Apprentices of the Year
Jonathon O'Neill & Matthew Gleeson
"In the middle of the stand sat not just any Silver Spirit engine but the one from the press car, registration 100 LG"
WHEN NIGEL SANDELL co-led the SZ technical seminar in
2018, I mentioned to him that the Club could do with a working V8 engine. Nigel responded very
simply: “Don’t worry, we’ll sort it.”
Fast forward to the 2019 Classic Motor Show at the NEC and in the middle of the RREC stand sat a Silver Spirit engine in full working order. Not just any engine but the one from Silver Spirit press car 100 LG, a registration previously used on Silver Shadow and Silver Cloud press cars. In Bulletin 199 (July/August 1993) former Rolls-Royce publicity manager Dennis Miller-Williams wrote that it was he who persuaded management of the need for a separate trials car for press and publicity use, rather than continuing to borrow one from the sales department.
“The existing car index numbering system was changed in 1963 and a suffix date letter was introduced,” he said. “At that time, it was the practice to keep trials cars for perhaps two or three years, depending on specification changes, so I believed it to be important to obtain numbers which avoided giving away the age of the car, thus prolonging the life of sales literature and publicity photographs. I asked Crewe to see what the Cheshire licence office could do and was offered a series of plain numbers in the LG series, which was still being issued. I chose 100 simply because it was the number of the house we lived in.
“The first outing for 100 LG (on Silver Cloud SCX719) was the celebrated run to the south of France by Formula 1 racing driver Tony Brooks, an account of which formed the basis of the booklet A new look at Rolls-Royce motoring, published in 1964. Since then, 100 LG has been transferred many times and became well-known to a generation of motoring journalists.”
Nigel’s apprentices Jonathon O’Neill and Matthew Gleeson put around 160 hours into the engine rebuild. Their efforts earned them the prize as joint winners of the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation’s Apprentice of the Year 2019 at the Classic Motor Show
Jonathon O'Neill's Story
Two years ago Nigel Sandell offered me a trial as an apprentice mechanic. For that week he threw me in at the deep end and gave me a trolley full of parts and a partly deconstructed rig. I had a week to get the rig put back together and running. Although this was a challenge, I succeeded and by the end of the week it was finished. Nigel said if I wanted the job it was mine
During my first year, a customer approached us with a red Silver Shadow with a partially-rebuilt engine and a boot-full of parts. Nigel gave me the job of returning it to working order with his assistance. This got me hooked on restoration and engine repair
More recently, Nigel produced a Silver Shadow II which he has owned for the past 10 years. This came with its own challenges, for example when removing the heavily corroded cylinder liners, the block broke. I had to strip another engine and transplant the parts from the original into the new block. The front subframe was removed, painted and had all-new running gear fitted. The hydraulic pipes were in need of a total remake and I spent eight hours bending new pipes to fit. The rear subframe was removed and also had to be re-piped. In the end 150ft of pipe was used and I became really good at it. New running gear was fitted at the rear, too. Once this was completed we ran the car for the first time with everything attached and it went really well. There were one or two leaks but nipping up the unions did the trick
THE SHRMF APPRENTICE OF THE YEAR
The Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation (SHRMF) Apprentice Awards are made annually; candidates put forward by the P&A Wood scheme run jointly with the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) alternate with nominations from the Rolls-Royce & Bentley Specialists Association (RRBSA).
Names are put forward by the relevant body or employer and the candidates are encouraged to produce a portfolio of work. A visit is then made by a panel to assess the submissions and talk to the candidates before making a decision. For the past two years the award has been shared by two people of equal stature.
The winner, or winners, receive a tool kit worth around £2,200, kindly supplied and supported by King Dick Tools in accordance with Rolls-Royce practice. In 2019 the two winners already had tools and tool-chests so they were invited to select individual tools to the same total value.
With the support of the FBHVC the award is made on the Live Stage at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show at the NEC in November. It is financed by a generous annual donation and by donations from other sources including various RREC Sections.
Last February, Nigel was given an engine to restore before being put into a rig for teaching and display purposes. He gave this engine to Matthew and me so we could enter the project into the SHRMF Apprentice of the Year competition.
By the time Matthew had stripped the engine, I had finished the Silver Shadow II and was able to join him. He had already measured the liners to ensure we had a two thou nip on the top of them, which ensures a good seal on the head gasket. We fitted the liner seals at the top and bottom of the block using Vaseline to ensure they did not grip the liner as they were being fitted. We fitted the liners using washing up liquid to ensure they could slide past the seals.
To make sure the liners had not pinched a seal we used a gauge to check the bores were equally circular. Once the liners were in place we fitted the camshaft. This had been thoroughly checked to ensure the case hardening on the lobes had not worn through. Had this been the case, a new camshaft would have been needed. Graphogen was used when fitting the camshaft. This graphite-based lubricant helps to reduce wear when parts are rotated without an oil feed. It was then checked to ensure it turned freely.
We flipped the block over on the engine stand and fitted the crankshaft that had previously been measured to ensure the journals were not excessively worn. We torqued the main bearing caps to the manufacturer’s spec of between 45 and 50lb/ft, rotating the crankshaft after every cap to ensure it moved freely.
Next we fitted the pistons. To make sure the piston rings were not damaged during fitting Nigel provided an old cut-off cylinder liner. This meant we could carefully put the pistons into the half liner ensuring all the ring gaps were evenly spaced and then slide the pistons into the correct liner ensuring no excessive pressure is put onto the rings. ‘Front’ is stamped into each piston to ensure you don’t put it in backwards. The cylinder number it is going to be fitted into is also stamped on the piston so they don’t get muddled. This ensures all the connecting rods and piston crowns are in the correct orientation. As each piston was fitted, the big end bearing caps were torqued to the manufacturer’s specification and the engine was rotated to make sure it did not lock up.
Once the pistons were fitted, the timing gears could be worked on. These comprise matched pairs so the numbers ground into the faces of the gears must be checked to ensure they tally.
Once the main components were assembled we split up and fitted the rest of the engine parts separately. As Matthew tested the hydraulic tappets, I fitted the oil pump and front timing covers. Matthew then moved on to the tappet cover and I started etch-priming many of the gloss black parts on the top of the engine. We used two-pack paint for the best finish and durability. The head gaskets were fitted with the newly-rebuilt and lapped-in heads, and all 20 nuts tightened to 25lb/ft in sequence. This was then repeated when they were torqued to 52 lb/ft.
"The first thing to do was to put the engine in a stand and make a list of every part that was missing. Then the dismantling process began in order to take it back to a bare block"
While Matthew fitted the inlet manifold I cleaned the carburettor body that had come back from soda blasting. This had produced a great finish but some of the soda granules had been forced inside. I cleaned the float chambers and fitted new seals. I removed the dash pots and cleaned out the butterflies and bodies. The dash pots had been blasted too, so they needed re-polishing with Nigel’s small bench polishing mops. Matthew had fitted the front pulleys and made the timing marks for tuning later. The distributor was fitted and the rotor arm position was checked to ensure the engine would fire when started. The exhaust manifolds were fitted and the wiring loom laid across the engine.
It was now time for the engine to be lifted out of the stand. We used our engine crane and a strap to lift it. While it was hanging, the sump gasket and sump pan were fitted and the engine was gently lowered onto a wheeled trolley for easy movement in the workshop.
Now it was time to fabricate the rig. The Hunt House had supplied the rig the engine had previously been sat in but it was not suitable as a running rig – although some parts were useful.
We marked out and cut off the crossbeams, allowing the engine to sit lower in the stand for greater stability. I marked out the front mount stud holes and looked at how the rear engine mounts should be fitted. Nigel had two front engine mount brackets from a Silver Cloud. After minimal alterations, these worked well as rear engine mounts. The crossbars were fixed across on the bottom of the stand for the rear engine mounts. To fit the radiator, two angle iron bars were bolted to the front of the frame and a crosspiece was welded for strength.
Box section piping was used for the upright framework for the radiator and this was fitted using spacers to keep it straight. We cut out part of the angle iron on the front to allow room for the radiator drain tap. Flat bar was welded to the radiator frame to mount the electric cooling fan. Once the bones of the stand had been built the engine was fitted.
The next challenge was to fabricate the exhaust system. This was made from two-inch stainless steel tubing. It required six 45° bends, two 90° bends and two silencer boxes. I TIG welded this together with some help holding the parts.
By the time this was done the fuel tank had arrived. We cut out some more box section and mounted it on the rear of the frame so the tank could be fitted. The fuel pump was positioned as close as possible to reduce the length of hose needed and slightly lower so gravity would aid the feed.
One of the more challenging parts to fabricate was the dashboard. This started as an original Silver Spirit dashboard that was cut down and shortened. It includes a switch box, four-in-one gauge and speedometer. For an authentic Rolls Royce look we fitted a polished wood fascia. Below the dashboard we fitted toe board connectors that connect to the main engine loom. This will be wired to the dash components using a Silver Spirit loom. These small touches make this engine rig really stand out. It will help those giving lectures by enabling enthusiasts to see what goes into these amazing cars.
"After the liners had been removed Matthew began to remove the seals and clean off any old gasket material before it was taken outside for steam cleaning. Once the engine block and cylinder liners were clean the liner seals could be fitted and the cylinder liners engine block"
Matthew Gleeson's Restoration File
I’m an 18-year-old level two apprentice mechanic. In my spare time I enjoy working on the Triumph Stag owned by my dad and me and I recently refreshed the suspension and upgraded many components on the car. I learned many of these skills at work. I enjoy car shows and am a club member at the Brooklands Museum. I have been lucky enough to attend some RREC meets with the Middlesex Section and attended my first Annual Rally this year.
Once the Silver Spirit engine was in the workshop the first thing to do was to get it into the stand and make a list of every part that was missing. This meant we knew what we needed to source for the rebuild.
The dismantling process entailed removing everything from the engine to get it back to a bare block. We began with accessories such as the power steering pump, air-con compressor and alternator. We moved on to the rocker covers, rocker arms, push rods and tappet blocks, and then the cylinder heads.
Once front timing gear and the rear camshaft gear were removed, the camshaft was extracted.
The next job was to remove the pistons. To do this I had to get the engine onto its side. First, I removed the oil pick-up pipe and then moved onto the piston removal. After the pistons were out I was able to turn the engine onto its back and remove the crankshaft.
We removed the liners from the block, removed the old liner seals and cleaned off any old gasket material before it was taken outside for steam cleaning.
Once the engine block was clean, it was time to clean all the other components and check for wear.
At this point the engine rebuild began. Before refitting anything, the cylinder heads were overhauled with the valves lapped in and new valve stem oil seals fitted. Then the heads were reassembled.
After these were complete, we measured the cylinder liners and engine block to make sure they had the one to two thou nip. Then it was time to hone the liners, and put them back in the engine block.
"Before fitting the pistons a check was made to ensure the rings where not cracked and that they moved freely. Following that, the timing gears were refitted before the engine was completely reassembled"
Once fitted, the liners were measured for ovality and tested. I then put the camshaft back in with the front plate and refitted the rear cam gear. All the lock tabs needed to be bent over to secure the bolts. Then the tappet blocks and newly-tested tappets were refitted and tightened up with the lock tabs bent over.
The next step was to spin the engine back over and fit the main cap bearing and thrust washers. When fitting the bearing we smeared Graphogen paste to lubricate the bearings when the crank is being spun. Once the bearings were fitted, the crankshaft was put back into the engine block and the caps and remaining thrust washers fitted. We tightened the caps one at a time and checked that the crankshaft still rotated freely. Once checked, the cap nuts were tightened to the specific torque of 45-50 lb/ft and we again checked that the crankshaft rotated smoothly.
At this stage the engine was ready to have the pistons fitted. Before doing this, I checked that the rings were not cracked and also moved freely. A piston ring compressor is required to compress the rings and get them into the liners. We fitted the big end bearings and again lubricated them with Graphogen. Once fitted, the conrod caps were torqued to 40-45lb/ft and we again checked that the engine turned over easily.
Before fitting the timing gears, we checked that the engine was at top dead centre at A1 cylinder and that the camshaft lobe 15 was sky high. At this time the distributor and new rear main oil pump seal, oil pump gear and oil pick up were fitted. The cylinder heads were fitted with new gaskets. The head nuts were heated and drenched in oil to stop them corroding. The heads were tightened to 55lb/ft with a specific torque pattern and the pushrods and rocker arms were assembled.
After this, the front timing covers and water pump were put in place. The tappet cover was fitted, both brake pumps being blocked off due to not needing them on the engine rig. Next, the crank nut was tightened and then the front pulleys fitted.
After this, the rocker covers, which we had freshly-painted with two-pack spray, were fitted to the engine and tightened down. The next job was to add the inlet manifold and new gaskets, followed by the rest of the ignition system and the carburettors.
That left just the exhaust manifolds, alternator and starter motor to be fitted before testing everything. This also provided a secure place for it to sit while we converted the rig into a show stand.
Article courtesy of RREC Spirit & Speed Magazine, Issue 358, January 2020.