1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

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kitch29
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1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by kitch29 » Mon Jun 27, 2016 2:54 pm

Hi guys, my first thread here to introduce the Imp I've taken over. Odd situation as I built it for Tim, a long time member on here. Life changed, I now own it, and this is a thread lifted from another forum that I've started on it (so please excuse any egg-sucking Imp references!)

Sometimes life doesn't go the way you expect it to. Sometimes bad things happen, and sometimes good things happen. Sometimes, things happen which initially start out bad, but switch to a positive, depending on the way you look at them.

I've got a million other readers cars threads going (because I have about a million cars) and most of them are old and French. Not this one though, oh no! This one is even older.....and Scottish! So what's the crack?

Long story short (I'll do the longer ones sometime in the future), I run a small workshop specialising in restoration (mainly TVR chassis) but also tinkering in classic and modern classic cars, as well as a plethora of kit cars and specials. A long, long time ago, a young man by the name of Tim came to me on the recommendation of a friend, and said that he had a Hillman Imp, and wanted to put an engine in it. It didn't have an engine fitted, it was basically a rolling shell he'd bought from a field:

Image

He'd lusted after an Imp for many years, and this was the realisation of a dream! He asked if he should put a motorbike engine in, to which my reply (based solely on my own opinion) was no, you shouldn't. Bike engined cars are awesome on the track, and bike engines are just better than car engines in terms of technology. But on the road, where this thing was going to spend most of its life, the bike engine would be a pain. No reverse, little to no torque at low revs (BEC's often need revving to 5-6k revs, just to find the biting point as they're no longer trying to move 200kg of Kawasaki around). My advice was use a car engine, if it is to be a road car with very occasional track use. Next engine to be dismissed was one of the Imp's original innovative features, the Coventry Climax-based all alloy lump. Would be the cheapest in terms of a package, but would need serious tuning to achieve the 100bhp goal we had set. And it would be unlikely to be a reliable 100bhp, or certainly not as reliable as an engine designed to run 100bhp in the first place. That all said, both Tim and I wanted to retain the 'Impness' of the car. We've had literally 1,374 people ask us "Why didn't you fit a Subaru XXX or a Honda YYYY or a Dacia Sandero V8?" Well, the reason is because, at the end of the day, an Imp is what Tim desired, and if he ended up with a V6-powered spaceframe clad with Imp bodywork.....well, that's not really an Imp any more, cool as it may be. So it needed to still be 'Imp' in its DNA, even if the engine wasn't. And of course, we know more than most that if we went cutting up an Imp shell in a structural manner, we'd be well into the realms of the dreaded IVA test. We didn't want that!

And so, I had a brainwave. It's probably know by a few people on here that I have a serious condition called
'Likesrattlyoldfrenchitus'. This condition led to me considering a tenuous link - Peugeot. The Rootes group was bought out by Peugeot in the late 70's, Talbot name and all. I knew from my PSA obsessions that Peugeot used the Simca-derived XY engine (aka the suitcase, because it lays down flat) in the Peugeot 104, Talbot Samba, early 205 and early BX models, among others. They were available in 1360cc, and would yield around 80bhp. All alloy, quite light, sounded god-awful but generally quite durable and peppy. Trying to find one might be tricky, but I swear I'd seen the conversion done before. And so I Googled frantically 'Peugeot engined Hillman Imp' and found nothing on the XY engine. Balls.
What I did find, was a small thread on a forum regarding a Scandinavian ice-racing series. In that series, a limit of 1399cc had been set, and apparently the cars that were tearing up the field were Hillman Imps being pushed along by Peugeot/Citroen TU3 engines lifted from the AX GT and 205 XS. 85bhp, similar basic weight to the Climax and pretty tough. I didn't realise they'd fit, as they sit bolt upright, but a quick trawl of some Imp forums revealed that they did - just!

Could we find an AX GT engine? Could we feck! But the TU came in many different flavours, and one of these was the TU5 in the Saxo VTR 1.6 unit. 90bhp as standard, and pretty tough. Lots of midrange torque (perfect for munching Imp transaxles) and they engines were cheap. Hell, even the cars were cheap, so we bought a car!:

Image

Only drawback, is that the TU5 only came in iron block flavour, unlike the all alloy TU3 fitted to the AX GT. With a weight penalty of around 30kg, we'd need to be clever to stop the car handling like a pig. In retrospect, the perfect engine would have been the TU2J2 fitted to the S1 106 Rallye, but they're even rarer. And more expensive.

The Saxo came with 120,000 on the clock, and no MoT. We popped it on the dyno before the engine came out, where it continued the Saxo tradition of bettering its book power figures (every Saxo to date has produced more power on the dyno than the book figures state!) 95bhp was the number, and the graph was strong (even if the radiator was not!)
The engine was duly removed and the Saxo discarded.

Now we had a square peg (a TU engine), and a round hole (an Imp). But the TU5 would get us to the 100bhp marker we set, and provide it reliably. So how to you make a square peg fit a round hole? Simple, you improvise:

Image

We spent a LONG time to designing that!

Now we had a TU engine and a way of mounting it to an Imp transaxle. We came up with a hybrid clutch using Sierra bits and Saxo bits, along with a flywheel from a 106 Quicksilver. We had Reg Patten build a mk3 gearbox (the strongest casing) with a Ford-splined input shaft, to allow the Sierra driveplate to fit. Then we used Lotus Elan roto-couplings to connect the box to 1in Imp Sport driveshafts.
To push the TU5 engine into the 100+ club, we fitted some Honda Fireblade bike carbs (the standard injection system wouldn't fit), as well as a Newmans PH3 fast road camshaft, and Raceland 4-2-1 stainless exhaust manifold (standard VTRs use what is basically a 1.1 exhaust, possibly to strangle them a bit to bring insurance groups down). The ignition is distributorless, and managed by a Megajolt box mounted in the back. To keep the engine cool, an MGF radiator was installed up top, and I took and angle grinder to the front end to create a kind of 'custom' grille. Twin cooling fans keep the temps in check, and Evans Waterless Coolant circulates the pipework plumbed through the cabin (as the original Imps had radiators mounted in the engine bay) which is heat-wrapped and hidden below handmade GRP panels, carpeted to take the eye away from them. The rear seats are no longer there, though I would put some in if the coolant pipes didn't go there.

The rest of the Imp was also given similar treatment. All suspension was stripped, shot blasted and painted in POR15 before before fitted out with polybushes. The front drum brakes were binned in favour of Fiesta mk1 discs, Goodridge braided hoses were fitted all round, and the steering tie rods were upgraded to the Imp Club adjustable types. The body shell was fully resprayed in Vauxhall Karabic bue. Why? Because Aquarius metallic is harder to mix up, and the Vauxhall colour is 99.5% the same as the fairly rare Aquarius, just much easier to deal with if it needs any future resprays (which it does, already - more on that later!) We had the pinholes for the side mouldings smoothed over, along with the rear panel where we removed the bumper mounts and starter handle hole. Speaking of the rear panel, we braced it and fabricated an extended engine mounting boss, so we could utilise all the original Imp mounting points. The engine cover is a carbon-fibre piece, as is the front spoiler.

The entire build can be seen here|https://www.facebook.com/Southways ... 6038960059 in this blog we did along the way (apologise for some of the pictures - I got carried away with Picasa back in the days!)

And so where do we end up now? Well, life doesn't always go the way you plan. And so, as I said when I started the thread, we're at that point. Tim no longer owns the Imp, I do. Life came Tim's way, and shat at his doorstep. The alternative was to break the car up, as Tim couldn't stomach seeing someone else enjoying the fruits of his cash and our labour. If I didn't take it, nobody would. I couldn't bear to see the Imp come this far and not cross the finishing line. We'd covered around 100 test miles since January 2016, but still had (and still have) plenty of kinks and creases to iron out.
Yesterday, me and my wife took it to the Seven Stars near Petersfield, to see if we could take a run out in it without issue. We got there and back, though there are still issues! Even so, I took some pics at the end and this is where we're currently at:

Image

The interior is half finished. I don't like the seats (have more period ones ready to go in) and the dashboard needs more of a dashboard! The binnacle itself is a custom-made six-dial version of a Stiletto dash, finished in black crackle paint (naturally). It comprises an oil pressure gauge (which doesn't work properly), a coolant temp gauge (which doesn't work properly), a speedo (which doesn't work properly), a rev counter (which DOES work!), a fuel gauge (which DOES!) and finally a volt gauge (which works, but is only there because it came in the box - will likely get replaced with an AFR gauge or something):

Image
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The 'frunk' (front-trunk) would usually be loaded with a spare wheel, a heater blower motor, a fuel tank and not much else. Now, it houses the radiator and cooling fans, an alloy fuel tank (which sits on a custom-strut brace), the electric fuel pump and pressure regulator. The two areas are split by a plastic bulkhead, which is there to prevent the radiator heating up the fuel tank. The spare wheel well has been opened up to allow warm air to pass through, and the lourves in the wheel arches allow the low-pressure air in the wheel arches to suck the high-pressure air out........when the car is moving anyway!) The splitter is carbon fibre, as mentioned, and the grille is an original Imp grille we cut up and hid some mesh behind (had the idea on the bog one night!) The headlamps are halogen-converted:

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The business end! The Citroen TU5 lump sits with masses of space either side of it, as the original Climax lump laid flat. To fit it in, we had to remove the parcel shelf skin, but otherwise it fits fairly well, and nothing structural needed to be hacked out, which was important to us. The rear panel was a standard Imp piece which we customised into one being able to take a Spoox Peugeot 106 Grp N mounting plate. Spoox carbon fibre timing covers replaced the plastic (must have saved, ooh - 0.012kg there!). The gearbox is a standard mk3 box fitted with a custom input shaft, and uses original Imp mountings. We added a Mini stabiliser bar to the offside of the engine to aid stability, and the rear panel is braced triangularly, just for a bit of additional torque-resistance (we're going from 50lbft odd to around 100lbft):

Image
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To compensate the weight gain of the engine, the battery and radiator have moved off to the front. The Longlife exhaust system is tiny, and weighs very little. The carbon-fibre engine cover weighs around 1.5kg - around 5kg less than the original. Access to the engine is gained obviously though the engine lid, but can also now be gained through the interior of the car. This sound-deadening box we made from Celotex board, and insulated it against heat. It's mounted on a rear stiffening brace, which also houses the seat belt harnesses:

Image

There is also a safety devices roll bar fitted.

So what's it like to drive? Erm, frantic! That would probably the be the best way to describe it. In terms of performance, it's probably on par with a 205 GTi 1.9 or a mk2 Golf GTI 16v - that kind of level, only with a lot more noise! The gearing is the weak link, really. It's only 4-speed, and the final drive is very short. 2000rpm equates to 30mph in top gear, and each 1000rpm increase equates to an additional 15mph, so 6000rpm is 90mph. Being that the limiter is at 7000rpm, top speed is basically a ton, so it's not exactly....refined. It pulls well, makes a nice old skool carb induction roar and plenty of soft pops from the exhaust on the overrun. It's very easy to drive in traffic, all controls are light and easy to use and it idles sweetly.
Handling? It's good! So much communication through the steering and through the car itself. You can feel the weight shifting around, but it's all well-mannered. That's at 7/10ths - on a qualifying lap it might be more of a handful, but it kept up with a new shape Mini being driven fairly briskly recently. Probably enough to make the driver look in the rear view mirror and think "Eh?!"
The gearchange should be sweet, but isn't. More work needed here as it makes some awful noises when coming on and off the clutch, and it tends to lose its oil. We always knew it would take a while to iron out the creases, and we suspect the concentric slave cylinder we fitted is to blame.
The brakes are equally as bad. So much so, I'm currently looking at a pair of old Wilwoods and some 5mm plate steel.
The suspension is surprisingly compliant. Riding Gaz coilovers at the front and Gaz adjustable dampers with standard springs at the back, it rides quite well. The suspension was quite advanced for a small car of the time, and it shows even today, where it rides better than something like a Metro, designed nearly 20 years later.

On the whole, it's a lot of fun. I love innovative, often overlooked cars, and I always wanted to own an Imp. The Imp was the first car to have folding rear seats (which I've removed) and using an all-alloy engine in a compact car was certainly unusual (removed that too). But on the whole, it's a good giggle and I'm looking forward to tinkering. Next step, new seats (I don't like the ones currently fitted that much) and I'll be ditching the gold wheels (again, not my cup of tea - Tim loved them though). Oh, and the engine needs to come back out to have a look at that clutch/gearbox issue. I'm aiming to get it to some shows and meets this summer though, and a couple of mags have been chasing for a feature for a while.

Cheers for reading the 'short' version :hehe: I'll try to keep this updated!
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by bks974c » Mon Jun 27, 2016 8:06 pm

Very nice - some lovely engineering gone it the project.

Scott
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by Lars Hagermark » Mon Jun 27, 2016 10:58 pm

bks974c wrote:Very nice - some lovely engineering gone it the project.

Scott
I was going to write the same. :)
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by ImpManiac » Fri Jul 01, 2016 5:23 pm

^^ Me three! :mrgreen: Lovely work there. Please keep us apprised as the project progresses.

IM 8)
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by 617sqn » Fri Jul 01, 2016 7:02 pm

Very interesting build. 8)

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Keith 'Supaimpy' Laming
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by Keith 'Supaimpy' Laming » Sat Jul 02, 2016 8:12 pm

Yes I still have the caravan and the white shell ! :) glad to see it got the love it needed, so often projects just disappear
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by kitch » Tue Feb 07, 2017 2:21 pm

Ah my thread, found it!

Proper member now too, all paid up and everything! Still haven't got it fixed yet though :oops:
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by colimp66 » Wed Feb 08, 2017 12:27 pm

A great thread and build, well done.
Good to see a very nicely done conversion.
Good luck sorting out the wee niggles.

Cheers
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by ganderson888 » Wed Feb 08, 2017 9:31 pm

It's good to see your thread Richard as I missed it previously.

Hope you get the clutch issues sorted and you get to enjoy the car's full potential... without destroying the transaxle! :lol:
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by impmann » Mon Feb 13, 2017 3:54 pm

Good to see it in one piece.

A couple of observations/suggestions:

1) Air filter - Imps chuck shed loads of dust into their engine bays, as a direct result of which end they are and the air disturbances created by the shape. I'd suggest a *GOOD* air cleaner system be fitted pronto!

2) Dashboard - I never understood why Tim threw all the interior away when he got this car. I still don't tbh. A normal Imp dashboard would look a lot more 'finished' than what is there, and would add to the 'wolf in sheep's clothing' aspect of the car.

3) Springs - I'd seriously... seriously consider heavier springs at the back. With the heavier engine, and a lowered front end (with quite a bit of camber) I'd suggest uprating to RAC springs at the back if you want to keep the same ride height or Montes if you want the back the same height as the front (preferable). Without this, I'd imagine that the back end could be a little wayward - I remember driving an Alfa-engined Imp many moons ago with standard rear springs (uprated dampers) and it wasn't great through a series of twisties... it ended its days in a ditch for that reason.
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by ImpManiac » Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:43 pm

Interesting project! :D It's good that you're back on here.

Are you working through the car yet? Any of the issues resolved? The car sounds like a lot of fun!

Keep us posted. :wink:

IM 8)
Paul Harrison
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by kitch » Wed Feb 15, 2017 10:21 am

Thanks Colin and Graham :)

Impmann - in response to your suggestions:

1) Air filters are on the to do list, though I didn't rank them up there as highly as you have. It's only done 150miles so far, we're still in testing mode. Well, we're in repairing mode currently, but then it will be testing mode again!

2) Dashboard - I agree. I'm not sure why he wanted to do what we've done, but then we're all different with different opinions on what looks right and what doesn't. I have actually sourced a mk3 dash from Graham, and will be looking to convert back to that once I've 'modified' it.

3) Springs, again I've only done 150 miles in the car, however one of the first things I noticed was how well it seemed to sit on the road. Not twitchy in the slightest. The front springs are the coilovers that come with the Monte rear springs, and the rear is currently using standard springs with GAZ shocks. It used to be Monte rear springs fitted, and it didn't drive right on those, presumably because of the weight. That said, the back end is (at an estimate) about 25kg heavier than a standard Imp, so not exactly a massive jump. Once I've got some more miles on it, I'll be able to form more of an opinion on whether it needs looking at, but initially I found the handling pretty good. And if the handling does prove to be dodgy once I start pressing harder, I have a backup plan to save weight. 8)
ImpManiac wrote:Interesting project! :D It's good that you're back on here.

Are you working through the car yet? Any of the issues resolved? The car sounds like a lot of fun!

Keep us posted. :wink:

IM 8)
Cheers! Yup, currently working through the clutch issues. The concentric cylinder system that we fitted was just garbage from the beginning. Gave us no end of trouble, so I've been working on converting it to run the original release arm setup. I've found a slave cylinder that will fit in the normal mounting point, even with the engine behind it, so that's a result. I still need to make a release bearing, modify the release arm and improve the spigot bearing setup (for the third time - the Saxo engine doesn't use one normally).
It was a lot of fun on the brief drives I had in it. I actually got caught speeding in it on the only time I took it out for a drive, as opposed to taking it out to test something :lol:

Will update the thread when I get some more details on the work so far.
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by Peter Hurst » Wed Feb 15, 2017 7:15 pm

Concentric clutch release conversion works well with Imp clutch though not exactly necessary with standard imp engine and box.
I have concentric release as part of BMW conversion that Clark Dawson does.
Its bolted to plate welded into bell housing. Clutch pressure plate is standard but you take off the bit that the carbon bearing pushes on leaving just the bare fingers.
The master cylinder stays as standard.
IMG_0378small.jpg
Bell housing
IMG_0364small.jpg
pressure plate
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by kitch » Thu Feb 23, 2017 9:46 pm

Copied from my blog on Pistonheads - apologies if there's any teaching people to suck Imp-shaped eggs here!

Time for an Impdate!

Work has resumed on the Imp, mostly because it's immobile and in the way, and I need to get it out and home again. If that means fixing it so it can be driven and enjoyed again, so be it!

The main issues currently concerning the Imp are:

1) The clutch, which didn't work and needed a re-think
2) The interior, which I wasn't mad on, and needed a rethink
3) The bodywork, which needs sorting!

Of those three, the bodywork is the least important. It won't be done any time soon, mostly because funds don't currently allow. The issues aren't the paint, as on the whole it's a beautiful paint job. It was done by a mate of mine, though if he spots the bit he didn't quite cover properly under the driver's door on the sill, he'll kick himself!
It'll be sorted when the bigger bodywork issues are sorted, namely the fact the panel gaps around the doors are atrocious! They were done by a bodyshop on my workshop's industrial estate, and they are shocking! I shouldn't be surprised, as I've had similar issues on another car I had done there. Still, you live and learn!

Image

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I also found that he'd used a fair bit of filler in the front arches, when the front tyre tried to knaw a chunk off:

Image

Anyway, as I say the bodywork will have to wait. What's more important is getting it to drive right! The interior will come later.

Those who've been following the thread will remember I've had issues with the concentric slave cylinder arrangement we first used. The setup had its advantages, as the bearing had its own guide so to speak. It exerted the force directly onto the clutch, with no other moving parts. Great!
Only not. The issue has been getting the thing to stay leak-free. The unions had leaked since day one, and once I'd finally got those to seal, the main seals themselves decided to start weeping. It could probably be fixed and used again, but I've given up on it. The main problem is that each time you want to do anything with it, you have to take the bl***y engine out and take the gearbox off! It's not that hard, but after the 3rd time it gets pretty boring!

Originally, the Imp used a hydraulic setup, with a slave cylinder pushing on a release arm posted in from the top of the bellhousing, thus:

Image

I decided that I would go back to this tried and tested layout, but realised there was a problem fairly early on; The original Imp engine is canted over, and the Saxo engine sits bolt-upright. This means that there is an engine where the Imp slave cylinder needs to go. Bum.

I looked into 'pull'-type cylinders, that I could mount on the opposite site of the release arm. I looked at making a cradle for the standard cylinder to sit inside, in front of the release arm (so that when extended, with would drag the arm in the right direction). However, salvation was at hand, in the form of Car Builder Solutions! They offered a very slim clutch slave cylinder:

http://www.carbuildersolutions.com/uk/f ... e-cylinder

With one of these, I might be on to something! I ordered one up, adjusted it so it fitted and offered it up. it fitted! The only issue was that the cylinder sat slightly higher, which then meant I had to cut the top off the release arm I'd found, and attempt to extend it:

Image

Image

Once I'd extended it up to the height required to meet the cylinder, it was looking promising!

Image

That was the top taken care of (and yes, I've done some maths and it will extend far enough to disengage the clutch - I even measured how much travel was needed to do this:

Image

I even filmed it in action! Only needs about 5.5mm of movement from the would-be release bearing to completely disengage:

https://youtu.be/DqXUdgtYQhw

The original Imp setup, however, used one of those 'orrible graphite bush-type affairs, rather than an actual bearing. Aside from being awful, this is incompatible with the clutch cover, being a TU 1.4 setup.

Image

So I set about trying to remove the carbon/grahpite bush from the Imp's release mech so I could attempt to convert it to a bearing-type setup......and broke it.

I have no pictures of this. Honest!

I wasn't 100% sure that this was the best way to go, as there would be more work to be done trying to extend the release mech out to reach the clutch (baring in mind the adapter plate between the engine and gearbox means everything has be extended forwards the same kind of distance), but with no other ideas immediately at hand, I decided to get another bearing in to see where I'd end up. I had a stroke of luck, as by chance I discovered MG Midgets (with the A-series lump) use a similar setup, only slightly deeper:

Image

Image

I drilled the retaining clip holes and successfully removed the graphite from the housing:

Image

It now fits the Imp release arm:

Image

It hasn't won me all the extra clearance I needed to make up for the adapter plate, but it's a step towards it. However, I'm now at another crossroads. You can see in that pic above that the release housing is drooped over - the centre of gravity just can't keep it upright, even with the standard Imp bearing.

The issue is that once the clutch is fitted and everything's in place, the top of the bearing is going to constantly be resting against the clutch fingers. Now there won't be much weight against it (not unless I use the clutch as a footrest like a numpty), so in theory the bearing should be OK. To be fair, even if it did shorten the life of it to something like 15,000 miles, how long exactly is it going to take this car to do 15,000 miles?! It'll be 15years I expect!

Even so, it bugs me. I like the idea of using a sleeve for the bearing to slide up and down, like on the original Saxo setup, but the problem is the release arm has fixed location points to the bearing; It won't allow it to move back and forth as it's trying to move in a small arc, and when sliding up and down a sleeve there is no room for an arc, with or without all the animals and floods and Noah and s**t.

So my thought processes at the moment are:

* Do I need to fit a sleeve, and in doing so have to redesign the release bearing setup and how the arm operates it.......again

or

* Can I just have a spacer made to go between the existing release housing and the current release bearing, and live with the arch it sweeps in an arc?

Decisions!
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Re: 1973 Imp De Luxe......VTR??

Post by ImpManiac » Mon Feb 27, 2017 10:10 pm

It is good to read about the progress you've made. :D

I doubt you need a spacer or a tube in your setup. The gap between the release bearing and your clutch fingers will be minimal and should not cause issues.

IM 8)
Paul Harrison
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maniac: Raging with disordered intellect: affected with mania: MAD
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