Marty Katz and I were on a rally up in Summerlin a few years back when a car with two guys in it pulls up next to us, and the passenger yells out at me, "I have one of those." Being my typical smart-butt self I yell back, "One of those what?" He says "an Austin Healey like yours." I reply, "Why aren’t you driving it?" He yells back, “It’s been sitting in his garage for eight years. Sent the carbs off for rebuild and can’t figure out how to get them adjusted.” This is happening while we are rolling down Del Webb Boulevard with cars trying to get around us – me driving and yelling out at this guy while Marty is navigating the course.
Being the devious soul that I am, I tell him I will be happy to help him get his car running if he joins the British car club. He says he would love to, and I give him the info about the BACLV website and my name. Well, he did show up at the next BACLV meeting and introduced himself - Joel Goldberg and he signs up for the club! We set up time for me to show up and play with his carbs.
We met up and it didn’t not take long to get the carbs set up and the chokes adjusted. The car fires right up and we are really excited. I find some other things needing attention and we order parts from Jonas and get the car roadworthy. A month or so later, Joel drives his Healey from Summerlin to the membership meeting. Later that day he calls me and says he was driving his car home and noticed low oil pressure and when he stops, it goes to zero. THIS IS NOT GOOD!!!!!
I motor over a few days later and we start the detective work. A new oil pressure gauge that I brought over shows no difference from his gauge eliminating the gauge as the problem. Now we know it is in the motor. We drop the pan and swap out the oil pump with and old one I had taken out of another car – makes no difference. Not knowing how good the oil pump was, I drop the pan on my car, pull off my good oil pump, take it to Joel’s and we put it in his car. Oil pressure when warm is still very low. While I am removing my oil pump to put Joel’s original one back in, I casually grab one of the connecting rods and shake it to check how tight it is. Normally, there is no play at all. This car I could shake the connecting rod back and forth a lot. Questioning Joel again on how long since the rebuild, he states about 1,000 miles or so. WOW, SOMETHING IS WRONG HERE.
I checked the other five rods and they were all very loose. I pulled a rod cap off and checked the bearing. Seemed to be okay, nothing that indicated a lot of wear. I checked the back of the rod bearing and it was stamped .010 oversize - normal for a rebuilt engine. Pulled a main bearing - it looked OK. Checked the back of the main and it was stamped .020 - not unusual for a main and rods to be ground different sizes. Started checking the crankshaft for markings and discovered .020 stamped at front of crankshaft - SUSPICIONS CONFIRMED!! All the rod bearings were .010 undersize and they should have been .020. Either someone had ordered the wrong size and put them in anyway, or the crank had not been ground correctly and the .020 correct bearings were too tight. This would have led to an engine self-destruct in a few more hundred miles or so. Actually, I was surprised the engine had not already heaved a rod out the side.
Jonas ordered us a new connecting rod bearing set and, a week or so later, we put them in. A check of the bearings revealed all was in tolerance, so we buttoned up the engine, poured in new oil, and cranked it over and, voila, we now have 40 psi at idle - mission accomplished. A valve adjustment, a few minor tinkerings, and Joel was now driving a nice Healey around Summerlin.
That is, until he ran over an unseen curb and tore up the oil pan, which led to some other discoveries of impending doom. Joel covered that in his spanner article. The lesson here is that professionals, along with rank amateurs, can also make mistakes.