project log...

1968 SAAB Sonett - aka "SONEAT"

SONEAT is a one-of-a-kind SAAB. There's not another like her.

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Winter Project:

Anti-Sway Bar










I finally got a chance to look at the hub/spindle/brake problem. Firstly, yes, all the rubber bits in that one caliper are either melty soft or rock hard and brittle from the hear.

Secondly, it turns out that Jack (Lawrence) guessed correctly and wins the teddy bear... The screw-in retaining ring that holds the wheel bearing in place had come unscrewed, allowing the bearing to move in the spindle. My guess is that the stake-ring broke where it was staked to keep it from coming loose. I see no other way that it could spin free. It is pretty beat up and I think is junk now. The bearing, near as I can tell, is fine. It may not need replacing?


We entered the car in the VSCCA New Jersey Vintage Grand Prix. It ran flawlessly all day Friday. The wee-little 1500 turned quite a few heads as I hounded and outdrove a 300hp 240Z for a whole session! I had a slightly soft brake pedal in the pits, but never noticed a problem on the track.

Saturday dawned wet and rainy. I swapped over to the Dunlops as they had a good bit more tread than the Hoosiers. In the final checks before going out on track I noticed the brake fluid was low. Further inspection showed that the left side brake caliper was leaking. Even more inspection revealed that there was some sort of problem in the spindle that allowed the hub to move out a 1/4 of an inch. This caused the brake disc to rub on the inside of the brake caliper, heat it up something fierce, and melt the rubber seals. We were done for the weekend. I put it on the trailer, towed it home, and picked up the Quantum 1 to take back for the rest of the weekend.


The repaired cylinder heads arrived.

I painted them a think coat of blue (all I had left), coated a new set of head gaskets with copper spray gasket, and bolted them on the engine.


fuel pressure gaugeInstalled fuel pressure regulator in custom gauge pod fabbed from the bottom end of a rattle-spray-can.


Dad and Jeremy, working from photos that I emailed to them, fabricated an aluminum swirlpot to be installed when Dad gets back, the day before the VSCCA NJVGP.


While the headgasket trickery looked like it was working... We discovered that the passenger side head was actually cracked. I packed them up and shipped them to Jack Lawrence of MSS.


Ordered an electric fuel pressure gauge so I can read it in the engine compartment while driving.


The oil cooler leak turned out to be a faulty braze on our custom made hose connections. That's fixed now, but I think the cooler itself may have sprung a leak.

Took the heads to Alderman's to get them measured for flatness.

Pass side head:

  • .004" gap on the intake face
  • .005 gap on the exhaust face
  • .006 gap between the combustion chambers, intake face to exhaust face

Pass side head:

  • <.002" gap on the intake face
  • <.002 gap on the exhaust face
  • .005 gap between the combustion chambers, intake face to exhaust face

Spoke with Jack Lawrence about this and he thinks I might be able to "fudge it" with some tricks. We'll see.


We took the car to the VRG event at the New Jersey Motorsports Park (Lightning Course). The car was quick (third fastest in my group behind a Ginetta and a Lotus 7) but overheating. Finally determined that the headgasket (passenger's side) was blown and we were leaking combustion gasses into the coolant passages. Also, we had a persistent oil leak from the oil cooler.
Put the car on the trailer.


After test drives, it was determined that the new brake master cylinders are too big. 3/4" piston size caused the pedal pressure to be too high. It made it impossible for me to lock the brakes up and modulating the brakes was nightmarish. So, I ordered a new set of 5/8" size cylinders and installed those. Things improved greatly and I set the balance as near as I could guess.


Installed new Carter fuel pump


Click to see the gallery Been working on the engine rebuild. I got to the point where it was time to torque the rod bolts. Jack Lawrence has been after me to use a rod bolt stretch gauge for this instead of a torque wrench. I decided it was worth the money and effort to take his advice. I ordered not the cheapest, but not the most expensive gauge that Summit Racing offered. It just happened to be the Summit branded model. Well, its pretty useless.

The problem is that the internal spring is not nearly strong enough. You can set up the gauge, let go, and it just flops down to the end of its travel by virtue of its own weight. The only way to use it would be to hang the engine over your head and work upside down.

I unscrewed the pointy tip from the end of the dial indicator and found a small washer that it. I went to the Home Depot and got a variety pack of springs. One of them was a near perfect fit. Once all reassembled, I had something that looked like this and worked just perfect. Problem solved and rod bolts torqued!


Click to view the gallery Throttle pedal modifications.

With the new other pedals, the loud pedal needed to move over a bit to the left. Also, the throttle stop needed to be a little bigger.


Click to view the gallery Progress on the new oil cooling and filtering and monitoring setup.

We are adding:

  • Two LARGE oil filters
  • One air-to-oil oil cooler from a 1989 SAAB 9000T
  • Oil temperature gauge
  • Higher pressure setting on the oil pump pressure relief valve
  • A whole bunch of plumbing


Click to see the gallery Progress on the new dual brake master cylinder setup and pedals.


Click to view gallery The motor as it came back from MSS. The bottom end is all put together.


Road trip.
Up and back to Jack and Pat's (Motor Sport Service) to pick up the race motor.


Mounted and balanced the new Hoosier Speedster tires.
On the car, they fit exactly the same as the Dunlops as far as fender clearance goes. Rub the sidewall a little on the left rear and clear fine on the right rear. Maybe, I should try to center the axle a little? It wouldn't be much, 1/4 or 1/8 of an inch would be all.


Ordered from Bob Woodman Tires:

4 Hoosier Speedster 185-65-15


Dad and I finished configuring SONEAT to be inspected and registered with a "Historic" registration. Only tires remain.


I sent Jack a NEW 1500cc crank that I had on the shelf.
We will utilize a used (read: worn in) aluminum camshaft gear from Jack's collection. He thinks it should be fine.
Jack is giving us a different block from his collection. It will be bored 60 thou over and the bore polished with 600grit.


Damage report:

  • Warped the crank (must replace)
  • Destroyed a couple rods (must replace)
  • The BLOCK isn't straight anymore. The heat warped the #2 main bearing carrier. (must replace)
  • #1 and #3 main bearing carriers were not align bored correctly at the machine shop and are not round. (must replace)
  • Oil pump spring has lost about 20% of its "springiness". (must replace)
  • Pistons OK
  • Heads/valves OK


Took a road trip and dropped off most of the engine with Jack Lawrence (Motor Sport Service). He will check it over, find the problem, report back, fix it all, put together the bottom end.


Pictures of the damage to the engine from Watkins Glen.


Once home, I disassembled the engine to find 2 spun rod bearings and a chunked up camshaft gear. All the bearing surfaces in the engine are shot. The crank is very badly scored!

I don't know if the oil pressure came first or the camshaft gear came first or if it all happened at once. Every theory I've come up with for a cause has been inconclusive.


We went to Watkins Glen.
I got one session where the car ran kinda stinky but handled OK. It wouldn't pull in 4th gear so I had a top speed of redline in 3rd gear. After that, I went on track a couple of times just to end up broken down with an engine that wouldn't restart.

One problem, I think, is the fuel pump was dying. There was a great struggle to find a replacement and eventually, some $70 later, I had something that worked.

It was about this time that I realized the oil pressure was really bad (~30psi) and getting worse AND I could hear something wrong in the engine. I shut her down and put her on the trailer.


Went through the race prep on the car.

  • Re-bled brake fluid with fresh ATE-SuperBlue
  • Safety wired oil drain plug
  • Removed muffler and installed straight pipe
  • Removed driver's side rotor/hub and tightened the mating bolts, reinstalled
  • Fabricated screens for the carb and installed
  • Put the trickle charger on
  • Installed a third throttle spring, this one directly to the carb
  • Topped of oil
  • General checkover

Borrowed the D-tag again to try and figure out the running



  • Installed oil pump.
  • Installed the oilpan with new pan gasket.
  • Installed the cylinder heads and torqued, in 5lb increments, up to 80 lb/ft.
  • Installed the intake studs (locktited) and intake manifold.
  • Rebuilt the rocker shaft assemblies with my lightened rocker arms and some good-used rocker shafts.
  • Installed the rocker shaft assemblies.

After installing the rebuilt rocker shaft assemblies with the lightened rocker arms, I found that the adjuster bolts weren't very tight. Certainly not tight enough. So, I removed them all and with a hammer and dolly block deformed the holes.

  • Reinstalled the now nicely tight adjuster nuts and set the valve play.
  • Retorqued the pan bolts to 4 ft/lbs.
  • Installed an oil filter,
  • the threaded block plugs,
  • the fuel pump blanking plate,
  • oil pressure sensor
  • dipstick tube.
  • Filled with 3 qts of Redline 50Wt Racing oil (still need to top off).

With a 6mm deep socket and an extension fitted to my drill, I spun the oil pump driveshaft until I saw oil running out of all 8 rockers. Hear that, ALL 8 ROCKERS! Awesome.

  • Installing the water pump was the last thing I did before shutting down for the night morning (1 AM).

I'm getting excited. After I put the valve covers, intake and distributor back on the motor, it is ready to go in. It will be my first time ever doing it by myself, but it shouldn't be too hard. I think I might actually make it to Watkins Glen!

  • Installed the rest of the pistons/rods.
  • Installed the balance shaft,
  • oil pump driveshaft
  • camshaft.
  • Mounted crank gear,
  • balance shaft gear,
  • camshaft gear.
  • Installed the transmission cover (with new balance shaft seal).

Put the block on tthe stand, put the crank in and put the #1 and #3 pistons in. That's as far as I got before dinner and a movie time. Mexican takeout night! WooHoo!


NOW begins the frantic rebuild.
I cleaned and masked and painted the block and head.


Picked up the block and head at Alderman Machine.


Cleaned and honed the lightened rocker arms. I'm not sure if I will use them or not.
Cut the V6 shaft down to size.


Reinstalled the brake master cylinder. We have PEDAL!
This winter however, we are going to install a dual master cylinder brake setup with balance bar.


I cleaned up the master cylinder bore with a hone and reassembled it. I used a different top cover and a new handmade gasket. With Dad's help, I got it all back together.


Picked up the freshly powdercoated timing cover from Viking Wheel. It is just a clearcoat over bare blasted aluminum and it ends up looking like gray paint. FREE!


Checked with Wally and Bill at Viking Wheel about welding the timing cover... No go. They said it would be simpler to just use my spare rather than risk warping the cracked one.

Picked up the second set of wheels freshly powdercoated silver. They are Shelbys so should be even stronger than my Ronals.


Dropped the bearing sets off at Alderman Machine.

Cleaned the oil pan out. An awful lot of the crank gear was in there.

Figured out that the cover on the brake master cylinder was leaking because the "big bang" threw the transmission over into it and bent the cover. I didn't notice this when we were working on the repairs. It wasn't until I found the resevoir was empty just before loading onto the trailer and heading out to the PVGP that I noticed something was wrong. I could tell it wasn't leaking internally, and I had a good pedal, so I decided the cover was leaking. I didn't know why but decided as long as I kept it topped up, I'd be OK. So now I finally get to look into it and sure enuff... More "big bang" damage.
So, I cleaned up another cover from my parts stash to use.

I cut the fan-bearing nose off another timing cover in preparation for a freeze plug and use in case Dad isn't satisfied with the repairs to the original cover.

Dad and I decided we would install a dual brake master cylinder setup over the winter. Thusly, we aren't going to spend the big bucks on rebuilding the current master cylinder. We'll put it back together with as many good parts as we can and run it 'till the end of the season, then retire it.

We also discussed installing an engine oil cooler over the winter. I've got one out of my old 9000 parts car that might work and we have an oil filter relocation kit in Dad's parts stash.


I placed an order with Jack Lawrence (MSS) for 2 sets each of balance shaft bearings and camshaft bearings. During the conversation I let him know that I had included a couple good gears for him to check the mesh-ability for me.

I dropped the engine block, passenger side cylinder head, cam and balance shafts of at Alderman Machine and asked Paul to:

  • Remove the camshaft bearings and see if he can figure out why the center one spun, or if it was installed improperly.
  • Clean the block and make sure there are no metal flakesy bits or chunks floating around in it.
  • Install new camshaft bearings.
  • Install new balance shaft bearings.
  • Check the fit of both shafts.
  • Disassemble the head and check that the valves are not bent.

I installed the new fuel pressure gauge.
I redid the cooling fan mounting so that it now mounts in FRONT of the radiator. It is a "pusher" fan (the AC fan from a 9000) that we had mounted aft of the radiator and were running in reverse. That arrangement wasn't very efficient and was a bear to R&R. The new installation has the fan spinning the correct way AND doesn't need to be removed in order to remove the radiator.

Spent some time cleaning up the engine bits in preparation of the upcoming rebuild. In doing that, I found that the timing cover is cracked. So now I have to prepare another one.


Removed the brake master cylinder from the car and mostly disassembled it. I've left the piston assembly together, but it is out of the clinder. I see some marks in the bore that don't look too bad but COULD be a reason for our soft initial pedal. I'm checking on a rebuild (service) cost.

Packaged up the damaged timing gear set. Also threw in my other good iron balance shaft gear and a stock crankshaft gear for Jack to check. I dropped the box of gears off at SCS to be shipped to Jack.


Disassembled the engine down to a completely bare block. In general, things still look OK. I found some metal in some of the oil passeges and there is of course a GROSS of the stuff in the oil pan. But all shafts still spun smooth and easy. One thing that worried me is that the piston for the cylinder that had the bent pushrod shows a mark that indicated contact with the valve. I hope we didn't bend a valve.


Removed the engine and took a look at things... Discovered: CHEWED timing gears.


Ordered a rocker shaft for a much later and much larger V6. I think it is a 4 liter for a Ford Explorer, but I'm not sure. It hasn't arrived yet so I don't know yet if it will fit.
UPDATE - DOES NOT FIT. From AutoZone, part #MRS-676. The diameter of the shaft is correct, but the spacing between the holes is NOT.


I just got this message from

"Stefan k Vapaa, Order ******** Ford : E9RZ6563A ( SHAFT VALVE ROCKER A) Thanks for using online source for Factory Ford Parts and Accessories. The item/items that you have ordered/looking for has been discontinued by Ford Motor Company and is no longer available."

So, I managed to find ONE (1) assembly at and bought that. So far, that's the only one I've been able to locate.


Ordered 2 new V6 rocker shaft assemblies from One for now, one

Ford Service Part #E9RZ-6563-A


Went out for the first practice session and kept the revs down below 6500rpm. After the 4th lap, things started running bad and hot. I pulled into the pits and shut it down, pushing it the rest of the way to our pit spot.

After a bunch of troubleshooting and wrong guessing, I finally determined that we weren't getting any oil to the right hand cylinder back of valvegear. The rockers siezed, a pushrod bent and the bolts retaining the rocker shaft stanchions PULLED OUT OF THE HEAD. Well crap. Put a fork in me, I'm done.

Now, we have to determine why we aren't getting oil to the right valvegear, fix it, and then rebuild the valvetrain.


Loaded and trailered to PVGP. The trip was awful. Took FOREVER. Lost the key to Mom's car.


I decided that I had ONE MORE SHOT. I had ONE MORE intake gasket in my stock and a couple sets of head gaskets.
I gave it another shot, this time changing my head gasket torquing procedure to a much more involved and tedious version that ultimately ended in a higher torque value. I started torquing down and added torque in 5lb increments, beginning as low as 30 ft/lbs and ending at 80 ft/lbs.

After cutting the intake and going through the whole thing all over again, I filled the system with water and saw nary a drop of errant water. Horay!

I poured in the other vital fluids and pre-cranked the moor to build a little oil pressure. Finally, I turned the switch to fire it. Things didn't work right off the bat as I had to adjust the timing, but once I did she fired up nice and easy!

I set the timing at 34 degrees all said and done. I checked the float level on the carb. After a LONG trip to PHL to pick up Jeremy, I installed the rev-limiter and buttoned things up.


The engine/trans combination was installed in the car and all the hookups made.

Late at night, I started filling the cooling systemn with water. Only, it leaked. Water seeped from the head gaskets and poured out the side.

I was beat. I opened the drain and turned out the lights.


click me I fabricated a "tool" to clean out the gearbox. Our plan for getting the old rusty/grimy/grungy gearbox race-ready was to run ATF through it. The problem was, we didn't have a way to "run" it and that is a necessary part of the process.

Enter ingenuity.
I brought my bench grinder/buffer up from the basement and sat it on my workbench. I put the gearbox on the bench next to it and, through efforts with bits of wood, screws, brackets and my drill... "Securely" mounted it to the bench. A short length of torque sensitive flexible coupling material (aka, radiator hose) was cut and used to connect the input shaft of the transmission to the buffer mandrel. After donning extensive safety gear (gloves and a plastic face shield) I confidently threw the switch... And ran away.

Great mooggly googgly that is fantastic!
It is all spinny and zippy and gear turny and the wall shaking and nothing terrible happening. Success.

Now, to shift gears... BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZTt. Ok. No shifting gears. No clutch means no shift. Got it.

Switch off and wait for the spinning to stop. NOW shift gears. Turn on and run away, but not as far away. I am supremely confident now. Rinse and repeat. 3rd time is 4th gear. 4th gear scares me. The vibrations are violent and I fear I've crossed the rubicon with my bot quite Goldbergian creation. I quickly shut it down and go back to the much less fearsome 3rd gear. It ran steady for about 20 minutes more. I briefly ran it through a few more gears (including, for a time, reverse) and then dissasemble, drain, and prepare for installation.

click me to see my pretty colors During all this, Dad and I finished building the engine.


Dad collected some shock bushings for the "new" Koni's. Also, the wheel for the Sonett. However, the gearbox SCS was supposed to have rebuilt for us is not finished and will not be finished. So we will have to try and clean up and use the one we have. It is the wrong final drive and there is rust on the gears, but we have no other choice. CRAP.


Continued building the engine. Got as far as the intake manifold and had to wait overnight for the glue on the intake gasket to set up so I can carve the intake ports in the gasket.

Dad and I inspected the last remaining gearbox I had, in case we had to use it. It doesn't look great, but it might work.


Sandblasted and painted the shocks.

Started assembly of the engine. I got as far as having the crank and pistons and rods all installed but got delayed because I needed a different torque wrench that went lower (fewer ft/lbs) than the one I had.


The balance shaft and camshaft bearings arrived at my house by 10:30. Dad dropped them off at Alderman Machine an hour later.

I picked up the engine block, pistons and rods at Alderman Machine.

The heads arrived from MSS too.


Ordered camshaft and balance shaft bearings from West of Sweden. I called after the UPS driver had already been to visit Chip, but he called her (on her cell!) and got her to stop back by so my bearings could go out that day. Thus, they will arrive TOMORROW in time to get them to the machine shop and have the block done for the weekend. Great service from Chip at West of Sweden.


getting ready to paint Dad worked on the hood, repairing the fiberglass damage and laying a coat of blue paint on.


Received flywheel/clutch/pressure plate assembly and crank from MSS.


Looked at the rear brake adjustment. I'm out of available adjustment now, so can only make up the play by pulling the handbrake on a few clicks... 5 to be exact.


Custom pieces, click to see The custom (high compression 1500) pistons, rods and rings arrived from Jack Lawrence (MSS) and Dad took them down to Alderman Machine so the block boring could begin.


Bobby Gant is still working on rebuilding the gearbox. There seems to be a dearth of good parts between the old box and the used one we delivered for parts.

I dropped the RF wheel off at Viking Wheel to have the gouges welded up.

Ordered a new gasket set from West of Sweden. Chip said it should arrive tomorrow.

Talked with Jack Lawrence (MSS) who confirmed my choice of the Pertronix Digital Rev Limiter as a good engine guardian. He is going to look and see if he can get me a good price on it! Also, he's going to see if he has a tachometer I could use in place of the stock unit.

Soldered the kill-switch end battery cable connector-end on.


Purchased two (1 for now, 1 extra) battery cable ends from Tri-State Battery. What a great store. Very helpful and always friendly.

Removed the old battery end from a battery cable I'd pulled from my parts collection... And routed it in the car. I still have to put the new end on the killswitch end.

Sandblasted and painted the (from parts collection) coolant hose that divides the coolant flow for the two banks of the block.


Bit of sanding on the chassis followed by a bit of primering and a bit of painting.


Dad and I torched and beat the rest of the chassis damage into submission and welded up the last of the holes.


I MIG welded the shock mounting point and some more of the holes in the chassis. Just a couple more to go.


Started the day with a run to Alderman Machine to drop off the CORRECT end caps.

Dad banged on the chassis and gas welded some of the holes.


Dropped the 1700 crank off at Alderman Machine along with all the WRONG end caps for the blocks. Fixing that little error will require another visit tomorrow. Went home and located the correct end caps... One set in Dad's basement and one set in mine.
Removed the broken battery cable from the car. Located a spare from my existing stock.


Jack Lawrence called to say that he wanted to take a look at the valves from our heads. He sees some evidence that the valves were flotaing, or had floated. So, I packed them up and Dad shipped them off.


Since VIR, we have taken things apart, inspected, and ordered a bunch of new bits and pieces.

Cause of the destruction

First, it appears that the failure in the clutch region was initially the pressure plate. We have come to this conclusion based on the fact that the clutch disc friction material was shredded on the pressure plate side, but perfectly intact on the flywheel side. The friction surface of the flywheel is still intact. If the flywheel had come apart first, the pressure plate friction surface would have little reason to follow suit. Make sense?

New engine

We have decided that the new motor for this car will be a proper 1500. That's the correct motor for the car after all. We are going to go to the limit of legality on the overbore and have ordered .060 over pistons. They will be custom forged and milled pistons aiming at about a 12:1 or 12.5:1 compression ratio. We also will utilize a more efficient intake manifold that turns the carb north-south vs the east-west of our stock Weber setup. We are switching to a Solex 40 PII carb (with accelerator pump). Apart from this, it will be a pretty standard race setup.


The plan is to use the same final drive ratio, but we need a new gearbox built up.


We took SONEAT to the VSCCA Governor's Cup Races at VIR and promptly broke. It was, to say the least, a really big break.

I made 3 hot laps and then BANG!

Oh yeah, it was a BIG BANG.

I was just topping out 2nd gear coming out of the slowest corner on the track (Oak Tree) getting ready to shift to third at 7000 rpm when, yes, the bang happened. I immediately pulled off-track and coasted, bouncing along in the grass until just before the pit-in. At some point, though I don't remember doing it, I turned the ignition off. Steam billowed from the engine bay. It was clearly steam and not smoke, so I waved off the corner worker with the fire extinguisher. I got out and became a spectator.

In the pits shortly thereafter I got a clear idea of what the big bang was and just how much damage it had done (a lot).

Here's a few pics
(The first 11 shots are at the track with the remainder later in my garage.)

The flywheel, how shall I put this... Grenaded?

When it went, it took with it a LOT of other stuff. Collateral damage was expensive and included a bit of everything.

  • It exploded the pressure plate friction surface
  • Shredded the clutch disc
  • Bent and jettisoned all the (red) pressure plate springs (I recovered two, unuseable, from the side of the track)
  • Shredded all but one of the shotpeened clutch fingers
  • Deformed the pressure plate (stamped steel) housing
  • It cut the coolant lines (thus the steam cloud) in at least 4 places, bending the steel coolant line (across the back of the block)
  • It exploded the bellhousing
  • Which took the bellhousing mounting points on the block
  • Which broke the starter nose.
  • It ripped through the chassis in half a dozen places. Making brand new holes, already existing holes bigger, and expanding (like a frozen soda can) the passenger side of the engine bay outwards.
  • It put a hole in the oil filter.
  • It bent the 2bbl Weber-specific throttle linkage.
  • It cut the battery cable clean in two.
  • It bent the tranny input shaft
  • It broke the clutch throwout arm
  • It (the shock) took a tooth off the differential ring gear
  • It threw a driveshaft and launched all the needle bearings
  • It bent the engine side-stay
  • It dented the passenger side Koni damper and bent the shaft
  • It took a chunk out of the passenger side wheel
  • It put an 18" long crack in the fiberglass hood along the side of the carb-bulge
  • It gouged the oil pan (that I had only a few weeks before finished customizing with a windage tray) in a couple places
  • It severly dented the driver's side suspension tower

Through all this, if not for the hole in the oil filter it wouldn't have lost a drop of oil. The only line(s) it did not cut through was the crankcase vent lines and the fuel line.

The engine would, if you could mount a starter on it, run fine. But we must start from scratch because the block has no more bellhousing bolt holes left.

The flywheel came apart circumferentially. The friction surface remained bolted to the crank and apart from its missing outer diameter, appears unmolested.

So, we must do engine building, tranny building, chassis repair, suspension repair, cooling lines, weld a wheel, fiberglass and paint, etc. Simply amazing damage.

The cause? Undetermined so far. Vibration, balance, old age???

It was a lightened (according to SAAB Sprot and Rally specs) flywheel, but it was the same one we've been running since '84. It had the pressure plate bolt circle intact and weighed approx 13 lbs (stock is 15). The pressure plate was the same one we've been running since '84, but was upgraded to 6 red (high pressure) springs at the beginning of last year (only three had been fitted previously). The clutch assembly was untouched since the last race (last season) and had been fine for the last 4 events prior to that.

The next race is the second weekend in July at BeaverRun (45 minutes NW of Pittsburgh). That's not much time for all that work! We are going to build a new engine that is the proper size for the car. I've ordered new pistons and we just sent off the heads to be O-ringed, the rods and crank to be magnafluxed and shotpeened, and a flywheel as a core for a new one. The block will go to Aldermans soon to be prepped for overbore and reassembly.

I don't know if we are going to make it... And the next race after that is the next weekend at the PVGP (Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix).


We took a trip down to Underwood's race shop where Jeff and I built a new rollbar. I had Wally at Viking Wheel powedercoat it. It turned out great.


We were back at the Shenandoah course again, but this time with the VSCCA. It all went very well and the Sonett ran spectacularly.


click to go to the photo gallery
The VRG Shenandoah Fall Celebration at Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia went extremely well. I won both my races! One in the wet and one in the dry... Yehaw!


Click to go to the gallery
The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix (PVGP) went extremely well. Dad took the car to a second place finish from 3rd on the grid!


Click here to view the low-res YouTube version.
Or here for the high(er)-res version off my site. (85M)


There was a bunch of race-prep that went on prior to our trip toi Beaver Run for the PVGP Historics, but it was fairly mundane. Much more exciting was the PVGP Historics. Duh.

The car ran very well. The only nagging problem is an oil leak somewhere. It keeps lunching oil out the right hand side and I don't know where from. I canna figure it out.

I ran in the "over 2 litre" class this past weekend where everyone either had bigger motors or were on stickier rubber. But I managed to show well in the end. In the Saturday race I managed to hold off the charging Honda S800 of Doug Meis and last to the end when so many others dropped out. I finished 1st in class and 3rd overall behind Tivvy Shenton in his Jag and a Ginetta.

In the Sunday morning race I again had to fend off the challenges of the S800. He really made me work. Traffic was my friend and I managed to get a gap by putting some cars between us in key spots. At the same time I was pressuring Fred Danowitz in his Triumph Spitfire. He had so much more power than either hte S800 or I, but we were running very similar laptimes. He would put a couple seconds between us on the front straight and I would spend the rest of the lap catching him back up. In the last turn I could pressure him into making mistakes in the brake zone and get inside of him, but he just powered back by on the uphill run through turn 11.

In the Sunday afternoon feature, I didn't want to push the car so hard. I was hoping to save it for the PVGP next weekend. So the Honda guy and I talked and agreed to back down a bit and swap places some to see how the other felt. It was definitely easier on the car, but not the same kinda fun. I think we put on a good show though. When the "1 lap to go" sign came out, I saw Doug put the hammer down. So, I did too. We ran that last lap as hard as we could but ran into traffic that got us slowed up. On the last corner he protected the inside line and made me go around the outside of him. We powered up the hill and I started to come alongside him. At the finish line we were side by side but I think he got me by about 6"!

Despite taking it easy, I still broke something. Due to the flared portion of the exhaust header corroding and wearing away, the driver's side exhaust pipe came out of its flange. It was probably like that for a portion of the last lap but I didn't notice. It shouldn't be too hard to fix.
I also have to adjust the rear brakes and change the front pads before PVGP. The handbrake won't hold the car anymore and the front pads are basically gone.


Dad came over and fabricated a mounting system for the cooling fan and mounted it (mostly). I installed the alternator and he hooked up the remaining cooling hoses.
Later that night, I sandblasted and painted one of Dad's new brackets and the two valve covers. They are bright silver now, like the oil filler/breathers I painted earlier the other week.


I modified the passenger side valve cover to clear the hood. Pictures to follow.


I replaced the crank seal and set about reinstalling the motor. It went in fairly easily.

I yanked one of my spare Sonett III starters from the shelf and installed it. Then we bolted stuff up, hooked stuff up and tied things down. It isn't all finished yet because we still have to fit a new cooling fan and modify the passenger side valve cover to clear the hood.


Last night I washed the car as best I could to get all the oil off it. It all came from the Formula S leaking gear oil all the way back from NHIS.

Today Dad and I pulled the engine out. The crank seal appears to have been installed slightly askew. We didn't do that, it was like that when we bought the motor. We simply failed to notice it. In all fairness, it is only SLIGHTLY askew.


NHIS was fun! We had some mechanical problems, but the car finished its last session and we drive it on the trailer.

The car ran fine for the instructor portion of the school and I even took it out briefly on the student day to show the students how I go around an autox course.
It rained kitties and doggies on Friday and all my sessions were run in the wet. This was fine... Really! I like driving in the rain. The problem is I hate standing in the rain and working in the rain. :(
For those wet sessions the car ran flawlessly. I had it rotating when I wanted it and while I had to manage a couple of braking points that I left too late, I stayed on track and did not spin. In general, I was quite competitive with the other cars in my run group. They were all on Hoosiers and I was on the hard compound Dunlops. Everyone had more power than me and more tire than me but I still managed to be towards the front of the pack. Quite pleased with that, I am. ;)

Saturday the weather dried up but overall things went all pear-shaped for me. I went out in the first session and was running well when the clutch started to slip. I tried to manage it by changing my shift style but it just got worse the longer I ran. Finally, I brought it into the pits and parked it. Opening the hood, we found engine oil in the engine bay. It was running out the inspection cover on the bell housing. My diagnosis is that at some point, possibly at VIR, we blew the rear-main crank seal out. This poured oil onto the flywheel and clutch, causing it to slip. The reason I didn't see it on Friday was because the sessions were shorter and the problem was less obvious in the wet.
I parked it for the rest of the day and figured I was done for the weekend. That evening, we talked to Ralph and he suggested that we probably didn't have enough cranckcase breathing on the motor and this was why we blew the seal out. This made sense, since we were blowing the oil filler cap off at VIR.

Sunday morning I made some modifications and rerouted the oil breather tubes. I went out in the race and it seemed to be working fine! Yay! But I still had a blown seal and there was no way I was going to suck it back into the motor... So it was only a matter of time. Eventually, the tires started feeling slick and the clutch started slipping. I lost contact with the Porsche 914 I was chasing. I just babied the car and tried to get it to finish the race, which it did.

I'm not certain whether I was blowing oil onto the tires or if they were just getting hot and greasy with my hard driving... But I lost grip after about 4 or 5 laps and simply couldn't get it back after that. I had to back off and just go slower. We're not likely to be changing the tires soon, so I need to find a way to ease the load on the front tires. Either I need to be more aggressive with my driving to get the car to rotate or I need to tune some of the grip out of the rear end. I'll try a little of both and see how things work. Next event... Beaver Run. After that... Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.


Yeah, in the interim... I didn't keep great track of things. But we did some stuff.

It turned out that the vibration was caused by a loose rear mount of the lower left A-arm. It would move in cornering and cause the driveshaft to run in and out of the inner driver... Causing vibration. Dad tightened it up and that was solved.

  • Checked the brakes. The pads are showing signs of stress on the edges, but we will run them again at NHIS. No leaks found.
  • Checked ball joints for heat stress from brakes. No problem found.
  • Checked lugs/hubs/wheels/discs for damage. The lugs have loosened up a bit, but are still OK. Everything else was fine.
  • We cleaned the engine bay and gave the whole car a washing.
  • We refilled the inner driver with Castrol Golden Chassis grease (to match what was in there for the last 22 years) and gave a shot or two to all the ball joints and the steering rack.
  • Found a heavy flatspot on the right front tire. We mounted up two new tires and swapped the flatspotted one and its axlemate to the rear.
  • In an attempt to Band-Aid the freewheel problem... I drained the old gear oil and filled it with ATF. I ran it with the wheels in the air on fast-idle in 4th (occasionally coming over to rev and shift gears) for about 20 minutes or so. Then I drained the ATF and refilled with 1.7 quarts of BG Synchroshift gear lube.

Car ran GREAT at VIR!

No overheating at all, so the cooling re-do is a success. The brakes seemed a little soft to me, but Dad thought they were fine. No real problem there. I'll get to check the pad wear as soon as the car gets back from its extended stay in Durham. The clutch didn't slip at all and worked fine otherwise.

I had some really great dices and it was surely nice to be able to use the full redline. I finally got to do battle on an even playing field with the other cars. I think I put on a pretty decent show. Video and pictures to follow.

I was dicing with an MGB in the last session of the weekend when suddenly I got a severe vibration coming from somewhere in the front end. Dad thinks it is a CV joint gone bad. Also, we had to fight the freewheel jumping out a little too often. I want to put together a new gearbox with a 6 roller freewheel.


Car is loaded on the trailer ready to roll. VIR here we come!


Dad cut out some stick-on nines. I removed the 3's and replaced with 9's. Number now matches my VRG competition number... 97.


We finished up preparing the car. Dad adjusted the valves while I torqued the lugs and safety-wired the engine oil drainplug.


Ordered a bunch of fuses and cotter pins from Sherco Auto.


I still had a lot of work to do on the dang SPG, so I worked on that until late afternoon when I reached a stopping point.

Dad came over in the mid afternoon with the Quantum One on the trailer. After unloading it and dropping the trailer off, he started working on the wiring for the fuel pump and cooling fan. He got the two circuits seperated and wired to an auxiliary fuse panel (that is visible from the driver's seat and gives each their own fuse). After that, we adjusted the clutch freeplay, installed the oil filter, oil and coolant.

We then started the car and let it warm up. It didn't act exactly as expected. I was trying to watch the temp gauge and see when the thermostat opened, but either it is stuck open or I missed it. It started to get hot, so I turned on the cooling fan and it cooled just fine. I think it is notable that the coolant went in easily and once full, and after having run, didn't seem to need any topping-up or burping at all. That's a good sign, but I sure hope it works.


After getting to work and finding noone there, I realized that it was a holiday. How many times am I going to do this?

I figured I was going to get bunches of things done on SONEAT with my newfound empty day... And then the brakes on the SPG started to grind. Oh damn.
I ended up spending most of the day at SCS trying to find some good-used brake rotors for my SPG. Then I had to work on the dang thing. Occasionally, I'd look behind me and see the Sonett sitting there, waiting... For me. In some of those some moments, I had some moments of weakness and sucumbed to the call to work on racecar. When that happened...

  • I finished the installation of the seatbelts. We're all buckled up now.
  • Taped the wheel weights with my superwhamadyne 200degree racers tape.
  • Finished bending the cotter pins on the brake calipers. They're all bent inta shape now.
  • Adjusted the rear brakes. I had to crank and crank and crank on the adjuster. I was afraid we were going to run out of adjuster but eventually, it caught and I was able to get things right. We seem to have a good brake pedal now.
04-12-06 Purchased oil filters.

A lot of planning and parts fabrication/collecting came together and it feels like we made a big step.

I installed the new brake lines from Chip and finished the fabrication of my super-slick copper-to-air brake piston insulator thingies. Then, I installed the thingies, brake pads, spring clips and cotter pins in the brake calipers. Dad and I hooked up the brake lines and set about bleeding the brakes. The rears are a giant PITA (need a smaller hose) but we managed. We still need to adjust the rear brakes, but if you pull up on the handbrake, you get a good pedal so... YAY!

Dad mounted the fuse panel he was working on (see my earlier post).

We bolted the wheels on and found that there was some interference with the brake (hard) lines. A little bendy-tweaky and that was fixed. Finally, we put the car down on its wheels and remounted the hood for the first time in over a month. We closed the hood and confirmed that the tires clear the fenders. The new wheels look pretty darned nice on there. Proper and all that.

Dad mounted the catch can for the crankcase ventilation and I started installing the harnessbelts.


Dad and I made a little progress.

Dad completed the fabrication of the brake (hard) line brackets and I gave them a sandblasting and a coat of paint. He also fabricated a mount for the new crankcase ventilation catch-can. I blasted and painted that. Then, from my stash of junk, he modified an old coolant expansion tank cap so that it would vent without needing to be pressurized (basically just removed the center rivet). More blasting and painting. He fabbed a bracket to relocate the fuse panel to a place where the driver can see it. Blast, paint. I B&P'd the spring clips and cotter pins for the brake calipers.

He brought me a Brew-Ha-Ha cup half full of 1/4 20 bolts, so I'd have some next time we needed them. Then, he used some of those to mount the remaining firewall blanking plates.

I know I worked on something else during all this besides just blasting and painting, but I can't remember what. So I guess as far as this record is concerned... That's all I did.

Oh yeah... Just remembered that I fixed that second throttle return spring that wasn't pulling straight. Should be fine now.


Sam and I tripped out to his office (Shriner's Hospital For Children in Philadelphia) to pick up the rollbar tubing that I'd ordered. It was delivered earlier today. Three 20ft sticks. We strapped them to the roof of the Suburban to get them back to his place then cut them into 4 five footers, one 11 footer and one 9 foot length. Daringly, we slid them into the SPG through the passenger's window. I already had a bunch of file cabinets in there, but so long as the mirror held it would be OK.

It was a chill evening but I turned the heater on high and I was nice and toasty on the way home. Once I got onto I-476, the mirror started to go all wonky. It got bent out of its socket and started to turn down. All I could see was blacktop and the white line. I tried to reach over and reset the tubing, but that was a pipe dream. Every bump I hit, every dip in the road and seemingly ever joint inthe road sent the mirror angling more towards the pavement. As I pulled off I-95 it was just starting to -ACK!- rain!

I arrived home and hurriedly moved the sticks into the garage and wiped them off with a towel. Not a moment too late, as the downpour started while I was locking the garage. I ran back to close the windows on the SPG and then went inside to go to bed.

Note: I would not notice until the commute on Monday that the mirror had survived, but was still aimed a long ways from showing me anything but the stuff I was driving on. When I got to work I pulled and reset it in its socket. Good as new! I now declare this mirror to be a "structural mirror capable of supporting approximately 100lbs over a distance of 25 miles at speeds up to and including 80mph".


Dad came over this evening (Thurs) and we made some progress.

I cleaned up all the caliper pistons we had and selected the best 4. I was lucky to find some Girling rubber grease in a slave cylinder rebuild kit that I had stashed away so I coated the piston seals, caliper half seals and pistons and bolted everything together. 80ft/lbs was scary. I was so afraid I'd strip something out. But, other than rounding a bolt head on one bolt that was more corroded than the others, I had no problems. Now, I just have to hope that everything seals up and that the fluid can get from one half of the caliper to the other without problem.

Note: The Saab version of these calipers uses the Healey Sprite pistons, even though the caliper casting is otherwise identical to an MGB. The MGB uses 2.125" pistons and the Sprite uses 2" pistons. The Saab uses 2" pistons. So, when ordering rebuild parts, get the Sprite rebuild kit. When ordering brake pads, get MGB pads.

Fingers crossed.

Dad fabricated some more firewall blanking plates and finished the one I'd started. They are all installed except one, which needs a couple bolts I didn't have on hand.

After I found a couple of 1/2" to 5/8" adapters in my parts stash, Dad finished cutting the cooling lines to length and installing them.

I installed the alternator and belt and hooked up the wires to that and to the cooling fan.


Collecting parts...

  • I received my order of EBC Green Stuff brake pads (model #DP2107) from I ordered these on a recommendation from Ralph.
  • The new brake lines from Chip arrived today.
  • Dad bought some 1/2" ID coolant hose
  • and some new grade 8 bolts to mount the calipers.


Ordered new stainless steel braiding armored brake lines (for the GT 850/MC/Sport calipers) from West of Sweden.


I installed the coolant expansion tank and hooked up some of the cooling lines. Some new ones need to be purchased and cut to length.

Began fabrication of blanking plate for the heater box.

Began fabrication of copper brake pad backing plates.


Since I wasn't able to find a local source for shotpeening, I did it myself. No, I am not certain I did it completely correctly. I used some steel shot that was leftover from another project and was sitting in a box at Jake's. I am certain that I got 100% coverage of the area I was concerned about. I made sure of that with a visual inspection aided by a magnifying glass. I just don't know what intensity I achieved. I didn't have time to purchase any Almen strips or to fabricate a test holder or gauge. At this point, if I did no harm I will be happy.

So I reassembled the clutch pressure plate with the three additional red (heavy duty) springs (6 total) and the shotpeened fingers. Then I bolted it onto the motor with the new clutch disc and our slick new clutch alignment tool (read: old clutch shaft).

Dad did some running around and figuring out trying to get a brake line setup pieced together for the front calipers. He didn't come up with anything perfect, but we are getting closer.

I installed the pan gasket and in the process discovered the front transmission cover was very loose and was missing one of its bolts. I tighted it up and replaced the missing bolt, but I wonder how it got so loose? I guess that it is very likely that it was the source of much of the oil leak we were chasing.

Dad and I installed the motor in the car and hooked it up minimally, mechanically and electrically, just enough so we could turn it over on the starter and test that the clutch disengaged properly. The pedal feels weird, but it worked. So we continued to install and lock down stuff.

Dad modified the engine-side-brace by removing the old worn out rubber and refitting it with a minimal amount of fuel line (rubber). It is basically a hard connection now, which is fine with us. I installed the new piece of the throttle linkage and at the same time, changed the way the throttle return springs worked by seperating them in direction of pull and mounting location.


Dad picked up a gasket set (minus thermostat housing gasket) from Sports Car Service. Our primary concern was the pan gasket, which was included.

He also mounted up the two NEW Dunlop 500-15 (204 compound) race tires on my wheels.


Dad mounted the best 2 of our remaining used Dunlop 500-15 (204 compound) race tires onto my wheels for use on the back axle. When I got home, I test fit them on the car. I was not a little bit worried that we were going to have clearance issues. *cringe*
Once mounted, I lowered the car to the ground and tried to bounce it enough to see whether the tires would rub the bodywork. I couldn't get it to go low enough to get even close to how it would be in a hard corner. Dang.
Scratch head and bite lip.
I sat on it. I don't weigh enough to simulate a near G corner though. Double dang.
Bite lip again, reach down between my ankles, grab the spokes of the wheels and pull as hard as I dare... THAT works!
The suspension compressed and the tire dissapeared into the wheel well. Almost completely into the wheel well! There was a tiny bit of rubbing on the sidewall on the driver's side, but on track the tendency will be for the loaded tire to pull away from the fender and the unloaded one to droop out of the wheel well so... All is well in fender-to-tire-clearance-land! Yay!

Dad is ordering more new tires today, since these rears are almost gone and we still need fronts.
These tires at
03-26-06 Dad and I worked on a few things today.
  1. Relieved the backside of the lug holes in my wheels so that they would fit over the shoulder of the lug bolts.
  2. Extracted the engine from the car.
  3. Inspected the wiring to try and simplify it.
There's a bit more to it than that actually...

  1. We removed the engine so we could replace the clutch and install the rest of the red pressure plate springs we got from Jack Lawrence (Motor Sport Service).
  2. We have an issue where the fuel pump and the cooling fan are both on the same circuit. We have had issues with the fuse blowing on this circuit, leaving us with a non-cooling and non-running car. Admittedly, the non-running kinda makes the non-cooling a non-issue. So we are going to seperate the two.
    In looking at things we noticed there was already a fuse blown! It appeared to feed the reverse lights. We inspected the switch, concluded it was either bad or almost bad and that racecars don't need reverse lights any damn way. Switch removed, wires taped and tied away.
    Dad is currently studying the wiring diagram and we plan to make a bracket and move the fuse block to a location where it can be seen by the driver.
  I ordered some little ball-joint ends (from McMaster Carr, Part Number: 6058K32 $3.65 Each) to replace the current plastic ones on the throttle linkage.
click to see a diagram of the part
I also got a bit of 1/4" steel rod that I cut to length and cut some new threads on the ends. Dad provided a couple 1/4-28 nuts for locknuts and I assembled it all into a replacement linkage. Pictures to follow.
  I cleaned and installed the rear brake drums, torqued the axle nuts (80 ft-lbs), installed the cotter key and the nut cap.
Installed the front hubs (with discs), but once on the ground they will need to be torqued (160 ft-lbs) and cotter keyed.
03-18-06 Dad and Jeremy installed the lug studs in the rear drums and front hubs. Pictures to follow.
  I collected a set of lug nuts from the Sports Car Service stock of used early 900 lug nuts. Thanks Bill.

Tonight I bolted the front axles and spindles back onto the car. I also started to clean up the brake discs.

Dad pulled the seals and bearings out of the old Sonett brake drums and the 4-bolt drums. He cleaned them all up and they are ready to be greased and installed in the 4-bolt drums. He also purchased the necessary brass plug to close the hole in the top of the thermostat housing... And I installed it.

I called MSS and spoke to Jack and Pat about some parts. I ordered three more (red) heavy duty clutch springs, a new clutch disc and if Jack can find them, 16 wheel studs that are stepped 5/8" UNC on one end and 1/2" some thread or another on the other end.


This evening I greased the 4-bolt spindles, bolted on the brake caliper mounting brackets and pressed in the axles.


Dad came over and we did some work.

  • I removed the "T" port from the back of the water pump and replaced it with a single "inline" port. I also removed the brass elbow port from the top of the thermostat housing. I need to plug the hole that left, but once that is done, the old water choke coolant circuit will be completely eliminated.
  • I removed the heater valve, heater air distribution box and heater control cables.
  • I wire wheeled the 4 bolt Monte Carlo spindles and sandblasted the brake caliper mounting brackets.
  • I painted the 4 bolt hubs, spindles and brake caliper mounting brackets.
  • Dad removed the front axles and spindles from the car.
  • We seperated the axles from the spindles.
  • Dissasembled the coolant expansion tank in preparation for refactoring it to the new cooling system design.


I made some progress on SONEAT this evening. Mostly, disassembly and removal stuff.


  • brake calipers
  • brake discs
  • brake drums
  • heater core
  • heater fan
  • coolant expansion tank
  • coolant lines associated with heater
  • coolant line from thermostat to back of water pump

I also drained the coolant, put a trickle charger on the car and sandblasted the 4 bolt front hubs.


Dad took the car to the VSCCA Turkey Bowl. He had some overheating problems (air bubbles in the cooling system) and absofreakinglutely toasted the front brakes. Blew the pistons out of both sides and spewed ATE Super Blue brake fluid all over the wheels and tires. Metal on metal doesn't begin to describe it. The backing plate is welded to the piston. The clutch was slipping too. Otherwise, it did fine.


Found that the reason the starter died when we tried to put it on the trailer to come home... The wire fell off. I recrimped the spade connector, refitted, and all is well now.


Suffice it to say, we had a very good event with SONEAT. A full report will be forthcoming.


The cylinder heads arrived!

click here to see the heads

We painted them blue (no time for the yellow paint) and stuck them on the motor as fast as we could. Not long thereafter, we gave the starter a kick and "cranka-VROOOM!" I could NOT believe it. A motor that hasn't run for over a decade and was recently rebuilt started on the first crank. Niiice.

The rest of hte preparations were made and we loaded her up to go to Summit Point. Fingers crossed and wood knocked.


There was a puddle of blue under the brake master cylinder when I got out to the car this evening. I was all "Oh damn" and down in the dumps for a while. After I got a good look at it I realized that the brakelight switch was loose and that was where the leak was coming from. I was able to put another full turn on the switch and get it tightened down.

I wired up as much as I could at this point:

  • starter
  • fan
  • oil pressure sensor

I installed the new radiator-to-expansion tank hose and zip-tied it to the fan shroud. Speaking of fans... After I wired it up I test ran it and found that with the new radiator in place, there was just the slightest interference. I had to shave a little of the back of each fan blade to keep it from hitting the oil pan and front cover.

I sandblasted and painted the:

  • dipstick (top)
  • oil fill cap
  • valve covers

We are having some trouble coming up with a new water pump belt. The old one is shredding and not long for this world. Both the new ones Dad came up with are too long.


In the morning, I replaced the driver's side steerig rack bellows and ball joint.

In the afternoon, Dad and I rebuilt and reinstalled the brake master cylinder. After putting the clutch master cylinder back in place we flushed and bled the brakes. We seem to have a good pedal now.

Dad relocated the coolant expansion tank to the driver's side of the engine bay. More room!

We re-set the toe and that will do for an alignment for now.


Dad came over and we got a fair bit done.

I put the oil pan, flywheel, cutch and motor mounts on the motor and got it as far along as possible without having the heads to go with it. Dad and I hung the lump on the chain hoist and installed the motor in the car. That went about as smooth as EVAH! A good omen?

Dad installed the electric fan on the new radiator and we put the assembly in the car. The new radiator was just slightly wider than the old one, so we bent the lower mounting tabs outwards a bit to make it fit.

I put the starter on and bolted the motor down to its mounts.


Dad picked up the completed radiator from Ralph (Cloverleaf Auto). It uses the same end tanks but is a thicker (high flow) core with 4 rows instead of the standard 3.


I installed:

  • oil pump and pump driveshaft
  • camshaft
  • crank gear
  • intermediate plate
  • camshaft gear
  • front cover


I sandblasted and painted the intermediate plate and one of the valve covers that came with the new motor.


I cleaned all the bolt holes and blew a suprising amount of mouse nest out of the yellow motor last night. I thought I got it all when I had it in the parts cleaner, but apparently not. Anyway, I'm fairly certain it is all good now. (Famous last words).

I removed from the old open-deck 1500:

  • oil pressure sensor
  • fuel pump blocking plate
  • front cover
  • oil pan
  • camshaft gear
  • camshaft
  • balance shaft gear
  • flywheel
  • (side) water jacket drain plug
  • oil pump
  • oil pump drive shaft

I installed in the new closed deck yellow motor:

  • oil pressure sensor
  • fuel blocking plate (with homemeade gasket)
  • side water jacket drain plug

Incidentally, when eyeballing them side by side, the camshaft from the open-deck motor looks to have longer duration than the one from the closed-deck motor. Lift is probably the same. Just by eyeball.


We sent the heads off to Jack and Pat Lawrence at MSS. After looking at the (in Jack's words) exceedingly poor" porting job that had been done, we decided to shelve those heads for the time being and to have Jack make up a set of his heads for us. These would be later 1500 or 1700 heads so they wouldn't have the headbolt intrusion in the exhaust port.


Removed the brake master cylinder so we could rebuild it. (Had to pull the clutch master cylinder to get enough room to pull the brake MC.) We pulled it apart and the piston bore looks really good. The outer seal bore however, has some rather severe pitting. That explains the leaking.

Drained the oil from the open deck motor.

08-12-05 Added the final topcoat. There are a couple spots where the paint ran and a couple where it could have covered better but I'm likely to be the only one who notices. Pics are here.

Metal-prepped, POR-15'd, and 1st color coated the engine block. It still needs another topcoat, but then the block will be mostly ready for prime time.

I also pulled the water pump and fan off the front cover, but fell short at figuring out how to remove the fan shaft and bearing.

08-09-05 Scraped and wire wheeled the engine block to remove as much rust and old gasket material as possible.


I removed the oil pump and Safety-Cleaned the block with the pistons, crank, camshaft, balance shaft, balance shaft gear and crank gear all still installed.


Purchased a spray-bomb of engine enamel in "Old Ford Blue". Nothing special, just run of the mill corner auto-parts store stuff. It will coat the valve covers and such.


Purchased an engine painting kit in Hi-Po Yellow. $45 plus shipping.


Dad and I disassembled the new motor to the point where we could see what we had. The heads, pan and all covers are off. It is DIRTY but generally seems decent.

*Note: It has come to my understanding that we have an early closed-deck set of heads. It uses the short headbolts just like our open-deck motor. This is not the end of the world, but is not optimum either. The recessed headbolt in the exhaust port means that the porting is compromised.

07-27&28-05 Dad and I pulled the injured motor out of SONEAT. When we removed the headgaskets, we weren't able to definitely determine where the combustion chamber leak was. We were a bit dissapointed in that since it didn't help us to know what to change for next time.


Dad went to NY to meet Al Tirella and purchase an old modified motor Al had been saving for years. Here's what we knew of it at the time:

  • "Stefan, I found the paperwork. It consists of what appears to be a reprint of the factory recommendations for preparing a race engine. Probably from Saab's sport and rally division. In the margins someone (maybe the previous owner, maybe Jack Lawrence ) has made notes indicating what was done. For example....lightened flywheel, Chrome moly con. rod bolts, high pressure oil pump with shimmed springs, lightened lifters, etc., etc.,. The last page is a dyno graph indicating 110 hp."

    "This weekend I'll pull the plugs and see what movement I get. As I said previously , I was told the motor had been "freshened" before I bought it. I now recall that may have meant new bearings and head gasket."

Dad paid $350 and also got some miscellaneous gaskets in the deal. A good deal I think.


SONEAT goes to the PVGP Historics at BeaveRun Motorsports Complex.

The event was not a total success, but neither was it a total failure. The car did run well, for a while. We learned more about how the car handled and what her strengths and weaknesses were. In the end the motor still leaked water and we still blew a headgasket and had to shut it down early... But not before getting in a few sessions and generating some good video footage.

  The headgaskets didn't seal up too well. They leak coolant. So we poured in some Ceramic Engine Seal put out by Moroso. It worked wonders in getting things sealed up. I'm amazed. I generally don't go for "snake oils" of any sort and I didn't have much faith in this either... But it seems to have done SOMETHING?
  We rebuilt the motor with a set of head gaskets that Jeremy and Dad fabricated. They are copper, hand cut, annealed, with silver wire soldered around the combustion chamber. They're a great piece of work but who knows if they'll work?
  We cut and installed a new set of (4) springs, on which we cut off only 1.5 coils (rather than 2.5 like last time).
  Jeremy fabricated a seat-back support out of aluminum. It has different set points for my seat placement vs Dad's.

VIR was a success for SONEAT in only one sense... She met my fantastically low expectations.

I took her out and made a few slow laps and when I was reasonably confident that she wasn't going to kill me, after about 4 laps... I started to increase speed. I upped the rev limit from 5000, to 6000, then to 7000 and "pppfffttt!" The car started acting rather strange. The tach started wagging wildly. The temp gauge went all peggy. The fuel gauge went all whacky and the engine went all... Quiet. I got back to the pits and was reasonably sure I'd blown a headgasket. That didn't explain everything the car had done though, something else went wonky? Ah... When I turn the motor over the water pump doesn't turn! That means we've stripped the balance shaft gear.

Jeremy blocks up the motor and drops the oil pan until it hits the chassis. He'd digging around in there pulling out bits of gear teeth while Dad and I are on a marathon 7 hour trip to visit West of Sweden. Later, we return with a standard balance and camshaft gear set. Dad and Jeremy go home to Durham and a home cooked meal. I go to the event banquet for dinner with a clean shirt on. Then I get back and put on my engine-work shirt. Then I succumb to peer pressure and go to the clubhouse for some beers, in a clean shirt again. Later, much later, we get back and I re-dirty-shirt and start digging into the motor. I get it all buttoned up sometime around the witching hour and go to sleep in the trailer. In the bright morning light, I fire up the motor only to find that the headgasket is indeed... Blown. Game over.

I learned all kinds of things from this. The only thing that I can write without resorting to the Shift-key is that I learned the springs are cut too low... The tires were rubbing.

April-ish The motor eventually got together somehow. After 2 or three tries we even got it to seal up with a set of old stock headgaskets. Off to the races...


I heard from Paul at the machine shop today. The block is a bit of a bastard. Who knows what sort of previous life it has led but I think this will be its last rebuild. It seems to have a 40 over bore but piston clearances are between 2 and 5 thousandths. 2 isn't bad but 5 is maybe on the loose side.

I ordered some balance shaft bearings quick-shipped to the machine shop (Alderman Automotive Machine) from West of Sweden.


While Dad was at Lime Rock racing the Quantum One I worked on getting some more done on SONEAT.

  • Mounted the fire extinguisher
  • Installed the main cutoff switch and switch plate
  • R&R'd front brake pads and rear brake shoes with new ones obtained from West of Sweden
  • Retightened rear axle nuts and replaced cotter keys
  • Tightened all nuts and bolts fastening the rear body
  • Mounted and balanced the two old-used Dunlop 500-15 race tires for the rear


Dad and I refitted the rear body. In doing so we discovered that the oh-so-pretty-polished-power cutoff switch plate won't work. Yes, the hole for the switch is dead center, but that puts the switch too close to the edge of the chassis and we didn't want to enlarge that hole any more, not in that semi-structural zone. So, the plan is to make a new plate with the hole offset.

Also, in the process of refitting the body I broke one of the reverse light glass lenses. Damn Sure, it is probably going to be the only car on the track with working reverse lights but still... Damn.


I polished the cutoff switch mounting plate and sanded the engine bay crossmember. Then, I installed the crossmember (after some minor modifications) in the chassis and Dad installed the cutoff switch plate in the body.


Seat mounting I re-fabricated the race seat mounting bracket. Our original version had too much rake and even at the farthest forward adjustment, I couldn't reach the shifter.

stop bump I also cut down the rear bump stops and fabricated some rear-spring retaining devices. The problem was, when the rear suspension is close to full droop (even with the limiting straps cinched up tight) the springs are dangerously close to falling out.


Down at the southern team headquarters in Durham, NC...
Jeremy welded the aluminum engine bay brace I'd fabricated the pieces for. He also added the throttle linkage bracket to it.

After measuring and checking things over, Jeremy and Dad reassembled the pressure plate. In a related note they weighed three flywheels:

  1. Stock flywheel: 16lbs
  2. SONEAT's lightened flywheel: 13 lbs
  3. A further lightened flywheel we found: 10 lbs

We will be putting SONEAT's 13 lb flywheel back in for the time being because the 10 lb one still needs more moidification to work.

At a local scrapyard they found an aluminum can that we are going to try and use as an oil catch-can.

In my garage work progressed too...
I completed the following:

  • Installed the passenger side seatbelts except for the submarine belt.
  • Cut down the front bumpstops. (Note: I can R&R the front springs without tools!)
  • Fabricated a transponder mount.
  • Vacuumed.
  • Modified (cut away behind the pedals) and reinstalled the carpeting.
  • Removed, repaired, and reinstalled the heater control valve.


I disassembled the pressure plate to look for cracks in the "fingers".


I did some playing in the garage...

  • Dad bought a sheet of very thin aluminum and I cut it to fit the bulkhead behind the seats. That will seperate the fuel from the driver's compartment. I still need to drill holes for the fasteners and bolt it on.
  • I removed the stock passenger's seabelt and started to install a spare (out of date) set of harness belts... For worker and touring lap rides.
  • I started fabrication of the new engine bay crossmember. I cut the tube and filed the ends flat.

...and Dad received some more parts in the mail...

  • Tubing and fittings for the fuel cell vent line.
  • Aluminum coolant expansion tank with bracket, 20lb cap and lines for the overflow and drain.
  • "Wink" mirror (to be dash mounted).


Dad placed an order with Speedway for some more fuel fittings and braided steel armored fuel lines, a coolant expansion tank and a convex center rear view mirror.


Dad, Jeremy and myself all worked on SONEAT for the entire afternoon and a little bit after dinner.

  • The front springs were removed and replaced with the cut-down springs. We need to modify the bumpstops now because the suspension doesn't have enough travel otherwise!
  • The A-arm bushings are all Delrin now. Jeremy did a fantastic job turning those out.
  • I cut and drilled and shaped the plexiglass windscreen and partially affixed it to the cut-down fiberglass windshield support.
  • Dad installed the new fuel lines, fuel cell brackets, fuel pressure regulator and fuel filter. We still need to put together a fuel line that will run from the fuel pressure regulator to the carburetor.

Progress pics


Dad fabricated some new fuel lines.


Dad fabricated a flange for the new stright-pipe-tailpipe for the exhaust and started to repair and modify the fiberglass windscreen support. The stock supports will be glassed into it and hidden after painting.


Dad fabricated and painted a bracket for the feul pressure regulator, installed some rubber bits where we wanted to cusion parts.


Today Dad and I got started on a lot of the things that need to be done for the car to be race-ready in mid-April. That is our goal by the way... There is a VRG race at VIR (full course) that we want to make.

Here's what we finished:

  • Removed the muffler and tailpipe. (Will replace with straight pipe)
  • Installed the cut down rear springs (and cinched up on the limiter straps).
  • Installed the new racing seat.
  • Made bracketry to install a smaller battery without the battery box.
  • Modified the chassis to fit the Sonett III windshield surround (that Dave Hosmer mailed to us and arrived on Thursday. Thanks Dave!)
  • Drilled holes for the fuel cell brackets.
  • Mounted the new fuel pump.
  • Started re-plumbing the fuel system.


Down in North Carolina, Jeremy (the head of our team's southern contingent) completed the fabrication of the delrin suspension bushings. All the front suspension bushings will be replaced with these. We will wait and see what the balance of the car is before we decide whether or not to fabricate delrin bushings for the rear suspension trailing arms.


Needless to say, it has been a while since I've found the time to update this log (more than a year). A lot has happened, none of it good (until very recently).

Briefly, the car was put together and run at the 2003 National Saab Owners Convention at in Hershey, PA. There, it blew a head gasket.
Dad put another head gasket on it a while later, which also blew.

We gave up for a while and concentrated on other cars. With the formation of the VRG (Vintage Racer Group) we now have a place where we want to run SONEAT in a road-race configuration. The car is now being converted from autocrosser and street toy to roadracer.

So far we have:

Removed the engine and transmission.
Disassembled the engine.
Cut 2 coils off a set of stock Sonett III springs.
Front bodywork.
Windshield (and A-pillar/surround).
Rear bodywork.
Gas tank.
Fuel filler.
Fuel filter.
Fuel pump.
Kirkey aluminum racing seat.
Racing fuel filter.
Fuel pump.
Fuel pressure regulator.
Fuel Safe 12 gallon "Enduro" fuel cell.
Nylon "rod" stock to make suspension bushings from.

That, in a nutshell is where we sit right now. The plan for the engine is to take it to George Alderman's machine shop and have them deck the block and shave the heads very lightly so that we are sure we have flat surfaces for the head gasket to seal. I may look into some of GasketWorks' special gasket sealing rings. We'll see.

The windshield is being "replaced" with a few inches of lexan which will serve as nothing more than a wind defelctor. I am going to build an improved roll-bar.


Dad and I continued to hook up the engine today.

We put new Redline sythetic CV grease in the tranny drivers. Installed the new Bosch Blue Coil. Hooked up the starter. Installed the alternator (but haven't hooked it up yet). Hooked up most of the coolant lines. Shift linkage, speedo cable, clutch slave cylinder... all done. The radiator is in with the bottom hose on, but lacking a hose clamp. I need to go and buy a new clamp. Lost my old one somewhere between Blacksburgh and here.

We put the hood and wheels back on and stowed it for the day. I am on the search for new spark plugs, exhaust gaskets, and fluids.


Jeremy and Dad brought the engine hoist back from Jake's today. I tapped out the one valve cover bolt hole in the intake that has ben stripped for ages. It is now M7-1.0 thread. Bolted on the valve covers.

Moved the engine upstairs with great effort. While transferring the engine from the engine stand to the hoist, the engine hoist fell over. Not much damage done. The engine landed flat on the pan and didn't fall over. The total of the damage was restricted to the oil pan. We had to use another one because the original was too badly caved. Oh well. No biggie.

Jeremy and Dad helped me install the engine back in the chassis.


Bolted the new rocker shaft assemblies onto the engine.
Adjusted the valves.
For reference:

  • Intake: .014"
  • Exhaust: .016"

    Also installed the distributor and the oil pressure sender for the new VDO oil pressure gauge.

  • 05-23-03

    I show you how I went about installing the Pertronix Ignitor on SONEAT. Click here.

    This kit was bought from West of Sweden.


    For reference:
    Connecting rod bolts for the V4 are available from ARP.

    ARP part # 154-6002
    Ford 289-302
    Std rod bolt kit


    For reference:
    Replacement rocker shafts for the V4 are no longer available.  So you have to make your own.  To do that, you get rocker shafts from your local Ford dealer for a 2.8 V6 that was used in an '80s Mustang and the Bronco.  Then you cut them down to match the V4.

    Ford Service Part # E9RZ-6563-A

    The above part number is a complete rocker shaft assembly.  It comes fully assembled and ready to drop into the V6.  So in buying the new rocker shaft you also get new rocker arms!  I mention this because I was suprised to find this when I opened the package.  I thought I was just buying a bare shaft.  It makes the price seem so much more reasonable though, doesn't it?

    It is a fairly simple job.  I cut mine down with an air-disc cutoff wheel and then dressed the ends on a belt sander.  I drilled out the inner diameter of the shaft to accept the end plug (done on a lathe).  Pop in the end plug and you are done.  New V4 rocker shafts!

    Remember to save the bolts that hold the rocker shaft assemblies! The ones that come with the V6 assemblies are not the same as the V4 items. The V6 bolts are shorter. That goes for the pillars that hold the rocker shafts too! The ones for the V6 are not the same width as the V4 ones. IIRC the V6 pillars are wider. So keep your V4 ones to install on the cutdown shafts.


    For reference:
    The flywheel bolts I used are from ARP and are listed as being for a "Ford Pinto, 2000cc stock." The specs are:
    Under head length = 1.150
    Thread size = M10 x 1.0
    ARP part number = 151-2801
    ARP phone number = 800-826-3045


    Continuing to rebuild the engine.

    Today I installed the: clutch pilot bearing, camshaft, camshaft gear, balance shaft gear, intermediate plate, front cover, balance shaft pulley, oil pump, oil pump driver rod, oil pickup tube, flywheel, oil pan, lifters, and the heads.

  • Here's the info on the MSS camshaft I installed:
    CAMSHAFT # 275130
  • Seat timing@.027 clearance
  • IN opens: 35
    IN closes: 67
    EX opens: 77
    EX closes: 25
  • Cam timing@.050 tappet lift
  • IN opens 18
    IN closes: 50
    EX opens: 60
    EX closes: 8
  • Total cam lobe lift IN: 293, EX 293
  • Valve clearance: Hot - IN: .016, EX: .018
  • Spring part#179040 with dampners
  • RPM Max. H.P. approx 6800
  • RPM range using above spring: 4200 to 8500 Max.
  • IMPORTANT: Make sure lifters are new or perfect. Preoil cam with racing oil, Hypoid oil, or a special high pressure lube. DO NOT run engine at less than 1500 RPM idle speed, first hour. This performance part is intended for off road use as it may increase exhaust emissions. Installation and use is the responsibility of the purchaser.

  • P.S. I can't find my intake manifold? I think it got packed up during the move and is probably somewhere in the storage unit... under a great heaping pile of stuff!
  • Previously

    I made a VERY "shade-tree" modification to the small end camshaft bearing in order to get the camshaft to fit. I sat there and sanded it down with ultra-fine sandpaper and my finger! Ugh. Not exactly high tech or accurate but, my dad thinks it will work. I sure hope so, it's a lot of work to get this deep into the engine to fix the problem AGAIN!


    Currently, the car is in-op.  Engine is undergoing a rebuild in my parent's basement. Wanna see why? Because I busted the rocker shafts. One earlier in the year that I bent and the other recently that broke in two.


    The brake master cylinder leaked some fluid around the pedals and it really ate the paint.  So I cleaned it up with a wire brush, painted on some Eastwood rust inhibiting primer, and finished coated it with some Eastwood Chassis Black paint.

    I also found that it would be much easier to remove the throttle pedal next time if the screws were welded to the pedal.  So I did that.

    Pictures here


    What does a Weber 40 DFI look like?


    The heads have returned from the machinist. MSS (Jack Lawrence) supplied the parts and a friend of a friend who has a machine shop did the machining and install work. I painted them racing red.


    Started the project of figuring out the stalling under braking problem... carburetor levelling.
    Pictures and description here.

    -STEFAN Vapaa

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