Keith’s Blog: Snow White’s Coffin Flattens My Wallet

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There’s a new exhaust system from Irollmotors sitting in boxes outside my office, but before I had it installed (and the rear sway bar put back on), I thought I would send the Volvo down to Harold’s Auto Serivces for a fluid change and light tune.

“You’ve got a flat camshaft,” reported Chris, the manager. “Probably caused by all the bad oil with no zinc that was used in the early 1980s.”

I am hoping that when we get the cylinder head off, we find that the leakage is coming from the head. I am told that the mechanic, Wayne, was able to get air to escape during the test by pushing on one of the valves.The #2 exhaust lobe was badly worn. While compression was good 150–160 pounds across all four, the leak-down test was more worrisome, ranging from 82% leakage to 47% leakage. All cylinders came up to 10% leakage with oil.

The engine doesn’t smoke or rattle, and oil pressure is good. Frankly, I wouldn’t have bought the car in the first place if it had seemed like it needed a motor. But here I am.So the current plan is to pull the head, replace the lifters and cam and timing gear —and inspect the bores at that time. If is it camshaft only, figure about $1,500. If the bores are bad (which would be surprising with only 125,000 miles on the engine), the bill for a new motor could reach towards $5,000.

Given that we operate under a policy of full disclosure with the cars we own, I have no choice but to address at least the cam problem. The car is essentially sale-proof in its current condition, and when and if we decide to move it to a new owner, I want to be able to document exactly what we discovered and exactly how we effected a remedy.

It’s a good, solid, no-hit, no-rust car, and I enjoy driving it. But there’s no easy way out here.

It’s just another reminder that our old car hobby can be expensive.

On another note, the new-to-us 1972 BMW 2002 tii we purchased from SCMer Ned Scudder is ready to be picked up by Reliable Transport at Mark Leonard’s Grand Prix Classics in La Jolla, and we hope to have it here at SCM World Headquarters next week. I’m sure this old car will be different, have no surprises and cost nothing to own. Pigs will be flying as well.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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