My Griff complete rebuild

(David Hammerton)

I picked up my Griff in March 2004 from a guy in Essex, It’s a 94 Pre-serp 500 with T5 box, I got it for a good price with a leaking radiator.  I purchased a new rad from Peninsula and promptly fitted, this solved the over heating problem and away I went a happy bunny J

Due to working abroad I was only in England for 2 weekends a month, this was agony knowing that my baby was waiting in the garage at home for me.  By July I’d decided I’d had enough so I took my car out to Germany for a whole month J  Driving this car out there in great weather everyday for that month was absolutely awesome, an experience I won’t forget and hope to repeat in the near future.  I put over 4000 miles on the car that month without any problems, which proves how reliable these cars can be.

My car outside my apartment in Germany last year (2004)


I continued to use the car every other weekend when I was home up until Christmas.  On January 5th 2005 I was reading a thread on Pistonheads about body off chassis restores, knowing that mine had some rust on the outriggers I was interested in the topic.  By the end of the thread I’d decided to undertake the task, on the 6th of Jan the project started!!  I had no intention of doing this until the day before!

My plan was to ‘simply’ remove the body, cleanup and paint the chassis and replace the body.  Things don’t always go to plan!

The process started with removing components from the engine bay so that the engine could be lifted out

My engine before the strip started



I don’t seem to have any pictures of the engine just before I lifted it out, but here it is partially stripped.


After disconnecting everything necessary (including the propshaft, exhaust Y-piece and some other items) it was not too difficult to lift the engine out, if a little tight (manifolds are a close fit to the bay).  The biggest problems I had were with detaching the engine and gearbox mounts.

The engine was now out and sitting on my garage floor

Empty engine bay

I detached the gearbox from the engine and set these both aside for now (must have been pissed whilst taking this!)


My next step was to start stripping of all of the suspension components

It was a bit rusty under there

I then removed the drive shafts and the bolts holding the wishbones and continued to dismantle. 

Under RH rear arch pic with the wishbones removed

LH shown below

Front right hand

Front hub with brakes

Rear hub with driveshaft and brakes

The wishbones were in a bit of a mess, lots of surface rust

Someone had already treated the front wishbones with what looked like Hammerite, but they made a bad job of it

A couple of the front wishbone bushes were in a really bad way, the rubber was no longer attached to the metal outer casing.  The inner (with rubber) could freely be moved away from the outer!

With the wishbones now removed it was time to separate the body from the chassis.  Because I was going to be doing this alone I followed a method used by Phil (AKA Wheeljack888 on Pistonheads) on his Chim

This method involves getting the body and chassis up high, the supporting the body and lowering the chassis down and out.

The body is held on by 28 bolts in all; 2 near the radiator, 2 below the dash, 4 behind the fuel tank, 14 underneath on the outriggers, and 6 for seatbelts.  I also removed the radiator before the engine.  The brake lines were all disconnected from the right hand side of the engine bay, speedo sensor wiring disconnected, fuel tank removed (to access the chassis bolts behind it), fuel pump wiring removed and probably a few other bits which I can’t remember right now!

The chassis was wedged quite tightly in to the body and would actually hold there under its own weight!  But with a little persuasion it came out (I wish it was as easy as writing this to actually do all this stuff!)

The chassis looked quite bad in some areas

The underside of the body was in need of a clean as well

I then removed the diff and realised now would be a good time to have it and my gearbox reconditioned.  After a bit of research I found that ‘Competition Transmissions’ specialise in these units and were more than happy to do the work for me

I then stripped the chassis down to a bare frame and took the surface rust of with my angle grinder using a knotted wire wheel and found that it was indeed only surface rust and the integrity of the metal was actually very good.  It was good to find out that no welding was necessary and that I’d caught the dreaded rust in the nick of time! J

I continued cleaning the chassis up with my trusty knotted wire wheel (gone through 3 by now!) but came to the conclusion that I was getting nowhere fast and also the surface was way to smooth for paint to key to.  So I sent the chassis away (and the wishbones and anti roll bars) for shot blasting J


The diff and box was now back from gearboxman, the result was a hefty bill because the box needed a whole new gearset due to excessive wear. The diff was a straight forward rebuild with new bearings.  I fitted new hi-tensile bolts to the diff mount bracket and also changed the old bushes for nice new purple poly bushes.  I gave both of them a lick of paint with POR 15.



While the chassis was away I polished the brake and fuel lines up!  Yes I am that sad!

Brake lines before

Brake lines after many many hours of polishing, this is a crappy job and I also did the copper fuel hoses!  (All were flushed out before being re-attached)




For some reason I didn’t take any photos for a while now, I think I just wanted to crack on once I’d got the chassis back.  I spent a lot of time removing all the bushes, the best way I found was to heat the inner part of the bush up with a blow touch and then push this part out.  Then I’d carefully cut two slots in the outer to relive the tension and then hammer it out.  There are a lot of bushes and the process is very long.

I bought a few metres of high pressure stainless braided fuel hoses and have used this to replace all of the rubber stuff (even the low pressure), it should last far longer.  I also bought a set of Goodridge stainless braided brake lines.

I them prepped the chassis and wishbones the POR 15 Metal ready whish is a etching acid, this totally cleans the metal of grease and eats into the surface providing a great surface for the paint to adhere to.  After several coats (must have been nearly ten on the out riggers!) of silver POR 15 here’s what the chassis looked like once the diff was fitted.  A vast improvement I’m sure you’ll agree!


Fitting the diff bushes was great fun! (nearly as much as removing the old ones) I discovered that they needed trimming down a little.  Here’s the bush before trimming

And here it is again after I’d turned some material off (put it in my drill and used a chisel on it!)



The underside of the body and the wheel arches were not looking great and needed a good clean.  Scrubbing the under side of the body was a horrible job and took several hours (over a few days) with white spirits, rags and brushes.  But once it was done I topped it with a coat of wax to protect it and make it easier to clean in the future.  I painted the wheel arches in a special stone chip resistant paint and topped it with black POR 15.

It was time now to fit the new wishbone bushes, I decided to go for the harder compound Red poly bushes from Superflex, this should help make the chassis a little sharper (certainly can’t be worse than the ones I removed anyway!).


After fitting the wishbones (using new nuts) it was time to mate the chassis back with the body.  I layed cardboard on the floor under the body and dragged the chassis under and in to place.  With the aid of a few jacks and friend we got the chassis back in to the body.  This was a milestone for me J  To see your pride and joy in so many pieces can be quite worrying, now the major items were back together I was much happier J


While the chassis was away being blasted I removed the heat shields from the engine bay, they were well past their best by now anyway.


Now that all the bushes had been changed I decided it would be a half job to put the original dampers back on, they were the original items and at 10 years old were probably not performing as well as the day they left the factory.

Choosing a damper to suit my needs took a while.  I asked around after other peoples experiences with certain dampers and suppliers and eventually came to conclusion to use the latest generation of GAZ dampers.  I went for the nickel coated option on the damper, 275lb rear springs and 325lb front springs.  I may have to change the springs at a later date to suit the type of driving I do but I thought this to be a good starting point.  I purchased the springs and dampers from Derek at absolutely Shocks.  Recent reports from people suggest the dampers are very good; I can’t wait to find out J

My next step was to re new all the brake disc/pads and buy new tyres.  But I’d always fancied a set of spider wheels in Anthracite, so I set about researching how to approach the task of converting my 4 stud hubs to 5 stud and at the same time bought a set of silver 16inch spiders with the intention of having them powder coated Anthracite

The Spiders were second hand but in great condition.  But after weighing up the cost and hassle of having the wheels coated, hubs converted and buying new disc/pads and tyres all around I decided it was not for me.  So I splashed out on a Spider conversion from the factory J  They came with everything I needed:

Anthracite wheels

5 Stud hubs

Rear discs

New brake line (which I have still not used because I already fitted new Goodridge items)


Big discs (I have now painted the unswept area and inner centre part to prevent corrosion, but I don’t have a pic of it)


4 Pot AP Racing callipers

AP pads all around

Here a pic showing the new 5 stud hub fitted with calliper adaptor bracket awaiting fitment of the calliper

And here with the disc and calliper fitted

And here it was with the wheel on

New bottom ball joints, track rod ends and top ball joint have been put on the front.  The steering should feel better than new after all this work J


I then proceeded to clean all of the parts that were going to be going back on the car:

Header tank before

Header tank after a few hours polishing

Steering rack before

Steering rack after cleaning and polish and refitting to chassis (not the best pic, it had got a bit dirty by now and needs a wipe down)

Alternator before

Alternator after (fan and pulley powder coated, body polished, blue paint was awaiting a second coat in this picture)

Plenum and throttle linkage before

Plenum and throttle linkage after

Linkage powder coated

Plenum after a lot of polishing


Rocker cover before

Rocker cover after polishing

After polishing the rocker covers I wasn’t happy with the finish so I sent them away to be powder coated, I am much happier with this finish



I then prepped a few parts ready for chroming but decided to have them powder coated as well


And a few more bits polished


Wiper motor casing machine polished


I also bought a few bits from ACT J

As well as the bits above I also purchased a stainless exhaust system from Tim at ACT, I specced it to look totally standard but be completely straight through.  Basically the same as having the silencer sleeved but instead of being sleeved it was made that way by JP. I needed a new exhaust (well would have soon looking at the state of the old system) anyway so this is why I went this route.  My old silencer was already sleeved.

Me being me I wasn’t happy with how shiny the exhaust was so I set at polishing it up further




The radiator and fans were looking a bit tired so I cleaned up and resprayed the rad and spent a lot of time cleaning the fans up


To finish them off I polished up the aluminium fan holders and spacers and used stainless stain cap head bolts to attach them (this is an area that is hardly seen in the car but I still had to do it!)

Distributor with new cap and rotor arm


I painted the rebuilt gearbox in silver and topped it with POR 15 Glistern clear lacquer; this should provide a durable and easy to wash finish


I fitted a complete new release arm and bearing assembly

Here’s one of the same shot before the rebuild


Bottom pulley assembled with powder coated parts

It was now time to start the engine strip and see what I was dealing with.  The engine was strong before removal without any poor running problems, and with only a very slight tap from one of the tappets when the engine was on over run after the throttle was blipped and this noise only occurred when the oil was very warm.  Why rebuild then I hear you ask?  Well the engine was out already sooo…..

Removal of the rocker covers didn’t turn up any surprises


Removal of the heads and valley gasket also turned up no problems

The coke on the piston tops was lifting off; probably due to the amount of time the engine was left standing before the strip commenced

The cam didn’t show any obvious signs of wear after 40000miles

Combustion chambers turned up no surprises

The oil strainer had a fair bit of sealant in it, probably due to over zealous use of the sump sealant.  Fortunately this had no adverse affect of the oil pressure

The valley and the bottom end were looking quite clean, indicating regular oil changes (backed up by service history), which is good news.

A bit of slack in the timing chain (annoyingly blurry though)

And wear on the teeth


Ta daaa, one stripped engine!

I cleaned the block up myself to start with; I did this with white spirits, paint brushes and a jet washer.  When I’d finished washing it I poured hot water over the block to make the water evaporate faster.  I then droves all the excess moisture out with an oil spray

I then took the block along to my local machine shop for them to fit the new cam bearings, hone the cylinder bores, and fit new core plugs.  After the machine work they chemically washed the block

I bought my engine rebuild parts from V8 Developments, I ordered the following items:

Full engine gasket set
H404 camshaft kit (includes cam, vernier timing gear, hydraulic cam followers, valve springs)
Big end and main bearings
Core plugs
Cam bearings
Piston rings
High torque clutch
Oil pump gears
Head bolts

The cam choice was the only difficult decision during the engine rebuild, I knew the H404 was as wild as I’d ever want to go but would it be too wild.  That I’d have to find out!!

I polished the pistons up and fitted the new rings to them

I then fitted the new big end bearings, the old ones were not bad but obviously showed signs of wear

To ensure the bottom end stays together (touches wood) I bought a set of ARP big end, main bolts and flywheel bolts, I also bought ARP stainless manifold bolts to go with them.

Unfortunately the big end bolts were not the correct type, so I went to TVR power for some new original items.

Once the block was back I painted it and started to assemble it

I spent a weekend working on the cylinder heads, I cleaned them up then decoked the valves.  I also reshaped the valves a la Vizzard J and the ground them in nicely.  Then the new valve springs were fitted. This took quite some time but it’s a job I find it quite enjoyable J

The pre-cat on the one side was totally loose in the manifold, I already intended to remove them but this made sure I was going to have to do it.  The loose one came out without too much trouble but the other one was fixed in solidly, this took quite a bit of persuasion to remove! 

The removal of the pre-cat won’t make a massive difference; it will mostly be a noise thing.  But what it will do is prevent them getting blocked up and losing me power.

I sent the manifold and Y piece away to Camcoat. They cleaned them up and coated the manifolds internally with their highest spec (black) ceramic coating; they then coated the manifold and the Y piece externally with their ceramachrome coating.  This looks great I sure you’ll agree and hopefully will help reduce under bonnet temps

(Inlet manifold only resting in place in this photo)


Due to various horror stories about the standard aluminium rocker I decided to change them for a set of steel ones.

Before fitting the new rockers I timed in the cam on the new timing gear (timing wheel missing on this pic)

With the newly painted front cover on

After the sump was fitted the engine was now nearly finished so it was time to fit the new clutch.  First the flywheel needed de-glazing then clutch was aligned and torqued up.

The gearbox was then mated to the engine


While the engine was out I got hold of some heat resistant aluminium matting and made some new engine bay heat shields.  The new rivets are stainless so won’t go rusty like the old ones

Looking a little better now than they did before!

Due to working away and not being able to use my car regular a lot of strain was put on the battery.  I used to jump start the car every two weeks when I was back home.  This killed the battery, which was not much cop anyway to be honest.  So I decided to replace it.  Due to the nature of the engine (large capacity, relatively high compression) it can take quite a lot of amps to crank it over strongly.  I spent a lot of time researching what would be the best battery I could fit in the standard position.

The conclusion I (finally) came to was a 096 type Bosch Silver Star, these batteries are supposed to be superb.  The cold cranking amps on this battery are 720amps!  And it also puts out 75Ah as a bonus (not that it’s needed on this car)  The CCA sold it to me.

I bought the battery from my local GSF (German Swedish French car parts) for £55 after using a 10% discount card (from another car club).

To fit the battery in to the standard box required the extra feet at the side of the battery to be cut off (this is really easy being plastic) and a bit of filing of the corners of the battery box.  The terminal are also the opposite way to standard, this is not a problem on my car because the leads are long enough to reach.  If it was a problem I would have simply mounted the battery the other way around, it is no trouble at all reaching over the battery to connect it. 

I have now tested the battery and found that it cranks VERY strongly, and I have yet to add the Mod wise hot start kit I have bought for it!


It was now time to add a few more bits to the engine, clean the wiring loom up and drop the engine back in to the chassis.  Actually manoeuvring the engine and box in to the chassis was not too hard but mating up the gear linkage and the engine mounts was a real pain.  It should not be too difficult but for some reason it was, you win some you lose some L


The next step was to fit the propshaft (cleaned and greased) install the exhaust.  This took a while; the rear mount on the exhaust was no where near where it should have been so I had to fabricate an adaptor for it.

The gearbox was then filled with Silkolene fully synthetic after getting advice from an oil expert.

After adding a few more shiny bits to the engine it was really starting to come together and I was starting to see the finish line J

And now complete as per when I ran it up


The engine started second attempt after swinging the dizzy a few degrees.  It sounds bloody marvellous J  it’s a great feeling having completely built this beast with my own hands J

The idle is a little lumpy due to the cam but I haven’t had chance to drive it yet to find out have bad it is.  I will be in need of a remap shortly which will help smooth the low speed running a little.

I’m looking to go to fully mappable fuel and ignition in the near future, I have built a Megasquirt ECU ready to go on to another car of mine and I think I may take this route with this car as well.

I have also changed the dashboard for a Leven stainless item (along with all the other bit you have to but when you do this)

Whilst doing the dash I wet and dried all of the black paint off the dial surround, the now low massively better and more modern than before.

Dashboard before


Sorry about the dreadful picture (updating soon, it looks a lot better in real life)

Also notice the column cowl in the above picture has a flocked (I said flocked J ) finish now

Flocked cowl



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