Saturday, 28 February 2009

1986 Triumph Dolomite 1850HL

I bought this car in March 1999 for £1,000. The bodywork was in excellent condition with only a small welded patch in the passenger foot well. It had been very well resprayed a year earlier.

There was an enormous amount of history with the car from its first owner. He had recorded each long journey in it to France, the mileage at the start of each year, servicing, etc. There were also a worrying number of receipts for spare parts.

The mechanical side of things seemed to be in sound condition, although there were a couple of lights not working and the throttle didn't open as much as it should. Both problems were sorted out a short distance into my journey home.

I used the car as my every-day car for the next three years. It was not the most reliable of cars, but it was a wonderful design and when it worked, it went well and it was very comfortable and luxuriously equipped.

On one of the few occasions that Claire, my wife, drove it the clutch master cylinder failed, leaving her stranded (luckily not too far from the house).

Shortly afterwards the exhaust manifold gasket started to leak and I discovered that the threads into the alloy cylinder head were stripped. The engine had to be removed to put Helicoil inserts into it. This didn't solve the problem long-term as I had to replace the gaskets again only a few months later.

The join from the manifold to the down pipe continually leaked and proved impossible to permanently sort out.

I had problems with the front brakes binding, which progressively got worse. Eventually I traced this to the master cylinder, which I overhauled. I also had to replace the clutch master cylinder as the clutch started to play up again.

There were other minor problems such as corroded electrical terminals, the brake switch self destructing and the temperature sender failing, but they were easily sorted.

One lunchtime while at work, in an attempt to sort out once and for all the electrical problems I started to remove some surplus wires. This started because I noticed a wire sparking against the screw holding on the parcel shelf. I ended up taking out about 100 feet of wiring and various electrical items such as an old alarm system and an amplifier.

The final straw for the car was when the gearbox gave up. I think it was second gear that seemed to have the problem first and then gradually the whole thing got worse. Foolishly I asked a specialist to come and pick up the car and repair it. In hind-sight I should have ordered a second hand box from them and had it fitted by the local garage. An overhauled gearbox was fitted at a cost of over £500, but unfortunately the overdrive then didn't work. This then made long journeys harder on the car and more tiring. As my work required me to travel to meetings I decided to trade the Dolomite in for a modern Ford Escort in May 2002. I only got £500 for it.

It was a shame that I had so many problems with the car. It was a lovely car, but it was the poor build quality that let it down. I think a Dolomite 1500 may have been better with the more conventional engine. I ended up driving 10,508 miles in the car in three years and two months and the total maintenance costs were £1,843.45. When the £500 lost on resale is added to this, £2,343.45 is not too bad compared with the depreciation on a modern car.

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