Story and photos by Andrew Olson
If you have been a regular reader of my little column, then you will know I have been steadily working on a 1985 928 (Euro vintage) that had a bad motor since fall of last year. The whole idea was to turn the rebuilding of a motor into a family experience and get the kids involved in the rehabbing and then tracking of this car. I had expectations that the kids would get heavily involved, but the reality was that they only helped out a few times. Despite the misalignment of expectations to reality, I am thankful for the times that we spent under the car. A real surprise was my 11 year old daughter Lina enthusiastically getting involved complete with wire brushes and solvent to melt away the caked on oil and dirt on the belly of the beast. How cool is that?
The final mile in this long journey was met with all kinds of challenges and obstacles – some were self-induced, others were not. The car was actually ready to fire up on the 4th of July weekend. I tried and tried to get it to start, but it refused to start. It teased me with a little rumble here and there, but it just would not catch. Then I remembered that while this car does not require one to perform the ignition timing by adjusting the distributor, you still have to set it so the rotors are pointed in the right direction (unlike my GT which is somewhat dummy-proof in this regard.) So I pulled the distributor caps and, sure enough, the rotors were not in the right orientation. I adjusted them and upon reassembly, I could not get the distributor to seat into the head – likely because of the new o-ring. I decided to use the bolt to draw the distributor in. Within about 3 turns, the ear on the distributor broke off. Ugh!
I knew this was a costly screw-up, but I had no idea how costly. A distributor for this particular euro vintage goes for $950 – new! Gulp! Luckily I was able to find a used one for $150. That’s still a bit steep, but it’s a lot better than $1,000!
I used some JB weld to piece the broken distributor back together while I waited for the new one to arrive because I knew I was so close and I needed to see if this engine was even any good. Luckily, it fired right up. Woo Hoo. I had oil pressure and, most importantly, no “funny” noises. I revved it a couple times and it responded with enthusiasm. I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted.
With the car now obviously in running condition I decided to add coolant. Upon adding the second gallon of water, I heard water dripping on the floor. I immediately thought it must be a loose hose. Nope. The darn water pump was leaking. I had gone the cheap route and used an old water pump that I had lying around. The bearing felt great but the seal (which I could not see) must have dried out a few years ago. Add that to the list too.
Replacing the water pump necessitated basically pulling the entire front of the engine back off including the timing belt. But it went smoothly and I didn’t run into too many issues. I received the replacement water pump and distributor the following Friday. I had everything installed on Saturday and it was running well in the garage. But I wasn’t quite ready to drive it yet. The clutch would just go to the floor (telltale sign of air in the master cylinder) so that needed to be bled.
With the assistance of my lovely daughter, we got the clutch bled Sunday afternoon and we were finally able to take it out for its maiden voyage. It smoked like crazy for the first couple miles, but got steadily better after the first few miles. It needs some serious work with tuning the fuel maps (remember this car has a supercharger and requires a custom tune), and it really needs a deep detailing to make it shine like used. All in all, I’m pretty happy with the results. I hopefully will have time to tune it sufficiently enough to get it to a couple driver education events yet this season.
Remember, the 928 crew gets together at the Parrot Cove Yacht Club in Troy, MI on the second Wednesday of each month from 7 to 9 PM. If you have a 928 or want to get one, please join us.