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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 Ď70s and most of the equipment is still there. Itís 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 Ď90s, 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 wasnít for his persistence and ďjust doĒ mentality, I would have long given up on V4s, or cars in general, Iím afraid. Iím 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 weíve 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 canít 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 (Ī250kg 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 shouldnít 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. Itís 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)
greg124Posted - 13 Jan 2018 : 11:14:43
I've just found one of those BMW PAS fluid reservoirs, which I kept when we scrapped Steph's E30.
So now I need to take the time to understand the PCV system, then that's another job to add to the list.
mellePosted - 12 Jan 2018 : 20:08:13
Finally got the oil catch can plumbed in over the Christmas holidays. Seems to work fine, I only need to find something to replace the hideous hose clamps with.

Next on the cards is a starter overhaul. The starter still works, but it's getting "lazy" (i.e. turning over too slowly on a good battery), resulting in difficult cold starting.
mellePosted - 22 Sep 2017 : 15:47:21
Thanks for the link Gareth, looked for the car on RR but couldn't find it.
DirtbikerPosted - 22 Sep 2017 : 11:46:57
Here is a link to that Metro:

I had the tracking adjusted at the time in a quest to cure the wheel rubbing. I think in the end it was just a case of finding understanding MOT testers - how often are you on full lock and full extension, maybe jumping a bridge on a sharp corner!

Having just reassembled the front suspension on my 95 I can't help thinking the camber adjustment spacers on the upper arms must play a big part in this.
All of the spacers on the 95 were at the rear of each upper arm. I can only imagine that if they weren't there then the wheels would be more likely to rub at the rear...?

Woody - no idea why they are referred to as RAC wheels but would love to know if anyone can shed light on this.

Also, wheel related, Jack Ashcraft used to run wheels with a greater offset on the front (giving a wider track) of some of his cars - he used US Ford rims welded to SAAB centres.

mellePosted - 15 Sep 2017 : 21:29:27
Woody, we discussed the round hole RAC wheels earlier: I still have no idea why they're called RAC wheels, don't know much about rallying to be honest.

Completely forgot there were 4.5J oval hole wheels as well. I have at least six different types of steel wheels (without tyres) in my workshop; I would need to check if I have any oval hole 4.5Js, probably not. I also have a few sets with tyres that I haven't yet properly inspected to see if there are more different ones. I want to photograph all the different wheels and make an overview with specifications when I have the time. I may call on you for details on the 4.5J ovals when I get to it.
WoodyPosted - 14 Sep 2017 : 19:39:41
What do you mean by RAC wheels?
Those with offset rims and 4.5 inch width and round holes?

The oval hole wheels with raised wheel bolt holes were supplied with two strokes and early V4s and were 4 inch wide. Some early ones had a hole between the bolt holes so it could be placed over the brake shoe inspection hole on the brake drums (rears on V4).
The Steel oval hole wheels supplied with the Sonett were similar to above but 4.5 inches wide and were utilised by the Competitions dept on the V4s upto 1971, when the team started using the alloy soccerballs supplied on Sonett III exported to USA. Initial wheels were unmodified and unpainted. Later when the soccerballs were painted the wheels were machined to improve flexure and avoid cracking. I have the Sonett 4.5 steels on the Troll, having ordered them in 1972. The practicality of these was that one placed on the hub, you had to rotate the wheel to align the bolt holes.

The only time I have seen round hole wheels used on the rally cars was for the 1968 Rally of 1000 Lakes in Finland, fitted to Simo Laminen's V4. I have not seen photographic evidence of their use on any of the RAC Rallies.

I welcome evidence to the contrary.
mellePosted - 13 Sep 2017 : 21:01:09
Originally posted by Dirtbiker
Looking forward to seeing some 95 progress!
Me too!

I'd already found through Google wheel width is measured between the rims (not the safety beads as I understand it?). Not that it matters, because to calculate the offset you need the actual width (measured on the outside) in mm anyway. As far as I know the oval hole wheels only exist in 4J and 5.5J (probably rarer than RAC wheels!). I missed the Metro thread on RR, I'll see if I can find it.

Out of interest: have the people who have/had wheel rubbing issues ever had the wheels aligned? Too much toe-in perhaps? My 96 springs are so worn the camber can no longer be adjusted (all shims have been removed already) and all bushings etc. are 1970 original as far as I know, but I've never had any rubbing issues. I have my cars aligned and the wheels balanced every 5 years or so (also depending on mileage), well worth it.

Gareth, if you mention those bloody RAC wheels again you'll be banned from commenting in this thread!
DirtbikerPosted - 13 Sep 2017 : 20:25:28
Hi Melle,
Great story on the trip and interesting ramblings as always!
Especially interested in the wheels as I have been wanting to try something similar. I was thinking I would like to create the offset of the RAC rims by simply flipping the barrels on some oval hole 4.5J wheels. There was a good thread a while back on RR with a Metro that had the wheels done in the same manner as yours.
There is some good info on ET here:
As I understand it as Derek states the rim width measurement is between the beads.
I have had problems in the past with wheel arch rubbing with standard wheels. When I "inherited" my green SAAB it was running all original suspension components, nothing had ever been dismantled at the front and it rubbed and I remember it being much worse on one side. IIRC it was particularly bad on full suspension extension (MOT ramp!) and full lock.
Not a problem nowadays with the RAC rims.
Looking forward to seeing some 95 progress!
mellePosted - 13 Sep 2017 : 19:55:09
I think next time I'll try a diameter in between that of the standard exhaust and the Jetex. Will copy the Y-type front section as that seems to work well and use the longest silencer I can find.
RhysNPosted - 13 Sep 2017 : 17:03:09
All I know and am prepared to pass on is what I have actually had my hands on. Way back when I was rallying one of the rear engine Skodas (very amateurishly), the factory had thrown on rather large carbs, they were difficult to drive, thirsty and an overall PITA. On a long rally (5 or 6 days) the team was persuaded partway through , to put on a standard factory carb and manifold. It was much better in all respects. Since then I have always been a fan of getting the gas velocity as high as can be. The whole system from the tip of the inlet to the tip of the exhaust has to work together.
My Renault Alpine A110 was the same, new smaller diameter exhaust, better everywhere. More low down, better spread and the dyno showed higher hp at the top as well. As did the A110 I co-drove in NZ Targa when it got a new system to the same formula. I didn't "invent" it, just fortunate enough to be donated the spreadsheet.
Other son makes exhausts for rotaries and sells them worldwide from his reputation. His ones are smaller than most too. I don't understand rotaries, but he has done the numbers, and says they can be too big too.
I reckon if you want low down, and it sounds as though you drive much as I do (5500 rpm is a big number for me usually) then it's a no brainer. Just an opinion gained after over 40 years of messing about.

Along the way I have made plenty of mistakes, if you don't learn from them you have gained nothing.
I have no idea what a good exhaust would be for the V4, I have thought about it, and just can't make any worthwhile mental progress towards when I would try to make one.
Edit! Thinking more, it's more like that I have never tried to do anything like what the V4 throws so my knowledge doesn't fit, and I don't know the way forward. Does not compute :(
mellePosted - 13 Sep 2017 : 12:30:58
Originally posted by Derek
I'm sure that this varies from body to body as tolerances had quite a bit of plus/minus. You've only got to look at the panel gaps to realise that from the beginning it wasn't a big priority for Saab.
This is a quality you can use to your advantage if you're not a very capable panel beater (yet)! it must be horrible to do bodywork on modern cars where every minor fault shows immediately.

Rhys, the V4 engine is a funny one indeed. I'm an absolute amateur engineer and I like learning and experimenting, so over the years I've read a few books on engine tuning to get a better understanding of the subject. Unfortunately most of them cater for in-line or V6+ engines, so there is a lot I have to figure out myself or learn from knowledgeable people. Reading forums doesn't always help, there is a lot of talk from people without actual experience and folks who just spend money without fully understanding what they are doing. Good for them, but I don't care much for their projects if they can't explain the reasoning behind modifications. Same for experts with "trade secrets", I believe everyone benefits if we share and challenge our knowledge. That said, knowing is one thing, doing still is another...

I'm not after the most powerful engine on earth, if I were I would turn my back on Ford V4s. For me the fun is in finding out how things work and trying to bend them to my will. I've long believed bigger is better for exhausts. This may be true for a certain type of "souped up" engine, but not for my purposes I'm afraid. I rarely exceed 4000rpm and I want an engine that pulls well at low rpm. At (my) max revs, on the motorway, it doesn't need much to keep moving anyway. This lead me to the conclusion that spending money on "fast" cams, big valves, lightened components etc. would be futile for what I want from an engine. I rather spend the same money on a few failed experiments that I learn something from, so I'm happy to build another exhaust.

I *think* for my purposes the engine would benefit from a smaller diameter exhaust and less aggressively ported exhaust manifolds, but I may well be wrong because I don't think I fully understand the principles yet. Any help greatly appreciated!
DerekPosted - 13 Sep 2017 : 10:25:44
I'm not going to answer your comments in detail, they are all well considered and based on research and experience. My car had 155's on 4.5" wheels and still smudged the inner wings. I didn't have MOT man problems, many have. Some thin spacers or a bit of discrete hammer work might fix the problem. Mine did touch both sides but one a little more than the other. Adjustment would likely have just equalled out the smudge. From memory my steering wheel was accurately centred. I'm sure that this varies from body to body as tolerances had quite a bit of plus/minus. You've only got to look at the panel gaps to realise that from the beginning it wasn't a big priority for Saab. With the 96's poor lock I used to be there every time I put the car in and out of the garage so that showed up to me very easily. On the road this would happen only rarely.
To my knowledge the specified width of a wheel is across the outer edges of the tyre bead seat, so across the inside the wheel. This would be universal and not affected by rim edge shape or design, steel or alloy.
RhysNPosted - 13 Sep 2017 : 07:58:04
With those wheel options Melle I can see why you don't like alloy wheels!
In regards exhausts, I have spreadsheets to work diameters, lengths etc for 4 cylinder engines. Just plug in a few parameters and it calculates. There is a huge "however" with the V4, and that is the existing casting for exhausts on the heads. It simply defies the science. It always throws smaller diameters than most people expect, and always dyno figures go up, flexibility increases, and jetting changes are needed, but I can't make the numbers work on a Ford V4!.
James RanaldiPosted - 12 Sep 2017 : 22:27:51
Great stuff Melle.

Enough there to keep me going for a while !


1968 V4, LHD
1984 99 GL
1992 C900i Convertible
1993 C900 LPT Convertible
mellePosted - 12 Sep 2017 : 20:59:41
If I had more time to spend on it, it certainly would look a bit different after 11 years in my ownership. ;) Very happy with it as is though.

Glad a few of you like my ramblings, thanks for the feedback!

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