peugeot was in the way. I concluded that this must be different in the Sierra, which is good for an explanation, but it won't solve my problem.

Let's face it, this was the third alternator. This one seemed to be okay, but it was just impossible to mount it onto the engine. I've taken apart the first two, diagnosed and located some parts for them. A few days have gone with zero result. And this one also turned out to be a mistake after spending some hours in the garage. I wasn't truly happy when I took out the alternator box in my garage.

I managed to put five alternators in a row, all of them possible candidates. I didn't give a shit any more how close it came to the original one, it should just work – period. The winner was a Bosch unit that came out of the engine bay of a 6-cylinder BMW - it was possible to fit it to the engine with minor engineering, only the pulley was inappropriate. I was glad to discover this fact, because I'd have probably gone mad if it had been perfect. That would have meant that all the previous work would have been for nothing. But I had to put on the double pulley of the Sierra, so I could at least say it wasn't totally obsolete.

Meanwhile, I also worked on the injection pump. I've already mentioned how much fun it was to clean the debris out of the whole fuel system, but that was just the warm-up. After that I had to remove and refit the Bosch pump only three more times, with interim half hours of turning the starter motor without any result. To be precise, it was obvious that this wonderful piece of engineering could already suck in the fuel, the only problem was it wouldn't spit it out properly. A few drops of fuel were delivered to the injectors, but this made the problem only more mysterious. Remember, this engine actually ran, before I removed the injection pump to overhaul it, so it could only be my fault.

Finally I took apart the good old Bosch VE unit once more, and examined each and every part as closely as I could. Of course I've fucked it up. The adjusting arm was bent. That's something that would never happen on a running engine, so I must have made some kind of mistake when putting it together. The result was that the fuel pump delivered zero fuel all the time, so the only thing I couldn't explain was the drops that came out at the injectors. Never mind, there are always some strange things with those old engines.

When I got bored with those two leisure activities, I had a third problem to solve. After removing the cooling radiator, it was obvious that the engine had lost considerable amounts of oil at the front radial seal of the crankshaft pulley. It was a matter of minutes to remove the pulley, but some seconds later it was also clear that changing the seal wouldn't be the solution. The dirt had machined a frighteningly deep groove into the sealing surface of the pulley.

I dug out all the parts which came with Rosie, and tried to find something similar to the damaged pulley, but I only found one which was even worse. Much worse! Another dilemma: should I locate a good Sierra-pulley or rather have a sleeve machined. A third option would be to turn the pulley to a smaller radius and use a different-sized seal. One of my colleagues helped, when I mentioned this problem at a rather boring meeting - he recommended a product from SKF, the speedi-sleeve, which I hadn't heard of before.

I sincerely hope that every gearhead already knows this great product, but for those who don't, this might be some useful information. The speedi-sleeve is - as you might guess – a sleeve, but only a few tenths of a millimetre thick, precisely machined for hammering on the badly worn surface. Its thickness allows it to be used with the normal size radial seal ring, it'll only be a bit tighter. The surface will be perfect, you only need to add a bit of liquid gasket to seal the gap underneath. All the necessary tools to fit it are included - it's not exactly cheap, but if you can get it off the shelf, it will save you a trip to the machine shop.

I was so happy about having repaired the pulley that I couldn't believe my ears when fitting it to the crankshaft. But in fact something produced a slight click, which could be nothing else than the laid-in key I had glued in with some grease. And if there was a click, it must have fallen out. Inside the chain cover! Guess what, this was correct: when I pulled out the pulley, the key was gone.

I had fitted pulleys to crankshafts many times in my life, but something shameful like this had never happened before. I had to remove the chain cover. After seeing the chain, I tightened it, put on a thin line of liquid gasket and back goes the cover, click. Dropped it again! Anything you do twice will be quicker the second time – if you ever need to take off the chain cover of an Indenor engine, I'll do it in ten minutes for you. Finally I glued in the key, marked the exact position with a pen and with a flashlight in my mouth I perfectly mated the pulley. Success!

A new water pump for 3 Euros from Ebay, a formed rubber hose from the local parts dealer off the shelf, a few universal hoses here and there and the Peugeot started on the first turn of the key. The injection pump that I had to take apart three times, ticked over happily, the jinxed alternator produced 14 volts, and the pulley – just pulled the belt. And the mysterious knocking which had frightened me to death before I pulled out the injection pump, disappeared. I can't believe it, Rosie seems almost ready to go. The worst problems seem to be solved.

What about my finger? Well, it's broken, but it'll heal. Likewise I hope that the wounds that left some scars while putting the old Peugeot together, will heal completely when she is back on the road.

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