It was somewhere around 4000rpm in second gear when the old VN SS suddenly suffered an attack of the vapours.
Not a miss exactly, more of a flat spot that saw the tacho needle hovering briefly when it should have been heading for ‘5’ on the – let’s face it – Mickey Mouse dashboard on this 1990 model olden Holden.
I did a quick check of the fuel gauge. Nothing wrong there. The temp gauge was in a happy place and there were no warning lights to suggest an issue. Tried it again, maybe it was my imagination. Nope, there it was.
Now, I know my way around a suspension bush these days, and changing a set of brake pads holds no fears. But clearly this was something to do with either the fuel injection or the ignition, and in a VN SS both are electronically controlled. I was starting to break out in a sweat, so I did the smart thing and rang my brother.
“Is it hard to start?” he asked knowingly. “And when it does start, does it pop and fart on six or seven cylinders?” The answer to both those was “yes”. “Then you’ve got a dud injector,” he said.
“How can I tell which one it is?” “You don’t. You replace them all. You probably have two that are stuffed and six that are three-quarters stuffed.”
Ah. So I wandered down to the local emporium de parts and ordered a batch of five-litre injectors, a new fuel filter (no point putting grubby juice through brand new ’jectors) and some rubber grease (it stops the injector O-rings tearing when you fit them – apparently).
And then wondered how the hell I was going to fit them. Based on little bro’s advice, though, there wasn’t much to it. But, as a BMW factory-trained mechanic, he would say that, wouldn’t he?
I grabbed my trusty workshop manual, opened up at the section on the fuel system and did some not-so-light reading. Turns out you need to depressurise the fuel rail first (I probably wouldn’t have thought of that on my own) before tearing into her, so as not to spray high-pressure PULP all over the shop.
With that done (by removing the fuel-pump relay and running the engine ’til it carks it) I could undo half-a-dozen bits and pieces, disconnect the fuel regulator and rip the injectors and fuel rail off, still in one piece. So I did.
After yanking out the old squirters and fitting the new ones, reassembly was – as the good book put it – the reverse of the disassembly process. Again, bang on. Now for the moment of truth.
With the pump relay back in and the battery reconnected, I hit the key and heard the pump whirring a few litres of high-octane into the fuel rail. Under the bonnet with a torch to check for petrol spraying all over the place. But no, she was fuel-tight. So I hit the starter and that old bent-eight fired straight up and settled into a nice, clean idle. No smoke, no staggers, nothing.
Now, this is why I’ll always have an oldie in the shed. Because in my driveway this instant is a new AMG C63. It is lovely, wonderful and inspiring. But with direct injection and more plumbing than a retirement home for deviants, I couldn’t hope to change a set of injectors myself. Hell, I haven’t even mastered the HVAC.
Back in my shed, I celebrated with the mechanic’s victory dance and then the phone rang again. It was my brother checking up on me. He gets antsy when I wrench on cars. Much as I do when he drives them.