Sorting the Engine

Build Diary: Engine | Collecting the kit | Chassis [1] | Chassis [2] | Body
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31st August 2002

Visited Westfield factory and collected engine

Very impressed by Westfield factory, all immaculately clean and tidy. Nice passenger ride in Megabird - couldn't drive any of the cars as I'm too long! I could get in but couldn't let the clutch up as my knees were tight up against the steering wheel Jon the salesman assures me it's just a matter of how the seat's positioned in the cockpit and that I'll be fine. My friend Mike had come with me for the day and we both enjoyed the factory tour. I'd highly recommend the tour, it was really nice to see where all the bits are fabricated, assembled etc. After a chat about various options I sign my order form and pay a deposit. I'm going for the full Megablade kit with a limited slip diff, uprated suspension bushes and upholstered seats. Jon gave me the build manuals so I can have a good look through those while I'm waiting for the kit. I've arranged to collect it on Monday 7th October - it would be ready from the Wednesday before but I'm tied up with work and a meeting away so can't get there till the Monday.

We then drove up to Black's Bike Shop near Ormskirk to collect the engine - a '92 Fireblade. Pre '95 engines are getting scarce now as they're popular with kitcar builder as you don't need to pass such stringent emmissions regs - no cat. I'd been offered one by one dealer for �1800 ... for a ten year old engine! Mine was �500 although there was some damage to the engine mounting lugs. The bike had apparently done less than 26,000 miles. We got it home in my wife's VW Golf. Didn't want to get the Evo dirty!

Engine in Golf boot (click for larger image)

I managed to lift the engine out of the car boot on my own - bike engine definitely lighter than car engine + gearbox! I rested it on the old rug I'd used to pad it with to have agood look at it. There's obvious damage to the alternator casing where it's been down the road on its side, and the mounting lug behind the cylinder block on the right hand side is broken, as are the two mounts underneath the back of the gearbox.

Engine in drive on rug (click for larger image)Another shot of engine on drive (click for larger image)Engine from rear (click for larger image)

Engine looks a bit sad, all orifices plugged with rags, bits hanging off it and casings coated in layer of white oxide.

This pic shows the broken lug at the right hand rear of the cylinder block. Not thought much yet about where I'll get it fixed, but Andy assures me it shouldn't be a problem and Mike says he knows someone who should be able to weld it. Engine number intact and clearly not been fiddled with.

Close-up of engine showing broken mounting lug (click for larger image)

1st September

Started work on engine

Engine apparently in good running order and tuned to Stage 3 by V&M Racing in Manchester. Need to strip it as engine mount damaged and needs welding and want to check out internals and replace as necessary to define engine as 'reconditioned' and thus hopefully enable a new registration plate on the car when it's finished.

My garage was in a shocking state. One of the problems having a big garage is that it just enables you to collect more junk, and I hadn't seen my bench in quite a while:

Garage bench pre-tidying (click for larger image)Garage bench pre-tidying (click for larger image)

After a couple of hours work the place was transformed:

Garage bench post-tidying (click for larger image)

Next I lifted the engine onto one of the kids' skateboards and wheeled it into the garage and using my Black & DEcker Workmate as a halfway house managed to lift it up onto the bench.

Engine on operating table (click for larger image)Hmmm ... V&M Stage 3 - wossat mean? (click for larger image)Alternator cover lost fight with tarmac (click for larger image)Close-up of head and carbs (click for larger image)Broken lug again (click for larger image)

First of all I cleaned it off, then using that nice Mr. Haynes' guidance started work on stripping it down. I last had a bike about 16 years ago, and had done very little mechanical work since then, particularly since having a series of newer cars. It was a bit daunting, but I thought I'd be OK with the Haynes manual and my brother at the end of the phone. I got everything off except the alternator rotor which needs a special tool, but figured I don't really need to get that off anyway (checked with technical advisor who confirmed - cheers Andy!).

Dismantling the top end was pretty straightforward and pretty soon I had the cylinder head off and could inspect the valves and piston crowns. I didn't know at this stage exactly what the V&M tuning comprised of. I could see that it had at least been gas flowed as all the inlet and exhaust ports were polished but I didn't know whether the cams and pistons were standard. It looked as though it had been running a bit rich on three cylinders, with only cylinder number 2 looking as if it was the right colour.

Inside cylinder head - looks like 1,3 & 4 have been running a bit rich (click for larger image)Engine with head removed (click for larger image)

2nd September

Finished stripping engine

I split the crankcase without any major dramas. Next I removed the big end caps and pushed the pistons out of the top end of the bores as they won't clear the crankcase webbing to bring them down via the crankcase. The big end bolts were tight but no real problems. Very pleased with the condition of the pistons, they look like new. Similarly big end shells. Pistons have already had their number engraved inside skirts so I'm not the first one in here!

Crankcase minus crankshaft and gear shafts (click for larger image)Big end shells in pristine condition (click for larger image)Crankshaft surfaces similarly pristine (click for larger image)

Lifted crankshaft out of case and removed and labelled all shells, which appear pristine.

Bench full of bits (click for larger image)Rods removed from crankshaft (click for larger image)Big end shells all labelled (click for larger image)

I'd originally reckoned on spending money on new piston rings and main/big end shells on such an old engine, but it's apparently done less than 26,000 miles and looks to me like it's had some new bits in the recent past. My mate Mike knows someone who does alloy welding, and he's offered to drop them off for me.

Gear selector forks (click for larger image)Piston in early morning sun (click for larger image)Pistons all in good condition, no significant scoring (click for larger image)

7th September

Visited Westfield again

On the way to Birmingham to watch England v Portugal at Villa Park called into the factory to collect sump baffle plate (�28 - bloody hell!) and drop off 'Blade wiring loom for modification.

Jen and the kids saw a few Westfields. Jen decided she didn't like yellow much, and preferred black. Also couldn't understand why the one I'm getting didn't have a windscreen. "You aren't really going to drive one of those things round the village, are you?". I think she's just generally unimpressed. No surprises there then. Think I'll stick with yellow.

9th September

Started the rebuild

Collected the crankcases back today, 3 nice new mounting lugs have been built up and ground into shape. Expensive? �15! Not bad at all, just spent an hour or so cleaning them up. Spent a bit of time also on cleaning up the cases themselves.

Took some time cleaning out the upper crankcase, getting rid of all the bits of alloy filings etc. Glad I bought the air compressor last year!

Crankshaft going back into casing (click for larger image)New mounting lug (bottom right of picture) (click for larger image)Black paint removed and covers polished up (click for larger image)

Main bearing shells went back in, then plenty of oil before replacing the crankshaft. Next was replacing the pistons, fairly straightforward, although the ring compressor I'd got didn't seem to help as much as I'd hoped. Again plenty of oil before torquing up the conrod cap nuts.

I went to the local Honda dealer today to order a gasket set. They recommended a good quality pattern set before discovering it was no longer available, so went the genuine Honda route. Full top set is over �150, but includes valve seals etc., so I just ordered the ones I knew I needed which came to �120, including the extra sump gasket to go under the baffle plate and other bits I'd need later like oil filter, exhaust manifold gaskets etc. They'll hopefully be in by the end of the week, so I can't do any more assembly till then really.

14th September

I've got the gaskets, and some silicon gasket sealant from Halfords so the rebuild continues. The crankcase halves are joined with sealant and no gasket, but I'd been waiting to get new seals for the gear selector shaft and the main output shaft. The old ones looked fine but after stripping it all it seemed a bit daft not to replace them now. I spent a little while sussing out how the gear shafts, selector cylinder etc. went together then bit the bullet and applied a thin bead of sealant on the casing before joining them back together. There are a few bits to keep a close eye on as the cases go together but all was OK and I started tightening the bolts with their new copper sealing washers.

Pretty soon it's starting to look like an engine again. I refit the clutch, and refit the oil pickup etc. with new seals before refitting the oil pan with its new baffle plate.

Gear selector mechanism back in, clutch next (click for larger image)New copper sealing washers, pistons cleaned up (click for larger image)Clutch cover back on (click for larger image)

16th October

Completing the rebuild

Yes, it's been a while, had a few distractions with work, family etc. Oh yes, and collecting the kit which I couldn't resist getting started on. Also I guess I've been putting it off subconsciously 'cos replacing the cylinder head is a bit daunting. I have visions of getting the valve timing wrong and the whole thing grenading itself when I try to turn it over! It's not helped by the fact that after I'd stripped it I realised my camshaft sprockets didn't look the same as the manual. The ones in the manual have round holes where they're bolted onto the camshafts - mine have slots from where it's been tweaked by V&M. I did get in touch with V&M who said if it's stage 3 tuned the cams are likely to have been reprofiled. Had I realised when I took it apart I could have marked them, but fortunately there are marks from oil staining on the sprockets so I should be able to get them back to where they were with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

Started by refitting a few of the ancillary bits and pieces, oil cooler, water pump etc. Then cleaned the old gasket material off the cylinder block and head and clean the head up with some paraffin followed by a quick blow dry. Fitting the head itself is easy, just get it all lined up, new gasket in situ then pop the allen bolts in and torque them up.

Next clean, oil and replace all the shims and followers, making sure they go back in the right places. Plenty of referring to the Haynes manual for the next bit, replace the ignition rotor and cover so I can line up the timing marks then plenty of clean oil before putting the inlet camshaft in, lobes on number one cylinder facing away from the followers. Plenty more oil then replace the holder, carefully tightening all the bolts in sequence. Same again then for the exhaust camshaft, although I'm not quite sure exactly which way the cams should be facing. Turns out later I got it wrong ... Next realise it would have been easier to replace the camchain guides before doing all this, but no real problem, get them in place with the camchain and start to think about the cam sprockets.

The inlet cam sprocket will line up OK and I can get one bolt in, just loosely for now, but the exhaust is about 90 degrees out of alignment and I decide to take the camshaft holder off and try again. To avoid losing place I tie the chain to the sprocket with a bit of string, then undo all the bolts and move the camshaft round with the cam lobes on number one cylinder facing towards the front of the engine and it's clear the sprocket holes will line up nicely now. Get the camshaft holder bolts torqued up and bolt the sprocket on the camshaft, again loosely until I've got all 4 bolts in with some threadlock and checked the tming looks right. Turn the engine over using the bolt holding the ignition rotor and it all turns nice and smoothly, no valve on piston clanking noises so far! Get the marks lined up again and the marks on the sprockets look spot on. Next a careful check for the dark line like a shadow where the sprockets were on the camshafts before and I soon realise it's not going to be difficult to get them back excatly as they were before. After a bit of tweaking turning the engine back and fore I'm happy and tighten the bolts up. Back into paranoid mode and turn it over and double check the timing marks a few more times before I move on. Nearly 11pm now so I'd better go in before I get in trouble!

17th October

Want to get a few more bits and pieces done to the engine before going away. Replace the thermostat and housing, then try to put in the VDO water temperature Westfield have supplied with the kit but it's quite tight in the threads, I think because of the remnants of sealant in the threads. I then shear it off. Bugger. End up having to drill it out and clean up the threads, which basically costs me an extra hour or so. And I'll need to get another pone from Westfield. All done now apart from hoses and camshaft cover which I can't do yet because I need some silicon sealant to glue the rubber seal in its groove.

Decide to have a look at how the engine mounting cradle goes, and before I know it I'm well engrossed in it. Took a bit of tweaking and filing as the holes weren't exactly spaced right. Also had to tap my welded mounting point at the back of the cylinder block on the right. Another hour or so and the job's done and more or less ready to drop in the chassis. It'll actually be easier to handle now, and I'm confident that I'll be able to lift it in with the kids' help. Gotta go now, haven't started packing yet and we're due to leave for the airport in 2 hours.

Engine almost finished, now mounted in cradle ready to drop into chassis (click for larger image)

Build Diary: Engine | Collecting the kit | Chassis [1] | Chassis [2] | Body
D Day! | Finishing Off | SVA | Registration | Post Registration | Trackdays
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The next project ...

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