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Automania/Maintenance and Repair


by Bob Hagin

Q. I never fail to check out your column and have gotten some very useful information from it. Now I have two questions for you. What years were Triumph Tigers manufactured and marketed? That was the one with the Ford 289 V8 engine. I'd also like to know what GM Truck called its version of the Chevrolet El Camino and what years it was made. As you can tell, I'm interested in performance cars.
C.F. Suffolk, VA

A. The Triumph Tiger was a British-built motorcycle which was not part of the British auto company of the same name. You're reference is to the Sunbeam Tiger (also British-built) which was made from '65 to '67 and was, in reality, a Sunbeam Alpine into which the company had shoe-horned a 260 CID Ford V8 in place of the little four-banger. The prototypes were make in Los Angeles and shipped to England for evaluation. I was working for the Sunbeam distributor in San Francisco in '66 and can attest to the shortcoming of that engine transplant. We had to patch them up as they came off the boat. The company put the more powerful 287 into them later and dropped the model soon after Chrysler bought the company. The GM Truck version of the El Camino was called the Sprint from '71 to '77 and then given the much fancier name of Caballero until '87 when GM dropped both of these passenger car/pickups. According to a feature in SPECIAL INTEREST AUTOS magazine, the genre began as a vehicle designed to carry flowers behind the hearse in funeral processions.

Q. My 1977 Datsun 280Z (75,000 original miles on the odometer) has never leaked a drop of oil and is in otherwise excellent operating condition. However, lately I have noticed that the oil pressure instrument gauge indicates lower oil pressure than it used to, particularly at idle when it (the gauge needle) drops to almost zero. I thought oil pumps were typically supposed to last the life of the car. I also have a problem with my '94 4.0 liter straight-six Jeep Cherokee leaking coolant at the recovery reservoir after a highway run. It's under a full warranty but after replacing the cap, the dealer told me that he's never seen one that didn't leak.
S.B. South Lake Tahoe, CA

A. There are several things that could cause low oil pressure at idle besides a worn-out oil pump. The oil pressure relief valve is designed to pop open if the oil pressure gets too high or when the oil filter get plugged up but sometimes they stick open which causes low or zero oil pressure at idle. Another cause of low oil pressure could be worn out engine bearings (especially the crankshaft main bearings) or an oil galley soft plug that's popped out. I'd still bet on a worn oil pump but luckily the pump on your Datsun is external and it can be pulled off without having to drop the oil pan. The Jeep may have a slightly leaking head gasket so have it tested and try another pressure cap as well.

Q. Are you aware of any problems that Toyota has had with its exhaust manifolds on the early '90s models? I have just replaced the exhaust manifold on my mother's 1992 Toyota Corolla for the second time and she only has 89,000 miles on the car. Both manifolds were cracked in the same spot between the second and third cylinders and the auto recyclers say that they can't keep these kinds of manifolds in stock but the Toyota service department is not admitting that there is a problem.
R.C. Junction City, OR

A. You should have asked the Toyota parts guys. They know all about the problem and keep a modification kit in stock that not only replaces the manifold but the heat shield and gaskets as well. Toyota introduced the kit about a year ago and its function is to get heat away from the manifold.

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