Last September it was obvious that the Ventora’s engine was past its best.

The Ventora had soldiered on for years with various oil leaks and lacking in power. But it was once I conducted a compression test that the truth of the matter revealed itself. Zero compression on numbers one and two cylinders, and under 100psi on the other four. Good compression would be in the region of 160psi on each of the straight six’s pots!

So initially, I took the head off. Sounds simpler than it actually was, partly because two of the head bolts snapped on their way out, leaving a head seized in position. I had to resort to non-engineering methods to remove it.

First, string was inserted down the plug holes, and then by whizzing the engine over on the starter motor, the pounding of the string lifted it gradually away from the block deck. Once an initial gap had opened up, then a variety of lever bars were used to tease the heavy cylinder head up and away.

What was revealed was messy. Rings were broken, bores scored and three exhaust valves were cracked.

So – to rebuild and repair? Or replace? These engines are ‘rare as rocking horse’. But I lucked out. A contact who owned a Victor 3300 estate was removing the ultra low mileage engine in it to replace it with a small block Chevy. So I bought it from him. In the meantime, I used my time productively to clean up the engine bay components which had around 40 years of sludge accumulated on them.

With the new engine back at base, apprentice Matt and I spent a fruitful 3 days swapping it all over.  Installing all the freshly cleaned and painted engine bay components was a pleasure rather than a chore. But with ramp time coming to an end, I wasn’t able to get the car running spot-on. So it went back into its lock up. And then the MoT ran out.

There the Ventora languished over the winter. But when March arrived, I drove it out and ferried it home. The Nearside sill needed welding, a rack boot replacing and a piece of exhaust replacing to gain the MoT. Then a further week of part-time work took place to fettle and tune the engine prior to the car’s major duty for the start of the summer – carrying my visitor from Berlin around Oxfordshire and onto Shropshire for the annual festival of Soviet Motoring and British Military Might, the SALT rally.

And the car performed spectacularly well – covering nearly 1000 miles in the week, and using no oil nor coolant. It visited the centre of UK air traffic control, RAF Cosford and the Spaceguard centre. And mate Dominic Russell-Price grabbed this priceless shot of the Ventora fording – and not leaving an oil slick in the water afterwards!

Is it possible to fall back in love with a classic car after it has been such an arse?

Absolutely yes.

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