You’ve heard it all before: British cars are cursed
by The Prince of Darkness. You need two Britsh cars, one to
drive while the other is in the shop. And on and on.
As a British car owner, you know that kind of talk is mostly
rubbish. Take good care of your British car, and rarely will
it let you down. At least that’s been my experience
in almost 20 or so years of owning and restoring British cars.
Well, now I am going to have a chance to put my trust to
the test once again. I’ve signed up for the first Michigan
British Reliability Run scheduled for the weekend of October
This event, organized by Blake and Lesley Discher, is a 36-hour,
800-mile trek around Michigan’s lower pennisula. (For
more information, go to: www.mibrr.com)
The event has three goals: First is to raise money to send
50 kids with hemophilia to Camp Bold Eagle. Drivers will be
trying to collect $500 per car, enough to pay for one child’s
stay at the camp. The second goal is to a have a great time
with fellow British car enthusiasts while enjoying some of
Michigan’s most beautiful roads at the start of autumn.
Lastly, the Reliability Run gives us a chance to silence the
critics who say British cars can’t be trusted.
I know they can be trusted. And I’m setting out to
I don’t plan on just jumping in one of my TRs and just
hitting the road, though. I still haven’t decided which
TR to take, my 1971 TR6 or my 1982 TR8. I know the condition
of every part on both cars, and I feel sure both can easily
clock the 800 miles. Still, I’m spending a solid weekend
on what I call “pre-emptive maintenance” on whichever
car I chose. And you should too.
I’ve compiled a checklist that applies to any classic
British sports car. Use this as a guide to prepare your car
for the Run.
•Remove the rear drums and check the wheel cylinders
•Make sure there is plenty of lining on the shoes.
•Check to see that the springs are in good condition
•Inspect the drums to make sure they are not scored
•Make sure the emergency brake is working; adjust it
•Check the front brake pads for wear. Since the front
brakes do most of the stopping, you can expect greater wear.
•Check the caliper piston seals for leaks; make sure
the pistons move freely. Inspect the rubber brake hoses for
•Make sure the wheel bearings are packed with grease
and adjusted properly. If you haven’t repacked the wheel
bearings after a summer of driving, now is the time to do
•You can have the rotors resurfaced while the hubs are
off. This will improve your car’s braking performance.
•Lastly, check the brake master cylinder for leaks.
Top it up if necessary. Don’t just look on the cylinder
itself leaks. Look inside the car where the pedal connects
to the cylinder. Chances are leaks will start here. If it
is clean and dry, your brake system should be good to go.
•Make sure there tread is wearing evenly. If not, find
out why and get it fixed. Uneven tread wear usually can be
fixed with front end alignment.
•Look inside t he glovebox door or in the owner’s
manual for the correct tire pressure, NEVER go by the pressure
printed on the side of the tire. The inflation pressure on
the side of the tires tells you the MAXIMUM pressure you can
put in the tire, not the pressure recommended by the car’s
•Make sure the spare in in good shape and that it is
•Check to see that the jack. lug wrench and handle are
in the trunk.
•Top up the battery’s water level.
•The cable connections should be clean and tight. Check
the ground to the frame and the positive wire to the starter.
•Turn on the lights and make sure both high and low
beams are working. Check the running lights, turn signals,
brake lights and reverse lights.
•Make sure there are no burned out instrument lights.
We’ll be driving plenty at night. Burned out instrument
panel lights will make for added eye-strain. Lastly, make
sure the emergency flashers are working.
•Check the horn, heater blower motor and windshield
wiper and washer. Top up the washer fluid.
•If your motor hasn’t been given a tune-up all
summer, give it one now -- even if it is running perfectly.
You’ll save the old parts and bring them with you as
spares in case something goes wrong with your car or someone
else’s car. Replace these parts: Points, spark plugs,
condenser, rotor, distributor cap. Change the oil and filter.
Adjust the valves if necessary.
•Check the radiator and heater hoses. Anything that
looks suspect should be replaced. If the coolant is more than
two years old, change it and replace the thermostat at the
same time. Keep the old thermostat as a spare.
•Adjust the carburetors by making sure they are in synch
and that the mixture is just right. if it’s too rich,
you’ll be wasting gas. If it is too lean, you engine’s
performance will suffer. Check the fuel lines for tightness.
Make sure the rubber is in good shape. If the air cleaners
are old, clean or replace them.
•Run a wrench over every nut and bolt on the entire
engine. Make sure the nuts and bolts on the intake and exhaust
manifolds are tight. Check the water pump for tightness. Do
the same for the oil pan, timing cover, fuel pump and head
•Start by topping up the transmission and differential
with the proper gear oil. While you are underneath the car,
look for leaks around the transmission’s rear seal.
A little weeping is normal. Anything else should be fixed
before you go.
•Check the clutch slave cylinder for tightness and for
leaks. Make sure the clevis pin that holds the rod from the
slave cylinder is in good shape and that the cotter pin is
•Top up the clutch hydraulic fluid. Look inside the
car where the clutch master connect to the pedal. Make sure
there are no leaks.
•Lubricate your car’s U-joints with a grease gun.
•While you have that gun out, lubricate the rack and
WHAT TO PACK
Now that you car is tuned up and topped up you are almost
ready to hit the road.
The last thing you need to do is make a roadside care package
of tools, spare parts and vital fluids. A plastic battery
box from an auto parts store makes a great storage container
because it fits in the trunk.
Pack the box with:
•Two quarts of oil
•A container of brake fluid
•The old spark plugs, points, condensor, rotor and distributor
•Rebuild kits for the clutch master and slave and brake
master. Chances are you won’t need these. But as a British
car owner, you should have these rebuild kits in the garage
anyway. It won’t hurt to bring them along.
•If your car has inner tubes, bring a spare tube. Thanks
to the spare tire, you can survive one flat with no delay.
Two flats could be a real pain in the arse.
•A can of fix-a-flat
•An extra fan belt
•A set of open end wrench, socket wrenches, screwdrivers,
pliers, vice grips and a hammer. Several shop rags or towels.
•A gallon of coolant.
OK. That’s about it. Except for one last thing: Those
of us who are veteran British car owners know that our cars
have a way of telling us when something is not right. We know
the noises they make. We know how they smell, where the needles
should be in the gauges and so on. If you feel something isn’t
right, check it out before you go.