G'day all! Let me introduce you to a 1972 'Eliminator' made in California, USA. I'm not sure how or when it came to the Antipodes, but it's here, it's loud and Perth's Swan River will never be the same again.
The donk is a 1960's Ford 390ci (= 6.4 litre) FE V8 with standard cam and nothing super-special. The main thing is that it produces adequate grunt, capable of propelling the whole plot to an estimated 80mph = 130kph = 70 knots -- perfect for annoying picnickers on the river banks, sending kids on biskits into the mangroves at 100mph, doing Rottnest Island and back in 5 minutes, and maybe a spot of crabbing as well.
I bought it in Dec. 2015 off my brother's workmate Scott in Melbourne. Con (little brudder) and Scott helped me get most things ship-shape before I towed it back to Western Australia, with youngest daughter Jocie riding shotgun. It took 7 full days of driving (and quite a bit of fuel) to cover the round trip of about 7000 kms, but that was still waaay cheaper than paying the eye-watering cost for freight across the continent. My good wife is still coming to terms with having a monster boat in the driveway.
Sat. 6th Feb. 2016
Yes, this afternoon the Bismarck hit the water -- finally! Chip bravely joined me as co-pilot for the launch at Point Walter on Perth's Swan River, and Pete and Will came along to wisely spectate from the safety of the shore and take some video of the proceedings. The only thing that was lacking was a bottle of VB to smash over the bow...
The motor fired up no worries, and water pumped through the block at a healthy rate (a new impeller always helps) -- so we shut the motor down, slipped the box into gear, pointed the bow out into the river, hit the starter button again, and we were off! With the V8 burbling nicely behind us, we moseyed out through the channel markers and then headed for the widest part of the river. The water was a bit choppy but we were undeterred: after 5 minutes it was time to start putting the boot into the accelerator pedal! With a few RPM the boat was up and out of the water and clipping along nicely over the tops of the small waves. Some more boot and all was going splendidly until...
... the motor just conked out! After a few seconds of listening to the water lapping against the hull, it was Chip who spoke first: "What do we do now?!" A darn good question, that. At this point I decided that my thoughtfully assembled bag of tools wasn't much good at all if I didn't have a clue as to what was wrong, and if I hadn't packed any paddles (which I hadn't).
Following the First and Second Rules for when Things Go Mechanically Pear-Shaped (ie. 1. don't stress, and 2. do some thinking), I guessed that the spark should be fine (it's strong enough to taser a buffalo) and that we were probably looking at some crap in the carburetor. Right, off with the air filter lid, a couple of tweaks of the throttle linkage and I could see fuel squirting into the carbie throats. So, lid back on, back to pilot's seat, pumped the pedal a few times, hit the button and yes! it fired up again, albeit running a bit rough.
"I think we'll head back now," I announced to Chip with an air of wisdom, and so the Bismarck started choofing back towards the ramp. She conked out once more on the way back, but a bit of a wait and some more pedal-booting saw the motor in action again, which thankfully kept its act together the rest of the way in.
At home it was a quick look in an online Edelbrock carbie manual, then pulled the carbie apart. Yep, plenty of crap floating around in there. Most of it was some white-ish fiber-ish stuff... what the?! Con's explanation made sense: the element of the old fuel-water separator filter is breaking down. So got another one of those on the way, but in the meantime have installed an inline filter up near the carburetor so that we can keep on boating. Next outing coming soon!
Sat. 13th Feb. 2016
Well, with a new fuel-water filter installed, and an inline fuel filter next to the carburetor for good measure, it was time to head out onto the water once again. We launched the boat at Deep Water Point, and mate Allan (with more ski boat experience than I have) eagerly came along for the ride at short notice. This time the Bismarck didn't miss a beat; we definitely gave her the berries on a few of the calmer stretches, up to 3000 RPM and maybe 80kph (you can safely take the old motor up to 5000 RPM, so don't worry, there's plenty left in reserve).
For about 1 hour we fanged along merrily, keeping eyes on temp. gauges etc. but not a single problem surfaced -- YOU BEWTY! Well, apart from the bilge pump coming adrift from its dodgy old mount; I think I'll just invest in a new pump and be done with it. The only thing now is to present a short vid. of the day's proceedings. Allan is in the pilot's seat and yours truly is responsible for the wonky camera work. The motor is only doing about 2000 RPM.
Thurs. 10th March 2016
Nearly a month later, so much has happened and I haven't written in any updates, tsk tsk!
Took it out towing a biscuit on Sat. 20th Feb. with our friends John, Cas & kids. Boat still did a couple of mysterious cut-outs, hmm. So the following Sat. I launched it at Point Walter with Allan, and while trawling across the choppy widest section of the river it cut out a couple of times once again. As Allan and I sat there listening to the small waves sloshing against the boat, we noted how after a few minutes the motor fired up without hesitation. It was then Allan suggested that it could be a dodgy ignition module.
This made sense, so during the week I bought a new module and fitted it inside an old Katana reg/rectifier housing... ideal for a heatsink with all them cooling fins n' all. (It was only a matter of time that old skool motorcycle bits were matched with old skool boat bits, ho ho!)
Then called up Chip on the Sat. afternoon and we set out once again to see if the gremlins had been banished. About 5 mins out into the river and yep, she cut out AGAIN. By now it was all getting a bit annoying, I have to say. Then I laid eyes on the glass fuel filter next to the carb, and saw that the fuel wasn't clear but MILKY. Yes folks, the fuel was contaminated with loads of water... which isn't known for its combustible properties.
By this time poor old Chip was tearing out what remained of his hair, convinced that he has been somehow jinxing the boat. Superstitious balderdash, I say! We hopped-to and tried our best to flush the water from the system, but it just wouldn't fire, the fuel still coming through with that tell-tale milky look. So it was time to admit defeat... and phone a friend. Would you believe that John & Sue and tribe happened to be out on the river at that very moment with their own boat?! They rescued us in no time and towed us back to the ramp.
Back at home I ended up getting nearly half a litre of water out of the system -- and the *only* place that could have come from was the local servo where I'd topped up the boat's tanks on the way to the ramp. Blast!
Not wasting any time, I put it out into the river once again the following Tuesday morning, with #2 daughter Megan as trusty bosun! "Let's see what can go wrong THIS TIME," I muttered under my breath.
Sure enough, 50 metres out into the river and silence fell across the scene once again. Helped by the savvy Megan who expertly pulled ignition switches and pressed starter buttons, I soon found we had no spark! This was really starting to baffle me -- but then in answer to our prayers (thanks God) I saw the problem: a broken wire going to the ignition module. Ahh... so I cobbled it together with a zip-tie and OFF WE WENT! Megan and I had a great time blatting around on the water, the motor went like a rocket and -- for a change -- didn't miss a beat.
Then last weekend (5th & 6th March) we towed the boat down to the ocean off Busselton. It's a very sheltered part of the coast (check a map of Australia and you'll see why), with glass-like water most mornings. It was our church's family camp, so there was a nice queue of kids all wanting to be terrorised on biskits. Naturally we obliged. The motor roared along without a problem for hour after hour. Those fiendish gremlins have been evicted at last!
Monday morning arrived and Declan and I decided it was time to shove the monster into the water for one last hurrah before we towed it back to Perth. But alas, DISASTER STRUCK on the ramp: as I was towing the trailer out, one of the central stabiliser fins on the underside of the boat caught one of the trailer's bearers... :-O ... and before Declan could holler loud enough I heard banging and thumping... looked in the mirror and maaaate the boat was half hanging off the trailer, having been dragged up the ramp on its rudder and propeller. ARRGGGHHHHH...
Well that was the end of that day's boating, to say the least. Damage was thankfully limited to the propeller, a few minor scars on the bottom of the rudder, and the cross-bar that holds the rudder's upper bearing was snapped. No damage to the hull, phew. Poor Declan was all set to blame himself, but there's absolutely no point in that: freakish accidents happen -- and who could have predicted that such a crazy thing could be possible?
Besides, the episode has a silver lining: it was while removing the rudder to fix a few scars on its bottom edge, that I found that the bronze bush in the rudder post was worn to billy-o. This is the likely source of some loud vibration while cornering: the rudder has been flogging around in the propeller's wake. So, off to the local engineering place to get that re-bushed, and the dents in the prop's edges filled. Fixing the broken crossbar was a sinch, I just bolted a 3/8" aluminium plate to the bottom -- a sturdy repair (if not as picturesque as welding).
And that, Dear Reader, brings you up to speed on the Bismarck saga. All going well the prop will be back on soon and we'll be out on the water once again, ho ho! There is no such thing as a dull moment with this barge.
Wed. 23rd March 2016
This has been a very frustrating couple of weeks -- because no less than SIX TIMES I have been to pick the propeller up after assurances it would be ready, and SIX TIMES I've had to endure the "sorry maaaate" carry-on. So I have enlisted the help of the engineer bloke's secretary, and got her to apply a bit of pressure. Maybe tomorrow I can pick the prop up...
Anyway, one upside to all this palaver is that I decided that the patched-up old Nicson crossbar wasn't good enough. So I have replaced it with a piece of 30mm x 80mm jarrah (splendidly dense and strong hardwood that is native to the SW of Australia here), coated it in fibreglass resin, and used a self-aligning bearing to take the top of the rudder shaft. That's more like it!
So, I wonder if we'll be able to get this boat into the water for the Easter weekend? That depends on our engineer bloke. Stay tuned...
Tues. 29th March 2016
Ah yes, got the Bismarck in the water yesterday (Easter Monday), and am pleased to report that the propeller is fine and that the motor zoomed along nicely. The Daniels family enjoyed their somewhat brisk tour between the bridges off Deep Water Point, too. ;-)
Got back to the ramp, however, to discover the rear of the motor covered in a film of engine oil. Hmm. Got home, cleaned it all off, and let the motor idle for 20 mins, but no sign of oil appeared. Con suggested that it may be the new PCV valve which I'd installed -- too much crankcase pressure forcing the oil past the harmonic balancer seal? OK, I took the PCV valve out of the equation, and let the crank vent to air.
Then went out for a second run in the afternoon with Deeksy, and we got her up to 4000 RPM for a short burst there, which was a real blast as we hooked along with the wind ripping the tears out of our eyes! Then it was out under the Canning Bridge and we nipped around to have a look at Perth's brand-spankers Elizabeth Quay. As we tootled in, Deeksy suggested that I "do some donuts" in the ritzy new little harbour -- but the prospect of a rendezvous with Constable Care at the East Perth lockup wasn't that attractive.
Upon returning to the ramp, we found oil starting to appear towards the top of the 'Nicson' timing cover, but it still wasn't clear where exactly it was coming from. It wasn't coming from the harmonic balancer seal, and it wasn't coming from the water pump (which is driven directly off the camshaft), or the dizzy either. Which really only leaves the gasket for the timing cover. So will have to hoik that off and reseal, and see if that doesn't cure things.
On the positive side, the tachometer is working properly once again. Con had insisted on fitting a cable-driven item (he is a bit of a purist when it comes to these things), but a couple of adapters were missing and it's been a bit hit-and-miss getting my fabricated adapters to connect for a reliable drive to the tacho. But at last it seems to be sorted.
Sat. 30th April 2016
Last Wednesday was a lovely day to slide the boat into the water at Point Walter with mate Troy on hand. The water was calm, the temp. was mild after a load of rain, and the river was practically empty as most everyone else was off at either school or work. So off we shot to Elizabeth Quay at about 3-4000 rpm, the V8 pulling nicely and the bottom of the boat slapping over the small waves -- fantastic. After a quiet lap through the Quay it was off around Herrison Island and then all the way back down to the mouth of the river at Fremantle. It's a simply beautiful part of the river, limestone cliffs along much of it. The boat didn't miss a beat, but of course we took it a bit more easily as we tootled past Water Police HQ.
As we came back up towards Point Walter, we were presented with an especially calm mirror-like stretch of river. Troy signalled that perhaps it was time to press the pedal all the way. Happy to oblige, the Eliminator -- which had been hacking along at about (ahem) knots -- just surged forward, the motor smoothed out even more to a higher-pitched howl and suddenly for about 15 seconds we were spearing across the water at some mental but immensely fun rate! And then...
.. THEN there was this loud "KABOOM!!" from the motor! I took my foot of the pedal and we slowed down to walking pace. The motor was still running but kind of lumpy, and loads of black smoke was pouring out the rear. "I think we're on fire, Rev!" exclaimed Troy Boy. Oh what fun! But as I was reaching for the extinguisher the smoke cleared and the engine seemed to be idling fine, so we burbled back to boat ramp and checked things over.
Yes, a load of oil sprayed around the rear of the motor once again. And a bit more steam coming out of the port-side pipe than the starboard one, hmm. I started wondering about the head gasket. Only more diagnostics at home would reveal the state of play. Indeed, a bit of testing revealed #4 cylinder was about 25psi down on compression, and yanking the plug out and shining a torch into the cylinder showed water puddling on one of the valve recesses on the piston crown. Now my name isn't Sherlock but I know what that means: a blown head gasket. Likely cause is that the main jets are still too lean, if the plugs are anything to go by (and they are): the white porcelain on the electrodes should be a tan colour. I happen to have richer set of jets on hand, so that will be the next thing to rectify.
Anyway, thankfully all this is a relatively straight-forward bit of spannering. A full set of Fel Pro gaskets is on the way from the USA; they do quality gear for reasonable prices. Con has also advised me to replace the exhaust valve on #4, as it will probably have suffered some cooling and hardening courtesy of the water washing past. It might be OK... but then again it might not! Last thing we need is a disintegrating valve some time in the future... so replacement is the safest bet.
All in all it was a blissful 1.5 hours scooting along a deserted and flat river, with spectacular autumn weather and nearby thunderclouds rolling up the coast. The blown gasket only somehow added to the joy -- it's not every day you get to do that to a 390 V8, bru!! I'm looking forward to dismantling the donk and making it even more thrash-proof than before. No doubt there are some who will think I'm a bit fruity for pushing a 40-year-old motor this hard, but it's the same philosophy I had with the Katana: these aren't museum pieces, and provided you rebuild whatever fails with better parts than before, it can only be onwards and upwards. (Actually the motor might be more like 50-years-old... only a closer examination of the codes cast into the engine block will tell.)
Mon. 2nd May 2016
Finally got a bit of space tonight to start dismantling the motor. First cab off the rank was removal of the Edelbrock carburettor and, while I was at it, installing a richer set of jets: 116 mains (up from 110) and 113 secondaries (up from 107). That's approx. 8% richer jetting, according to the Edelbrock manual. We will see! Anyway that was enough leisurely fiddling for one evening; tomorrow it's off with the inlet manifold and the heads, hopefully.
Thurs. 12th May 2016
Greetings peeps! The last 10 days have seen a fair bit of progress in dismantling of the top end of the donk. In fact, we're down to the removal of the heads which have been dropped (metaphorically speaking) off at AllTorque Engineering in Bibra Lake for a light skim. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's what I saw when I pulled the port-side head off:
Yes, there's the blown head gasket in all its ugly glory. It's the usual spot for blow-outs to take place: right at the part that's closest to the water jacket. Naturally we must ask: What has caused this state of affairs? It could have been the lean mixture, but my reliable engine source (ie. local mechanic Marc) informs me that this usually results in melted pistons before it will result in a blown head gasket. So, it may well be that the heads need a light skim he said, to make sure they're evenly tight across all the head gasket area.
Hmm. That's when I noticed THIS (red arrow):
And THAT, Dear Reader, is a raised part of metal. How on earth does the face of a cylinder head get one of those? And has it been like that since new? We will never know. The main thing is that the gents at AllTorque have skimmed it into oblivion! (Also, let's see if you can guess which cylinder has been sipping on the salty water of the Swan River?!)
In all this, there was a good bit of news: we have a set of high-comp. pistons (which are also 40 thou oversize) -- yeah baby!
And so this is where we have arrived, and where the dismantling stops (this time!):
And now, a few photies of aspects of the Edelbrock inlet manifold. I love this thing, 'coz it's a proper bit of old skool kit:
1976 was a very good year.
Finally, here's a shot of the coolant outlet bayonets from the front of the manifold. The old aluminium items (that's one resting on the top there) had basically become sacrificial anodes. The 'new' ones (ie, cobbled together with pieces of copper water pipe, ahem) are from a pair which had the right thread size but were too small in delivery. Not any more. ;-)
Stay tuned for the next installment, which should hopefully report that the motor has been reassembled and is upsetting picnickers once again.
Thurs. 24th May 2016
Yes! the motor has been reassembled and is upsetting picnickers once again! Well, the neighbours anyway...
After years of rebuilding DOHC Jap bike engines, I must say that I found my first V8 an absolute doddle. Just pull off the carb and inlet manifold, then undo four bolts to remove each set of rockers, then unbolt and lift off the heads... how EASY is that?! Very easy, I think. The precautionary lapping-in of the valves was the usual tedious affair, but apart from one very pitted exhaust valve seat that required more attention it all went ahead OK. Bolted the heads on and torqued them up in the recommended stages (50 --> 70 --> 90 ft. lb.). Some palaver was had putting on the inlet manifold with its gaskets, but got there in the end. Then rolled cylinder #1 to TDC on the compression stroke, gave the dizzy an approx. correct positioning...
... and fired her up! It was all a bit rough for a bit, but with the dizzy tweaked it was idling smoothly enough, until after 10 secs or so she suddenly ran rough-as. What the??! Shut it down, pondered things and poked around idly for a while, then fired it back up. Again the motor ran nicely for 10 secs or so, then rough as the leafy end of a pineapple. Hmm.
Phoned the little brudder Con -- guru on all things V8 -- and asked him wassup. "Ah," he said, "you've jumbled up the pushrods haven't you?" Well yes... and why ever not? "Because they are not precisely the same length, and so some of the valves won't be shutting properly once the oil pressure comes up." And the solution? "Run it at a couple of thousand rpm for a minute or two; this'll give the hydraulic lifters time to re-adjust themselves."
He makes it sound so simple. But sure enough, a couple of minutes at 2-2½ thousand rpm (past 7:00pm at night, that's not always a welcome sound in these parts) saw it all sorted and ready for the next outing. And here it is, ready to rip once again:
Finally, a couple of pics of my utterly un-patented valve-spring compressor.
So the next sunny mid-week day that comes along should see the Bismarck hitting the water once again!
Wed. 1st June 2016
The perfect day was looming: 20 deg C. forecast, with light easterlies for the morning and nothing but sunshine. Supposedly the first day of winter, but that's Perth winters for you: they could pass for high summer in many parts of the world. :-)
My mate Daniel was over from Melbourne and looking forward to some terror I mean thrills on HKS (His Kaiser's Schiff) Bismarck. So we slid the boat into the water at Point Walter at about 9:30am, started her up and headed eastwards to the city. For a speed boat, the river could not have been better: dead flat and virtually empty of other craft.
We burbled along for 10 minutes or so, letting the donk warm up before pushing the pedal further forward. Soon we were clipping across mirror-like swathes of water, and it was just magic -- and also a relief to know that the fresh head gaskets and top end fiddling was not in vain.
Before long we entered Elizabeth Quay (Perth's newly constructed dock/ mini harbour just off the river) and docked. Daniel strikes a pose:
It might be early days for the development of the quayside, but a superb caffeine slurpery and bar has sprung up, so popping in there for a coffee seemed like the ideal way to warm up after the cool 20-minute dash across the water. As we stepped through the doorway, though, it did occur to me that maybe I wasn't quite up to scratch with the dress codes for these establishments. I mean, you be the judge:
Now it might seem fairly predictable to you, Dear Reader, but let me assure you that I was mildly surprised when a very apologetic young lady broke the news to me that yes indeed, they do serve coffee -- *but* you have to have this thing called "footwear"!
For the record, this is the first time in my life that I've been refused entry to anywhere. But that only raised more questions. Like, was it really my lack of footwear that was the problem?! Or was it the shirt? or maybe those lairy shorts? Don't tell me it's the legs! Well, next time I'll be popping on a pair of thongs and we'll see what wretched excuse they come up with...
Daniel found all this highly amusing, but as you can see he cut a far more respectable figure and he had the all-important footwear. So I let him do the ordering (and the paying, haw haw), and in due course the lassie brought out our coffee in takeaway cups -- oh, the shame! (That's her in the background bringing Dan his shrapnel.)
After a lap of Herrison Island (a bit further up the river) it was time to head back. Along the way we got the motor blasting along nicely at about 4500 rpm... not that far short of the suggested 5000 rpm redline.
Next time we're out I'm tempted to push it flat to the boards and see just how fast the old boat will go; we might even coax a short spurt at 6000 rpm or something glorious like that.
Well, we can always dream...
Wed. 29th June 2016
Not a heap of stuff to report, aside from taking Pete out in the Bismarck last week which was lots of fun. We managed to squeeze in an hour or so of blasting around Deep Water Point just before some bonkers storm hit town. Pete was suitably entertained, and when he pulls his finger out we can post his vids of the proceedings here as well!
Got home, though, and on washing the boat down it became apparent that the vibes have been taking their toll: 1. the screws holding the face of the Moroso tachometer had come loose (in fact one had fallen out altogether), and 2. one of the stainless straps holding in the starboard-side fuel tank had snapped.
So I managed to prise off the stainless bezel that goes around the tacho face, put in the screws with a touch of blue Loctite, and then pondered the problem of how to bend the v. hard bezel back into place. I ended up clamping the tach. face-down onto the work bench, and worked around the bezel with a small hammer and a punch. As the last bit of metal was finally bent back into place, I congratulated myself on a job well-done... until I turned the thing over and laid eyes on the broken glass, DOH. Yes it still would have worked, but I would have hated looking at it, and attempting to install a new bit of glass would only have met with similar results I'm sure.
So, nothing for it but to order another tach., ELECTRONIC this time. Sorry Con, but the mechanical tacho with its needle that wags all over the place might be respektably 'old skool', but it's a PAIN to read, esp. when at speed across the water. So I have ordered a white-faced Hardin Marine item to match the other gauges. Should be arriving in the next couple of days.
Fixing the busted tank strap was easier. I did consider welding it up, but I reckon it would only have broken at the weld in due course. So instead I bolted another stainless strap across the break. Not that picturesque, but it's out of sight. For good measure, I installed lengths of cork gasket material as padding between the tank and the strap, to hopefully mollify the vibrations and ensure a longer run to the next breakage!
Next sunny Tues. or Wed. and we'll hit the Swan River once again. But given that we're approaching the wettest and darkest parts of winter -- July and August -- a sunny calm day might be just a little elusive...
Mon. 26th Sept. 2016
Finding a whole sunny day has been a bit difficult of late; but finding a sunny morning or afternoon here and there has not been impossible. :-) Took the boat out this morning with nephew Thom, and Edan turned up to spectate from the salubrious surrounds of the Deep Water Point café. Slipped her into the water at about 8:00am, and did a few brisk passes with Thom somewhat frozen but excited nonetheless.
It was on about the third blat down the river that I noticed these row-boat folks waving and gesticulating... I had been giving them a wide berth, and at speed the Bismarck has minimal wake anyway. 'Pfft,' I thought, 'everyone hates a power boat! Just ignore them and carry on.'
Which we did. However, after a while the motor wouldn't idle, it just keep cutting out as soon as the revs dropped down to about 1K. So I tootled in to have a bit of a poke around the motor. Once we'd nudged the sand and parked the boat, Edan sauntered over grinning and explained that the row-boat folks were all upset because power boats aren't supposed to be on the water until 9:00am. Huh?! Yes, a change in the rules has taken place sometime over the winter months. Ah well, as usual ignorance is a reasonable excuse, so Thom and I rested up until 9:00am ticked over, and then took off towards Elizabeth Quay. Here we are setting off:
We got to Elizabeth Quay easily enough. "That was a whole lot faster than getting a bus into the city!" said Thom. Yes indeed -- and a lot more stylish too! I opted not to go in to the Quay as the boat wouldn't idle... which meant we would have had to enter the small docking area far too quick to be safe. It was starting to look like rain, and with the motor becoming more temperamental at slower speeds I thought it best to head back to the ramp.
Got the boat back home, and found the carburettor float bowls half-full of salty sludge(!) -- the cumulative effect of a lot of water ingestion in the past. I have actually spent a fair bit of effort making sure the fuel system stays water-free: installing fuel tank breather hoses instead of the vents via the fuel caps (they were sucking in splashed water). And we had ZERO water in the fuel today but the salty sludge from past outings had caught up with us. Anyway, cleaned it out and the motor is going great once again.
And the weather is warming up -- roll on spring and summer, the Bismarck is ready!