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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I own a 1967 Porsche 911S with 250,000 miles on the original engine. It can't pass our state emissions control test anymore and my mechanic tells me that it was never intended to run so as to pass a smog test. The engine and carburetors have never been modified. The estimated cost to rebuild the engine is $6500 which is more than I can afford and I need the car for transportation.
P.C. Yucaipa, CA

A. State inspections are meant to do two things. Make the air clean and get old cars off the road. While the elimination of some of the "beaters" that are on our streets would be no great loss, you and your Porsche are almost caught in a Catch 22 situation. The car is too valuable to scrap (the current book value of a '67 911S is somewhere between $5000 and $16,000, depending in its condition), and you can't afford to get it brought up to snuff. In states wherever passing mandatory inspections (brakes, smog, general condition, etc.) are necessary for reregistration, owners of vintage cars are at a disadvantage. But in most states (and California is among them), there are loopholes that are written into the laws to save cars like yours from the wrecker. The ability to pass the smog test by an unaltered car can be bypassed if the cost of the repairs exceed a certain amount, usually around $300 to $500. A state-appointed inspector usually has to verify the situation and the process can be long and complex. Start with your own Department of Motor Vehicles and it will give you the procedure. When my son-in-law ran into this problem with his Porsche 944, he sold the car to a Porsche fanatic who undertook its restoration.

Q. My 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier has a 2.8 liter V6 engine in it. I have about 95,000 miles on it and it runs fabulously for the first 10 or 15 minutes. After that, the oil pressure drops significantly and then the engine runs very rough and sometimes even stalls. I have already replaced the oil pressure sending unit and wonder if there is anything else that is inexpensive that I could try.
J.B. Portage, MI

A. By "...runs very rough..." I wonder if you mean that the engine starts to misfire (a problem that is usually caused by a malfunction in the spark or fuel delivery systems) or if the engine starts to knock loudly. This latter problem could be a connecting rod or main bearing that's packed up (that 2.8 liter Chevy V6 was prone to bearing failure) which would account for the drastic drop in oil pressure. Install a non-electric oil pressure gauge to see if the pressure is really dropping or if your gauge is at fault. If the problem is fuel or spark delivery, its cure is determined via a process of elimination. If the problem is a bad engine bearing, get ready for an expensive repair or another vehicle. On modern cars, very few repairs are inexpensive.

Q. Our family is in a quandary about a car that I've had for many years and can't bring myself to dispose of. It is a 1966 MGB that is in a terrible state of disrepair but still runs. The brakes are bad, the suspension is worn out and every panel on the body is wrinkled as are the doors, hood and trunk. It has wire wheels, all of which are in need of a rebuild. I have two small sons and I'd like to pass it on to them.
T.H. Milton, WA

A. It sounds like you really need to run your B down the assembly line again - which is not impossible. The company has a special "reassembly" line in England which takes your VIN plate and puts new pieces around it. Unfortunately, the cost is extremely high and you wind up with a sentimental treasure that's not worth what you've put into it. If you want to try a restoration yourself, British Car magazine has dozens of ads for companies that can supply you with everything from new needles for the SU carburetors to an entire new body.

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