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Chad McNeely
(77 posts)

06/09/2021 06:03PM

Main British Car:
Alpine S4 Rover 4.0

Chad's Alpine with Rover/Buick V8
Posted by: Roverbeam
Date: February 14, 2023 06:47PM

Owner: Chad McNeely
City: Kirksville, MO
Car Model: Sunbeam Alpine S4
Engine: Rover V8

Engine: Rover V8 w/ Buick 300 crank and heads; re-sleeved for Chevy 305 pistons; Ferrea 6000-series valves, 1.775 & 1.5"; TA (T&D) roller rockers; Erson hydraulic roller cam (from Woody); Wiseco circle track pistons, Scat forged rods; ARE dry sump pan. The parts are here, but it's been a slow process to get the machining done. It took ~10 months to get the crank ground 10 under, and now a different shop is doing the balancing, then the block work.

Cooling: Pierburg CWA200 electric water pump & Tecomotive controller

Exhaust: eBay, Mustang 1 5/8" long tube header, with pipes "adjusted" to align to new custom flange, new collector

Transmission: T5 with 2.95 (1st) gear set, S10 tailpiece (forward shift location), D&D bell housing, Tilton throw out bearing, ACT clutch

Rear Axle & Suspension: Mazda RX8 IRS subframe; MX5-NC diff w/ JDM 3.63 gear, OS Giken LSD

Front Susp.: V8 Roadsters RX8 tubular subframe/K-member, with RX8 A-arms, uprights

Brakes: stock RX8 discs, calipers
(master) Tilton or Wilwood pedal box

Wheels/Tires: 17" (the Sunbeam crowd won't be happy!)

Body Mods: Raised wheel arches, vented hood

Interior: race car

Electrical: Megasquirt MS3x, Rebel chassis harness

I've been on hold with car work, so I've done some engine things while machinists do machining things. The waiting time has allowed time to accumulate parts, which is nice.

I've embraced the 3d scan, draw, 3d print design method where feasible, and prototyped and begun to make a handful of engine parts, from the water pump blanking plate, to the oil pump and alternator brackets (tucked under), the lifter valley baffle, the crank scraper, and the cross-flow/bike ITB intake.

Here's a couple photos of the intake, so far.
with tb.jpeg

Oil baffle 3d print:

A big part of my taking this project on is getting to learn stuff. I've done wood stuff most of my life, done some composite stuff for boats, but my engine and metal skills have always been lacking - but I spent a few years racing karts in the 90's, and I've always enjoyed the mix of 'figuring out' versus on-track application. So, starting from not much, I hope you'll see things improve as this page is updated, and I (hopefully!) figure things out better.

Here's the motor mounts I designed, had the parts water jetted, and recently tig welded. I think I'm going to grow to like the word 'linishing'...
Motor mounts.jpg

If I fabricate an intake, I need to do something about the water. Looking around, there's a handful of ways this seems to get done on fabricated intakes - most guys weld up some tube and sheet aluminum and slap a water neck on it. Since my tig'ing isn't the awesomest yet, I looked for some other options. I have a cad model of a Rover engine that is helpful if not always completely accurate, so I first tried to take the Rover intake and slice away the air parts and leave just the water passage. On the computer, it looked like it wouldn't work, but it looked close. I bought an eBay intake and went through the process with a Sawsall, cutting away everything I didn't need. It was fun, but it won't work.

I'm left with the choice of either an assembled water passage with hardline and -12an fittings, or just spending the time to figure out how to weld 1/8" aluminum good enough to hold water.

I've made scant progress on the engine and car, but lots of progress on some projects that need to be done before I can dig into it fully.

Meanwhile, I drew and had waterjet cut a tab-and-slot dummy engine block (thread with link to files elsewhere in these forums):
doesnt fit yet.jpeg
Clearly, some changes need to be made to the car still.

I also spent a Saturday messing with headlight bezels, trying to replicate the late Alpine S5/Tiger MkII style, with the peaked forehead rather than the brow or hood. Here's my first go, in steel:
This clearly is tragically out of sequence for the overall project, but it itched a need I needed to scratch.

I spent a week stripping the car to a bare shell and building rotisserie stands.

And made fun discoveries:

On the engine front, my local machinist has had my crank (and related parts) for a while, to balance it. He needed to narrow the rod big ends from Chevy width to Buick, but one of them got munched in the machining process so that’s on hold while I wait for Scat to have a ‘single’ become available. He also told me that his align hone gear isn’t well suited to mismatched block/cap materials, so I had a bigger shop do that step.

I got another partial week of car work done, and found a machinist in the next big town over who was able to align hone my block - so that’s done.
I’ve been removing careless floor patches, angle iron reinforcing, rusted original floors, and grinding off old filler. All fun work, and reveals just how much fun I get to keep having for a while. My pile of non-Alpine patch metal now weighs just over 50#.

I also ordered some mandrel-bent 2x3 frame rails that will replace the half-ones in front, and extend through the X-frame and all the way to the rear suspension subframe.
Not sure why this is upside down, but it gives a sense of how deep some of the filler was.

Crazy-quilt patch job I guess. Lumpy bronze (?) brazed joints, bashed below the surface, then filled over with buckets of filler. Top work!

More progress, still mostly in destruction mode though. My tally of metal cut from the chassis is up to 89# so far. If I had weighed the scoops of filler dust cleaned from the floor, I'd guess there's another 40# of reduction achieved...

Added bracing to the door openings

Cut away the outer, mid, and inner rockers. The outer ones were from a prior restoration attempt, and completely the wrong shape, sigh.

Too soon? -aside from tossing a pedal mockup in the footwell, I've cut windows into the hollow X-frame arms to allow inspection/cleaning/blasting/sealing. Only the middle ~25" will be kept, and everything outboard of that will be remodeled.

Awaiting an appointment with a "dustless blasting" outfit. They got busy doing a bridge project, and then the weather turned cold - their water-based gear can't be used when it's below freezing. It might be a few weeks until a warm weather window opens up, but that's how things go.

On another front, I cut out my water crossover assembly from 1/8" aluminum, bent the shapes to fit my design, practiced welding on some leftover pieces until I thought I had a pretty good bead going, then took the plunge and started welding on my actual part. All went well, until old man heat got too much and I blew through. Rats! I used the remainder to practice some more and the last 50% of the welds looked decent enough, but the part is pretty well toast. Onward, I guess!

Yellow bits are where I told him to not bother.

Also told him to not bother on the funky bottom patches.
It's great to have a clean slate to start from!

First, I found some long tube block hugger Hedman Hedders for a Buick 300 and decided it was a good deal (and came with a Buick 300 engine, too!). Sadly, I don't think they'll work with the engine position I'm planning to use - they hang down too far. So if you're interested in the headers or the engine, let me know!

When I got the car home from blasting, I started off by measuring and figuring. I leveled the car and set up a plumb laser down the centerline as a reference. The plan view of the frame shape I'm using is represented by the door skin pattern - the middle straight section is cut and mitered to pick up the load points that I'm trying to tie together.

This is just a fun mock-up shot of the frames, subframes, and car in the background, all waiting to be joined soon.

And there's some finicky work that needs to happen at the front to join the narrowed V8 Roadsters NC Miata subframe to the frame rails. I'm sort of pocketing the rails to accept the subframe, as shown from below and above in these next two pics:


Working on multiple fronts, this week I made the water crossover out of carbon and G10. This is a medium temp epoxy that needs a cook to 300˚ to get its Tg high enough for engine use (but away from the actually hot stuff like exhaust of course). I use a small powder coat oven for this, but the heat (or maybe the carved foam "core" melting and off-gassing?) makes the parts have a sort of, well, 'baked' look to them. Sometimes these things look rough until they've ben sanded and clear coated - I'll have to see what the case is here.

This was my idea of a sort of shuttle to use in cleaning out the inside of the frame rails. I have the rails cut in three pieces, so they're more manageable now than after welding. So, drop the rope through and slightly insert the cut-to-fit and bevelled sponge, pour in some lacquer thinner, and pull it up through the length of the tubes. Repeat the other direction. After that's done and the sponge dried, I tried to use it as a sort of 360˚ paint brush using the same insert-pour-pull through method, but it didn't work as I hoped. Instead, I taped one end and poured paint inside, rocked it back and forth on all four sides, and set them up on end to drain and dry. That worked alright, but was messy and wasteful. Whatever.

I tacked the frame parts together over my plan-view template, then clamped them bottom-to-bottom for welding of three sides of the joins, to hopefully convince them to remain in line and identical.

I spent several days with the rails propped up over the car, measuring and transferring cut marks where the old chassis will be modified to accept the new rails. I added a centerline string that also represents "ride height" so I'd always have a ground reference.

This is my rear subframe (Mazda RX8 - same as Miata NC; here cut 5.75" narrower) with a sort of transfer buck welded over the top.

...and the buck in place, relative to the frame rails. I'll be fabbing mounts to pick up those six points soon, but after the car is cut for the rails and I see whether I can slide them in to place through small-ish windows, or whether I have to cut wide slots and drop them in vertically.


I'm trying to add frame rails, without (quite) gutting the car's structure. I'm not sure why entirely - just that it feels a little more like "modifying" rather than "rebuilding". There's a Ship of Theseus (or grandpa's axe) tipping point, where the new becomes completely unrecognizable from the old. I guess I want to still see "Sunbeam" in the car's structure, even if the structure is also lots different.

So the original front frame halves went through the car's X, and have been cut out. I'm here fitting a patch panel from 14g steel:

...and here's a patch that's been welded, linished a little, and the shape of the new cutout drawn onto the frame. I'm (again) sorta copying the original build style, where little flaps are peeled back and then welded to the frame that pierces through.

Here's the two frames in the car in their correct locations. I had to cut away the 'U' of the X-frame to drop the new rails in - I thought it *might* be possible to slide them in from one end, but just no. I also cut away a bit more of the rear "seat" platform and trunk floor. I'm keeping (so far) the original shock tower/lateral beam, and the rear box beam that defines the rear extent of the floor.

Front view of the frames in place, with the now-primed V8 Roadsters subframe in place too.

I'm going to be doing some detail stuff for the rear subframe mounts, as well as some rocker support stuff to add to the frame rails, before welding them in place. This little stuff seems easier to do with the frames out, on a bench, and able to rotate them to any side for drilling/grinding/welding.


I've got the frame rails modified and prepped as much off the car as I can, and have begun welding them into the body. It's a weighty moment, trying to assure myself I've checked all my alignments and centers and levels, before committing to go forward and weld!

I spent a lot of time making sure I got these right, and I'm happy with how the subframe sits on them and makes even contact with all 6 pads, and the bolts are all straight enough to allow the subframe to drop over them without binding. Unbelievably, I could only find four of the bolts in my small town, so the last two are still not in.

I added "nerf bars" to my frame rails. These are positioned so that my outer rocker patch panel will spot weld to the outer face (instead of a pinch weld), and my cage can also land on the outer rail. After cutting away the old rotted inner rocker pieces (see pic up in this thread), and then rust treating and coating the area, I added dimpled plates to tie the car's rocker parts to my new rocker frame.

I'm still working to firmly attach the new frame rails to what's left of the car's frame ends that reach the bumpers (and my rotisserie brackets), so that I can once again spin the car and have it self-supported.


Not a lot of picture worthy progress, but some nonetheless.

I was able to connect with a forum member and unload the long-tube headers, which was nice.

I also decided, after months of waiting on Scat to come up with a "single" conrod, and getting pretty unsatisfactory answers from the sales guy (1st he had no record of my order when I called back a few months later, then nothing for a few more months, grrr), I decided to just order a new set of 8. It morally pains me to reward their poor service with a bigger order, but it didn't seem like any other way was available to get the engine moving forward. Such is the price for asking the machinist to do things that are a little outside his routine, I guess.

After getting my new frame rails set in the car, I had a think about how they would attach to the remainder of the car's rear frames. I decided none of the rear frame that I hadn't already removed was serving any purpose, except the last, rearward-most bit that would hold a bumper (if I had one), or support the car in a rotisserie, or receive a tow hook and jacking point. So just the last few inches of frame was preserved, and a piece of bent tube welded in to connect the remnant of the old frame to the new frame. I added some angle iron temporary braces/triangulation so the rotisserie wouldn't overload things until the rear frame piece was more fully welded and braced, later.

Together, these two parts were the leaf spring carrier structure. I had cut away the front (left, here) part earlier to get my frames in, then cut away the rear (right) part that I no longer need.
Cut Frame.jpeg

There will be a fuel cell in here, and some more bars that'll help tie these tubes to the new and old frames.

Similarly, up front I wanted to tie my new frames to the remnant of the car's old front frames, and I used the car's inner fender braces to do that, by extending them and connecting them all together. (I've since dressed the welds a bit further. With thin stuff -14ga here- it seems to work best to stack repeated tacks/spot welds, versus trying to just run a bead and let the heat build and blow through.)
Front frame.jpeg

The chassis is now able to be freed from all its "build jig" supports (four pairs of 2x4's supporting the loads between the rotisserie stands), and spun around, now supported by the new frame rails. I have more work to do on the car's X to both cut away rot and extend it to the new frames, but that will be easiest to do with access from above and below as needed. Similar with cutting out the rest of the transmission tunnel and bracing the middle part of the X that interferes - best to have easy access from both sides.

Also, another 92# of surplus-to-requirements Alpine metal was taken to the scrap yard. There's no easy way to measure the weight of pieces going into the car, so whether I'm net gaining or losing is anyone's guess.

Before removing my level bracing and letting the car spin on the rotisserie again, I added the motor mounts from below:

...and added the engine buck:

...which allowed me to use a transmission buck to complete the cutouts for the transmission:
(the little clamped-on shift lever is just for fun, naturally!)

I think I'll now be doing several days of work on the X to add back the support that was removed to make room for the transmission, and to tie the ends of the X to my frame, and since I deleted the Alpine exhaust pass-thru I'm going to add new ones further out along the front X arm, close to the frame rail.


Sometimes it becomes apparent how much tougher life is when I only cut away what's needed for the next step, instead of just gutting the car to a bare shell and building a tube-frame chassis under it. Oh, well - my bed, I'm lying in it.

So from last update to now, there's been a bunch of stuff removed at the X intersection as I work through the details of what needs to fit here.

The original chassis has a plate about like this that ties together the arms of the X, so after removing and modifying a bunch of the original metal, I'm recreating the upper X plate.

...and adding weld flanges to the cut away metal edges, and painting the inside of the frame arms, plus adding weld-thru primer to the flanges. The rear arms were rebuilt to have their tops lower than original, to allow a lower seating location.

Drilled for spot welds and primed the back of the new plate:

Welded into the chassis:

Next up I'm going to add 14ga closure pieces to the tops of the open arms about like the original chassis had, and generally tidy up the structural connections at every end of the X. I'm about at the point where I want to drop the real block and transmission into place and fab up the "PPF" - Mazda's way of linking their diff to the transmission, which takes the place of a traditional transmission mount and stops the diff from winding up - all in one chunk of pretty stout metal. And if the drivetrain is in the car, there's nothing to stop throwing seat in too, and checking the driver geometry, and maybe make vroom-vroom noises. Luckily those don't come through in pictures.

One final pic - I'm trying to fit the alternator under the engine, rather than up high or in front. I think it's better for weight location, as well as just looking better - a V8 should look like a V8 with its two valve covers sort of signaling what it is, not an in-front accessory farm blocking the view.
This is a tight fit, and I might need to slightly clearance one of my K-member tubes, but it seems ok for now. Another reason to get the real block in there, so I can solidly hang heavier pieces on it.


I don't have an engine hoist, but I do have a chain fall on a short track on my shop ceiling - it doesn't reach the front of the car as it's parked right now. So to "install" the motor and trans, I lift them up and tilt the car under them, then slide them forward under the scuttle and onto the mounts. This engine will be mounted quite a bit further back than stock motors, or Tiger V8s.
motor in 3.jpeg

motor in 2 2.jpeg

X frame caps welded on.

No better time for a test drive, with a race seat, the stock steering wheel, some mock-up pedals, and the trans/shift location all in place. I wasn't sure how far back I'd want the seat - this test confirms that the lateral beam that makes up the front of the parcel shelf will need to be cut so the seat can go further back.
1st drive 2.jpeg

With the real motor and trans in place, I can set pinion angles and design the PPF.


...and while in mock up mode, I can attach one side of the rear suspension and trace a wheel onto the body (black Sharpie dashes), and a first draft cardboard version of the new wheel arch.


So these axles are supposed to be knocked out of the hubs with a "soft" hammer. The first one took a few swings, but the 2nd one put up a fight. Lots of penetrant, some mild heat, a pulley puller, some various hammers and small sledges, nuthin, after a week of trying. Looking at my press, it seemed like this might work, clamping the hub beneath the platform and pressing the axle that way. Also, nope. Added heat, still nope. Disassembled the clamped up mess and laid it on the ground, grabbed a slightly heavier sledge and gave it a wack - and it popped loose. Sheesh.

I cut away some interior to get the seat further back and I liked that position a lot more (compare the seat back location from the pic a little further up).

With the seat further back, the old panel that extends the B-post rearward interfered with the side of the seat back. So these two pics of the left and right sides are sort of a before and after, as I cut away the stuff that interfered, and re-bent the drainage/stiffening lip on the parts that remained.


And this is looking down - the setback's "wing" tucks into here nicely.

Today's crop of pics represent pretty scant shop progress as work has kept me more occupied than usual (hate that!), but I have had a chance to measure and decide on some new parts that have come in recently, so my shelves of to-be-installed parts are getting further stocked.


So this is one of the "inspiration cars" that I'm loosely using as a guide:

(Link to image source, to keep the mods happy: [] )

With suspension parts in place, I can do some measuring and figuring. My wheels need slightly wider fenders than the pic above, but hopefully I can keep a similar look. The stick "mounted" to the hub with the alum bent wire is the wheel/tire stand-in:

Once I got the fender edge decided, trying to mimic the Apline curve but just moved up and out a little, and then moved the wheel through its travel, I could know how much the fender should arc, and thus where it would intersect the body. Using more bent wire, I tried to make a smooth arc for the fender/body join line, that also accentuated the forward lean of the Alpine arch.

So that was fun to think about and imagine how things might/could turn out, and I still have the front to work out too.

But this week's biggest project was getting the PPF made and installed. Mazda (I'm using their rear subframe and diff) does theirs with no connection to the chassis - no trans mount bracket - just a strut rigidly connecting diff and trans. For my T5 I'm using an S10 tailpiece (forward shift location), but those have a weird "leg" that hangs down low, which would be perfect for triangulating a PPF mount, but it's too low for the engine location/ride height I'm using and has been cut off. So with just a remaining pair of bolts that are lateral/side by side on the T5 tailpiece, I can't mount a lever to them and expect them to take any load. So, sorry Mazda, I'm adding a trans bracket. Anyway, here's the result:

And from below:

I've got cage tubing here, and although there's a bunch of sheet metal work still to do, as I've looked at the location of the main tube, it needs to go in sooner than later, since its bottom will partially be covered/pass through some of the interior door sill/corner parts I want to address. Looking forward to that!


First, as mentioned above, I had ordered the driveshaft, and it is now here and sitting in the car. I had to slightly bevel the bottom of the transverse hoop to allow it to slip into place from below, but no drama:

But, as I've been fitting the engine and trans, I'm realizing my initial plan of being able to install or remove the engine through the hood opening is becoming unworkable. Instead of motor mounts attaching to the frame and supporting the engine from below (pics earlier in this thread), I'm going to mount them to the front suspension crossmember, so that the "empty" car shell can be lifted off of the crossmember/engine assembly.

Since I had the engine in exactly the location I wanted it, I needed to build a support that would keep it there while I removed and fabricated new mounts. The big motor guys use motor plates, so for a little while so will I:

The kid's graduation has come and gone, so hopefully the pressure to do house projects is subsiding and I can spend some more time on the car this summer!

Edited 26 time(s). Last edit at 05/23/2024 08:48AM by Roverbeam.

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