Specialist Vehicle Restoration
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Do not waste your time having the door handles re-plated; replacement ones are readily available.
Having raised the bonnet now is the time to look carefully at the engine. Check carefully for signs of fluid leakage both water and oil. Has the car been fitted with a steering rack conversion and is it a professional installation. Be careful as there are many poor quality adaptations. Has the column been fitted with a centre support bearing to eliminate any whip in the column.
Is there evidence of anti-freeze in the engine cooling system which is vital in the aid of reducing corrosion of the aluminium cylinder heads.
Connecting the carburettors and situated directly above the cylinder heads should be a braided petrol pipe often replaced over the years with a polythene tube. The latter is so often the cause of the start of a fire on these cars.
As already mentioned. check-out the mounting for the radiator, the master cylinders for leakage and the condition of the electrical wiring.
Now having spent the time carefully looking over the car we now turn our attention to the cockpit area. Is the centre dash panel oxidised? To have it re-plated all of the gauges and switches have to be removed exposing numerous amounts of wiring. What is the condition of the trim panels and are the door panels screwed to the doors themselves indicating worn holes for the trim clips. Do the doors move up and down which highlights worn hinge pins Do the door window glasses rise and fall or are they all over the place. A common fault and difficult to eradicate. Is there evidence of a dust on the floor directly under the seats which tells us that the seat foams have perished. Is there an ashtray fitted in the gearbox cover directly rearward of the gear lever? Also note that a rear view mirror should be affixed in the centre of the crash rail.
'A' spec front seats have fully pleated backs and cushions where 'B' and 'C' spec cars have a horse shoe of leather around the back section and on the cushion. Also the back of the 'B's' and 'C's' are carpeted to match the floor carpet. Unless you are really fully aquatinted with this model you would not be able to distinguish between the four different dashboards that were fitted to these cars.
There are two other concerns to bear in mind when researching an SP 250. Difficult to inspect is the petrol tank, hidden behind a tank panel with access only via the boot. The second is if the car is running on steel easy-clean wheels is there evidence of cracking behind the wheel nuts?
Having undertaken a full inspection of the static vehicle it is now time to start the engine and take it for a drive. A small amount of smoke upon start-up is common but should this persist and become blue this indicates worn piston rings or valve guides. The oil pressure should read around 40 psi at about 2000 r.p.m. dropping to 15 psi on tick over when the engine is fully warmed up.
The clutch should be smooth but will possibly feel a little heavy. First gear is non-synchromesh and can be very noisy upon take-up. When pulling away with the worm and peg steering box, it will be found that the steering will feel very heavy up to approximately 30 m.p.h. then it should become more responsive. The braking is extremely good having discs on all four wheels. The majority of cars leaving the factory were fitted with easy-clean disc wheels fitted with cross-ply tyres. As a special order the car could be fitted with painted wire wheels onto hubs with integral bearings.
The steering is the first area of modification that the majority of SP 250 owners look to modify in order to make the car easier to handle. A rack conversion means that the original steering column has to be removed but selective installation companies are able to retain the original steering wheel but unfortunately the horn and trafficator switch have to be relocated. Look to see if there is a central support for the column locating it to the chassis.
The car due to its' age does not have to be fitted with seat belts but they can be fitted, but remember when fitted they do not conform to The Ministry standard. There are no original structural mounting points built into the original design of the car. They are purely an aid!
Automatic gearboxes were available from the factory and were used widely on police cars.
Servo assisted braking can be fitted which does ease the foot pressure applied to the pedal. Over-heating in traffic hold-ups is fairly common and the fitting of an electric fan is beneficial. If a steering rack conversion has been fitted the original fan has to be removed in order to fit a rack, it is therefore important to fit an electric fan either forward or rearward of the radiator.
I hope that this guide to prospective owners might be useful. Good Hunting.
Just listen to that engine and you will fall in love with a Dart!