I might be up to my eyeballs in front suspension work on Project: TR7, but my mind is on another part of the car, the cylinder head. Although the engine is now running well, thanks to proper routing of the spark plug wires and a stuck ring in cylinder #2 becoming unstuck, the head is going to have to come off.
One key to keeping a rolling restoration going smoothly to is to multi-task. So, while I’ve got the front suspension apart, planning is underway for the final part of the project, the engine modifications. Triumph’s weird angled stud/bolt arrangement that attaches the aluminum head to the cast iron block on the TR7 engine was not one of the company’s smarter engineering moves. And this worries me.
Triumph engineers designed the cylinder head with easy servicing in mind, so the story goes. The camshaft can be removed and the valves adjusted without disturbing the head gasket or timing chain tensioner. That kind of ingenuity looks great on paper, but in the real world, Triumph’s execution, well, sucked. While it is true the camshaft can be removed quickly, the drawbacks of the angled stud/bolt are many and significant.
First, because the cast iron block and the aluminum head expand at different rates when the engine is hot, head gasket sealing can, and often is, an issue. Many TR7s died early deaths because of coolant leaks that led to overheating and warped cylinder heads. Worse, the steel studs have a tendency to weld themselves to their cylinder head bores in a process known as galvanic corrosion. That makes the head nearly impossible to remove, which then elicits every swear word in the TR7 owner’s native language. Then violence ensues, the usual implements being a crow bar, a sledgehammer or a combination thereof. Finally, a prayer-mumbling priest is called to deliver last rites, the car is towed away to the junkyard, and the owner swears he’ll never again buy a British car. But of course, he does (speak for yourself – ed.).
I’ve been consulting some TR7 experts on how to get a head off a TR7 engine that has been in place for 40 years. Luckily, the Triumph Wedge Owners Association, (https://www.triumphwedgeowners.org) has created a special tool called the Head Honcho, that eases removal of the head by pressing down on the studs, while exerting upward pressure on the head. I have reserved the Honcho.
With a remedy for that potential problem identified, I focused on buttoning up the front suspension. There was not one regular wear part that was reusable.
In the span of four days, I replaced the front bushings in the control arms and subframe, installed a pair of ball joints and tie rod ends, new steering rack bellows, new struts and new, stiffer springs, and all the soft parts that go with it, bump stops, and gaiters, etc.
Original factory fitted and worn out front suspension parts.
Newer stiffer front springs
Uprated hard rubber front bushings
One minor modification that improves the steering feel (and reduces effort) is a kit that fits in the in the upper front strut mount and replaces the factory setup of steel washers with needle bearings. It’s available from TS Imported Automotive, the Ohio outfit that raced TR7s and TR8s back in the 1970s and early ’80s.
The front wheel well with no factory undercoating. I added 3M Rubberized undercoating.
In pulling apart the front suspension, I noticed there was no undercoating in the inner wheel wells, something I have never seen missing before on a TR7 or TR8. While the struts were out, I cleaned and primed the area and coated it with 3M Rubberized Undercoating. Now it looks great.
Just one annoying problem slowed an otherwise quick and smooth rebuild of the front suspension: the left tie rod end rusted itself to the inner steering arm. No amount of heat and PB Blaster would free it. My options were to remove the steering rack and take the whole mess to a machine shop. Or, try making surgically precise incisions with a Dremel and cut away the threaded part of the tie rod end until I could break it free.
I used a Dremel to cut off the tie rod end and installed the new one.
The classic car gods who have been watching over this project were still with me. I somehow cut through the tie rod down to the threads and then broke off pieces of metal body until I could finally unscrew the damn thing. The right side tie rod was off and the new tie rod on in less than 15 minutes.
In all I spent about 12 hours rebuilding the front suspension. The urge to test drive the car is strong. But the front brake calipers, rusty and seized, are off the car and it doesn’t make sense to overhaul and reinstall them right now. I’ll have to wait to see how much better Project: TR7 feels with its new suspension system.
Completed rebuilt front suspension installed
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