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Automania/Repair and Maintenance

AUTO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WEEK 20

by Bob Hagin

Q. My wife's bachelor uncle recently passed away and left a collection of Road and Track magazines as part of his estate. They date back to the late '40s and are in very good condition since he kept them in binders. We have no idea what they are worth but suspect that they must have some value. Do you know how much they are worth and who might buy them?
J.O. Schenectady, NY

A. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Road and Track and the magazine is making a big to-do about it. The June '97 issue has nine listings of private parties who are selling their collections of R and T and the asking prices range from $1500 to $4000. It might be a good venue through which to sell your uncle's set. Like a dummy, I threw mine away over the years and only have the first six months of 1950 left.

Q. My 1989 Plymouth Horizon has a bad engine but I have a rebuilt 1983 Chrysler Lazer motor we're trying to install. The other day a friend of mine offered me a 1982 Dodge Rampage (wrecked) with a 20,000 mile engine. Will it fit into my Horizon? Are the two engines the same? They look similar. Will the Lazer engine do the job or should I start over and rebuild a Horizon engine.
S.C. San Bernardino, CA

A. Engine swaps can be extremely tricky especially when the "donor" vehicle isn't the same brand, year or model but are in the same family. It becomes even more chancy in states like California that has very strict laws concerning swaps that might affect pollution output. Basically I think the engines are the same, all 2.2 liter four-cylinder units. Mechanically they may be very different in where ancillary units (air conditioning pump, alternator, power steering pump, etc.) are mounted and how. I've seen many cases where the threaded holes to mount an accessory on one engine is simply a flat surface on a later or earlier cylinder head or block. As a young mechanic, I tried to install a GM engine in another of the same year and model only to find that the end of the crankshaft on the donor engine wasn't drilled to accept the input shaft of a manual transmission. Internally, the earlier engine may have some parameters (compression ratio, camshaft profile, etc.) that alter the way a later emissions control system works. You'd be best off starting with an '89 engine but if you go for an earlier one, ask your state's regulatory entity what's needed, then put the two side-by-side and check them out point for point for being identical.

Q. I have a 1987 Renault Alliance convertible that needs an ignition key. I've tried to get several locksmiths to do the job but they're charging an arm and a leg for this foreign-made car. A couple of them have tried but they haven't been successful in making one. I've already spent a lot of money fixing this car and I can't afford paying that much for a key. I was told that Renault was bought by American Motors. Do you think it's possible to make a key for this car from the original or key code or possibly through the vehicle identification number? What's the best way to solve this problem?
D.E. Norfolk, VA

A. In the '80s, Renault and American Motors went into an alliance to make the Alliance and the Encore sedans. They were something less than spectacular successes and the companies eventually went their separate ways. Chrysler later bought American Motors along with its Renault problems. It's possible that a long-time Chrysler dealer in your area may be able to help you but don't hold your breath. I'm sending you a page full of specialty key shops from the latest Vintage Auto Almanac for you to contact. Most key shops are reluctant to make a key off a VIN since that number is visible through the windshield of all modern cars. If you find someone to make the key, get a couple made and bite the bullet when it comes to the price since you don't have many choices.

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