COAL: 1965 Valiant, Part II • The Oregon Trail


The UO had a terrific craft centre on the bottom floor of the student union. It was really intended and configured more for pottery and suchlike than for any kind of car repair work, but it had a sandblaster I used on multiple occasions. One of those was when I finally, after a great deal of trying and waiting, got my paws on a South African 2-barrel Slant-6 intake manifold. The sandblaster did a fine job of removing the factory orange paint to reveal the manifold’s bare cast iron, and an equally efficient job of removing the grease and carbon to reveal the manifold’s fatal cracks. There was also a bench grinder fitted with buffwheels and a variety of compounds—I brought in the Valiant’s taillight lenses one day and buffed them to a glossy sheen.

And there were well-lit workbenches just perfect for whatever which projects might come to mind and hand. I don’t imagine many carburetors got built there, but I built one. In Part I of this set of stories I mentioned a new-in-box carburetor in the parts stash that came with the car, and the necessity of replacing the complete throttle linkage to accommodate the retrofitted –factory– aircon. The former met the need of the latter, and so the car had a Holley 1920 carburetor on it. Not my favourite carburetor; it has some fairly serious design flaws, like carburetor bowl gaskets below the fuel level and a side-hung float notorious for causing stalling in hard left turns, but it was a new carburetor with the needed linkage hookup, so that’s what I’d installed.

It generally ran reasonably well, but it suddenly began to run much better, which is not usually a thing, at least not the way entropy works in this universe. Nevertheless, there it was: a ’65 Valiant behaving like a fuel-injected late model with perfect driveability, starting immediately on the first try every time, even from dead cold, without the choke. It came at a steep cost, though: 9.8 whole, entire miles per gallon (24 litres/100km). Not sustainable! I pulled the carb apart and found two shiny little ball bearings and two little brass rings on the float bowl floor. The “economizer” (power) valve ball retainer rings, poorly staked at the factory, had fallen off the end of the metering block. This left the power valve wider-than-wide open full time, hence the E-Z starting and rotten mileage.

So I built a more thoughtfully designed Carter BBS for it, on one of those well-lit workbenches at the craft centre. I think I probably got the throttle body rebushed at one or another machine shop, and really went to great effort to get everything exactly right. The car got less warmblooded; now I had to engage the choke and feather the throttle a little until the engine warmed up, but the fuel consumption dropped just about in half.

And I guess that sets the table pretty well for the next batch of stories, so…tune in next week!

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