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CalCol

Orange no more...

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If you've been in the Manta club for a while you may remember a new shell I bought back in 1989 and was always intending to use on my Manta in the UK. Well, things change and I moved over to the US in 1992 and put the shell in storage along with our two Mantas. The shell had a rough time in storage and included low points like being dropped nose first off a fork lift and being stored in a wet barn.

In 2002 we spent a year in the UK and I noticed how the shell was beginning to deteriorate, so when we moved back to the US in 2003 I brought it back with me.

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Shell being unloaded in the US - only 200kg like this!

I spent a few hours here and there cleaning the shell, but at least it wasn't getting any worse in the dry California weather.

We'd bought a bright orange Manta over here in 1998 and it really wasn't in brilliant condition, having lived most of its live in Venice, California. The salty sea air had taken its toll but it was legal in the US and that made it one of about 25 in the country. Yes, you take what you can find! We were intending to restore it, but we had so much fun driving it every day that we ended up improving it as we drove, slowly making a tired 1.9N Luxus into a reasonable daily driver with a 2.4, 5-speed gearbox, air conditioning and a nice grey Manta Exclusive interior.

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It really was very orange...

In the end, the car's time had come, and in 2012 I decided that I needed to re-shell the car - the old shell could provide a good source of spares.

You might think it's easy starting from a new shell, but honestly there's a lot of preparation that goes on. At least I saved having to blast and weld to get a solid shell.

First things first was to fix the damage that had been caused in storage, and for that I enlisted a friend of mine, Dennis Gardiner. Dennis is into his Opels and has a stunning Opel GT and has been building an A series for years so it was in good hands.

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This is how it looks after it's been dropped on its nose

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After the first pass at straightening

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Straightened

Of course, if it was going to be used over here I needed a left hand drive shell and mine was right hand drive, but I'd been collecting parts for this for years and had both parts of the firewall ready to go. Dennis kindly obliged and you can see the process in the next few pics.

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Upper firewall, cowl and bonnet supports removed

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LHD lower firewall fitted

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Upper firewall in place

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Cowl ready to weld, then the dash carrier goes in

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Everything in place - one LHD shell!

The list for Dennis just kept expanding as I found other things that needed fixing. One I wanted to do was box the panel between the passenger compartment and boot in, partly for strength and partly to provide a firewall between me and the fuel tank! It was also going to provide the support for the rear headrest brackets, but more of that later. You can see the nice job Dennis made of it.

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Rear bulkhead boxed in and welded up.

We also had fun with the brand new bonnet I'd had shipped from the Netherlands - some Neanderthal had bent one corner and Dennis spent ages getting it right. The new bootlid was similarly curled where it shouldn't be and again Dennis did a nice job. Eventually it was ready to go off to the bodyshop so I put it on some spare suspension parts to make it roll and arranged for pickup.

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Ready for the bodyshop.

The shell was at the bodyshop for about a year because there was so much to do and they had to fit it in around their normal repair business.

There was a surprising amount of bodywork to do, partly because the (new) doors ended up not fitting the shell! Apparently this isn't unusual with GM doors, according to the bodyshop, and they always prefer to fit door skins to avoid these sorts of issues. Unfortunately I didn't have this choice as the frames for the doors off the orange car were junk. The end result was that they had to take the hinges off inside the door itself and relocate them up about 10mm to get the door to fit, then reprofile the body line to get everything to line up. There was the odd bit of work on pretty much every panel due to storage dents, but nothing as much fun as the doors.

There was a lot of painting to do too. I was very clear that I wanted the whole car to be the same colour, no primer parts left thank you. So they had to paint the inside of the car, the doors, the wheel wells and the underside before they even got round to putting paint on the outside.

Eventually it was ready and I must say they did a nice job. The colour is Porsche Arctic Silver which is close to the original Opel L125 but has a much better shine in the sunlight and is way easier to get over here than Opel silver!

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Returning from the bodyshop

OK, that's all for now. I'll post another set of photos shortly.
Cheers,
Nick
 

 

Edited by CalCol
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Once it got back from the bodyshop I filled one of the rooms in the house up with painted panels and odds and ends. Jo (my wife) is really understanding but I don't think she was expecting me to take almost three years to get the final part out of there...

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Back home

What I really enjoy is electrics and I was planning something special for this. First job was to find a good main loom, strip it, remove wires I didn't need and add new ones for new circuits I was adding.  The easiest way to do this is to put the cleaned stripped loom back in the car and then add the wires, holding them together with tie-wraps and marking what they're for with tape and a marker pen.

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Sorting the wiring for the headlamps

I ended up using a second row of fuses in the fuse box to keep everything tidy, and this meant a lot more red wire coming in from the engine bay to feed them. One thing I remembered was to create wiring diagrams for all the changes and additions (Microsoft Visio is ideal for this) as there's no way I'd remember what I'd done after a few years had passed. I also used correct colour wires for everything (based on Opel's usual colour codes for things) - there's nothing worse than 20 different white wires, you have no idea what each one does! I use Vehicle Wiring Products (http://www.vehicle-wiring-products.eu/) in the UK for that - they sell any colour wire you could wish for by the metre.

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Everything revolves around the fuse box - notice there are two rows of fuses

The A/C and cooling took forever to get right. The big problem with running Opels over here is that the cars really weren't designed for this climate. Regular spring-summer-autumn days here are 27C or more, with really hot days getting up to 40C or more. Sitting in traffic with the A/C going puts a load on the cooling system and the last thing you want is the car to overheat in the middle of rush hour traffic.

Cars with A/C get a fan in front of the condenser, but I was determined to improve that so I made up a set of twin fan brackets and they fitted in nicely where the single should go. The loom I made up for them allows them to run at half speed (with the fans running in series) or full speed (fans running in parallel) depending on the temperature of the water entering the radiator. This keeps the noise down and lowers the load on the alternator.

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Making the loom for the twin condenser fans

I was planning to use an electric main fan too (rather than one driven off the engine) so I had to add wiring for that. Again, the speed of the fan depends on the engine temperature, but also it comes on at low speed if the A/C is turned on. Yet more wiring...

I'm using a Motronic injection system on the car (much better emissions... I'm in California after all) so I had modified an Opel Omega A 2.4 wiring loom to fit the Manta and that needed to connect with the A/C loom as the idle speed is raised slightly when the A/C is on to prevent the car stalling.

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Planning the A/C and cooling harness - Motronic harness is already in

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Finished A/C and cooling harness

Next up was the headlamps. I was lucky enough to score Irmscher's last (LHD) quad lamp kit when I visited them a few years back and I'm using it on this car. The bulbs are Xenon so I needed to modify the main loom for the Xenon ballasts and also find homes for the ballasts at the front of the car. The dipped beams use standard sized ballasts mounted on the inner wings and the main beams use compact ballasts mounted on the radiator support. Interestingly, the Irmscher kit had one pair of lamps that was dipped beams only and the other lamps were main beam only, but it was straightforward enough to wire them up so that all four came on for main beams.

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Dipped beam ballast

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Main beam ballast

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Testing...

Other new electrics I added: Toad Ai606 alarm with the alarm box sitting on the top of the dash carrier above the glove box (well hidden), seat heaters, brake pad wear sensors, twin horns, central locking, electric windows, a vehicle speed sensor (mostly for the radio), ISO radio wiring and a lot of extra lighting in the passenger compartment. I think the whole lot took about 3 months to design, wire and wrap.

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Still wiring...

Of course, one thing I didn't think about with the two-row fuse box until it was too late was that I couldn't actually get to a lot of the upper row fuses once the lower part of the dash was in place! Still, it's easy enough to whip the left part of the lower dash off (two screws), I'll just have to remember to carry a screwdriver with me.

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Er, how do you change the fuses then?

More updates soon...
Cheers,
Nick

 

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You're really in San Diego? I have a friend with a bunch of Opels down there...

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With the electrics finally under control (consider it a "first fix") I moved on to some other basic stuff - brake and fuel pipes. I really don't trust copper pipes so I ended up with two coils of Vauxhall plastic covered steel pipe from Andy Clears in the UK and set out to make them up. The brake pipes were pretty easy as the diameter of the pipe is so small, although I did leave the wheel ends of the pipes open so that I could cut them to exact lengths once I was ready to connect the hoses.

The fuel pipes were more fun as they're so much more difficult to bend and have to route in a particular way to meet the pins on the underside of the car that hold them in place. What I ended up doing was bending some spare brake pipe to the correct shape under the car and then bending the fuel pipe to match it, taping the two together as I made the bends. This makes life a lot easier as you're not struggling with a pipe bending tool in a confined space and that corresponds to a lot less swearing from me.

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Fuel pipes weaving their way under the car

It was made all the more difficult as I had to run a third pipe alongside the fuel pipes for the fuel tank vent. It's fairly common now, but in the US you've had to have a charcoal cannister to catch fuel tank vapour since the late 60s and I had to run one or I'd fail emissions.

First off, the fuel tank needed modification. If you have a catalyst you need to have a fuel pipe restrictor (California law again) and that wasn't ever available for the Manta. Luckily it was for the Rekord/Carlton and the Senator/Monza and the Senator fuel pipe looked perfect for the job. The Manta filler neck and vent needed cutting and a couple of short lengths of hose adding to make the connections. The small spigots you can see on the filler neck are for vent lines on the Senator but I didn't need them so I just capped them off.

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Fuel tank modification for the fuel filler restrictor

The vent on the Manta tank now feeds down through the floor and runs alongside the fuel pipes to the front of the car, where there's a roll-over valve (to stop the tank emptying itself if the car turns upside down) and the charcoal cannister. The injection system has a tank vent valve that controls when it pulls the vapour from the cannister and burns it.

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Charcoal cannister in the left inner wing

I used PVC irrigation pipe for the vent line (easy and cheap to get here) and clipped it to one of the fuel lines. The only really tricky part was to drill holes through the right side jacking point to match the fuel line holes - there isn't much space to get your drill at the right angle.

You can see the fuel and vent pipes in this pic (warning: spoiler! This is a much later pic...)

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Green fuel pipes and PVC vent line

The fuel filler grommet didn't fit anymore because the Senator neck is narrower than the Manta one, but luckily a Monza filler grommet fitted perfectly, along with a Monza filler cap.

Well, I'd put it off as long as possible and I was running out of things to do, I had to get on with the underseal and box section waxing... So it was off with the temporary suspension and back onto axle stands.

With so little rust over here the Americans thought I was nuts but we may bring it back to the UK eventually so there's no way I'm going to leave it unprotected. Paul Newport was sending some stuff over to a friend of mine (Achim Vinson) in North Carolina so I managed to sneak a Dinitrol rustproofing kit in with it and Achim sent it on to me.

That was one really messy job. It might be easier if you're doing it with the shell on a ramp, but I was laying under the shell with a shutz gun blasting out black goop at 90psi. You can see the precautions in the garage in the next pics, but suffice it to say that didn't protect everything 100%...

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Tarp heaven - trying to avoid getting underseal everywhere

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I still got Dinitrol sprayed liberally around the garage

I left the car for a couple of weeks to drip out onto the floor - it felt like half of the wax came back out again!

In the meantime I started cleaning suspension and engine parts and getting them off to a helpful chap in New Jersey who would polish and plate them for me. He actually uses zinc passivate but it looks an awful lot like cad plating and it's fairly resistant to corrosion, especially with a coat of clear paint over the top. I'm a sucker for the cad plating look, so I really went to town with this car. You can see one of the batches of parts in the pic below.

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Opel parts porn!

Some of the suspension parts were new (bought them for practically nothing while Opel Classic Parts still had them) and some were refurbished / re-bushed, but with a lick of paint everything looks good.

I'm using standard late model GT/E suspension on the car, at least to start with. California roads aren't the best (too many earthquakes) so the last thing I want is a stiff or lowered suspension as I'll just lose all my dental work and scrape the car against the road whenever I go over a hump. I have a set of Bilstein shocks if I want it stiffer in the future.

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Front suspension parts ready to go

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Back on the car

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And the rear ready to go too

Next up was the firewall insulation and this was going to be difficult. Thirty years of heat had turned the insulation into something very crumbly and most of it was swept up and thrown in the bin. Try as I may I couldn't get hold of new pieces, so I had to work with what I had.

Luckily the most visible parts of the insulation were intact and presentable but I was left with the middle and right side (passenger side) completely missing. You can get firewall insulation from a lot of different sources if you look, but it's all bright silver and would stand out against the black Opel insulation, so I had to find something else.

In the end I decided to use a product called Lava Shield (https://www.heatshieldproducts.com/automotive/heat-shield-and-thermal-barriers/lava-shield) which has a strange greenish-brown colour that they claim looks like carbon fibre (don't believe it) and is self-adhesive. It came out quite well apart from making my hands very itchy, definitely use gloves! It doesn't match the Opel insulation at all, but the good thing is that you won't see it once the car's complete and it's not at all shiny.

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Tempplate made for the firewall material

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Finished. I ended up breaking six of those brake pipe brackets until I worked out how they fix in place!

While I was there I also made a start on a template for the heat shields I'd need for the exhaust. Opel had kindly placed five M5 studs in the bodyshell for it so I felt obliged to use them! Normally you don't bother with heatshields, but since I was going to use a catalyst and the exhaust would therefore be hotter, I decided to use them.

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Making a start on a template for a heatshield for the cat

Next up: fun with Dynamat!
Cheers,
Nick

Edited by CalCol
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Fantastic writeup, very interesting, thanks a lot for taking the time to put it all on here. Your car looks fantastic...great to see how it's all going together. Thanks again.

Fin

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This thread is already pretty amazing, and we're nowhere near done with it. Awesome write up Nick, please keep it coming!

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Thanks for the kind words chaps, much appreciated.  Next chapter...

 

OK, I admit it, my name is Nick and I have a Dynamat problem. I first started using the stuff on my Manta in the UK back in 2008 and then I really went to town on Jo's Monza a few years later. This time I was going to go even further as I wanted the best heat insulation possible to avoid having the A/C on high so much.

I had tinted all the glass a few years ago with 3M Crystalline CR70 (http://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/company-us/all-3m-products/~/3M-Automotive-Window-Film-Crystalline-Series?N=5002385+8709313+8709340+8710654+8710938+8711017+8721690+3292716668&rt=rud&WT.mc_id=EWCD) and it worked wonders for the heat inside the car. As a bonus you can't even see it on the glass so you don't get any unwanted attention from the police. But still I knew I could do better as there was plenty of heat coming in through the body.

First stage was Dynamat Extreme, which went over every outer surface in the passenger compartment. Takes ages to clean, make a template, cut and roll on, but well worth it.

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Quite a lot down, still more to do...

Over that I used the standard front footwell insulation (it was in great condition, why not use it?) and Dynapad under the seats and rear footwell. Various thicknesses of Dynaliner went over the rest.

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Next layer

I also did the A/B/C pillars and roof. The shell was for a sunroof car so I also treated the sunroof panel itself to Dinitrol and Dynamat / Dynaliner.

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Pillars and roof in progress

You can see the rear 1/4 panel, seat belt and rear seat in place in that shot - I must've fitted and dismantled every part half a dozen times while building this car. Each time I put something on the car I realized I needed to do something else that required the part to come back off again. Swear, dismantle, reassemble, repeat...

The boot got the full Dynamat treatment too. I made up a template for the rear quarter panel and cut left and right Dynamat/Dynaliner pieces using it. The spare wheel well area was filled as well and the inner wheel arches.

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Once I had the Dynamat down the car was ready to take the wiring looms and things started progressing more quickly.

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Wiring looms going in

It was about this time that Achim came over for a visit and brought his (very red) work overalls. Well, I had to make use of that, didn't I? The heaviest thing I could think of was getting the rear suspension on, so that's exactly what we did.

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Achim fitting a trailing arm prior to getting the axle back in

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Now, where did I put those halfshafts?

By the time Achim went home we had the car sitting on all four wheels with it's correct suspension underneath it, it was beginning to feel like a car now.

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Next time: chopping into irreplaceable bits of trim.

Cheers,
Nick

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Thanks John!

Last update for the day...

A nice quick project was to assemble the rear end and it would make the car feel more finished. I'm using an Exclusive rear bumper on this car as I like how closely it hugs the body, so that meant I was going to end up using the Exclusive filler panel between the lights. I forget why I'd given the bodyshop a filler panel and they decided I wanted it painted, so it came back beautifully painted along with all the other parts that needed painting. Initially I was just going to put it away and forget about it, but when I fitted it to the car it actually looked quite good, so we did a test with the black and painted filler panels.

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Painted?

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Or black?

We've decided to keep the painted filler panel, at least for the time being, as they're not hard to change and it gives it a slightly more modern look.

Next on my list was the rear parcel shelf and rear headrests. I'd had a pair of headrests from an E30 BMW I owned back in the 80's and I had earmarked these for a Manta, this one was as good as any. Luckily I had remembered to keep the brackets for them too, so it should be a fairly straightforward case of fitting the brackets to the bulkhead that Dennis had welded in, making some holes in the top of the rear seat back and enjoying the result. Right.

The first and most immediate problem was that the upholstery I was using had a definite "centre" for each passenger, so obviously the head rests had to align with the pattern. That's all well and good, but the pattern didn't align with the car! If I centred the headrests with reference to the car, they looked great from behind but didn't match the pattern at all.

A quick consultation with Jo and I had my marching orders, they had to align with the upholstery as close as I could make them while not looking silly from the back. No pressure then.

Eventually I got them square, marked them up and drilled holes in the rear bulkhead. They looked good. Now was the time I was dreading - cutting holes in the top of that very expensive i200 rear seat. It went surprisingly well and, after I pulled out a lot of foam to avoid it getting in the way of the rear seat brackets, it actually went together the way I was hoping. The holes in the seat back are trimmed with the little plastic rings you see in the top of the Recaro front seats, they fit the BMW head rests perfectly.

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Success - matches the upholstery pattern...

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...and doesn't look too bad from the rear.

Since I was in the area (and had to do it before the fuel tank went in) I started work on the loudspeakers. You can see how I've fitted them in the pic above - I have 1" spacer rings and that just clears the fuel tank filler on the right side. It's not the perfect solution but I wasn't about to re-engineer the fuel tank in order to have fully flush speakers.

Of course, a layer of Dynamat and 1/8" Dynaliner went down on the shelf after cutting the holes for the speakers, then it was time to start hacking into the other irreplaceable part - the brand new parcel shelf.

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You can see the slots I had to cut in the seat back foam for the head rests

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One more shot... it really was perfect!

This was another score from OCP in their early days and it looked so perfect with its clean new carpet, I had a hard time coming to terms with cutting holes in it. Still, onward...

One trick I learned to help fitting the screws down through the multiple layers (parcel shelf, insulation, rear deck metal) was to use drill bits to mark the holes until you're ready to put a screw in. The spacer ring fits nicely over the drill bits and it allows you to align them perfectly.

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Almost comfortable working like this

While I was in the boot I also fitted the amplifier for the aerial. This is another Carlton III / Senator B part and allows the heated rear window to become the aerial for the radio, meaning you don't have to cut holes in the bodywork for a traditional aerial or a bee sting on the roof. I first used it on my silver Manta in the UK and it works pretty well, although a traditional aerial performs better. Radio signals are so strong these days it's not really a problem, though.

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Aerial amp on the underside of the rear deck

Of course, once I'd finished installing the speakers I decided to use a different brand and ended up re-cutting the holes in the rear deck and parcel shelf. Yup, swear, disassemble, reassemble, repeat...

Oh, in case you're getting worried that I haven't said "Dynamat" in a couple of minutes, I used it on the rear bulkhead too!

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Rear bulkhead and speaker wiring

The last thing to do before fitting the fuel tank was the rear window shade. This has become quite common on new cars, mostly they're electrical but that was going to be way too involved to try to engineer for the Manta as it would need major changes in the rear deck so I decided on a manual one. Luckily Opel sell a range of shades for different cars, so what I needed to do was find another Opel with a window the same size as the Manta.

Interestingly, that was quite difficult to do. The Manta's got the biggest back window of any recent Opel short of a Monza, so I could either find one that was wide enough but not tall enough, or one that was tall but nowhere near wide enough. Having an Omega B, Achim did a quick measure-up and suggested it might work. OCP had one for 30 Euros so I took the plunge and a few weeks later it arrived. It *just* worked. If it was a couple of millimetres shorter it wouldn't have fitted, it was that close.

You can see the finished install in the pic below. Again, spoiler alert - this is from later in the sequence, I seem to have lost a few pics I took along the way...

The fisheye effect of the camera makes it look off -square, but honestly it's exactly square!

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All finished

I moved on to the rear quarter windows and noticed one thing fairly quickly - the bodyshell came complete without two small pieces of metal at the B-pillar. These are two small triangles that have the front curving lip that the seal fits over and appear to be separately fitted pieces. Luckily I had them in stock and Andy Clears suggested Tiger Seal to set them in place. In the pic below you can see the lower right side piece sitting in place before glueing.

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Of course, that meant some dismantling, glueing, drying, cleaning, masking, painting and reassembly. You can see where the time goes.

Next up: steering, locking, sunroofs and headliners.

Cheers,
Nick

 

Edited by CalCol
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On 8/18/2016 at 11:36, CalCol said:

You're really in San Diego? I have a friend with a bunch of Opels down there...

Yup - been here 6 years.  I have some opel parts if your friend needs anything (38k mile engine, trans etc)

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7 hours ago, H-400 said:

This Manta looks great! The way you do this till the details, gonna be better than new!

And it looks familiar:

This is my GSI some years ago, and as you see: I would go for a black panel.

Thanks Herman! Hell, if I'd known someone had done this before I'd have done something different. :D

 

4 hours ago, h0tr0dder_uk said:

Yup - been here 6 years.  I have some opel parts if your friend needs anything (38k mile engine, trans etc)

I'll let him know and PM his details. Shame the OMC doesn't have picnics in LA anymore, you'd have had a few cars to enjoy that way.

 

On with the story:

The steering rack was the original for the car and had covered at least 144,000 miles, so I decided to rebuild it as the parts were readily available. So with new bushes, bearings, tie rods, ends and boots it was ready to go back into the car.

One thing I learned while doing it was that the way Opel secure the tie rods to the rack has changed over time. On the Opel GT it's a jam nut, with the Manta the end of the tie rod is hammered onto the flats of the rack to stop them coming undone. I guess both work but I would have preferred the jam nut. You can see what I mean in the next pic, the hammered piece is on the right side at the top and bottom of the rack rod.

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Securing the tie rod to the rack.

Next up was the steering shaft itself. Jo's Manta in the UK has always had a problem with one of the bearings, with the steering shaft rattling as you go over potholed roads, and I was determined this wouldn't go the same way so I wanted to replace both top and bottom bearings.

Step 1 was getting the Irmscher steering wheel adapter off the steering shaft and the usual Opel "hooked" puller wouldn't work, nor would the Wheeler Dealers method of talking nicely to it and then giving it a light tap... In the end I got a three legged puller on it, but the shaft gave up the ghost before the puller did and I ended up breaking the end of the shaft.

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Whoops

I'm still thinking of a way of getting that apart (can't get the angle grinder in there to cut the shaft off flush and I can't afford all the Dremel cut-off wheels I'd need to get it off) but Matz in Germany came to the rescue with a new shaft. Luckily I had fleeced Irmscher of a load of steering wheels and adapters when they were selling them off for practically nothing on German eBay a few years back, so the new adapter was just a case of getting one out of stock.

There wasn't any more drama with the steering column rebuild, luckily. I pulled the yoke apart to make the switches go "click" more positively and Paul Newport provided a steering column lock that actually worked.

With the parts back in the car, the next step was to fit the universal joint. A few years ago Sean Hovell (past OMOC member) had asked me to get him a Flaming River universal joint for his Manta project and he claimed it almost made the Manta steering feel like it was power assisted. I tried it on my Manta in the UK when we did the rebuild in 2008 and I was impressed with the way it lightened the steering up, so there was no way I was going to use anything else this time.

The only problem with the UJ is that it's longer than the Manta one, so you end up having to cut it to get things to fit.

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Just a little too long

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So cut a piece off the lower shaft...

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And it fits perfectly

If you want to use one, you can get them from Summit Racing in the US and probably from places in the UK too. What you need is a joint with 3/4" double-D fittings each end. Just remember to use thread lock on the screw threads as well as using the jam nut. There's no way it's going to fall apart on you but a few drops of locktite are good insurance.

Oh, if you're wondering what paint I used on the shafts, it's Eastwood "Spray Gray" and you can get it from Frosts in the UK. It covers really easily and stands up to oil/grease/cleaning chemicals, plus it looks fairly convincingly like natural cast iron. I've used it on brake drums too and it handles the heat without a problem.

With the steering column in I now had a car that would move and even steer without kicking the tyres. Next was to start building up the doors.

The lock mechanisms were newly plated by the chap in New Jersey and looked brand new, and I had some relatively new black ribbed door handles (correct for a B-series GT/J, B-series GT/E and 400, later cars used smooth handles). The door locks had to be next.

I have a big bag of Manta locks and managed to make up a set to the same profile. There are three types of door lock used on the Manta, the most common seeming to be the type where the plastic levers are secured to the door lock by a plastic ring called a dog. In my experience they just fall apart when they're older and are a complete pain. My preference is the type with a screw to hold the lock together and that's what I used this time.

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Making a lock set

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Screwed type (left) and dog type (right), guess which falls apart first?

One thing that looks really strange to me with the Mantas with black trim is that everything is black except for the door and boot locks, which were left as chrome finish, it stands out like a sore thumb. With the locks apart I sanded the barrels down and painted them with black trim paint and now they look just like the locks on a Monza GSE - all black except for the centre lock mechanism. If I could have found a place willing anodize the lock faces I'd have done that (there's no way paint would stand up to a key repeatedly hitting it, but then again I rarely use a key as we have a plip).

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Finished lock in the door

I didn't fit the steering column lock until recently, just to avoid having to use a key all the time. A screwdriver stuck down the lock cylinder hole makes a good temporary key!

The only key that's different is the Monza filler cap. It's a completely different profile so I didn't bother. When I have the time I'll have a go at dismantling the filler cap and seeing if a Manta lock would actually fit. No rush.

Back to the doors, and I finished up the various rods and handles, all pretty easy stuff. The central locking came next. I had central locking on the car before the rebuild, so all I needed this time were new (Spal) motors, a mere $15 or so from Amazon, and a little fitting time. Well, that's what I thought until I couldn't work out how I'd made the bloody things fit before! Even the photo I had of the set up from an old California Column didn't really help.

In the end I worked it out, and you can see how neatly they go in in the next two pics.

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The motors fit in the bottom / rear of the door. The upper hole is an existing one, lower you need to drill

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The rod bends round an existing rod and hooks into a locking lever at the top of the lock itself. I used a small piece of hot glue filled heat shrink tubing as a bearing, sounds like it won't survive long but it lasted 10 years of regular use in the orange car

I tested them out with some temporary wiring (the loom was in the door but I didn't want to cut it until I had the electric windows in place). Pushing the lock lever in the door locked both doors and hitting the alarm plip did likewise (the alarm also went off loudly when I unlocked manually with the alarm on - I won't do that again in a hurry!).

You can see the door beam in the pic above - I don't believe it's a US requirement for 1979 but they always seemed to fit them when they federalized the cars and I wanted to carry them over to the new doors, even if it did make fitting everything into the doors quite tricky. Dennis kindly did the cut/re-weld for them.

Oh, and the brown isn't rust, it's Dinitrol!

Next came the window runners, front and rear, both ends with new velvet channels for the window to travel in. I used the black triangles with holes for the internally adjustable mirrors as I'd been unable to find any more modern mirrors that would fit the tiny triangles and not look silly. I had used Englemanns mirrors on my Manta in the UK but that was a little more "period" than I was looking for. My only option really was standard mirrors.

Then it was time to fit the front windows and I spent a couple of days trying to get the bastards to fit. I'm not talking about aligning them, I'm talking about making them slide up and down without feeling like they were being twisted apart. These were all new parts, too; I hadn't expected any problems like this, everything should have just slotted together.

In the end I had to cut a good inch off the lower front adjuster to get the front channel angle reasonably matching the rear and for the glass to go up and down without binding, but the glass was awfully close to the inner frame of the door (pushed hard against it when I added a door panel) and it wasn't at all interested in being aligned to fit the hole.

I got it sort of reasonable and decided to move on before I got terminally frustrated. There's no point in bashing your head against a wall with these things or you'll end up selling your project to someone else as you'll never want to see it again. There were plenty of other things to do.

You know, with 20/20 hindsight, I think the problems I was hitting here were due to the work the bodyshop did to make the doors fit. You may remember the doors were too high in the openings and they had to change the hinges, well they had to twist the door to make them fit top to bottom as well. All Mantas I've come across have the bottom trailing edge of the doors sticking out and I was determined this would be a Manta without it. They had to twist the door to re-shape it to fit the body profile. Anyway, more on the doors and windows later.

I moved on to the sunroof. I had left it to drip out Dinitrol for three or four months as there's nothing worse than having Dinitrol drip on your head or the upholstery on a hot day, but now was the time to rebuild it and make sure it worked correctly. The donor car didn't have a sunroof so I was making this up from all new parts, which meant I had nice new nylon sliders that just needed a little greasing to get working perfectly. Fitting the two-piece seal is always fun, but for a change I didn't get glue everywhere and didn't destroy the rear part while trying to fit it!

You can see the finished article in the next few pics.

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Slides open and doesn't scratch the paint on the underside of the roof skin!

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Seal fits neatly in the hole

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From the inside

You can see the non-matching handle surround in the last pic - I just couldn't find a light grey one anywhere but I did have this non-matching one in stock. The folks who were going to make up the headliner said they could dye it to match and that seemed like a better solution than fitting a used (pre-faded) grey one that woudn't ever match right.

Same thing was true for the rear view mirror - I had one that didn't quite match so they said they'd dye that too.

I was now ready to get the headliner installed. I can and have fitted them in the past, but there's no way I'd be able to do them to the standard I wanted here. I also needed one making up as the orange car didn't have a sunroof and so I had nothing to use. After a lot of Internet searching I came across Martrim in the UK that actually had the correct vinyl in stock for all of £12/m (http://www.martrim.co.uk/catalogue/pvc-headlining.html). I have enough of that stuff in stock for another four or five headliners now!

Paul Newport kindly provided a used sunroof headliner as a pattern (I wouldn't have been able to finish this project without Paul's endless lifesaving supply of parts, thank you Paul) and I loosely fitted it to show the trimmers how it should be fitted to the car (lots of blue masking tape to hold it down) and the car was off on a flat bed truck again.

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Ready to go, waiting for the flat bed

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Outside the trimmer's shop

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You should see the cars they get there...

A little over a week later I had the Manta back with a few nice additions. First off, the headliner.

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Perfect fitting - headliner, mirror and sunroof handle surround

And something I've wanted for ages a properly trimmed boot! OK, so I lose a few inches of luggage room here and there, but it looks way better than the bare metal and cheap mat affair that Opel palmed us off with, and there's no way a heavy moving payload will make its way to dent the rear quarter panels.

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Nicely trimmed. The hanging wires are for the heated rear window

Next up: side trim, rear seat and brakes

Cheers,
Nick

Edited by CalCol
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Wow great project thread love your work and attention to detail  , nice to have you back been missing reading your California column in the magazine

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Thanks Simon! You know, I miss writing the column on a regular basis, maybe I'll start it up again if the new editors are interested.

 

Last episode today:

There really is a sequence to building a car, and if you don't keep to it you end up doubling back and redoing things multiple times. I'm pretty good at mapping out sequences, but this build really taxed me. Here's a simple example:

I wanted to put the black trim on around the windows, but to do that I'd need to have the inner quarter panels on (either side of the rear seat) because they sit on the rear window flange that the rear quarter window gasket also sits on, but that also holds the black outer trim on.

Simple enough, eh? Just fit the inner quarter panels. Well yes, but in order to do that I need to have Dynamatted the opening that the inner quarter panel covers. To do that you need to have the seat belts in and the rear part of the rear skirts fitted because they have mounting pins that go through the rear quarter panel and you can only get to them from the inside.

See how it goes?

Anyway, I was getting there. I had all the pre-requisites done, including the inner quarter panel and I'd even fitted the rear seat.

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Rear part of the passenger compartment almost finished

Before I started on the trim I wanted to fit the lower mounting point for the seat belt to keep them out of the way, and it's then that I hit a problem. The next section should really be called Snap-On abuse...

I began with the (new) seat belt on the right side and found the (new) slider, metal clamp, screw and plastic cap, twisted the seat belt ½ turn in the correct direction, slid the slider through the seat belt end and pulled. Clang. Hmm, seat belt’s locked. Let’s let it back a little and try again. Clang. Hmm, how about it little more. Clang. You know where this is going, don’t you?

Yup, it went all the way back without once thinking about going in the direction I wanted it to. There was nothing left but to start dismantling.

Out with the rear seat, off with the quarter window gasket and then I could get the rear quarter inner panel out. Then the hard bit – I had to get the Dynamat off. Ugh. That stuff really sticks, especially when you use a roller to set it, the way you should.

Well, about 30 minutes of swearing later and I could see the seat belt reel. A nice simple couple of taps on the side of the mechanism didn’t loosen it and there was no more I could spool on the reel, so there was nothing I could do other than try to remove it.

Of course, you can’t get a socket into it because there’s so much belt on the reel, so I tried a regular 21mm spanner. I could just move it about 1/8 of a turn but then it hit the side of the spool and wouldn’t go any further. Only thing left was a crowsfoot wrench sitting on a universal joint and 3” extension (quite a handful to manoeuvre in a tight space), which did actually fit and could move it a fraction further, but then it too hit the side of the spool. Short of cutting the belt off the reel and throwing away a perfectly good (and new, remember) seat belt, all I could think of doing was grinding the crowsfoot wrench to give it more clearance.

So that’s what I did, a nice $35 (+ tax + shipping) crowsfoot wrench from Snap-On and I attacked it with an angle grinder, you can see the result in the picture and it’s not pretty.

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Luckily Snap-On stuff is pretty delicate or I’d have ended up with yet more metal to grind off, but as it was I had to thin the opening down to get between the belt and the bracket, almost grind one side away to get it between the spool and the face of the screw and trim the other to avoid the spool.

Still, eventually it came free, 1/8 of a turn at a time…

I took the mechanism apart and it looked fine, I have no idea what was wrong with it. I gave the latching mechanism a drop of “3 in 1” to ensure it didn’t stick, but I didn't want to give it grease as it would just gum up the mechanism.

At least I saved the €90.00 - and rare - seat belt, but that poor crowsfoot wrench isn’t much use except for pulling seat belts! All I had left to do was sweep up the Snap-On filings all over the garage… I wonder if I can send them back for a free replacement?

So, back to regular programming and I was finally ready to start on the outside black trim. One thing I had to find was some open-cell foam for the B-posts. I don't know if you've ever seen it, but stuffed up the vent in the B-post is some open-cell foam that dampens any noise. It comes in every new Manta but of course it's not a part number you can buy... Luckily my local foam supplier had something that would work and I bought a lifetime's supply for just $20.

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Don't forget the foam in the B pillar vent!

So finally all the side trim was in and looking very smart. I was lucky enough to have picked up a complete new set over the years and, apart from one piece that was actually bent when I pulled it from its packet (gentle straightening and no one but me will ever see where!), it all went on without a hitch.

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Side trim in place. The blue tape at the rear edge is to avoid my clothes catching and bending the trim

Next to go in was the rear window and we had something approximating a car, at the back anyway!

Those headrests are still embarrassingly beige, and part of the reason is that I just couldn't find any plain black velour cloth with which to have them re-trimmed. In the 80's I'm sure it wouldn't have been a problem, but velour isn't very common these days and plain black seems to be even less common. You have to be careful with black too, there are loads of different shades that look black except when you hold it against your jet black fabric and find it looks nothing like it!

We thought about using the Blitz fabric with plain vinyl sides, but only briefly, that really would have looked strange.

Anyway, after about 50 samples had arrived from different suppliers, we finally found one fabric that looked OK. It had a "grain" on it, despite being plain, so that we had to be very specific about which way the trimmers cut the fabric  and which piece went on the front face of the headrest and which on the rear.

The other question was what to do with the front seats. On the Manta the Recaro headrests are grey vinyl and of course that wouldn't work with the black velour rear ones. So what we did was to get the fronts re-trimmed too, with all four having velour face and back and grey vinyl sides. The grey vinyl for the sides of the rear headrests actually came from the faces of the front seat headrests (which is good because I couldn't find the Vauxhall grey vinyl anywhere either!

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Re-trimmed rear headrests. Honestly looks better in natural light than it does in a flash photo!

By now I had a car that looked pretty complete on the face of it, I think I also had the front seats installed at this point, but the mechanicals were lagging, the handbrake didn't even work yet!

Front brakes on the orange car before the rebuild were Volvo 4-pot calipers and Honda Legend front discs and they'd worked fairly well for years. The only problem is that they weren't very good when paired with a Ford Scorpio rear disc conversion, the difference in fluid requirements front to back meant I had to be very careful to avoid locking up the rears - in the end I found a brake pressure regulator that worked and, with a careful choice of pads front to rear, I had a setup that worked.

This time I wanted to use the Astra GTE setup that everyone else seems to be using and I had collected a pair of calipers off Vauxhall for this - their Trade Club prices are amazing, cheaper than buying a pair of cores and having them rebuilt at Bigg Red. The only gotcha is that sometimes they come with the carrier and sometimes not, so you may need to hunt down a carrier. I got one with the caliper and the other side I had to find. Part numbers from Vauxhall were R1740038 left and R1740039 right and when I bought them (2013, I think) they were £49.50 each side.

Finding out what front discs to use was more fun, but trawling the forums I found it was a set of Audi front discs, so I set to and ordered some Black Diamond discs off Need For Speed in the UK, picked them up on a visit and brought them back and had them drilled to suite. Once I bolted them up I found they weren't even close. It was then that I read there are two types of Audi front disc and one has the correct offset, the other needs a spacer to fit. Guess which I'd bought?

So, for the record, the ones that do fit without a spacer are Black Diamond 384-COM-F, 256x20 with a 56mm offset. I actually do have a pair of spacers in stock so I can use the others eventually, they aren't junk.

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Front brakes finished

You can see I've got the pad wear sensors fitted in the pic. The rear pads always came with sensors and I just cut them off, but I thought why not? The sensors themselves are simple things - you either cut through a wire by wearing it away or you make a connection by the disc touching two embedded wires. Either way, the "sensor" just makes or breaks a circuit. We have a brake warning light on the dash, so why not just hook the sensors into that?

That all went fairly to plan except the pad sensors turned out to be the type that broke the circuit when they hit the wear limit, so I had to add a transistor to the front and rear pairs of sensors to invert the sense of the signal and only light the lamp when the circuit was broken, rather than having it lit all the time and only off when the sensor detected the pad wear limit! The circuit was tiny, though, and I just hid it up in the dash.

If you would like to make make this up for your car, here's an extract from the circuit diagram I made up:

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P29 and 30 are front brake sensors, P27 and 28 are the rears. K86 is the circuit - you can see the detail inside - it's really simple with just two transistors and four resistors. The trace 181 reference is to the standard Manta wiring diagram in your Haynes manual. The trace 500 reference is specific to my car (first fuse in the upper section) but you can connect it to the black wire that goes to the radio that connects to the bottom of the fuse box on yours.

The rear brakes were a conversion I'd done years ago using a kit from (I think) Gary Watson. This time I wanted to clean it up and make it a little more professional than the quick and dirty method I used last time. Dennis came over and welded a couple of brake pipe brackets on to the axle that Andy Clears had kindly made up for me and I finished off the brake pipes to match.

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Rear brakes (yes, the pin gaskets are missing in this pic!)

The front hoses and the one from the axle to body are a standard floating caliper Euroquip set, but the hoses from the axle to the rear calipers are ones I made up from Euroquip components, so they're the exact length I needed.

I did replace the rear discs with drilled/slotted ones to match the fronts - these are re-drilled Black Diamond KBD-003-COM-F and again Need for Speed had them at a decent price. They're listed as discs for an Escort Mk3-5 1.1, front, solid 240x10. Don't get the ones that say 240x9 as they're different.

Inside the car the pad sensor wires run with the main loom and go through the floor under the rear seat, right next to the brake pipe join to the rear axle. I ran the pad sensor wires alongside the brake pipes using clips from a company called Bresco in the UK that Andy Clears put me onto. They're just the right size to clip over the brake pipe and the sleeving I'm using for the wiring harness, plus they twist so it stops them working loose when the sleeving flexes.

The hand brake cable I'm using is from a Carlton 2200i (90193363). Gary supplied a Sierra cable, but the Carlton one was perfect for my needs. You have to remember to run the cable round the back of the axle, otherwise it's way too long. The Carlton cable clips to lightly modified Manta mounting points and you just need to swap the yoke for a Manta one. Running the cable round the back of the axle makes the calipers feel like they're on back to front, but I've never had a problem with brake bleeding or braking. All in all, a nice kit.

I'm using standard Vauxhall pads up front (mostly because I have a few sets in stock, I'll swap to EBC pads when I run out) and semi-metallic rears, again to help with the brake balance. I'll try a few harder stops once I get it out on a quiet road and check that the front locks first. I have a variable pressure reducing valve I can use if I have problems.

The servo and master cylinder on LHD cars is equivalent to the Carlton setup for RHD cars, and I've read that's a common upgrade, so there wasn't really much for me to do there. I sent the servo and master cylinder over to Andy Clears and he sent them off to Brake Engineering for rebuilding. They did a nice job of cad plating on the servo, which is good because you can't miss it in the engine bay!

I may look for a bigger bore master cylinder in the future as there's a little too much pedal travel for me at the moment. Of course, that might be residual air in the system and I believe I have a slight leak between the axle pipe and hose to the body that I need to take a look at anyway.

I'm also using wheelarch liners on the front, again something I've used before. Andy Bartlett (OMOC member in Reading and excellent painter) was bending my ear about using them the other day as he feels they can do more damage than good, but I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree as I'm a fan.

When we were prepping the shell for painting, Andy Clears had put me on to some pins that weld onto the body specifically to hold arch liners for (I think) a Corsa, and Dennis welded them in after I had trimmed the liners and marked up where they needed to go. So fitting them this time round was relatively straightforward as they were pre-trimmed, the only problem was that there was a lot more going on in the wheelarch now that the car was built!

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Wheelarch liners fitted

You can see the liner in the pic and probably just make out the two pins on the chassis leg swan neck section with neat black nuts holding the liner onto the pins. Still need to finish off the wiring for the pad sensors in that pic - the sleeving end looks rough...

Well, that's about it for braking, next time it's back to the dash for some final fitting and then the engine build.

Cheers,
Nick

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I had sent the engine in to my local machine shop when I took it out of the orange car back at the beginning of the build and I was still waiting for it back, so the next phase is really bits and pieces of finish work. The machine shop historically had taken forever to get stuff to me, but he really was going for an olympic gold this time, emails started to get quite heated...

Anyway, there was a lot going under the dash in this Manta so it was going to take quite a time. First off I had to get the A/C plumbing all set. I had cut the recirculation hole in the firewall back when Dennis first welded the upper section in, the inner part of the firewall was already covered in two layers of Dynamat.

I treated the A/C unit itself to some Dynamat this time round too. The non-A/C heater in the Manta has a nice black insulation cover which keeps the air cool as it passes into the cabin, but for some reason they decided not to do that for the A/C version. The heater box itself is the same as the non-A/C car, so that's insulated, but the A/C unit replaces the heater fan and is completely uninsulated. Now of course that's fine when you have the A/C on as it's designed to cool the air, but when your A/C is off you really notice the warm air coming through.

So here's my solution - Dynamat on the inside of the unit. This keeps the unit looking totally standard but also insulates the box.

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One other thing I wanted to do was to have a heater valve that turned off water to the heater matrix when the temperature lever is set to cold. The Manta heater (both A/C and non-A/C) is "air blending" which means water goes to the heater matrix all the time. There's a flap in the heater box that blends air that's gone through the matrix and air that has bypassed the matrix and that blending determines the heat of the air you get. The flap is controlled by a cable from the heater temperature lever to the top of the heater box.

Now, you can imagine that there's going to be some heat soak between the heating chamber and the path for non-heated air, and again it can be quite significant. So I did two things to resolve this, first, more Dynamat on the wall between the two chambers - this slows the heat soaking between the two. Second was to add a heater valve that turns off the water feed to the heater when the temperature lever is set to cold.

Usually heater valves are vacuum driven and there's a vacuum solenoid that will turn the valve on and off. That's a lot of "stuff" to find homes for - valve, vacuum resevoir, vacuum solenoid - so I looked for another solution. You can get electrical valves, but they expect to be servo driven rather than the simple on/off arrangement I wanted. In the end I found one at Car Builder Solutions in the UK: http://www.carbuildersolutions.com/en/solenoid-operated-onoff-heater-valve

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Heater valve installed just in front of the heater box. I'm using constant tension clamps as they're a lot neater and won't harm the plastic

This was perfect, but what I needed was a means to turn it on and off, and for that I added a microswitch on the top of the heater box that turns on when the lever closes the door to the heater chamber (i.e. when I select the cold end of the slider's travel).

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Microswitch on top of the heater box

The other switch I needed to add was for the recirculation flap. Something I'd seen in other cars was the cooling system going into overdrive if you set the temperature as cool and recirculated air. I guess the reasoning is that it means you're looking for the coldest air possible and therefore will be putting a big demand on the cooling system. Makes sense. So this time I needed to detect the recirc flap being set to recirculate - same brand of microswitch, same use!

That wasn't the last use for a microswitch, I wanted to add glovebox lighting. The standard lighting for the glovebox is a dim glow from the light in the clock, but a candle could do a lot better job. I found some LED strips at a place called Super Bright LEDs (https://www.superbrightleds.com/moreinfo/top-emitting/led-light-strips-led-tape-light-with-18-smdsft-1-chip-smd-led-3528-with-lc2-connector/1464/) and this looked ideal. The strip is self adhesive and just sticks to the underside of the dash carrier - I can cut it longer or shorter depending on the brightness I wanted. So add this to a microswitch on the glovebox cover and I have a nice simple well-let glovebox.

It was about this time that we made the colour choice for the interior lighting. The standard Opel lighting is OK, but it's pretty dim. Moving to LEDs gave me a choice to get brighter lighting and also a different colour. We bought both orange and red lights to see what they'd look like and we finally settled on red, so I made another fairly large order to the LED folks and got replacement LED dash and switch bulbs for the whole car, plus a lot more of those strips as I had decided to use footwell lighting as well as the interior light. You can see the effect in the pic below.

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Red footwell lighting on the left side

I've wired it all up so that when you turn on the interior light, only the one in the roof comes on, but when you open the doors all four footwell spaces (left/right, front/back) come on as well. The LED strips for the rear footwells are on the front seat adapters. It's all frou-frou, but it's fun!

The radio install is pretty straightforward, although there's some extra wiring. I'm using a Becker Indianapolis, which is unusual because it has a nav system built in and also hands free for the phone. Of course, this means that it needs a few inputs non-nav radios don't. First off is the GPS aerial, that's mounted in the centre of the dash. You can see the little black box in the pic above. Secondly it needs a vehicle speed sensor so that it can tell that you're still moving, even if it loses the GPS signal and I've added that to the gearbox.

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Vehicle speed sensor

To keep the angles on the speedo cable reasonable I've used a 90 degree adapter too (thanks to Edelschmeide) and the whole thing *just* misses the body bracket for the transmission mount. The sensor is actually from a J-Cavalier. I have no idea why it would have needed one, but I'm not complaining as it's exactly what I need!

The last signal the radio needs is the reversing lamps - it's all well and good knowing the car's moving but of course it needs to know in what direction that might be happening!

The rear speakers you've seen already, and all that Dynamat makes a nicely damped, sealed sounding box out of the boot. The front speaker is more problematic. I have brand new door cards (thanks again, OCP...) so I'm not about to cut them up, besides there's no room with the other stuff in the doors. The footwell kick panels are full of electronics and there's nowhere else to put one.

However I did find a company over here that makes a single stereo speaker that exactly matches the (odd) size of the one on the dash (https://www.retromanufacturing.com/products/dash-replacement-speaker-for-1958-cadillac?variant=7952819459), so I ordered one and it does a reasonable job, certainly better than the mono speaker! To be honest, the rear speakers provide all the sound in this car, the front just balances the treble out so it's fine.

Dan the engine man surprised me with an email telling me the block was ready for pickup, so finally I could get back onto something more useful. First a few pics of the engine when I dismantled it.

I'd first built the 2.4 in this car in 2002 and then a minor rebuild in 2004 (I forget why), but since then the engine had done almost 70,000 miles and so I decided to give it another overhaul, seeing as the rest of the car was almost new. I had used coated bearings and piston skirts in the car from a company called Calico Coatings (http://www.calicocoatings.com/coating-data-sheets/ct-1-dry-film-lubricant/) and I know a lot of builders in the UK don't like it, so I was keen to see what they looked like after this mileage.

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Bearings look pretty good - you can still see the coating

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Almost new...

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Scuffing is the biggest problem with the 2.4 pistons but many of those scratches were there before coating

All in all, I was very pleased. You could still see the coatings on the parts and the scuffing on the pistons was a lot less than I saw when I first built it back in 2002 (they were original pistons, I had never changed them).

So really, the engine just needing refreshing, there wasn't any significant wear anywhere. All Dan ended up doing with the block was to hot tank it and re-hone the cylinders. Once I got it home it was straight on the stand, lots of washing to get any grit out of the bores and the rest of the block and then drying and painting.

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Block back home and freshly painted

The crank just needed cleaning and the journals polishing, so I popped it into the block, measured the clearances (0.0017" / 0.043mm each journal, except number 3 which was 0.0018" / 0.046mm) and torqued the bearing caps down. Done.

The pistons came next and I'm using a new set of Mahle pistons as the old ones had reached their limit according to Dan as the skirts were beginning to collapse. Luckily all our cars in the US use the same pistons (the Monzas have 3.6 engines, the Manta and GT 2.4's) so I have a stock of them. I don't use the rings that come with the Mahle pistons, instead I get rings from Hastings. The standard rings Opel and Mahle supply come with a single piece oil scraper with a coiled spring inside and I absolutely hate them because they quickly coke up and stop doing their job. Every time you take a piston out you see this big black carboned area that once was an oil scraper. Hastings have a different system with a three-piece oil scraper that doesn't carbon up (see the pic above of a piston I took out of the engine and you'll see what I mean). There are thin rails top and bottom and a separate spacer ring between, you can see the effect in the pic below.

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New Mahle piston with Hastings rings

I checked all the ring gaps (well within spec) and so now it was time for me to meet my nemesis, the piston ring compressor... When I was building the 3.6 in Jo's car a few years back I actually gave in and took the block back to Dan to fit the pistons, I was determined not to do that again this time. The problem is those Hastings rings. That nice oil scraper is the problem, and it's the tiny thin rails on the top and bottom that catch on the lip of the block and just bend up between the piston and bore. This time I bought a few spare rails for when I did the same thing!

Anyway, I'd always used the typical rolled sheet of metal type of piston ring compressor (just like this: https://www.amazon.com/Powerbuilt-648433-Piston-Ring-Compressor/dp/B001CZJ4JA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8) but I'd been watching Graveyard Cars (wish I was as detail oriented as Mark Worman) and they'd used a completely different type and the pistons just popped straight in. So I took a look on Amazon and found this: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008PVAEXO?psc=1, which turned out to be what I needed.

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Three down, one to go

I was expecting a rough evening trying to get the pistons installed and I think I was all done in 10 minutes! Well worth investing in this sort of compressor if you build your own engines.

Caps on and big end clearances checked (0.0016" / .041mm on each, except number 3 again which was 0.0017" / .043mm) and it was looking a lot like an engine.

I had cleaned and painted the timing case, so I fitted new guides and chain and then torqued that down and I was ready for the sump.

Now a friend of mine, Gil Wesson from Opel GT Source, has started reproducing parts in a big way in the last few years and his latest was a 2.3 Turbodiesel sump gasket that just happens to fit petrol cars too. The benefit of this is that it's a single piece all rubber affair with steel reinforcement on the sides (http://www.opelgtsource.com/store/6000/6225.html). No more leaking at each corner! So I ordered one off Gil and you can see it here, just before I drop the sump on.

Of course, I still used buckets of sealer as pulling the sump off a Manta in situ to fix a leak isn't something I want to attempt again...

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One-piece sump gasket from Opel GT Source

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Easy build-up, ready to go back in

Before I put it back in I did a little more mocking up and came across a problem. Now I was going to try to run this engine on an electric fan, remember, rather than a mechanical one. In the past I've used the Monza fan pulley with a 7-blade fan for extra cooling and it works well in California's hot climate. This time round I didn't need a fan on the engine and, because the Manta is so space limited between the front of the engine and radiator, I needed every millimetre I could get, and so I opted for an early Manta pulley.

The problem I noticed when I tried to mock it up was that the Manta pulley hit the big crank pulley that you need for the Motronic. Now this really surprised me as I'd been using the Motronic system on Jo's Monza now for 5 years and never had the problem, what was different? I grabbed a spare Monza pulley out of stock and compared them.

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Early Manta pulley left, Monza pulley right

You can see the Monza pulley is actually a smaller diameter than the Manta one, very surprising. But when I thought about it, it made sense. The water pump on a Monza is the same design as the Manta but there's a much bigger cooling system to pump water round, so Opel have reduced the diameter of the pulley to make it run faster and therefore pump more water.

Now that was good news in a way, as the faster you pump water round the system (without creating foaming), the more efficient your cooling system's going to be, and I needed all the help I could get. It was also bad news, as it meant I needed to use a Monza pulley with its big fan clutch boss on the front. I had a chat with Dan and he put it in his lathe and machined off the boss, giving me as much clearance as I could get between the engine and radiator. Perfect.

I had put new seals on the gearbox and re-bushed the gear lever mechanism while I was waiting for the engine so the gearbox was ready to go. Dan had resurfaced and I had repainted the flywheel, and the new 9" clutch had been balanced when I had the rotating parts balanced by Dan. There was nothing left to do now but put the engine in the car as I always install them as block+gearbox combinations, adding the head at a later date when it's in the car. That's partly because it's easier to do and partly because I hate the idea of an earthquake when I've got a complete engine and gearbox 4 feet in the air over a freshly painted car!

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Engine going in

Jo's really used to installing and removing engines these days, so between us we made short work of the install and in about 45 minutes we had it sitting in place.

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Finally, we have an engine!

Oh, in case you're wondering about the clutch support, it's a single piece cast iron support that's used on a 3.0E Monza. I always use them as it gives the bottom half of the bellhousing a lot more support than the standard Manta supports. You need to lever the rear of the sump gently forward while fitting as it's thicker than the sheet steel dust cover on the Manta, but if you're careful it works. And yes, it's more of that Eastwood Spray Gray paint on it!

The engine wasn't all plain sailing, next part of the story covers the fun with the head and trying to get the compression ratio right.

Cheers,
Nick

 

Edited by CalCol
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I've cant believe that Ive not commented on this thread yet but Its probably because I read it really thoroughly and then I realise that it is 1:00am and I have just spent far too long on my iPad than I ought to have done!

Fantastic work Nick, this has been an inspiration to us all. It gives me some renewed enthusiasm for my next project and as for trying to get to your level of detail.....well I can only hope. I may need to pick your brains about the engine build at some stage but I will PM you about that one.

All I can say really is "awesome". I don't really want this thread to end, so don't rush to finish the car!

PB.

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Thanks Paul! Actually, you helped in the early stages of this project with those interior shots of your i200 - it's one thing knowing the part numbers but quite another to actually see which ones get used where for a particular trim combination. This project has been going on so long it's difficult to work out what to put in and what to leave out, glad it's been working. :D

 

OK, on to today's episode... updates may slow now as work tends to get in the way.

So the trouble started after I had the engine in the car when I started measuring the deck height. Of course, with 20/20 hindsight I should have done this while I was building the block, but you know how it goes. Anyway, I measured and got 0.178mm above the block. I tried again, pretty much the same reading. Damn.

Now if you've not built one of these before you may be wondering why I'm worried, but the issue is the pistons hitting the head. The cylinder head is essentially a big flat piece of metal. OK, it's got some combustion chambers in it but as far as the piston's concerned it's a hard stop. The standard gasket has a thickness of 0.75mm when compressed, so you have 0.75mm above the block deck before your pistons have an unhappy time. In my case, the pistons came 0.178mm above the deck before they started going the other way, giving me a minimum clearance of 0.572mm, and that's really not enough as this is a static measurement and everything stretches when it moves quickly. Luckily it's not a high revving engine (you're wringing the poor thing to death if you go over 5,000rpm in standard spec) but that's not giving you much room.

When I built Jo's 3.6 I got a 0.05mm deck height, meaning 0.70mm gap, and I wasn't particularly happy about that, but it's proved fine over the last 30,000 miles. I just wasn't prepared to take the risk this time.

I had a couple of choices here. First (and probably the one I should have chosen) is to have the piston crowns skimmed down by 0.2mm or so, and that's probably what I'll do when it comes to the next rebuild, but this time I wasn't prepared to get the engine back out and disassembled again; I was over three years into this project and I wanted the bloody thing done. So my second choice was a thicker head gasket and luckily Risse had two of the next size up (1.2mm compressed) left; I bought both.

I had stuff to do while they were on their way over from Germany as we still had to set the compression ratio. I found with Jo's 3.6 that Opel's compression numbers are mostly finger in the air guesswork, and I was looking for a reasonable compression ratio with this 2.4 as it's only a small engine and I have a heavier car (all that Dynamat and my not inconsiderable bulk...) and things that suck the power (air conditioning and a big alternator).

I have most of the numbers from Jo's 3.6 build and the only number I still needed was the combustion chamber capacity, so Dan got started with his burette and measured them - in my case 58cc. I had made a spreadsheet last time and so I plugged the volume and gasket thickness in and got 8.71:1, nowhere near enough.

One thing Dan noticed was that the valves were quite relieved in the head as they were re-cut originals so he suggested new ones to help out. I had a look in stock and had a couple of 2.2 inlets and a full set of 2.4s. One interesting thing is that the 2.4 valves are dished and the 2.2 are flat, so I would have a better compression ratio with the 2.2 valves. Shame I didn't have a full set (but I ordered some from Matz quickly so I would!).

I took the new 2.4 set over to him and we measured again - this time 57cc (8.81:1), so still a long way to go. The only answer was going to be to skim the head. The spreadsheet said I'd need 0.75mm off the head so Dan pulled 20 thou (0.508mm) off the head and re-measured the combustion chamber - still not there. Another 5 thou and he had a combustion chamber of 53cc - I wanted 53.3cc to get 9.20:1 so we were there - approximately 9.24:1.

So now I had a finished head - washed, skimmed, new seats and a little cleaning of the valve throats, that's all. The cam bearings and guides were changed last time out and were still perfect. But I still had no head gasket so I painted the head and got on with something else.

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Painting the head - I always mask off the manifold and thermostat gasket areas

First off was heat shields. I was going to have something to connect the exhaust to fairly quickly so I had a couple of heat shields to work on. The material I'm using is actually Opel heat shield material - I found the Carlton II had heat shields on some models and OCP still had a stock of them for not much (can't imagine anyone else would buy them!) and I could cut and modify them to work on the Manta. You can get thick aluminium foil over here pretty easily, so some spray glue and thick foil would allow me to clean them up after modification.

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Heat shield for the rear box, pop riveted in place

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Fits snugly around the box but doesn't actually touch anywhere

The one under the front box was a little more involved as I needed to cut a square hole in the middle of it for the rubber bumper that slots into the body, but other than that it was quick and easy. I'd do the front heat shield later once I had the exhaust pipes in.

Next up was a little more frou-frou. I had bought some reproduction labels from Edelschmeide and couldn't resist putting them on the car...

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Type approval label for the German market

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Nozzle angle on the filler cap. The unleaded fuel label is another California requirement and is a cut down label from an Omega.

It was about this time that the Spal fan arrived and I couldn't resist trying it out to see how much space I had. I'm trying to keep the car looking as standard as possible, so I'm mounting the fan inside the Opel fan shroud, you can see the result below.

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Electric fan mock-up

Luckily I had about 20mm between the engine and fan, plenty. I'm still not convinced it's going to suck enough air, but at least it would fit the car.

With the dash mostly finished up now (at least the top half) I decided the windscreen could go in. I was relieved to get the big piece of glass in the car and out of the way in the garage!

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And one more big painted piece could leave the house - it was time to fit the boot. Before I did so, though, I added the obligatory Dynamat.

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And the boot decal. Now I wanted to use late model decals on the car but I really didn't want the in-your-face look of a red or black decal; I wanted something really subtle, almost ghosted on. I was going to get a set of decals made up, but on a whim I tried a standard silver decal instead and it had just the effect I was looking for.

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You can just see the GT/E on the right hand side

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Same on the front air dam.

Then my other Manta nemesis, the nose decal. I'd never been successful attaching one of these, it would always stretch and I'd end up with a lump of decal somewhere around the rings. I chose a nice cold night and used lots of water this time and it slipped straight on. I couldn't believe my luck.

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Almost not there...

That's all the decals we're using on the car - two GT/E, one at each end, and a nose Blitz. Still not sure that's enough, we may have made it too plain, but I really prefer the understated look to something that shouts in your face.

Next up was the A/C compressor and hoses. The A/C in this car was actually my second attempt at Manta A/C (Jo's black Manta in the UK was the first) and this was a lot easier as it was LHD, which is what the system was designed for. The problem is that the hoses are really big and thick and generally get in the way so I wanted to do something better this time.

Newer cars use a thinner hose called reduced barrier hose, and this stuff is about two thirds the thickness of the original, making it more flexible and something you can hide out of the way easier. I bought some fittings and hoses and set to making new ones up.

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Hot gas line from the compressor to the condenser

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Final set of hoses ready for crimping

So I ended up with a much smaller, thinner set of hoses than before, the only original I'm carrying over is the one with the U bend as I can't find the fittings for each end in reduced barrier. In the pic above they're marked up ready for my local A/C shop to crimp for me. I've used the natural bend in the hose to my advantage, taking out as much stress from the hose as I can, so I've marked the points where the fitting and hose should align.

There really wasn't anything stopping me doing the final fit on the condenser now, so I spent an hour combing the condenser fins straight (honestly, you can actually buy condenser fin combs!) and then popped it in place.

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Then added the cardboard air guide

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And then finally the painted cover plate

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Just around this time the head gasket arrived from Germany so the engine build was back on. Unfortunately it wasn't one of those print seal gaskets, so I did the best I could. I sprayed both sides with copper gasket sealer (I usually do this anyway) and put a bead of sealer around the timing chain area at the front as I find oil likes to make its way out of the front.

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Ready for the head

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Head on

I'm using stretch bolts on the head as I like that they clamp tighter than the regular type, but I always worry that I'm about to break them as you have to pull really hard for the last few degrees.   Oh well, nothing broke this time.

Next time there's more engine build-up and a first start.
Cheers,
Nick

 

 

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Well, I had a head on the engine now, so we're getting close, but of course it still needed ancillaries.

I'm going to do a bit of a flashback here as I actually worked out what I was going to use and got the injection system working on the orange Manta before disassembly and then put the working system aside.

First off, here's what I started with - it wasn't very adventurous but it was bulletproof, a standard 2.4 with a 2.2 injection system, but that's what I needed as it was my daily driver for 14 years. In all honesty, the new system wasn't going to be very adventurous either as this car is going to be another regular runner, even if I won't use it every day.

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Standard 2.4 engine, 2.2 injection

Now the goal was to add an EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) and catalyst to make emissions tests easier to pass, and I also wanted to go to the standard Motronic injection from a 2.4 as that was a lot cleaner than the LE Jetronic stuff on a 2.0 or 2.2.

For the EGR I had found that it was a standard fitment for 2.2 injection systems in Sweden and Switzerland and scored one years ago. Actually I swapped it for a Monza series 1 grille in perfect condition with a chap from the far north of Sweden. Both of us thought our respective pieces were junk and were happy to swap! The manifold is a little bulkier than the regular 2.2 system, plus there's a different exhaust manifold, throttle body and electronics.

The Motronic system has a completely different manifold that's way too high to fit under a Manta bonnet, so I was going to have to create a Frankenstein system anyway. The question was whether to use the Motronic throttle body or the one from the Swedish 2.2. I tried both, including modifying the throttle linkage on the Motronic throttle body, but in the end decided to go with the one from the 2.2 as it was a lot simpler. It would also give me a feather light throttle response (which I like) as the Motronic throttle body had some funky gearing to make it less responsive.

So the first problem was that the throttle switch on the 2.2 and throttle pot on the 2.4 had different orientation and spacing so I needed to make up an adapter as I did for the C36NE on Jo's Monza. The surprise was that the adapter was actually different, with the C30NE pot being 49 degrees out of phase with the 30E throttle switch and the C24NE having a separation of 55 degrees from the 2.2 switch. Oh well, new template then...

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I really should learn how to make good templates!

So a little sheet aluminium, a bit of drilling and punching and some paint later I had a finished adapter.

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Not quite factory but reasonably discreet

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The vacuum take-off here isn't for advance, it's for the EGR and comes on much later than vacuum advance would do. If you compare it side by side with a standard throttle body (with advance) you can see it's in a completely different part of that metal boss.

The other thing I needed to do was to modify the 2.2 manifold to take the solid fuel rail that comes with the 2.4 system. The injectors are in the same place and the black plastic plates bolt on the same way, but the fuel rail has two brackets too. I made up two tiny brackets that bolted to the webs of the runners for number 1 and 4 cylinder - really simple to do and the metal doesn't need to be strong as there's no real weight here, it's just bracing.

So, with the modifications done and freshly plated parts installed, I had a manifold.

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Modified Swedish 2.2 manifold installed with the wiring loom in place

You can just make out the charcoal canister purge valve on top of the thermostat housing with the red wiring plug tab showing. For that I had the charcoal canister in the left side inner wing held on with a washer bottle bracket!

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Washer bottle bracket in the inner wing for the canister

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And the canister in place

One of the hoses on the canister goes to the purge valve and the other goes to the roll-over valve I mentioned in an earlier posting and from there to the fuel tank.

The thermostat housing is different to the 2.0E - it's actually the most common type for fuel injection systems on CIH cars - and I needed to modify the Manta lower hose to work with it as the return from the radiator is on the side of the housing rather than the front. What I use is a brass 90 degree bend I got from my local radiator shop along with a small piece of heater hose to bridge the gap to the thermostat housing.

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Bridging the gap

You can't see the 90 degree angle or heater hose fragment when the system's all together, so it looks like you're using a standard Manta hose.

Anyway, back to the injection system and I was now ready to fit the throttle body and see if everything else would fit.

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Throttle body and idle valve installed

It all seemed to fit. You can see the EGR flexy hose at the bottom of the picture, bending round to the port on the exhaust manifold.

The remaining piece of the puzzle was the oxygen sensor, so I had Dan the engine man weld a sensor boss into the Jetex downpipe where the two pipes Y together and then sent it off to Jet Hot for a ceramic coating to keep the temperatures down.

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Modified exhaust downpipes

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Downpipes installed and oxygen sensor in place

Fuel next, and the Motronic strangely has two fuel dampers, one on the feed and one on the return. Makes absolutely no sense to me as the return is relatively low pressure and has no effect on the pressure in the fuel rail, but there you go. Squeezing these two in the Manta's narrow engine bay with the A/C as well is quite fun.

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Fuel dampers and hoses connected up

And from there we were pretty much ready for the off. The wiring harness I had made up went straight in, very much like the Manta harness, and other than that we had a different coil (usual place though), temperature sensor  (blue like a 2.0E Manta, the 2.2 uses black), injection relay on the left side of the engine bay, a different distributor and a crank sensor that fits into a ring in a special timing cover (which comes with the 2.4 engine and I had used when I built this).

There's no need to set the distributor position other than really roughly as it adjusts itself to suit.

It started first time (phew) and ran nicely, so I decided to try out a quick run round the block to check everything was OK. It really had a sharp throttle response as I expected but it also went well all through the range. The idle was a nice stable purr too. The only problem was the engine's response to the A/C coming on. The Motronic has two wires that connect into the A/C, one to tell the ECU that the A/C has been turned on and the other to know the compressor is actually engaged and the load has increased. This didn't seem to be working, as the idle dipped every time the compressor clicked in; it didn't stall, but it wasn't good.

Back home I checked absolutely everything and couldn't find anything wrong, everything was exactly as I'd intended it. Eventually I decided it had to be the oxygen sensor not responding quickly enough to the change in the exhaust mixture because of the distance between it and the cylinders. I had to try something else.

Now the manifold was the special Swedish one with the EGR port, which is why I'd used it. The Frontera / Omega 2.4 manifold had an oxygen sensor port in the manifold, but it didn't have the EGR port, so that wasn't perfect either. In the end I took it over to Dan and he drilled and tapped an EGR port into the manifold in the same place as the Swedish manifold (the boss was there, just wasn't drilled) and I was in business.

You can see the difference between the two manifolds in the pic below.

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Swedish manifold (top) and Frontera/Omega manifold (below)

The only problem was that the Frontera manifold was the same orientation as a RHD manifold and the Swedish one was an LHD one, so I had to source a set of RHD downpipes from Jetex in the UK. More delays...

In the meanwhile I put the manifold in the car - the EGR flexy stuck out closer to the chassis rail now but it looked like it should fit, and the oxygen sensor was right next to it in the manifold, about as close as you could get to the cylinders.

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So that's what I ended up with. Out on the road it was a lot better and the engine didn't falter when the A/C kicked in, just what I wanted.

Forward four years and I was putting it back in...

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Back in the car

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Closer...

I was getting pretty close now, just a few more things to do. First was the matter of the exhaust downpipes.

Now the car's going to get a cat, but it's also got to go through California certification again because I've materially changed the emissions on the car. To do that it's got to go to Anaheim to a diagnostic lab where they're going to put it through a full manufacturer's test cycle and they have some very fixed ideas about what I should do for the catalyst setup.

What they want me to do is cut the downpipes as close to the exhaust flange as possible and put in a pre-cat (small catalyst that heats up and starts working really quickly) and a main cat further down (lights up later, but does the lion's share of the cleaning). Rather than arguing with them, I'm going to let them do what they want to do, so I'll probably take it down without a cat and let them get on with it. It'll cost a little more like that, but it should have no problem passing.

So for the time being I needed to make and fit the front heat shield (assuming the pre-cat and main cat) and then a standard set of downpipes.

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Front heat shield protects the body right from the manifold back to the gearbox support, uses the M5 studs Opel put on the car

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Temporary downpipes

I was surprised how close the downpipes come to the outrigger bolt on the chassis leg. Nothing's hit so far but there's only a few mm between them. Oh well.

The only thing left now was the cooling system.

I had made the heater forward flow hose from the block up through a T piece (for throttle body heating) and through the heater valve to the *top* heater core pipe. Really I should have used the lower heater core pipe but the angle was really bad and besides, I'd done it this way for 14 years with its earlier (orange) incarnation and had a nice hot heater.

The return hose goes from the lower heater port, under the spark plug lead duct and across the front of the engine, turning down to the water pump.

I had one more thing to add, the thermostat switch for the EGR. The EGR valve is operated by vacuum (you remember that port on the throttle body?) but a cold engine can't take the EGR valve being open, so you have a thermostat switch in a heater hose to keep it turned off until the engine is fully warm.

The heater hoses on a Swedish Rekord are completely different to a Manta and so I couldn't use the valve they use and had to trawl EPC to find a part that looked reasonable. In the end I stumbled across this on the Manta microfiche:

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Which is actually a Manta part - it's used on a 1.8S when retrofitted with an EGR! The obvious place to fit this was in the return hose where it crosses in front of the engine and it's hidden helpfully by the radiator top hose. Perfect, I could fill the system and start the car now...

For some reason I put this off for ages, finding loads of other stuff to do around the house. If you've ever heard of Schrödinger's cat, I was pretty much in the same place except I had Schrödinger's Opel. Until I started it I wouldn't know whether I'd built it properly or not, but as soon as I tried to start it I would know whether I'd forgotten something obvious and destroyed all my hard work or it would just run without a problem. In the meanwhile I could go out to the garage and enjoy the fruits of my labour without worrying.

Eventually I had to start it. I've built six engines now, including this one, and all the others have started first time without any problems. I even posted a video of starting Jo's C36NE Monza for the first time (https://youtu.be/iTwSzdQaI_E), it was quite an anti-climax. Odds were that this would start sweet as a nut.

So I started it and it ran awfully. Now usually that's because the tappets are still adjusting themselves, so I endured it for a few minutes to get the car properly warm, torqued the head bolts to their final angle and put on the sunroof valve cover to set the tappets. I had set them by setting the gaps to zero with the engine off and with it running I loosened them off until they started making a noise and then set them to 3/4 of a turn. Opel says one full turn but I've always found 3/4 works better.

Anyway, all set, correct valve cover back on (engine bay cleaned) and I tried again. Still ran like it was about to explode and wouldn't idle below about 1500rpm. Clearly something was wrong.

Next time - troubleshooting!

Cheers,
Nick

Edited by CalCol
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Hi Nick,

this is all great info! Specially the installation of the airco. Over here it is not easy to find info about 

airco in a Manta cause our weather is not that warm. But I used to take the Manta on holyday to the South of France and since our 

daily is one with airco the missus is not so Manta-minded...  

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The GSI (also 2.4) in France.

The solution is the installation of an airco in the GSI, so thanks for the info!

Greets, Herman.

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No problem, Herman. It was a learning experience for me when I did my first Manta A/C, there's so little information out there I had to use the Microfiche and interpret what they meant. If you need any more detailed info about A/C in the Manta, PM me.

Nice Manta by they way! I like the smaller Irmscher rear bumper rather than the bigger one they used on some GSi's.

Cheers,
Nick
 

Edited by CalCol

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I was going to include the various volumes for the compression ratio calculation and I completely forgot, so here they are, in case you're going through the same thing with your engine... this is based on a 95.00 bore with 94.97 pistons.

Piston crown volume (standard Mahle/Opel 2.4 pistons):                           12.5cc
Top ring volume (top ring to deck around the edge of the piston):              0.71cc
Combustion chamber volume (new 2.4 valves, pre-skimming):                  57.0cc
Gasket volume (standard Opel gasket, 0.75mm compressed):                   5.54cc          (1.2mm gasket is 8.69cc)
Deck volume (my car):                                                                                 -1.28cc

So that gives me a total combustion chamber volume of  74.47cc

Swept volume: 602.50cc

Compression ratio: 9.09:1

And remember the compression ratio calculation shows a higher compression here because of the pistons on my engine sticking up into the combustion chamber. So much for 9.2:1, eh?

Cheers,
Nick

 

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Back to the story - Houston, we definitely have a problem.

As I mentioned earlier, these engines always sound like crap when they first start up but settle down fairly quickly. This one just refused to settle down. It was the first time I had misfiring / backfiring in one of my engines and they were big bangs when it did. I put it down to timing, but I realized that I have no control of that in this as it’s the ECU that sets it. So I put my hopes on air leaks (nope - vacuum was reasonable) and valve setting as the culprit.

The valve setting made made things better, but it sounded like I had valves hitting the pistons, and you know I was really sensitive to that after all the fun with the deck height.

Number 2 valve was incredibly sensitive when setting the valves and actually stopped the engine, so I was setting valves at ~1500 with my finger on the throttle. But after setting the valves I had more of a knocking than would be explained by the injectors opening and closing. The engine was really rough and still misfiring regularly. It was more than one cylinder misfiring too. It just felt like valve/piston interference at least on number 1’s inlet valve (valve #2).

The vacuum was fluctuating from 12-15” when it was running badly. With the valve preload set to 1/2 to 3/4 of a turn I could get it running at around 15” vacuum, but it was still very rough.

I was loathe to pull the head off unnecessarily there was a lot of stuff to get out of the way and I had only one more of those 1.2mm gaskets (and Risse had no more). The first video to my friends wasn't the one I was expecting to provide… https://youtu.be/JQuAxAyqleo

So I slept on it and tried to put together a plan of attack.

First the problem…

  •     Misfiring / backfiring. Unusual, but might be mechanical (sticking / touching valves) or electrical (issue with the injection system). The engine did turn over by hand and ran on the starter (with no plugs installed) without making alarming mechanical noises.
  •     Rough running. Might be caused by excessive misfires (above) but generally didn't feel happy at its 800rpm idle speed.
  •     Seemingly random codes from the ECU. I had a 73 (out of range low AFM reading) and a 19 (no crank sensor present), both of which have cleared at various times.

So what to do about it? The biggest problem was that I didn't have any known good things working, anything could be at fault. When I last put the Motronic in the car at least I knew that the engine was good mechanically so I could concentrate on getting the Motronic right. So here was my plan.

  •     Compression test. Remove the injection relay and the plugs and do a compression test on all cylinders. That would give me a baseline to see if I had bent valves or another mechanical-related issue.
  •     Analogue meter to check voltages at the crank sensor and AFM while wiggling the loom. Both of these had given me codes and I was suspecting the wiring as it had been hacked to make it the right size for a Manta and pulled hard at one point to make it stretch across the injection system. I could easily have broken a wire. Why an analogue meter? Simply because a digital meter will show changing voltage all the time and it will be difficult to see a momentary drop caused by a dodgy connection. The analogue meter needle will be static unless there’s a break. Much easier to detect a problem.
  •     Switch over to the old LE2 injection. It’s not as much work as you think and the system’s brain-dead simple to get working. If I could get the car working nicely on the LE2 system then I could exonerate the mechanicals and concentrate on the Motronic only. I wouldn't need to plumb the wiring into the passenger compartment, I could have the ECU sit in the engine bay, so I could leave the Motronic wiring in place. I would have to cap the EGR port on the exhaust manifold, but worst comes to worst I could swap over to a manifold without the EGR port

So that was the plan. First check the basic mechanicals were still good. Second see if there’s an obvious wiring fault and third go back to a simple injection system that I knew I could easily make work.

The compression test suggested the engine was basically fine, even if it did need a little running in to seal up properly:

Cylinder        PSI        BAR
    1           170        11.6
    2           168        11.4
    3           170        11.6
    4           178        12.1

So number 2 was maybe a little low and number 4 a little high, but they were all within 10psi / 0.7bar / 6%.

The interesting thing, though, was what I saw on the plugs when I took them out.

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The telltale here is that number 4 was completely clean – it looked as though it’s hardly fired. Maybe that was the cylinder that was misfiring then? Next check was for spark at number 4 – yup, definitely plenty of spark. So it felt like I had a fuel problem at number 4.

I knew the ECU driver was good as both numbers 3 and 4 fire from the same driver and number 3 looked fine. It couldn't be anything to do with the crank sensor because

  1. It would be a cam sensor used for injector timing, not crank sensor, and we don’t have one on the Motronic system in the 2.4 (!)
  2. It wouldn’t fire at all without the crank sensor working.

So that left me with either a blocked injector (my favourite cause) or bad wiring to the injector.

Now the other slightly worrying thing was something the eagle-eyed among you might have noticed – number 2 is looking a little too wet (it was also the lowest compression). I decided to ignore that for the time being and let the car get to the point of running smoothly, then I’d take another look at number 2.

Round 2 – dust off the ‘scope.

I bought an oscilloscope years ago when it was more electronics than cars that was my hobby and it was the ideal tool to troubleshoot with now. Luckily the scope still worked, despite being covered in a thick layer of dust. A quick trip to the garage to set it up and I checked out injectors 3 and 4.

First off was injector 4 – I could see pulses on the signal line – but I couldn’t see a pattern as the timebase was too fast. Still, we had a signal so the wiring had to be OK-ish. Then I checked it against injector 3 – nothing. Oh, of course, open collector outputs and both injectors were now disconnected… I connected #4 back up and this time we got pulses on #3’s connector. They looked similar but I still wasn’t sure if they were both firing the same way.

So, a little maths. Let’s say it cranks at 300rpm, that means 5 revolutions per second. Each injector fires twice per cycle on the M1.5 Motronic, which means once per revolution. So if I set the timebase to 200ms/division that should give me approximately 1 firing per division.

And now injector 4 – nice regular pulses around once per division on the scale. OK, how about injector 3 – exactly the same.

So we have a nice steady signal to injector 4 (the the suspected bad one) and injector 3 (one of the good ones) and so I was pointing squarely at a blocked or otherwise bad injector.

You know, I was wondering when I put the injection system in the car whether the injectors would be stuck after 4 years sitting in a box in a lock up storage unit. I guess I should have checked… Sigh.

Oh, and a quirk I'll remember for the future – because of the attempt to start with both #3 and #4 injector plugs removed, one of the injector banks showed low voltage (actually zero) and set a code. Which bank? Of course, number 1. Yup, #3 and #4 are wired as bank 1 and #1 and #2 are wired as bank 2. Gaah!

So I took the injectors over to the local cleaning place in Tracy and they said they'd give me a call once they'd had a chance to test them. Good as gold, the chap calls the next day and says they were flowing like champs, no fault found. That was disturbing.

The spark plug was clean, the injector loom plug had nice firing pulses, there was plenty of spark and the compression pressure was great. I checked the fuel rail and there was no problem with the passage from the inlet of the fuel rail to the injector port.

I must admit to being a little lost now… Still, there was a long weekend coming up and that’s what a long weekend is for, right? I was within a hair’s breadth of putting the LE on…

The injectors arrived back on the Friday before the long weekend and I reassembled the fuel rail the next day and started it up. It started up with a code 19, which is incorrect RPM signal, so I decided to swap in a new sensor to see if that improved matters – it did. Now the car could sustain a low speed idle, albeit around 900rpm (I used the idle speed screw on the 2.2 throttle body to raise it a little), although it was still misfiring like a champ. I had a nice steady 15”Hg on the vacuum gauge, which is a little low for this engine but at least it was steady.

I checked the timing and it was running around 35 degrees by the look of it, so it was definitely struggling. I couldn't change that so I had to fix the engine rather than adjust it out!

Then I noticed something interesting with the spark plug leads and my analogue meter. My meter has an RPM scale on it and it uses the usual clamp-on pick-up to get the RPM signal. Here’s a video of what I saw: https://youtu.be/EcpOOCqpftU

The RPM scale was showing around 1200-1300rpm but by ear, it sounded more like 900 than 1200 or 1300. It felt like #1 was firing way more often than it needed to. Do I just have the distributor way off, I wonder…?

I tried moving the distributor by 20 degrees or so in each direction to see what happened. The answer should be nothing (the spark is timed off the crank sensor, remember) but if I had the distributor way off and I was getting arcing from 2 or 3 to 1 then that might explain the misfire. When I moved it, the high RPM signal moved to 2 or 3 and number 1 was behaving itself. Hmmm.

Then I worked out what it was. See if you can guess what it might have been… ?  :)

Cheers,
Nick

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