Engine Never Started

I can use some expert help with my engine. Here’s pics of the engine a week ago.

This engine and driveline were rebuilt sometime in the 1990s by a professional restoration house. I’m going to say in 1998. It has never been turned over! I assume the mechanic used assembly lube and the camshafts look nice and bright. Still it has been 20+ years sitting static. Shame on me, I know, but there it is.

What should I do to it to resurrect it? My plan was to use an external pump to circulate oil and then turn the engine by hand and then by starter, etc. I’d surely welcome advice on this before I take action. Thanks in advance.

Pull the plugs, drop in a few squirts of oil.

Make sure the sump is full,disarm the ignition, and crank over in 20-second bursts till you get oil pressure. At that point, you’ll be ready for first fire!

Also, if you want, you could spiff up those exhaust manifolds…

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Thanks for the exhaust referral Paul. Have you any personal recommendation? I had custom made cast headers on a Pontiac GTO I sold last year. I had those coated inside and out with ceramic when new. After 12 years they looked as good as new. But that was shiny and satin silver in appearance. I will do the headers; guess I should get going on that too.

A few listers have done it: contact @John_Walker.

Okay, will do. Thanks

I may be overly cautious but I would remove the cam covers and dribble a quart of oil over them. That area is pretty much bathed in oil in operation so I’d be reluctant to rely on just cranking to prepare it.

I also like your idea of first turning the engine by hand.

Even though my engine was a fresh rebuild I checked compression before starting and found a potentially serious problem (a shim had dislodged and was holding a valve open).

Extra care is prudent as I doubt the warranty will cover it after a 20 year hiatus.

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I would remove the cam covers and, using an aluminum or brass drift, make sure that all the valves move slightly with a “springy” sound when tapped. This is to insure that no valve is stuck which will hit the top of the piston when the engine is turned over. In this case a bent valve stem will probably result which will mean the head will need to come off.
Hugh Pite

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My engine sat for 25 years
Pressure lubed it with garden sprayer
Removed cam covers and lubes lobes with moly cam lube
Also put a bore scope in cylinders and they were bright and shine
Fired it up and its been perfect

Yep, good suggestions. Keep 'em coming! Definitely will heavily oil the cams and check the compression (but I need to get it turning to do that). warranty. yea man, I wish! And I really like Hugh’s idea of tapping the valve for freeness. Thanks for that. And Roger, where did you tap into the oil system? I have a little pump that runs off my drill. I can and will borrow a bore scope.
I also think I need to verify the timing as well as valve clearance. I think that there were serious arguments and discussion with the mechanic and paint shop at the end game in 1998 or whenever that was. My aunt would not discuss other than to complain, “you have no idea how much money we invested in that car!” So some things are just left undone, or missing; I just hope I find no maliciousness in the drivetrain. I need to be very careful.

How do I tell if it has the right flywheel? The trany conversion to all synchro requires a few things to make the 3.8 work with it.

The 3.8 E-Type flywheel is scooped right out on the front side and is much lighter than the 4.2 version. The extra machining will be seen if the inspection cover is removed from the front of the bell housing.

The engine number will also be stamped on the periphery of the flywheel and can probably be seen though the timing hole in the top of the bell housing.

Here’s a 3.8 E-Type flywheel on the right beside a regular 3.8 item


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add to the fine comments so far…while spark plugs are OUT…to add a few drops of oil…and let sit…leave em out. when ready to turn over…after other steps in comments, .it will be a lot easier to turn the engine …turn only in proper direction…an easy way if possible…roll car bac in neutral…put in 4th…and push forward…may need a helper pal to push while you observe. With plugs out…this is also a fine time to verify top dead center on #6 on compression, and check for timing marks and current static timing. I would refersh the oil…who nows what is in it…a new engine break in oil…with ZDDP…(can arue about zddp later)…you will change it again after first run in… Check water hoses, clamps, fan belt. Of course all old fuel drained…fresh added. Have an observer watch on start up for fuel line leak ,2 fire extinuishers handy…at least one…the first one to use…Halonite. And.a.lucky charm in your pocket. Nick

Ha ha - I need the lucky charm. Thanks Clive for the pics. I’ll take a look today. I thought only the 3.8 bell housing had the inspection hole on the top of the bell housing? And that the all synchro box required a 4.2 bell housing?
Yes Nick, with ZDDP. I’ve done quite a bit of study on that myself and flat tappet cams being ruined; I certainly a believer and have used only roller cams since the change in oil composition. Rolling the car in 4th is possible and a good idea. Some old timers have told me to use kerosene in the sparkplug holes, and that may very well be useful to free up a stuck motor, but I’d be afraid to wash away any residual oil and assembly lube. So, a teaspoon of oil in each. I’ve still to get a radiator and all the hoses and lots more stuff before I attempt to crank it, but once I figure out how to pre-lube it, I’ll be hand turning it (I hope). I keep the car in my basement garage that is dehumidified, so it’s always 55% and 70F in the summer, 65F in the winter…nice place to work. I’ll pull it out before and starting attempt and the fire extinguishers are right there.

For those that have had their engines sitting for a decade or so, did you have any observation of the valve springs becoming distorted? As in the constantly compressed springs became weak?

If needed, Ive used #2 diesel.: it has a much higher lubricity than kerosene.

Even if you do put in the cylinders, it wont cause harm to bearings, since the small amount put on wont touch them.

In fact, I have a diesel tractor, whose injection pump leaks pretty badly into the crankcase, causing me to have to drain the crankcase back to level after ~4 hours running. The lubricity of #2 diesel is such, it’s ran fine for years, with no bearing damage.

As for the spring issue, Ive never experienced an issue.

To pump up the engine oil I removed the oil pressure sender and hooked up Their.
Had the cam covers off and
oil flowed out the cam oiling holes.
I would use only cam lube on the cam lobes . a new cam or cam follower needs the best possible lubrication.
I used royal purple break in oil which has zddp.
You may want to use cheaper oil for the first start and run since its only in for the first start and 30 minute run time.
New oil filter after first run
I cut the filter open to check for contents and only found
moly cam lube.
I would static set your timing to 10 degrees btdc
And the reset after a little driving time
I reset my running to 28 degrees btdc And the engine runs at the correct temperature .

Also re torque the head after 100 miles or so
I re tourqed the head 3 times after intervals of driving a couple of hundred miles and it now stays right on torque values
I think you could pop a head gasket if you don’t

Ah yes, retorque the heads. Actually, I’ll check that now too as I’ve never done so. Thx Roger. Paul I have diesel around so that’s what I’ll use. I’m finishing up with my tank and I’m going to use diesel there to coat the inside and then empty it out before I put it in the car. Diesel fuel is doggone oily for sure! Roger, that’s also good advice. I was trying to remember where I planned to hook into the oil system and that’s perfect. I have Valvoline VR1 which is their racing oil and has a high zddp content. I used to use Shell Rotella, but even that has now had the zddp eliminated. We don’t have a local Royal Purple rep but we do have an Amsoil guy in town; I’ll check with him. Ahh, I see that Advance Auto is selling Royal Purple.
I have assembly lube around, but I’m thinking cam lube is something different? And thanks for the timing advice; that sounds perfect.
I have to make a single list of all the suggestions when I finalize my plan. I’ll post it.

Run cheap oil for the first start and then change oil and filter after 30 minutes run in. vary the speed of engine and I’d keep it under 2500 rpm for the first 30 minute run time
Re tourque head at least 3 times or until tourque remains at the desired value

What weight wold you suggest? Just straight 30? Something less viscous?

New engine I would use 10w30
The Bentley manual suggests that also for a motor in good nick.

Back in 1963 when I took HS autoshop, we used 5 wt to run the motor for about 10 minutes and then changed it out. More recently I was concerned with cam break-in so one didn’t shut down the engine until you went thru the cam break-in, about 30 min at varying rpms, never steady rpm and increased the range over time. That seemed to work well for me until the zddp issue was born. Still, I’m thinking Valvoline VR1 at 10W30 for 30 minutes and change it and the filter. (I’ve a cartridge adapter in this engine.)