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 Post subject: Re: 1980 Austin Princess
PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2018 5:33 pm 
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good results!

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should you wish, you can contact me on rich@minispares.com

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 Post subject: Re: 1980 Austin Princess
PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 2:28 am 
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Took the Princess to the local trusted exhaust place and the one guy there that knows his old stuff had a look. The conversation was mostly "You're on your own with that one!", which was entirely fair. Basically, the problems we're having getting it to seal is normal for this kind of exhaust and if it's a poor quality exhaust to begin with, my experience of it blowing eventually is also normal. This is from someone that has fettled with BL exhausts since they were much newer than mine is and still fettles with exhausts now for a living. His advice was not to waste the cash on getting them to try and seal the exhaust as they'd be likely to have the same success/failure rate as us anyway and it'll probably blow again soon after forking out to have it fixed. I appreciate honesty like that, rather than being messed about, and it was reassuring to know that it is actually genuinely a problematic set up rather than us being inept.

We were given some tips on fitting, at least. So far, we've done mostly everything right but actually getting the manifold-to-downpipe join sitting as snug as possible before sealant and clamps is the most important bit. That might sound a bit daft, but given the design it's easy to think you've got it lined up perfectly when it's actually just a bit off, which in turn can cause the issues I've been having.

So, disconnect the blowing join, clean it up, make the flange as perfect as possible and wiggle everything about until it's lined up as close to perfect as possible without the clamps. Then use some paste, tighten the clamps and get the rest of the exhaust secure. It should then seal, or at the worst only blow a tiny little bit.

Ideally, replacing the cast manifold with a suitable custom one-piece banana bunch that goes into a good flexi joint and on into the rest of the system is the best solution. Unfortunately for me, a custom exhaust is out of my budget currently so we just have to do the best with what we've got and do the exhaust when I can afford it.


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 Post subject: Re: 1980 Austin Princess
PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 10:59 am 
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I cannot say that i am familiar with this system, but i presume that the seal on the manifold to drop pipe joint breaks due to the engine moving on its mountings. In such a case it helps a lot to introduce a suitable length of flexi after the joint, in order to relieve the stresses from it. The length of downpipe before the joint should then be secured to the engine / gearbox. That should fix it for good.


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 Post subject: Re: 1980 Austin Princess
PostPosted: Mon Feb 19, 2018 2:00 pm 
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In theory, you are correct. In practice this particular exhaust does not want to play nicely. I update this car on several fora and I've had plenty of advice from folks for how this should seal and work. I've also had plenty of comments about how it's a woeful design and prone to leaking badly no matter what you do.

Suffice to say, I've tried every trick in the book to get this one to seal but it just seems to be that I've got a bad exhaust. Since the car has decent engine mounts, the downpipe is secured to the gearbox, the hangers are in good condition and the manifold joint clamps are uprated, there is a flexi (allbeit a ball, rather than a long wiggly piece), so there's really no reason for it to blow. You can get the whole thing lined up, clamped as tightly as possible and it will STILL blow, even though it shouldn't be able to. Doesn't matter what technique or sealant or amount of sealant used at the joint, it always blows. Worst at idle too, once you're driving it's not that bad it draws attention to itself unduly, but it's certainly not helping with performance, etc.

It's just a frustrating design and the only resolution is going to be replacing the lot with a better design when I can afford it. For now I just have to seal it as best I can and if it has a minor blow at the joint that's not bad enough to fail an MoT, that'll have to do, as it's had to do for at least the last six years I've owned it.


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 Post subject: Re: 1980 Austin Princess
PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2018 12:46 am 
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Remember I was talking about how the exhaust was being a pain? Well, the system is a lot like that used on the A series cars, just with more access to shout into. Mike and I removed the carburettor and manifold so everything could be cleaned up, including the downpipe flanges, in the hope it would seal.
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The problem we were having is that one of the downpipes - 4 into 2 manifold, 2 into 1 downpipe - is actually bent and straightening it was proving pretty much impossible. To give you an idea, when one side is lined up, the other side looks like this.
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We managed to pry the pipe something like close and clamp it together so now the blow just sounds like farty old car rather than tractor. It's not ideal, but at least it's tolerable until the new pipe arrives. Ah yes, I got lucky and found a NOS downpipe on eBay complete with decent flexi and an intact downpipe-to-gearbox stay, I'm really hoping it arrives safely and resolves this issue! Access for this job really is dreadful and it's one that I loathe doing, even with help.
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Another thing to tackle was the dashboard bulbs that weren't working. The car has been running a test-loom when the original fault was found to be a damaged PCB - my spares are all the same too - which we weren't going to replace formerly until more testing had been done. With the MoT looming in April, I had to get these lights sorted because no main beam telltale is a fail. Heading over to the unit the throttle pedal starting getting stiff and, just as I was coming up to a handily empty bus stop, the throttle jammed open on me. Into neutral, ignition off, coast into bus stop. A quick inspection found that for some reason the throttle cable was behaving like the main earth! It took a little investigation to find out why later, it appears my original braided earth strap just isn't beefy enough, so a secondary one was fitted. I had a lucky escape in that the cable hadn't got so hot it had fused the whole lot and after it had all cooled off, the throttle cable is actually fine and has been since.

That would at least go some way to explaining some of the mystery electrical problems I've had over the years. Once at the unit, the dashboard could come out and that's when the retaining tang on the speedo cable snapped off. This isn't the first time I've had this happen! Similar cable as fitted to the Mini, as it happens, just a few inches longer.
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The problem with the dash wiring became apparent very quickly, one of the test crimps hadn't, so I had a loose connection. All the crimps were removed and the wires soldered and then wrapped, curing the problems.
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Or so I thought. Before refitting the dashboard I found two bulbs weren't always coming on, it seemed to rely on the back of the dashboard being a certain way. A quick wiggle of the bulbs highlighted two slightly loose holders which some foil tape on the bulbs soon fixed.
Image

Full illumination restored, finally! Better yet, it's much brighter and much more reliable than it ever has been in my ownership.
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 Post subject: Re: 1980 Austin Princess
PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2018 1:02 am 
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Posts: 236
Now I have a car with fully working electrics, an exhaust that's tolerable if not perfect, and that I can use properly! It has felt like a bit of a slog to get here, a far cry from when I was using it daily as my only transport back in 2012. All the jobs I'm aware of now are cosmetic and maintenance, normal car stuff, no more of this restoration chore. So, in a bid to get things looking a bit more complete and a little barse ackwards, I decided to put the waist trim back on that was removed shortly after I bought the car when I thought I only had a little bit of rust to deal with. I should have finished the paint first, probably, but I've been putting this job off for years because of other things taking priority and being unable to find the correct trims. Turns out, it's another Mini item, specifically these arch trim clips from Bresco: http://bresco.com/acatalog/For-8.8mm-mo ... tml#SID=29

I'd saved my old clips for reference, even though they were too rusty to use, and I'm glad I did. I also still have my trusty Wilkinson's hand rivetter.
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This was the day before the snow arrived and it was astonishingly cold given how nice it looked outside. I probably should have waited for a warmer day to make it an easier job to do. The nose on my rivetter is too wide to go into the trim clip but with the cunning use of a tiny nut as a spacer, this wasn't a problem.
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Et voila!
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I made that seem easy. It was a bit of a faff getting the trim to actually clip on because everything was so cold, it only really snapped in place once I'd warmed the trims up a bit. It has meant the boot isn't getting damp now, so I suspect it was getting through the trim holes I hadn't taped up. To combat the broken speedo cable I bought a replacement, only for it to arrive broken in exactly the same way. Not to worry, I've got an antique TomTom that wedges into the instrument binnacle perfectly and I've got another speedo cable in the post which looks to be intact in the photographs.
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Then, on the evening of the 26th of February, Storm Emma arrived, leaving this for me in the morning.
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Well... that was a bit overhyped.... until the next day that is!
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She didn't stop there either!
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We ended up with nearly 8" of snow, but today it's all gone. I did venture out in the Princess in the dark and slush and got stuck behind someone in a modern hatchback only managing to do 15mph on a perfectly clear 40mph stretch of road, which was frustrating. If you're so scared of driving you're holding up a Princess, you need to stay at home! I had a mystery 'graunchy' noise that I discovered the source of today too, it's just the exhaust knocking/rattling on something. Not leaking any oil, which is weird, and likewise not leaking any coolant anywhere, though that's less strange since this car never has. Brakes are much improved just for use. It's a joy to clamber aboard even for short journeys, with the exception of parking. Parking anywhere is still a chore because of the lack of power assisted steering

So there you go, that's you up to date on this old crate.


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 Post subject: Re: 1980 Austin Princess
PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2018 10:51 am 
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that exhaust looks fun

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should you wish, you can contact me on rich@minispares.com

'long beard boss'


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 Post subject: Re: 1980 Austin Princess
PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2018 2:31 pm 
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That's a word for it.


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 Post subject: Re: 1980 Austin Princess
PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2018 10:32 pm 
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With the way that bent downpipe looks, i am not surprised that it wouldn't seal itself. Actually i think that it wasn't worth at all to bother with this. Hopefully the replacement part will sort it once and for all.

Regarding the available space to work with, i wonder why BL refused to design any crossflow cylinder head even into the '70s.


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 Post subject: Re: 1980 Austin Princess
PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:50 am 
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Cost? It seems to have been the biggest limiting factor. The Harris Mann designed range - Allegro, Princess, TR7 - sold very well, even with the shortcomings of the styling which wasn't really Mann's fault, amazing considering how much the odds were stacked against BL in the 70s. It feels like they were trying to produce something truly innovative and daring but just couldn't quite manage it because of the various limitations - everyone has an opinion on what those were exactly - the company was facing at the time. It's such a shame too!

One of the reasons I love this car is the promise of it that just didn't quite get realised fully. The stillborn futility of its existence in the face of cold hard economic factors. The O series engine it an excellent, durable unit providing you take care of it and the gearbox is nigh on indestructible. The suspension is an incredible design in its own right too, so often dismissed because of those pesky burst rubber parts, when in actual fact it's a triumph of compact design offering a smooth, supple ride that does rival Citroen's offering without the years of investment and research that Citroen had available and without any of the complexity of hydraulic spaghetti. The interior layout is incredibly spacious and it's a very comfortable car to drive, the ergonomics leave a little to be desired initially but once you've driven the car a few times the controls are pleasantly chunky and easy to use and all at eye level, so it's not a disaster. The brakes are some of the best of the period, hundreds of kit car builders and Ford upgraders can't be wrong!

I'm definitely an enthusiast when it comes to this car. They have a reputation that is in some ways deserved, the early cars were often badly built and BL were still in that ridiculous habit of getting customers to iron out the problems for them. By the time the O series engined cars were released, much of the Princess' bad reputation issues were resolved and the cars were, on the whole, reliable and surprisingly rust resistant for the era. The trouble was, many owners just didn't care, the BL rot had set in and spoiled things, and of course foreign offerings were built far better, of better materials, to better standards. It's amazing BL survived as long as it did, really, and I'm pretty sure the Princess played its part in keeping them afloat and relevant in the 70s, with the Metro and Maestro taking up the standard in the 80s and into the 90s until it all became Rover.

They almost made it too! The Honda collaboration turned things around and by the time the 75 and TF were released there was every chance they could. Had they been able to have the success of the One that BMW did, we might still have them today. Oh well. Too little, too late.


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