Monday, 1 February 2016

Project Eighty-Seven - Part Five

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis


Old cars can sometimes run a bit hot. Not worryingly so, just… y’know, slightly further toward the temperature gauge’s red zone than you might like. And given that I live in south-west London, and consequently spend rather a lot of my time sat in stationary traffic and quietly cursing everyone around me, it makes sense to ensure that the cooling system is entirely tip-top and trustworthy.
The first part of this was to renew all of the 205’s hoses. #Project87 is, as maths fans will assure you, twenty-seven years old now. You’re familiar with The Twenty-Seven Club, right? This is a group of famous people who all died at the age of 27 – Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Kristen Pfaff, Pete de Freitas, Richey Edwards, Amy Winehouse… and as the 205’s twenty-seventh year is ushered in, I’m keen that it doesn’t join the list.
As you might imagine, twenty-seven year old rubber hoses that have spent their life being bombarded by hot fluid aren’t likely to be operating at maximum efficiency. Some will be bulbous and swollen, others will be crumbly and not sealing properly… it makes sense to whip it all out and start afresh. It’s not all that cheap, but it pays dividends in engine longevity. So I got in touch with Baker Bushes & Mountings, renowned Peugeot/Citro├źn specialists, to see what they could offer.

Baker’s 205 GTI hoses are highly spoken of as being exactly the correct shapes and angles to replace the standard items without any trouble fitting, and their 3-ply (4mm) silicone construction ensures reliability and longevity. They offer a coolant hose kit which includes the ten pieces required, and it made sense to also upgrade to their five-piece breather hose kit as well, along with the supplementary air device kit and stainless steel inner wing pipe, since we were whipping off clamps and whatnot already. Might as well do the thing right.

The fitting of all of this was undertaken by Pug1Off. You probably recognise the name – they’ve had their hand in more feature cars than you can shake a camshaft at, and what they don’t know about Peugeots in general and 205 GTIs in particular probably isn’t worth knowing. Their recent GTI-6 conversions have earned them much notoriety, moving the business into the newly-fashionable arena of squeezing modern performance from standard-looking classics (think Eagle E-Types and the like, but in Peugeot guise), while their form in building show cars stretches back to the zany Max Power era. Remember the twin-engined wide-arch 306? That’s still sitting under a dustsheet in the Pug1Off workshop, parked next to something that neatly counterpoints it - a 207 Spyder. This, for the uninitiated, bears little relation to the roadgoing 207, being a mid-engined, spaceframed track monster. It’s all about the performance for these guys.

This performance manifests itself in a number of ways, however. One ongoing build in the workshop is a Miami Blue 1.9 GTI that is so absurdly clean it makes you rub your eyes in disbelief – every single component is either brand new or rebuilt to brand new standard. Its fresh new engine sits on a stand like some proud, giant trophy. Incredible. It’s a customer build, and the amount of detail that the owner’s specified is utterly astonishing – a standard car, better than new.

So anyway, these were the guys to fit the hoses. But I started off talking about running hot, didn’t I? Well, I wanted to ensure that the stuff inside the hoses was every bit as good as the hoses themselves, so I took a cue from editor John-Joe – you may remember reading a couple of months ago about his Range Rover’s coolant conversion – and got in touch with Evans to talk about their waterless coolant.

If you haven’t heard of it before, waterless coolant isn’t a misnomer, it is a real thing. The basic process is this: you begin by draining all of the coolant out of the system - this is fun on a 205, as the only way to do so is to whip the bottom hose off the radiator and let it all haphazardly splash out. (On a cold winter’s day, and directly after a two-hour drive up from London, this will immediately envelop you in a vast cloud of sweet-smelling steam.) You do your best to catch all of the fluid in a big pan, so as to measure as accurately as possible what the volume of coolant was – six litres, in the case of the GTI. Then you refill the system with Evans’ prep fluid. This is a hygroscopic formula designed to suck all of the remaining moisture out of the system – the fact that we’d already changed all of the hoses made this much easier, as the new ones wouldn’t have any residual coolant in them. In theory, if you needed to for whatever reason, you could then use the car as normal for a while with the prep fluid acting as coolant. We didn’t need to though, as we had all we required for the conversion there and then. The technicians from Evans then measured the prep fluid with Jetsons-like devices to assess its percentage water content. At this point, the waterless coolant goes into the car, wholly replacing the old coolant. After running it up to temperature, the chaps’ measurements showed a water content of below 1%, which is pretty much as thorough as it’s possible to be. It’s important to note, however, that the presence of a technician is not essential to carry out the conversion! We had the guys on hand to offer advice and information so that we’d be able to tell you all about it, dear reader, but this is a job you can easily do at home; it’s no more complicated than swapping regular coolant.

It’s not a tricky thing to do, then. But why do it? Well, waterless coolant has a number of useful attributes. For one thing, it’ll last the life of the car – you’ll never need to change coolant again. (If at some point in the future you find yourself changing a radiator or water pump or whatever, you just catch what comes out and put it back in again afterwards.)
Evans offer various products, and the one in our 205 is called Power Cool 180°. Whereas a 50/50 mix of regular coolant may boil at, say, 120-130°, this coolant has a boiling point of 180°, meaning that your engine is pretty unlikely to ever boil over; it also has antifreeze properties down to -40°. The coolant produces very low vapour pressure too, which takes a lot of strain off the system. You know how whipping the pressure cap off a hot engine will spew boiling water into your face? That doesn’t happen with waterless coolant. And because there’s less strain on the system, the theory is that everything is working more efficiently, so increased power and reduced fuel consumption are logical conclusions. It’s non-toxic, contains no oxygen and thus prevents internal corrosion, and erosion is eliminated. All in all it makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? You just have to be careful that anyone who’s working on the car for you in the future knows not to top the system up with water…!

With the coolant in, the engine was run up to temperature to check for successful installation, leaks and what-have-you. The dashboard temperature gauge was still running a little higher than normal, which seemed odd… until the technicians used their magical Star Trek-esque infra-red device to measure the coolant temperatures inside various parts of the engine and found it to be a fairly uniform 90° Centigrade at idle. So it was the gauge that was over-reading after all! French electrics, eh? Bless.

All-in-all, then, a successful operation – Baker’s hoses eased into their respective positions like Cinderella’s slipper, Pug1Off made short work of getting everything together (while also sharing insight into a whole world of Peugeot experience), and Evans’ confidence-inspiring product looks as if it should do the GTI a world of good. Winner all round.

In other news this month, #Project87 needed a new wheel bearing on the front driver’s side. I thought I’d heard a bit of a moaning from that vicinity recently, and having it up on the ramp at Pug1Off confirmed that it was on the way out; not having time to do it there and then, what with all the hose-based shenanigans going on, I drove it back to London to tackle later. It was then left with the guys at Earlsfield Service Station (certainly not to be confused with Earlsfield Car Maintenance Centre, who we had some annoying troubles with last year, as you may recall); I’ve been going to Earlsfield Service Station for about seven or eight years and they’ve always proved themselves to be a good choice. Their bread-and-butter is in modern car maintenance, but they’re certainly retro-friendly and they know their way around a GTI! So a few hours later, the 205 was sporting its new bearing along with a fresh CV gaiter as well. Splendid.

And next time? Well, I still have a few ideas up my sleeve, I’m just deciding which order to do it all in! Watch this space…

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