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 Neglect and how I beat it

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
mellePosted - 01 Sep 2016 : 15:45:31
I'm fortunate enough to own a 95 and a 96, a hoard of V4 project engines and a workshop and parts and panels storage in the North of the Netherlands. I also have free access to my father in-law's workshops and tools under the same roof and the possibility to use a lift and everything else a hobby mechanic could ever wish to have at hand. My in-laws were blacksmiths, coach builders and car breakers (amongst many other things) after the war until the early 70s and most of the equipment is still there. Its a real gold mine for those who, like me, love old school engineering. My only misfortune is the lack of time to enjoy this lot due to simultaneously living in two different countries rather far away from the workshop. I love getting my hands dirty on old tat (not only cars), so if and when I get the chance I'm in the workshop working on my various projects.

Today it is ten years to the date my girlfriend and I bought our first car, a '70 96 we still own. Aptly christened "The Devil's Own V4" in the first year of our ownership when it caused more grief than joy, I still love this car for all it has brought us in good memories, new friendships and acquired skills and knowledge. When we bought it, I had no clue of the workings of a combustion engine. Within months I had the engine apart, not because I fancied it but because it broke down, to find three broken piston rings and a lot more trouble. This apparently sparked something, as I overhauled quite a few V4 engines since. The body of the car had been "restored" in the 90s, this meant it held the perfect opportunity to hone my budding welding skills (still visible in many places, see below pictures). This car had been properly bodged and neglected, yet we bought it because it had a full year's MOT and no one had ever told us to lift the floor mats before committing to buy a car! My father in law did a lot of the welding back then and he assisted me (or rather: I assisted him) with many of the mechanical issues as well. If it wasnt for his persistence and just do mentality, I would have long given up on V4s, or cars in general, Im afraid. Im glad I can now return the favour by doing welding and other jobs on his car and letting him use the 96 when he needs or fancies it.

Have a couple random pics:

After the initial hiccups, the 96 served us well over the years, moving to live with us in various places as a daily driver and on many holidays and short trips throughout Europe. As said, it's seen a lot of welding and various engines and gearboxes (some better than others) in its time with us, but the last few years it's mainly been living parked up in the workshop without seeing much use. It was doing fine when we needed it though and it always flew through its Dutch MOTs because of the sound mechanical condition weve brought it in over the years. This old soldier has never been honoured with a proper thread on this forum, so from now on I'll try and keep track here. You can read about my slow 95 van conversion project in this thread:

Last February on a long trip, I noticed the oil pressure warning light coming on when the engine idled at a services after a long motorway drive. I'd seen this before with other V4s and I knew what it implicated: balance shaft bearings on the way out. The engine loses oil pressure because the now warm and very fluid oil "escapes" from between the worn front bearing and the (worst case also worn) journal. The pump cant keep up maintaining the pressure because it's driven by the distributor/ camshaft, hence only doing about 400rpm at idle (the cam turns at half the crank speed).

I hoped to make it just a 100 miles further and I didn't mind wrecking the engine doing so, since I was on a mission and I had a replacement V4 ready to go in. I had to adjust the valves on this engine every 200-300 miles, so it was a well-worn beast anyway. I knew the only parts I could damage really by giving the already severely worn balance shaft bearings a good beating, is the balance shaft itself and the balance shaft gear. I had at least half a dozen spare timing gear sets and a couple good balance shafts on the shelf, so no problem should I want to salvage this engine later on.

As said, I was on a mission. I had driven about 250 miles southwards a couple of days earlier and now I was on the way back to the workshop and about to pick up a small but rather heavy antique Wolf Jahn lathe and ancillaries (250kg all-in) on the way. I have a good roadside assistance cover, so I figured once the lathe was loaded the engine could die and the car plus its contents would be brought back to the workshop by the big yellow taxi. It really shouldnt go any earlier, because that would mean I had to go on a 250 mile round trip the following day with a borrowed car to pick up the lathe. Loaded to the gunwales and at moderate speed I made it home to the workshop safely fortunately!

However, on arrival I was greeted by this:

(The shock was removed to assess the damage.)

At first it didn't look too bad and also from the outside I had the impression a quick repair to the shock mount would do.

But before too long this had happened:

No half measures here! I made some new panels:

And used some of my donor stock:

Soon things looked a bit better; all welded in place to my current standards, no more plating over:

After a fresh coat of Tectyl in the wheel arch everything was put back together and I was ready to go. Apart from the engine that is, hopefully the Christmas break will see that fixed. I've asked Santa for the same weather as last year, 16 degrees Celsius ambient temperature is ideal for some spanner action.

This car is a keeper for sure. Its worth hardly anything (I really hope V4 prices stay low in general), but to me it means a lot. Should you worry about the multitude of colours on this car: rest assured, I don't.
15   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
AnttiKPosted - 04 Oct 2021 : 06:05:17
Here is the link for Opel separator I used:
I installed it so that oil should drain back to engine when engine is shut off. Looks like it has been used in other engines as well:
mellePosted - 03 Oct 2021 : 14:32:07
Thanks for the link Antti. To be honest, I don't think there's anything wrong with the design of the baffle in the V4 rocker covers. However, I've made mine removable to make cleaning it out a bit easier if required (the l/h rocker cover on my 96 is a modified r/h one, so I have an oil filler on that side as well). Apart from the dripping cap, my system worked fine with the modified BMW PAS reservoir, so that will be put back at some point until I have an opportunity to make something similar that doesn't leak (or as long as I can live with a puddle under the reservoir...). Alternatively, I may try removing the mesh filter from the Mishimoto clone and stuffing the can with pan scourers instead like I did with the BMW reservoir. Do you happen to have a picture of the Opel oil separator?
AnttiKPosted - 01 Oct 2021 : 05:51:03
I have also been struggling in my 96 EFI project with crankcase ventilation, because when using the air compressor water separator as an oil separator it restricts too much air flow and probably there is oil in combustion chambers because of that. So there is not enough vacuum in the crankcase. Then I tested with oil separator used in Opel Astra and Vectra which restricts remarkably less flow there is clearly less oil in spark plugs and engine has more stable idle.

However it looks like there is still oil in PCV valve piping with Opel oil separator and one solution would be modifying the valve cover. Here is an interesting article of valve cover modifications, which could be done to V4 engine as well:

mellePosted - 08 May 2021 : 11:28:08
Well, that trip to the South of Europe never happened due to corona... but when I was in NL earlier this year I've used the 96 as much as I could. In fact, I used it so much the 900 gave me all kinds of grief when it had been standing idle for two months (stuck starter relay and fried battery as a result and frozen front brakes).

Loving the flat lands:

Cold war watchtower 701 near Warfhuizen (

I replaced the oil catch can I made from a BMW X5 PAS reservoir with a cheap Mishimoto clone. It bolts onto the block and looks much better than what was there before:

And it catches oil too, this is after approx. 500km:

Unfortunately there's one "but": it creates overpressure in the engine. Took a while before I realised why the engine ran very poorly and lean, it would hardly idle. I hadn't made a connection with the new catch can, so I changed the primary idle jet in the carb from 55 to 60 and later to 65, but this only resulted in it running very rich at idle, and still very lean in other parts of the rev range. Then I noticed I had massive oil leaks from the o/s rocker cover and from the inlet hose to the can. I removed the catch can, refitted the 55 idle jet and all was well again, so apparently the gauze filter in the can is a little too restrictive. I think I'll remove that and fill the can with stainless scourers as I did with my DIY one. The reason I replaced the home made can is that it was leaking from the cap, of course the PAS fluid reservoir was never intended to be used that way around.
mellePosted - 18 Jan 2020 : 20:24:07
That's a nice idea Steve! I hope to take mine somewhere hilly and sunny this summer.
stevebodPosted - 17 Jan 2020 : 16:35:29
Happy Anniversary.
My Saab is 50 next year and I thought I might drive it to Trollhttan.
We'll see.
James RanaldiPosted - 16 Jan 2020 : 12:03:07
Congratulations old SAAB.

1968 V4 96 ,LHD
1984 99 GL
1992 C900i Convertible
1993 C900 LPT Convertible
1987 C900 2 Door
mellePosted - 16 Jan 2020 : 09:03:14
First registered 16th January 1970.
green96v4Posted - 02 Oct 2019 : 13:08:53
loving those 5.5J wheels, I've been dreaming of getting a (mild) upgrade on my wheels, I don't want to go too wide, more of a subtle upgrade that people in the know, or with a fine eye for detail, would notice the extra width....
mellePosted - 01 Oct 2019 : 19:43:14
On my most recent visit to NL I managed to turn this mess:

Into this, eh, slightly more structured mess:

All solid state relays now, and I've added a C900 fuel pump relay (thank you Beta!), so when the ignition is on but the engine not running, the fuel pump switches off after two squirts (not sure why two, it does one in the 900).

I've also replaced the auxiliary fuse box with a bigger one, but eventually I want to replace that and the original fuse box with one with blade fuses, and move all fuses and relays into the cab.

Does anyone know a source for an 18+ way blade fuse box? The biggest I can find are for 12 fuses and ideally I want just the one box. I may end up using a C900 combined fuse/ relay box if I can find a cheap one, I think it'll fit nicely on the firewall under or behind the glove box.
mellePosted - 06 May 2019 : 20:31:27
I love it here too, but it would be even better with a V4 handy!
James RanaldiPosted - 06 May 2019 : 20:15:47
Not a bad place to be !

1968 V4 96 ,LHD
1984 99 GL
1992 C900i Convertible
1993 C900 LPT Convertible
mellePosted - 06 May 2019 : 13:28:15
Already back in Bath!
James RanaldiPosted - 06 May 2019 : 13:24:42
Great pictures.
I love those old buildings.
Have fun.

1968 V4 96 ,LHD
1984 99 GL
1992 C900i Convertible
1993 C900 LPT Convertible
mellePosted - 06 May 2019 : 12:34:41
Went to NL, did some small jobs on the 96 and took it for a spin.

Oil pressure sender fitted.

Bumper middle section straightened (was hit twice by reversing cars) and 20mm spacers fitted to accommodate easier removal/ fitting of the grille. While I was at I redid the headlight and corner light/ indicator wiring. The old wiring was dodgy at best, the difference in light output is remarkable.

5.5J wheel with 185/65R15 tyre mocked up, unfortunately I didn't have the time to tack it together and test fit it on the car.

Garage Jansma, Oldehove (Former Renault dealership in Amsterdam School style (, built 1933-'36)

De Waterwolf, Electra (Pumping station built 1918-'20)

Driving a V4 in the cold yet sunny province of Groningen with the windows rolled down and the heater at full blast, it hardly gets any better. Life is good.

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