Adventures with a V8 Pilot

I learnt to drive in my Dad’s V8 Pilot when I was only 10 years old so I have a special affection for this car. When I met Kevin Linton at Lavenham earlier this year, he kindly allowed me to sit in the car and a thousand memories of my Dad, his pipe and the fantastic car that took us everywhere flooded back. Read Kevin’s wonderful story below. VK

My name is Kevin Linton. I grew up in the east end of London and from about the age of 10 I knew I liked the styling and sound of the Ford V8 Pilot.  I was always asking my Dad, “Can we get one?”. “No son”, he would say, “they are a spiv’s car, Dagenham dustbins, petrol guzzlers, no, no, no!”

Years went by and in my thirties I saw one for sale for £1200. I drooled over that black Pilot but my wife convinced me we could not afford it what with the mortgage and two children. She was right of course, they always are!

More years go by and on my 57th birthday I became a spiv boy and bought my navy blue Pilot, purchased from a dealer in Romford, Essex. I intended to drive it home to Weeley. It had a recent MOT but the guy insisted he would deliver it immediately on a trailer which he did. It looked good with nice leather interior and roof lining. Engine starts first time – my dream come true! On our first outing, a Saturday in Colchester, I stalled on a busy roundabout. It wouldn’t start, battery was flat and we stopped all the traffic. My new wife was not pleased. So many young lads left their cars to give me a push and we bump started. There seemed to be a lot of interest, all good natured, no hooting or hollering at me!

I installed a new battery but it would go flat after a short trip. I found the dynamo was not original but had been modified. You had to rev the nuts off it to charge the battery. I decided to change the polarity, install an alternator, remove the fan blades and install an electric fan.  Now excellent but sluggish acceleration. I decided to change the points, found the distributor but no access. I removed the radiator grill and there it was! Removed the cap and found two sets of contact breakers. What a work of art! The advance and retard parts are unbelievable. A cylinder with a small piston sprung loaded with a leather washer resting on a circular wheel which was attached to the bottom of the contact breaker plate. The vacuum made the small piston move up and down, pushing the leather washer on the wheel reducing the centrifugal force which rotated the contactor plate a few degrees. I replaced it with an electronic Mallory distributor and now it goes like a rocket!

Next problem was very hard to stop. Hydraulic brakes on front cable and rod on rear. Found that the back brakes were covered in diff oil . Funny that, what with the recent MOT. I thought I would just replace the oil seals. Nightmare job. Remove leaf spring which fits each end of axle shocks. Unbolt each side of the axle from diff. After removing half shafts, remove old leather oil seal which had loads of strips of felt hammered inside the leather oil seal to try and stop oil leaking into the brake drums. Replaced with new style oil seals which are inserted from the diff end. A small length of scaffold pole fits nicely enabling you to knock it into its seating . Then just reassemble.  Next new brake shoes. It now stops better but it’s not perfect.

After some journeys found water pumps leaking. Replaced with new . The pumps are massive and have engine mountings on them.  Not a five minute job!

In the summer, the car would run perfectly for miles. Park up for few hours and then the sod wouldn’t start, almost flattening the battery.  Found out that heat from the engine evaporates the fuel in the carburettor. What a bugger!  I was caught out several times. Fitted a fuel pump – jump in, switch on and wait until the ticking from the fuel pump stops, starts first time. Problem solved!

I did a run non-stop from Clacton to Cromer. Filled up in Clacton and filled again in Cromer. Worked out at 29 mpg. Not such a petrol guzzler after all, Dad. Not so good on fuel around town though.

I had noticed when in first gear it seemed to knock. In second and third was okay. Most times I pulled away in second, with no knocking.

On our travels we have covered over 4000 miles and our furthest journey a trip to Wiltshire. Happy Motoring in a lovely county! One Saturday out with the wife to Ipswich, plodding along at 50 mph.  Wife says, “how fast can it go?”  I reply, “not sure”. Wife says, “well put your foot down and see”. I was tempted (she has that effect on me) and put my foot to the floor. Nothing passed us and the needle was bouncing on the stop at 95!!  Went well but shuddered a bit, glanced at the wife and she was shuddering also. Stopped off at Ipswich park and ride and spent the afternoon in Ipswich. Picked up car later and went home at a steady 50mph. On the way home it started to rain so I left the car on the drive to dry, I never put cars away when wet.  By Sunday lunchtime, the car had dried off so I went to put it away but the battery seemed flat. This was strange.  Attached jump leads – nothing. Inserted starting handle but it had seized solid and even jumping up and down on starting handle would not budge it!****!

I selected third gear and pushed backwards. Then stops. Yes, you guessed it, the head gasket had gone. There’s more … the offside gasket had blown. Removed plugs which were full of water. Flathead. Just remove the head nuts and remove the head but head would not budge. I soaked them studs and I tapped them studs and I swore at them ****ing studs but they were not budging. After a week of trying I gave up. Engine came out, not a 5 minute job but now much easier to work on. Eventually removed all the studs. Decided to decoke the valves. Not easy. Replaced all valve springs and a few valve guides, all valves reground and reassembled okay.

I decided to replace the clutch assembly. Removed the gear box and found the knocking noise which was the bolt on the end of the main shaft which is splined and holds the universal joint in place. Not so bad after all. Reassembled and now runs like a dream.

I still love my Pilot and my wife!  There’s much  more . . . !

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