Showbound and down


18 November 2023
Early Saturday morning, brew on the go : credit: © Alisdair Cusick
After a road trip to the LRM Live event in May, Alisdair decides to strip his Series I carb down

It is far too early for a Saturday morning. The morning after a monsoon downpour, thankfully now crawling across France, replaced by the first rays of yellowed sunlight. The tranquility of everyone’s lazy lie-in is broken by the squeak of a garage door, then the chatter of a cold engine as the starter catches, the engine fires and out of the garage my Series I splutters, eager for the trip ahead.

I’m heading to LRM’s Malvern event; one of my sons beside me, the car loaded with camping kit and food. Full of excitement and anticipation of a lad-and-dad road trip, we were on our way, eager for a long cruise in the old Land Rover.

We both love a road trip, and with the engine running really well, the M42 leg of the jaunt seemed over in a flash, before I deviated cross-country on backroads from Redditch to Malvern. With 600x16 crossplies and no overdrive, I was keen to be able to take some strain off the car. Lad and dad happy, we weaved merrily along the backroads, speedo needle wagging all the way.

Almost two hours later, into the Three Counties showground we pulled. I hastily pitched our tent, popped the car on the LRM stand and got the kettle roaring, next to a life-size photo of myself with the car.

For once, I wasn’t photographing, I was just there with my son and got to enjoy just being dad. I showed him around Dunsfold’s fabulous display, explained about Range Rover 100/6, the oldest Range Rover, and lots of other stuff, including Jon Master’s fabulous Camel Trophy Discovery.

A tip-off from fellow Series I owner Colin Morrison led me to the autojumble, where I bought an original Wilmot Breedon spare key for UAO, for £3. Three quid!

The return trip went equally to plan, though we got plenty of strange looks from passing cars on the last motorway leg. Rolling back into the garage with 140 miles added to the odometer, UAO hadn’t used a drop of oil and behaved absolutely faultlessly. I’ve yet to accurately check, but mpg is better than ever: definitely north of 20, and possibly around 22ish.

Those figures are partly down to the fact I put some focused spanner time in, determined to cure the damn black smoke at idle. Every time I got the car out in March or April each year, for some reason it would run incredibly rich, to the point of fouling the plugs enough to kill them. A new set got it going again, but it still chuffed like a traction engine at times.

New old stock. The bag smells richly of the past

Stripping the carb down again, I noticed the accelerator injector pump tap was loose in its housing. A squirt of the accelerator pump evidenced petrol leaking around the base of the tap. Looking further, the pipe was actually wobbling, and had a worn notch. Presumably petrol was lubricating it, and vibrations allowed that movement to wear the brass, making the leak worse. Replacement Solex parts are rare, but a 32PBI-2 tap was available in Italy, or Australia, for a slightly painful amount, plus who knows what in delivery and duty. However, searching another way turned up a new old stock one on a shelf in Yorkshire, for £19.95. I was so thrilled, I ordered another pilot jet and top gasket.

Arriving in a brown Land Rover packet, rich with the odour of half a century of storage, the tap and jet went straight on. Cleaning it made me realise something: the injector tap contained a small ball inside, as a non-return valve. Mine had no such thing, which partly explains the richness: the induction vacuum would mean it sucking extra fuel through the accelerator pump, as nothing would prevent the flow.

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170 air correction jet was too narrow, literally starving the idle of air

However, I was covering a carburettor rebuild feature with leading specialist Martin Lawrie, of Fuggle’s Fettling, so I took my carb along to run it past someone who really knows them. His expert opinion was instant; I’d got the wrong air correction jet, too restrictive for my spread bore engine. No wonder it was rich, it simply couldn’t get enough air to correctly dilute the fuel.

UAO’s carb had the typical cracked emulsion tube repaired

Martin replaced that jet and skilfully replaced the cracked emulsion tube so common to Solexes, and it seemed rude not to re-bush the throttle spindle whilst I was there, as well.

Martin Lawrie drilling the throttle body to re-bush the throttle spindle

The result of that work was transformative. Refitting it that evening to UAO, after a little adjustment of idle speed and mixture screw, it idles as clear as a bell. Combined with my rebuild of the vacuum advance on the distributor, the car runs faultlessly. We have a huge number of specialists like Martin, and sometimes their expert eye is all it takes.

1957 Series I
Power: 52bhp
Torque: 101lb-ft
MPG: 22


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