Rover V8s

ECU Troubleshooting

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ecu troubleshooting

84 onwards EFI diagram

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Lightweight V8

Author : ..from a book titled Hot Rodding Buick

Development of the lightweight aluminum V8 engine was a joint venture by engineers from Buick and Oldsmobile, working under the auspices of their parent, General Motors Corporation. Produced in two separate versions, one for the Buick Special and the other for the Olds F-85, both power plants represent a milestone in automotive design and engineering – a milestone that has paved the way to lighter, more compact engines with greater performance characteristics than the bigger and heavier cast iron V8’s found in most other cars.

Basically, the Buick and Olds V8’s are the same. That is, they are produced by the same casting methods, utilize the same block, crankshaft, rods, oil pumps and other components below the cylinder heads, sport the same 3.50 x 2.80 bore and stroke, the same 215 cubic inch displacement and allow interchanging of most vital parts. The chief differences are in and above the cylinder heads where there is a decided change in combustion chamber configuration, pistons, valve size, rocker shaft stand mounting and rocker arm lubrication.

These differences are the results of individual engineering preferences by both factories, and while there isn’t a great deal of performance differential between the two engines, the Buick does have a slight edge in horsepower. It is also slightly lighter than the F-85.

We won’t dwell too heavily on the F-85 version in this book, other than to offer comparisons whenever the occasion warrants. Anyway, except for the components already mentioned – piston, combustion chamber, valves, etc. – our description of the Buick will pretty well cover the F-85, too. Before moving into more detail, we should like to point out that it was the Buick V8 and not the F-85 version that was offered briefly as an optional engine for the Pontiac Tempest a short time after the new powerplant was introduced. This option has been dropped in favor of Pontiac’s own 326-cubic-inch cast-iron V8.

The all-aluminum V8 was produced after a great deal of engineering study and research in to comparatively inexpensive casting methods and design. Needless to say, there were many problems both before and after production began, just as there always is with an entirely new engine built from scratch. Some of these problems were the result of using aluminum instead of cast iron for weight saving, and some were costly. In any case, Buick and GM engineers have managed to solve them and have proved that a lightweight, all-aluminum powerplant could be produced at a reasonable price.

In the opening chapter [not included], we pointed out that a permanent mold casting is used, and has worked out successfully. A big problem that faced engineers, however, was a method of sleeving the aluminum cylinders. Since aluminum is softer than cast iron, it becomes necessary to provide cylinder walls with a surface that would withstand the constant scrubbing and wear of the pistons.

[Two pictures were included. The first, showing a Buick Skylark rounding a curve, was captioned “Factory saw performance potential of aluminum V8 at early stage, upped it 30 horsepower for first Skylark in early ’61.” The second, a view looking down on the top of a bare engine block, was captioned “Naked block of aluminum engine registers 57 pounds on scales. Basic casting for Olds F-85 engine is almost identical.”]

To solve this, cast-iron sleeves were used, but rather that pressing them into the block, a method was devised whereby the sleeves are actually cast in the molds where molten aluminum is poured around them. To further insure that the sleeves would be locked in, they were made with outside grooves or ridges which grip firmly into place once the aluminum solidifies around them. This way, there is never any danger of the sleeves slipping or turning inside the bore.

The sleeves have a thickness of .060-inch. Bore spacing of the V8 block, which is measured from the center of one cylinder to the next in line, is 4.240 inches, leaving plenty of room for a .020-inch overbore if and when it is needed or desired. The block itself is of the “Y” design. That is, the bottom skirt extends down well below the crankshaft center line for added support to the main bearings, a design also used in Ford. Each block is precision machined and electronically checked for tiny flaws or cracks, after final boring.

In designing the aluminum V8, GM engineers eliminated the usual forged steel crankshaft like so many manufacturers are doing nowadays and came up with a crank that is cast of Pearlitic malleable iron. Ford and several other manufacturers are also using a cast crank, which is less expensive to produce and just as efficient as forged steel. Most experts, in fact, predict that forged cranks will soon be obsolete in the industry.

The same crank is used for both the 155 and 200 hp Buick engines and is identical to that used in the F-85. It employs a rubber absorption vibration damper, and end thrust is taken by number three main bearing. Main bearing inserts are removable, steel-backed Durex with a babbitt overlay. Main bearing clearance is .0005-.0021-inch, with crankshaft end play at .044-.008-inch. The same 2.2992-inch journal diameter is used in both engines.

Examination of the front accessory drive components reveals that they have been kept simple, light and efficient, and are easily accessible for adjustment or maintenance. The crankshaft drives the water pump by means of a belt while the oil pump and distributor are cam driven by a diagonal shaft located ahead of the timing chain. Some wear has been noticed in the distributor drive gear during constant high speed performance, and this should be replaced by hardened steel cogs produced by leading speed shops such as Clay Smith Engineering if the engine is to be subjected to major modifications and high speed running.

[Three illustrations are included on this page. The first, a view of the crank, is captioned “Crankshaft is cast of Pearlitic malleable iron. Casting has proven less expensive, just as efficient as usual forged steel.” The second appears to be a line drawing of the the cylinder liner and is captioned “Cylinder sleeve is iron, is cast right in aluminum block. Note grooves on outside of sleeve to hold it securely in position.” The third is a photo of the bottom of the engine, showing the crank and main bearings. The caption reads: “Despite lightweight block bottom end is rugged enough for strong increase in power.”]

Connecting rods for the aluminum V8 were forged from SAE 1141 steel. They weigh 17.522 ounces and measure 5.660-inches from the center of the big end to the center of the pin end. Bearings are also Durex with a steel-backed babbitt and have a recommended clearance of .0002-.0022-inch. There is a fraction of an ounce difference in the Olds F-85 rods which are slightly heavier, but for all practical purposes, both rods are the same.

Overall, the bottom end of the engine is considerably well beefed and should accommodate a considerable increase in displacement and horsepower without change to the main bearing journal diameter, etc. and we probably see some increase from the factory with the introduction of the 1964 models. As pointed out previously, the big V8’s of 400 cubic inches and more have about reached the end of the line, and the trend now is decidedly toward the smaller, lighter, and more compact engine the produces more horses with considerably less weight.

We mentioned earlier that one of the chief differences between the aluminum Olds engine and the Buick Special was in the piston design.

Where Olds engineers went to a flat-top slug, the Buick has dish-type pistons and a smaller combustion chamber which accounts for the 9-to-1 compression ratio on the standard engine…slightly higher than that of the Oldsmobile, which utilizes a different combustion chamber.

The pistons themselves are cast aluminum alloy, with a divorced skirt, and weigh in as 12.81 ounces on the 155 hp version. Slightly heavier (14.0 ounces) slugs with less dish design, are used with the 200 hp engine which has a compression ratio of 11-to-1. Skirt clearances of .0005-.0011-inch at the top end and .0075-.00135 at the bottom are the same for both mills.

SAE 1118 Steel piston pins, 2.870 inches long and .8748 inch in diameter are press fitted to the rod end where they have a recommended clearance of .0007-.0015-inch. Clearance in the piston is .0003-.0005 at 70 degrees. Both compression rings are cast iron, the top one being chrome plated while the number two ring is lubricated. The steel oil ring is also chrome plated.

Another decided difference between the Buick and Olds engines is in the cylinder heads. Patterned a great deal after the big V8’s in each individual line, the Buick has a semi-hemispherical combustion chamber which is smaller in volume than the wedge-shaped configuration used with the F-85 engine. The Buick valves are offset more from the center of the chamber than are those of the Olds, and there is a difference in the location of the spark plug holes. Buick places theirs almost in the exact center of the cylinder while the Olds’ are placed in the top of the wedge. Both cylinder heads use the same pattern for spacing the intake and exhaust ports so that the manifolds are interchangeable. There is a slight difference in the exhaust ports themselves, however, with Buick retaining a smaller, somewhat restricted port beneath the valve and flaring out as it approaches the exhaust manifold.

[Two pictures are on this page. The first, showing the timing chain and sprockets at the front end of the engine, is captioned “Accessory drive includes diagonal gear ahead of timing chain for distributor and oil pump, bolt to operate water pump.” The second photo shows two pistons, one viewed from the side, another viewed looking down at the top and sides, captioned “Cast aluminum alloy pistons are featured in Special engines. Note how top surface of piston is dished out. F-85 has flat top.”]

With so many of these components interchangeable, considerable performance increase can be accomplished with a lot of careful planning, such as swapping the dish-type Buick pistons for the Oldsmobile’s flat-top design which will raise compression ratio considerably. We’ll go into more detail on this and other modification possibilities in another chapter.

The valve train for both engines is similar but with a few exceptions. Both use a cast alloy camshaft, driven by a nylon coated aluminum gear, and are equipped with hydraulic lifters as are all 1963 Buick engines. The basic Buick and Olds engines share the same timing while the 200 hp Skylark mill uses a bit wilder cam. Timing figures according to factory specifications are:

155 hp engine 200 hp Skylark
opens BTC 29 degrees 30 degrees
closes ABC 71 degrees 75 degrees
duration 280 degrees 285 degrees

opens BBC 67 degrees 68 degrees
closes ATC 33 degrees 37 degrees
duration 280 degrees 285 degrees

Overlap 62 degrees 67 degrees

Lift – Intake
& Exhaust .383 .401

The valve train differences we mentioned above are in the valves, pushrods, and rocker shaft stands. Pushrods for both engines are of the solid type rather than tubular and are made of forged steel. Those used on the Buick, however, are slightly shorter in length the the Oldsmobile’s. Buick also uses aluminum rocker arms with pressed-in
steel buttons on the valve and and sockets on the pushrod end, and the aluminum rocker-shaft-stand assemblies are bolted directly to the cylinder head. The Olds on the other hand uses steel rockers, and the shaft stands are secured to the block by long cap screws which go completely through the head and into the block where they also help hold down the heads as well as the rocker shafts. Rocker arms have a ratio of 1.6-to-1 for both engines, however.

Lubrication of the Buick rocker arms comes from the main oil galleries which run the length of the block and intersect with the lifter bores. Oil flows through passages drilled in the crank and camshaft bearings and then is carried to the front rocker stand through a slanted passage in the head. The hollow rocker shaft then permits the oil to flow to each rocker arm.

The F-85 has slightly larger valves than the Buick but, unfortunately they are not interchangeable, since stems are larger and longer. Buick valves have a head diameter of 1.500 inches for the intakes and 1.3125 inches for the exhausts. Both intake and exhaust are 4.605 inches in length and, like the F-85; their stems are tapered. .3412 plus .0005 inch to .3407 plus .0005 for the intakes and .3407 plus .0005 inch to .3402 plus .0005 for the exhausts.

[Two photos are included on this page. Both pictures show a Buick head next to a Olds head. The first photo shows the tops of the heads, and is captioned “Biggest difference between Special and F-85 is in cylinder head. Buick is at bottom.” The second photo compares the combustion chambers with the caption “Special, top, has characteristic
Buick combustion chambers. F-85 has normal wedge.”]

Valve springs for the Buick are straight-wound steel, and do not incorporate the use of an inner spring. Pressures on the intakes have been set at 64 pounds with a length of 1.640 inch closed, and 168 pounds and 1.260 inch open. Exhaust springs are the same, and there is no difference in pressure between the standard Buick V8 and the 200 hp Skylark.

Sintered iron valve seat inserts also are used in the Buick, and these are press-fitted into the head. Valve seats can be moved out slightly on the inserts for porting but there isn’t enough material around the ports to permit much more than 1/16 inch.

We’ve already pointed out that the Buick and Olds manifolds are interchangeable, though not identical. Carburetion, however, is the same, with both engines employing Rochesters. The two-barrel is standard, of course, and the four-barrel carb is offered with the DeLuxe Buick Special and is standard on the Skylark. Both models have
a barrel size of 1.3125 inches.

A Delco-Remy coil and distributor ignition system is used with the engine while recommended spark plugs are AC 45FFS for the 155 hp engine and 44FFS for the Skylark. The distributor starts its initial advance at 450 rpm, reaching its maximum of 28 degrees at 3700 rpm. Initial timing is set at 7.5 degrees at 1050 rpm, with the vacuum hose disconnected. Timing mark is located on the harmonic balancer at the
front of the engine.

The all-aluminum V8 is now in its third model year of production, and sales records indicate that it is becoming more and more popular by the day. Its future, at this point anyway, seems virtually unlimited, especially for the enthusiast who is never content with the status quo.

Undoubtedly, Buick has plans for increasing performance, too, in coming years, although from past policy we don’t expect to see them go after the same performance image sought by Ford, Chrysler Corporation and some of the others. But the potential is all there and we probably will be seeing more of it in 1964.

Meanwhile, the door to individual modification remains wide open to the enthusiast who is eager to capitalize on the basic advantages of good design, dependability and lightweight provided at the factory.

[2 illustrations are included on this page. The first is a line drawing of a cross section of the head at one of the valves, and is captioned “By off-setting valves slightly, Buick is able to bring spark plug closer to center of chamber. Chamber volume is small.” The second is a photo of the rocker assemblies for both Buick and Olds engines. The caption reads “Rockers also differ. Buick’s (far right) are aluminum, with stands that bolt right to head. In F-85, they are made of steel.”


The origin of the famous aluminium V8

Author : Excerpt from a past newsletters of the TR8 Car Club of America

Issue #3 – January 1984


The success of the American Motors Rambler and the imported Volkswagen Beetle during the mid 1950’s created a new “compact car” class. As the need for small, light-weight engines to power this new and growing class became apparent, preliminary design studies for a production aluminum V8 began in 1956 at the GM Engineering Staff. They proposed a 215 cubic inch, 90 degree V8, with aluminum block and heads, and no cylinder linings! The project was handed over to Buick in the spring of 1958, both because of their enthusiasm and because of their experience in manufacturing aluminum parts for numerous other engines.

Serious production design began in December 1958 with a group led by Joe Turley, with Cliff Studaker and Ed Holtzkemper. Some of the (now familiar) features of their partial re-design included a 3.5 inch bore and a 2.8 inch strike, a single central camshaft, hydraulic lifters, cast iron cylinder liners, the same firing order as the small block Chevy, a five bearing cast iron crankshaft, heads and pistons designed to promote a swirl patterned combustion chamber, and nearly centered spark plug placement.

This new engine weighed in at a mere 324 lbs, and put out 155 gross hp and 220 ft/lb torque in the two barrel, 8.8 : 1 compression ratio form, and 185 hp and 230 ft/lb torque in the four barrel, 10.25 : 1 compression ratio form! This made a 2.1 lbs/hp ratio at a time when the next best was 3.5 lbs/hp!

The engine was used as standard equipment in the 1961 Buick Special compact, of which 87,444 were built, and propelled the car to a blistering 0-60 time of 15 seconds (thanks to the two-speed automatic transmission). It then became optional equipment in both 1962 and 1963 behind a standard iron-block V6 (although the little V8 was standard again on a deluxe two-door coupe version called the Special Skylark for 1963). A total of 154,467 Specials were made in 1962 and 149,538 were made in 1963

Although Buick expected the aluminum block to be only slightly more expensive to manufacture than an iron block, the actual costs turned out to be much higher and, thanks to the ever-present bean counters, production of the engine was halted after the 1963 model year. The manufacturing rights were subsequently sold to the Rover Motor Co. of Solihull, Birmingham, England in 1967, where the 215 was to go on to bigger and better things!

The engine was not totally ignored in the US, however, because Mickey Thompson, of later Ford engine building fame, used it in four cars built for the 1962 Indianapolis 500. That version was bored to 255 cubic inches, fuel injected, and made 330 hp at 6500 rpm! Dan Gurney, of later Toyota commercial fame, qualified it at 148 mph, but a broken transmission ended their victory hopes. As a side note, that engine got about 4 mpg, compared to 2.5 mpg for other Indy engines. Imagine what an advantage like that would do today! Carroll Shelby had originally wanted the 215 for use in his AC Cobras, but for whatever reasons, he wound up using the 260 and 289 Ford V8 engines.. Too bad…


Author : The following article was reprinted from the September 1983 issue of

The General had no idea what he was starting when he unleashed a brand new V8 in 1960 for use in Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac compacts.  In the three years this all-alloy unit was in production, it didn’t achieve much, eventually being dropped in favour of cheap and conventional cast iron as the good old boys’ thinwall casting techniques advanced in leaps and bounds. But in that short time, it became the special builders’ dream. This beautifully light and efficient unit, good for anything between 150 and 300bhp, weighed only the same as a cast iron four cylinder of half the output. It attracted, first, the eye of the power boat racrs, then Rover’s cheeky chief executive, William Martin-Hurst. In 1964, he realised its potential as the power unit built under licence from General Motors for the top Rover saloons and the brave new Range Rover to follow. Repco modified it enough to permit Australian Jack Brabham to win two world championships in 1966 and 1967. But strangely, nobody ever designed a sports car specifically to take this dream engine until Sir Donald Stokes’s Triumph men won the battle of Abingdon to produce a replacement for their old TR6 and the rival MGB.

There was hardly anything you could fault about it, particularly the price, performance and concept. The only problems were everything that surrounded it. If ever a car deserved a better fate than death at the hands of a fickle dollar, it was the TR8.

Its inspiration came from a still-born project called ADO21.
intended as a new MG, and remarkably like what Fiat were to put into
production as the X1/9 in 1972. Performance would have been adequate
with the Austin Maxi engine and fantastic with the Rover V8, which had
transformed the ancient MGB GT in an ill-timed swipe at special builder
Ken Costello. Rave reviews in the Motocar press for his V8 conversions
upset British Leyland so much that they cut off his supplies and put
their own MGB GT V8 into production in 1973, as a stopgap until they
had developed the new TR with a top-of-the-line V8 engine.

The idea of having one basic sports car with a variety of engines,
an economy and a high-performance four-cylinder, and the glorious V8,
with two wheelbases, short for sport and long for lounging in a back
seat, was sound enough. But the way in which it was designed
represented the syndrome of the ’70s. Eighty percent of the market was
in America, so their regulations dictated the final product. And as
the TR was being developed between 1971 and 1973, the American
politicians had no idea what they were doing, apart from trying to
score environmental points off each other. The eventual solution to
what shape the TR should take grew out of requirements for bumper
height, bumper impact resistance, crash and rollover reactions and the
one thing that the legislators hadn’t covered, drag.

That BL got this factor down to a co-efficient of 0.396 was an
achievement recognized in fuel consumption and the risk they took with
styling. Ever since Colin Chapman and Maurice Phillippe at Lotus had
discovered in 1968 that racing cars handled better above 160mph with
wedge-shaped bodywork, production car designers had been fascinated
with the idea. Harris Mann at BL was much enamoured with the Fiat X1/9
and even more with Bertone’s winged beetle, the Carabo, that became the
Lancia Stratos. And he generated enough support on the committee that
rule BL, because the imitation mid-engined wedge shape gave room to a
truly monumental luggage boot. This was one point on which the
salespeople were admant and nobody could think of a better solution.
Sports cars to be sold in America had to have enough room in the trunk
for TWO sets of golf clubs. Result: the back of the new TR bore a
distinct resemblance to that of a Leyland bus, and because nobody on
committee could think of anything better, the top looked like the
turret of a tank. By the time massive beams with hearts of steel had
been tacked on front and back to withstand the concrete blocks that
dominated American environmental thinking, the wedge shape had lost its
true geometric sex appeal. But no matter, just about everything else
was right with the concept.

This was the first TR with modern suspension, which endowed it
with excellent handling through coil springs and rally car links. The
interior was excellent and one of the more attractive to be made by BL.
Faults such as a ghastly, graunchy gearbox, and the more appalling lack
of quality control of a factory on Merseyside that eventually committed
industrial suicide, had been ironed-out of the TR7 by the time it had
staggered through the first five years of its production life in 1980.
By then the projected Lynx long wheelbase version had been killed by a
record-breaking strike and the V8 was starring in rally cars, called –
to help the marketing men who had no TR8 to sell – TR7 V8s. BL’s new
boss, Sir Michael Edwardes, had beaten off the Left wingers to to slash
the company into some sort of shape without killing what could be one
of their greatest moneyspinners, the TR.

But it was not until the drophead version was introduced in 1979
that everybody realized what had been wrong all along. Suddenly the
dramatic appeal of the pure wedge shape was restored, now that the
ridiculous tank top – deemed necessary to meet draconian American
rollover regulations that never came to fruition – had been lopped off.

It needed only the V8 in 1980 to transform it into a 135mph
tearabout with a searing 8.4sec 0-60 time, even in emasculated
California form. The fuel consumption wasn’t good, though, at 16mpg.
Goodness knows what an unhibited European version with up to 280bhp
would have done. As it was, British Leyland gambled on selling it in
California rag top form at only $12,000, and by the time supplies
reached the West coast, the dollar fetched only 42p. This meant they
were selling the TR8 at only around œ5000, when the TR7 Drophead was
fetching œ8000 on a home market racked by recession. That wouldn’t
have been so bad – they could probably have got more for the TR8 neaxt
season – if the range had not become victim of the factory switching
endemic of BL being forced to draw in their horns on all ranges. The
TRs finally settled at Solihull, the magnificent new factory built for
Rover in 1976.

The last left the lines on October 5, 1981 – to be replaced two
days later by the Triumph Acclaim, built under licence from Japan.
Ironically, the pound slumped within the month, making the unsold stock
of TR8s the moneyspinners they always should have been.

Now there is only the ghost of Solihull and what is left of 20
prototype right-hand-drive TR8s, which could have fetched a thoroughly
profitable œ10,000 on the home market. London electrical contractor
John Ford was the proud owner of a TR7 Drophead, when a salesman friend
from BL main agents Henly’s joked: ‘It’s six months old…what can I
sell you next?’

‘Nothing,’ said John, ‘unless you can get me a TR8 which they are
selling in the States.’ Imagine his surprise when the salesman rang
two months later to say: ‘Your TR8 has arrived, sir.’

It seems that Henlys bought a prototype right-hand-drive car that
had been used by the Rover trim department from Meashams’s, the motor
auctions. Its sister car, which had been used for mechanical
evaluation, had been broken up. And so, in September 1981, John Ford
happily paid out œ9950 for this unique car, first registered in BL’s
name on December 1, 1980. ‘I’ll never part with it’, he says. ‘It’s
everything you’d ever dream of. Excellent handling, tremendous
performance, dead reliable.’

Perhaps we should now write TR for tragedy, where once it should
have been TR for Triumph. On the day that the TR8 died, nobody else
had produced a sports car anything like it.


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