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Getting your British Classic ready for the Michigan British Reliability Run

By Richard Truett


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 4th.

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:

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 prove it.

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 for leaks.
•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 or grooved
•Make sure the emergency brake is working; adjust it if necessary.
•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 cracks.
•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 so.
•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 manufacturer.
•Make sure the spare in in good shape and that it is inflated properly.
•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 bolts.


•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 intact.
•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 pinion.


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 cap
•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.