Wheel alignment

Saturday 29 October 2022

Back to the future again

Back in the early 90's, I rode a BMW K100 RS.  It was a heavy old beast but handled well and was pretty quick.  Reliability was excellent which was just as well given the outrageous cost of parts.  By way of a minor example, a BMW replacement accessory port (much like a cigar lighter socket) was over twice the price of one marketed by Hella.  Probably manufactured by the same company as the only visual difference was the packaging.

BMW K100RS, circa 1994, Taranaki Province
In 8 years of ownership, the only significant problem showed up on my first ever Rusty Nuts 1000 miles/1600 km in under 24 hours event I took part in.  That was 1996.  Late in the ride when giving it fairly large amounts of throttle, it felt sluggish but at lesser amounts of throttle, it behaved normally.  Over the following weeks, it got progressively worse.  Starting a ride, it behaved normally for half an hour or so then the symptoms started appearing, not responding properly to more than half throttle.  Leave it for a while and it was fine for a short while and then it started all over again.

I failed dismally in finding the cause and ended up taking it to a BMW dealer I knew and trusted.  It took them a while to find the cause but they discovered that the relatively new in-line fuel filter was full of a fine powdery substance.  Their theory was that when the bike wasn't running, the powder sat in the bottom of the filter but when it was running with high fuel flows, it gradually got stirred up and attached itself to the filter medium, partially blocking fuel flow.   A filter change completely solved the problem, but where did the powder come from?  It so happened that not long before I did the big ride, leaded fuel was discontinued in NZ and it was suggested that vehicles which relied on lead to prevent valve seat recession used a substitute called Valvemaster.  This was a viscous liquid which was squirted into a fuel tank via a syringe.  Many vehicles at this time were carbureted but fuel injected ones like the BMW used filters with an exceedingly fine mesh.  It was pretty clear that some of the particulates in Valvemaster were too big to pass through the mesh and that's what caused the performance issues.  After talking to the BMW national service manager, I discontinued using the additive and there were no further problems.  His contention was that the 30,000 km I'd already covered on the bike would have work hardened the valve seats.  A really odd problem but one that I've never forgotten and is relevant to the current time.

Moving forward to the present, we've owned our 1972 MGB GT for a little over a year.  The previous owner kept meticulous records of the 2017/8 restoration but nothing of consequence in terms of routine maintenance.  Most of my efforts have been directed at undertaking and recording preventive maintenance, including dates and mileages.  Harking back to the BMW problem, the 50 year old MG uses a fuel additive as a lead substitute so this week, I changed the in-line fuel filter as there was no record of when it was last done.  I also took to it with a hacksaw to have a look at the internals.  Here's a photo.

Sectioned in-line Fram fuel filter

The paper element has a considerable amount of gritty substance in it which doesn't appear to be ferrous (i.e. rust from the fuel tank).  Not sure whether it allows particulate matter from the modern lead substitute to pass through but in any event, fuel starvation hasn't been an issue.  There was a small amount of crap sitting in the casing itself which drained out when I cut it.  Difficult to know how long it took to accumulate with no maintenance history but it does serve to show the value of a fuel filter in preventing blockages and wear and tear to a vehicle fuel system.  Its replacement has a clear casing so I should be able to monitor condition from now on.

The new Repco fuel filter on the MG

My mate Rick in the UK and I have been exchanging emails about engine temperatures, particularly with respect to classic cars.  Rick has a Morgan V8 and a Jensen CV8 and over the years, has experienced overheating; particularly in slow, heavy traffic.  Fitting electric fans and modern alloy radiators has alleviated the problems somewhat.  It's not a problem I've experienced to date with the MG, particularly as a new radiator was fitted during restoration.  That's assuming that the temperature gauge is accurate of course!  Having been sucked into the discussion, my engineering background was keen to get objective data as a baseline.  What should show up recently on my AliExpress news feed but a digital infrared thermometer.  Oh goody, another toy, err... essential tool for the garage!  It arrived today and here it is:

Infra red thermometer

Note the awesome laser dots on the top right of the cold MG radiator!

As well as recording objective data for our MG, Honda and Toyota cars, I can check the accuracy of our oven, the temperature of beer in our beer fridge and even Jennie's rising temperature when she finds out that I've bought one!  Like great mates everywhere, I can even blame it on Rick for raising the whole subject.  Happy days ahead!

Finally, a serendipitous encounter. About 10 years ago, I had an email from a chap called Roy in the UK who had seen a post on the blog about the drag bike I campaigned in the late 60's. Although we'd never met, he'd been at Santa Pod Dragway meetings I'd competed at and was a keen motorcyclist. That was the start of correspondence over the years.  We also both lived in Northamptonshire at that time and had similar professional career paths, albeit in different organisations.  Roy and his wife Dawn are also classic car enthusiasts and have a Hillman Imp which featured on a UK TV programme, plus a Triumph Spitfire.

Roy and Dawn had planned an overdue organised tour of Australia and NZ.  Their schedule was tight but the plan was for them to spend the day with us in Coromandel, travelling via the ferry from Auckland.  Unfortunately, the ferry company recently announced that there would be no sailings this summer due to staff shortages.  Bugger - the legacy of Covid strikes again and time for a Plan B!  It so happened that Roy already had contact with Brian,  an Imp and Sunbeam Rapier owner in Auckland who was a committee member of the NZ Humber/Hillman car club.  A plan was hatched for Brian to drive Roy and Dawn to a mid-point rendezvous for lunch at Kaiaua on the western shores of the Firth of Thames and all have lunch together.

That happened yesterday and was a rip-roaring success and we all got on famously, with the same cynical sense of humour and attitude to life.  We chatted for several hours with much laughter and it was over way too soon, but we'll carry and cherish those memories.  Isn't it fantastic when you get to meet wonderful new people?  That's happened a number of times over the decades and what a great part of life!

Jennie, Dawn, Roy and Brian at Kaiaua with our MG and Brian's Rapier


  1. "and even Jennie's rising temperature when she finds out that I've bought one" - Was laughing at this for several minutes. Mate, you could be a comedian with comedy gold like this. Good post.

    1. Thanks Steve. I bet you've done plenty of ducking and weaving regarding the purchase of toys too! :-) . I strongly suspect that our better halves do it to us as well!

  2. I don’t think I ever owned any vehicle that could be even remotely classified as “high performance”.

    1. Hi Richard. Even though I've had high performance bikes and done track days etc, I'm really enjoying driving the MG at a sedate pace!

  3. Love the shot in front of this extremely beautiful volcano. Time flies by, eh? Yet the sleeping giant still looks the same...

    1. Hi Sonja,
      The last significant eruption was 1854, so dormant rather than extinct. Just waiting to surprise future generations 😊.

    2. Incidentally Sonja, my mention of meeting cool people in the post included you when you visited NZ. What a pity that Roland wasn't with you. Ditto for meeting Steve of Road to Nowhere blog fame!

    3. Thank you, you are far too kind, Geoff. Good times!


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