She’s blown my head……..gasket

The tale of Suspected head gasket problem

Here we go…..   I’ve owned my Stag since 2006 and purchased it with a newish rebuilt engine. She has been a great performer until three years ago she developed a slight ‘shimmy’ on tickover and a vibration running at speed. Whilst inspecting the underneath I spotted a slight weep from the offside head, so suspicions were aroused. I also intermittently started to get a pressurised expansion bottle, even when cold. Talking to the experts the only way you can get a pressurised bottle is exhaust gases leaking into the water jacket. Ughh! Sounds like, looks like, tastes like blown head gaskets. No choice but to bite the bullet and have a go. Fellow club members Roger Phillips and Bill Fannon did their normal ‘rat out of a drainpipe’ impression, dropping their personal work schedules to help. Roger and I started on a cool but dry Sunday morning Bill joining us later. First job is to get the top of the engine clear of Air box, carbs, etc. 2014 March - Engine Strip 002 I took photos of anything like the coil that had wires on it so that we know exactly where to put it back on rebuild. Just a little tip, take photos of anything where you could get parts the wrong way round. 2014 March - Engine Strip 003 The banjo bolt for the servo vacuum pipe was ridiculously tight, no idea why! Perhaps whoever did it up had eaten three shredded wheat for breakfast. 2014 March - Engine Strip 005 Inlet manifold next. Not all of the bolts have socket access so a couple need to be spannered out.

Pile of bits so far.   (hope we can remember where they all go) 2014 March - Engine Strip 016 Next we start removing the studs. If you’re going to have a problem, this will be the likely culprit. Depending upon how long the studs have been in and how they were put in, i.e dry without some sort of protective grease such as copper ease or molybdenum grease.   They can be very reluctant to come out. Normally because they’ve ‘welded’ themselves to the head. 2014 March - Engine Strip 017 Getting the special tool off the extracted stud. 2014 March - Engine Strip 018 Fitting the outer part of the extractor to the stud. NOTE always remove the big washer under the nut head, as this gives you close to an extra 1/8th of an inch of thread to go at.

Fitting and tightening the inner part of the tool against the outer part, this locks them together and onto the stud.

To remove the stud you simply undo the outer part. Such a simple word ‘simple’. 6 of the 8 studs came out without any drama at all. For the mathematicians amongst you, you’ll realise that two of the little blighters didn’t come out nicely. 2014 March - Engine Strip 024 The next job was to drop the exhausts off the manifolds. For this you need a special flexible tool, in the form of my lad Sam, 28 years old and a damn sight more flexible than either me or Roger. 2014 March - Engine Strip 028 We aligned the timing marks on the cam shaft sprocket with the cut outs on the first retaining cap, to ensure No 2 pot was on TDC. This was not absolutely necessary for my job as I’m replacing the timing chains anyway. 2014 March - Engine Strip 029 If you’re not replacing timing gear you need to lock the cam sprockets onto the guides within the cover before removing the sprocket from the camshaft to stop the tension of chains etc being lost.   The following picture shows the sprocket retained into it’s guide.

2014 March - Engine Strip 035

Knocking back the tab washer to enable us to remove the sprocket. NOTE the cloth to prevent any stray bits of metal dropping into the covers and consequently the sump.   Next we undid the two bolts and remove the sprocket.

Nearside head off. Note the rear stud still in place, one of the two little blighters. We stillsoned it out after successfully removing head, we had very little clearance to get it off with the exhaust manifold still on the head. At one point we thought we’d have to remove the manifold BUT luckily there was enough room, just! In case any of you are wondering we didn’t use the chisel to remove anything, it was just used as a wedge. 2014 March - Engine Strip 036 On the offside head the rear stud once again refused to budge using the extractor tool or two nuts together, so we eased the head far enough off to get the stillsons in to break the studs hold in the block. Bill, who has immense experience in engine work has never seen a stud stuck this hard in a block before. Just goes to show, you’re never to old to learn something new. 2014 March - Engine Strip 038 With radiator out, next job was to free off the front cover bolts and remove the cover.   We were lucky and it came away from the sump gasket without damaging it. We were prepared to simply replace that front cover section of the sump gasket and sealer if we had damaged it. As it happens when we replace we’ll simply put a bit of sealer for added comfort. 2014 March - Engine Strip 041 The timing gear etc is pristine, so we’ve decided only to replace the chains. There is absolutely no wear on sprockets, guides etc.

2014 March - Engine Strip 042

Now for the proof that the head gaskets had gone…… No 3 Cylinder outer edge, no wonder there was a little drip coming from there. 2014 March - Engine Strip 044 No 7 Cylinder showing damage to the rear edge. 2014 March - Engine Strip 045 No 4 Cylinder showing signs of creepage. Note, on a compression test the pressure on 4 was well down, BUT on inspection of the cylinder there’s no sign of damage so we’re hoping we’ve got a dodgy valve or seat. Bill has the heads so we’ll know soon. 2014 March - Engine Strip 046 No 8 Cylinder showing signs of failure. 2014 March - Engine Strip 047 MORE TO FOLLOW AS WE PROGRESS – Come back for part 2 – Head cleaning and prep.


PLEASE NOTE – these are NOT instructions on how to undertake this job just some pics and words of our experiences, always consult professionals when undertaking any repairs or restorations. (please refer to the disclaimer on our about page)

Stag Surprise!!!!!

Those wonderful peeps at the SOC have been at it again, this time a father was surprised by his son and one of our members, here is their story…….

A few months back I got in touch with the Triumph Stags Owners club, to ask if anyone could help me surprise my Dad with an afternoon drive out in a Stag. My Dad has never been able to afford one but really likes the car, and at home he just keeps on saying he would like to own one, so what would be better than to surprise him with a drive in one?

Kindly, Carl Fuss put me in touch with a chap called Andrew Smith who was the Coordinator for the Essex area. Our emails went back and forth trying to escalate planning an afternoon out in his car, but with the weather being poor and family commitments our plans were promptly stalled. Weeks went by but we both still stayed in contact, when I received an exciting email from Andrew saying “I can make this weekend how’s about meeting at the Hawk at Battlesbridge?”

A beautiful morning started off mine and my Dad’s day on Saturday 1st of March. We made our way to the Hawk pub where we had this surprise in store. Finally after meeting Andrew for the first time after all these emails, we had a nice drink and a chat over not just Triumph Stags but Triumph Vitesse’s too as my Dad owns two of them and has had them recently restored.

We were lead out to a beautiful well restored Stag which was glowing in the sun, with this in front of me and my Dad we couldn’t wait to be driven around. We made our way through the town and country roads and the car handled so well dipping in and out of corners with power and gracefulness, I myself  personally am not a big fan of classic cars but this one was an exception the ride was so smooth and could near on match a modern car, Andrew should be proud.


Andrew on the day was most helpful with a lot of information and passion given, we both were so grateful for the kindness he showed and how he went out of his way to make our day as this is a rarity in this modern fast paced world. So would just like to say a massive thank you to Andrew and the impression he left on us both not just of himself but of the club too.


Chris and Steve Wayling

Chilly Cover Story

So wondering about our fab cover photo…..

Well…’s the story, sent in by Chris Liles from the Norfolk Area

The Frostbite Run (by Simon Goldsworthy, Editor, Triumph World)

Remember when all that freezing weather brought Britain temporarily to a standstill in January 2010? Well, it takes more that a little snow and ice to stop some Triumph enthusiasts from enjoying their cars, as we found out.

The rumble from the twin tailpipes rises as the wheels scrabble for grip. Willing helpers bounce on the rear bumper to help the tyres find that extra ounce of grip through the hard packed ice as the driver tries desperately to balance forward momentum against an excess power and wheel spin. Bit by bit the Stag fish tails up the side of the mountain, finally cresting the ridge with a gasping leap. Ah yes, this is what rallying is all about!

It is not, however, what you would expect from a gentle 25-mile club run around the English countryside. And while I may have over-played the drama in that little description of events, I can assure you that everything I wrote really did happen, and at the time it really was that exciting. Even the mountain bit, and since we were in famously-flat Norfolk, that was a big surprise.

But then again, the whole day was full of surprises. The New Year’s Run had been planned by Club Triumph members Alan and Christine Hancock and, as I have intimated, was meant to be a non-competitive 25-mile run following Tulip diagrams. As so often happens at the local level, there is considerable crossover of both cars and owners between the various Triumph clubs, and members of the Stag Owners Club had also been invited along to share the fun – they call it the Frostbite Run because of their preference for going topless even in the depths of winter. And I in turn had been offered the navigator’s seat in Chris Liles’ Stag.

So far, so good. But when I woke on the morning of the run, it was to be greeted by a thick blanket of snow and ice – it looked like the Frostbite Run might really live up to its name. Still, I carefully slithered my way across Norwich to the meeting point at the Caistor Hall Hotel and was soon joined by Chris and two more Stags, one driven by Peter and Val Herwin, the other also owned by them but lent to friends Peter and Jean O’Neill whose own Stag was currently enjoying an overdue engine rebuild.

While we were chatting, three more SOC teams slid into the car park. Among them was another Stag (this time with a hardtop firmly in place) owned by Donald and Jane Mickleborough, as well as a Mazda MX5 driven by Brian Thompson (currently between Stags) and the Mercedes coupé of Dean and Tina Barker (their Stag is nearing the end of a total rebuild). Club Triumph cars included a Herald Coupé and a TR7, as well as a couple of moderns.

Frostbite Run 1-09 Caistor Hall start

The pre-run briefing was a good-news/bad-news affair. The good news was that the hotel had laid on coffee and hot chocolate; the bad news was that Alan Hancock was not happy about the road conditions. He had already been forced to revise the route once to avoid a couple of river fords that were flooded, and while the new route had been passable with care the day before, the snow and ice of last night had made them even more tricky. He suggested that it might be wisest to put the run on hold for a week or two.

In the end, the Club Triumph crews decided to postpone the run on the eminently sensible basis that if they rescheduled it for a less icy day, more members would be able to enjoy the fruits of Alan and Christine’s hard work. After a bit of discussion, though, the SOC crews decided to give it a go despite the weather. As we gathered our Tulip notes, I had a momentary twinge of conscience that they might be doing this for my benefit rather than because they thought it was a good idea (I was soon disabused of that notion).

I wasn’t the only one having a twinge of conscience, either. Chris later told me that he was a little worried it might look as though the SOC had hijacked the Club Triumph event but that, as Area Co-ordinator for the SOC, his members regarded him as their ‘gob on a stick, and if I hadn’t suggested going despite the weather, they would never have forgiven me.’ Fortunately I don’t think either of us needed to worry, as inter-club relations appeared undamaged when we eventually met up with Club Triumph for lunch in Wymondham. As for the SOC members – well, I soon discovered that they are completely barmy and the adverse weather conditions only added to their enjoyment of a great day out.

So off we set in convoy, me wondering how I would manage to talk, write notes and scout for photo locations whilst also fulfilling my role as navigator and following the Tulip directions. I needn’t have worried though, as Stags are not the only classic items to find favour among the Norfolk branch of the SOC. There were also three CB radios in our little convoy, with Val in the lead Stag calling in warnings of ice and tricky turns and Jean keeping us up to date with progress at the tail. And that included the occasional wiggle from the back end, to which Val replied: ‘Don’t worry, that red car likes a little bit of arse wiggle now and again.’ Remarkably, this passed without further comment, proof if ever proof were needed that the ladies had control of the CB in their cars and that Chris is a bit of a gentlemanly gob-on-a-stick!

Now, I don’t propose to give a blow-by-blow account of the entire journey, so you can wipe that worried look off your brow. Suffice it to say that what should have been a 45-minute jaunt took us nearly two hours and the 25.5 miles measured over 27 on Chris’ tripometer – whether from inaccuracy or the spinning wheels, we are not quite sure. But the centrepiece of the day does bear relating, and that of course will be forever known as the Norfolk Mountain incident.

It started off benignly enough, just a shallow ford across a river to provide a little extra interest and a photo opportunity. On the other side of the water, we paused while Peter and Val gave in to peer pressure and put the roof of their Stag down. As we set off again, a passing dog-walker waved and wished us luck getting up the hill. We thought that was a bit pessimistic, at least we did until we turned a corner and saw that the road was a single track, surprisingly steep and with a nasty 90 degree bend right near the top. Fortunately there was a fresh carpet of snow over the ice that gave the tyres something to dig into. We watched Peter and Val power steadily up the hill and round the bend without a hitch, then set off after them.

And that’s where the fun began. Just around the corner and only yards from the top of the hill, we were brought to a stop on the incline by a VW Polo trying to come in the opposite direction. ‘We tried to warn them that there were more cars coming up behind us,’ said Val over the CB, ‘but they thought we were just waving friendly like and kept on going.’

What then ensued would have graced the finest of Keystone Kops movies. The VW backed out of the way to get a good vantage point for watching proceedings as Chris struggled to find grip for a standing start on ice which had just been polished by Peter and Val. The helpful suggestion that he should put his wallet on the back seat to aid traction fell on deaf ears, so I hopped out to give a little extra shove. So did Brian and Dean in the cars behind, and that did just enough to get Chris moving forward and over the hill.

The same was done with Brian’s Mazda, at which point there was a shout from Tina in the passenger seat of the Mercedes. This was slowly disappearing round the corner and sliding back down the hill. Off Dean sprinted, heroically leaping into the car but then wondering how to stop it sliding if the handbrake was already on and it was in gear. Fortunately, before re-designing the front end of Donald’s Stag (which was reversing at quite a rate of knots downhill and away from the danger zone), Dean stopped the slide by parking the rear bumper gently into the bank. The Merc was then manhandled back onto the road and pushed, pulled and generally coerced unwillingly up the hill.

Unfortunately that left the remaining two Stags with a longer (and now very shiny) hill to climb. While the rest of the gang slipped and slided down the hill on foot to help, I got my camera out and took up residence at the best viewpoint. The driver of the VW joined me. Apparently, he only wanted to get down to one of the three houses at the bottom of the hill where a family Sunday dinner was being prepared. I apologised for holding him up, but he was more than happy to wait – dinner wouldn’t be ready for another hour anyway, and this was far more entertaining than peeling vegetable and stuffing a chicken.

Donald actually did rather well getting up the hill, with Dean sat on the bootlid for extra ballast and everybody else pitching in with a shove whenever they found enough of a foothold. But Peter and Jean were then faced with a virtual Cresta Run in reverse and my abiding memory of the day is seeing the red Stag inch its way up the hill, piled high with bodies and slewing from side to side. Like a rugby scrum defending a narrow lead under their own goalposts, when one body fell off (I won’t say who because Brian asked me not to!) they ran round the back and jumped on again. Peter Herwin didn’t fall off though, because he got hooked on the aerial. Like the captain of the ship, he was thus the last to leave his loaned-out Stag when it finally crested the hill.


That brought the day’s drama to a close, the second half of the route proving to be less treacherous and giving us all the opportunity to look up and finally see just how beautiful the Norfolk countryside was on this sunny, icy day. Every junction was still a bit of an adventure, but by keeping the speed low and using the Stag’s ability to pull well from low revs, we reached the pub in Wymondham for lunch with nothing more dramatic than the occasional tail wag and spinning wheel. Not that the slow pace mattered one bit. As Brian said, it was not about miles per hour, but rather about smiles per hour. And we had loads of those.

SOC Team

Stoneleigh Triumph and MG Spares Day

Been a busy ole weekend, first we attended Club Expo at Gaydon yesterday and then off to the spares day today (sunday).

The guys and galls were over at Stoneleigh Park yesterday setting up the stand and getting the 4 cars into position and gleaming after a final polish.

This year the format was a bit different, the Triumph and MG spares days are usually separate but this year they combined them and it took place the weekend after Race Retro, so all the layout for that was still in place. So this year we had a very nice covered walkway between the halls and cattle sheds and heating and carpets in the sheds where our stand was – all in all loads more civilised and more importantly not as COLD!!

Our stand was busy with folks all day, it was as usual a wonderful day to catch up with other members and also chatting to the people at the show!

We (thats me and my much better half) have both a Stag and an MG so for us these two shows being combined this year was just a win – win for us. It did feel generally busier too and hope that the format suited others as well, its nice to be able to see other cars at these events, and there is always the chance that some of those MG owners will also see the light as we have and get a Stag too!!

There were some nice cars on display from all the clubs that attended, so well done all that  came to display there prized possessions. Its a great shopping event but would be no where near as good without all those wonderful cars to look around too!!!