Fun with needles

Engine, Transmission and related drivetrain.
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SteveEdmonton
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Fun with needles

Postby SteveEdmonton » 15 Sep 2015 20:39

I really should have started my own build thread a LONG time ago.... but because I haven't, here's another episode / learning experience to share. Advice welcome too, if anyone has any (though for once I'm not really asking anything in particular).

My brand-new L20B is fed by a pair of 38mm Hitachi SU's. I installed a WB02 meter after reading everything I could find about them here on the Realm. A couple of MtnGoat's old threads (including "SU needles and mixture theory" and "When it doesn't seem to matter"), featuring his interactions with Julian and others about all of this, had excellent info that really helped me appreciate how valuable a WBO2 meter is for figuring out how to tune a new set-up like I've got.

My SU's were basically NOS-- very lightly used by a guy who told me he bought them from a dealership back in the late 70s. In any case they came with M87 needles, which are not available anymore or even discussed in any of the recent discussions I was following. They are however listed in the Honsowetz book, and they got my motor up and running.
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What I found though is that these M87s are W A Y too lean at all of their "stations" beyond idle. Even if I richened up the idle settings far too much, the motor was still running much too lean-- AF ratios between 15 and 19 (!!!)-- under acceleration. Obviously milder acceleration didn't lean things out as much, but I was completely unhappy with these M87s no matter how much I fiddled. Putting in thicker dashpot oil (25W, which I bought as compressor oil) helped a bit with the accelerator-pump-like action as soon as I stepped on it, but after a second or two of momentary sweet-spot around 13 or 14, the AF numbers would leap back up into the stratosphere.
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Enough of this on a new motor, I figured! So I decided to invest a bunch of time this past weekend figuring out exactly what's going on at the various stations on the needle, so I could address the problem with data rather than frustration. I decided to use 1/8 inch increments while measuring and assessing those stations, which is the British way to do it, rather than the 1/10 inch increments most of the Datsun literature deals with. But the process is the same, whichever measurement you use.

I took the hood off the car, removed the plunger (cap) from the dashpots, and replaced one of them with the light aluminum rod that came with my Unisyn kit. I put a label on that rod marked in 1/8 inch increments, and taped a wire vertically beside it with a pointer attached so I could easily see which "station" the carb was running at, under various load conditions.
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Important detail: Before doing this I measured how far the jets were below the bridges of the carbs (and ensured these were both the same). I then added another small value for the distance between the bottom of the piston (the top of the needle, actually) and the bridge itself, and used this combined value to tell me how much I had to adjust my scale, up or down, so that station 1 (1/8 inch) on the needle down inside the carb, was truly being indicated by my pointer up above the carb. I'm still not sure I got it 100% right... but I think I got it pretty close.

The only way to test this properly was to drive the car, which was kind of a fun experiment. I enrolled my son as observer. He watched the pointer and scale on top of the carb to tell me when we obtained a steady reading at each of the stations... while I drove and, with my "spare" brain-power, watched the WBO2 meter to see when it, too, stabilized enough to give us a reasonable sense of what was going on.

What we learned by this process wasn't very different from what I'd guessed while simply watching the WBO2 while driving around town. Yes, it was running very lean under load-- at station 3 and higher. The more load, the leaner it ran-- all the way off the end of the scale (my gauge ends at 19.0:1)!!! :(

So now my next move was to get ahold of an old SU needle catalogue-- the British one-- and start going through it, looking for needle choices that would increase my motor's survivability. At the same time I had an in-depth conversation with a local British-car mechanic, Ken Miles, my go-to guy for my MGB-GT as well as some of this kind of Datsun stuff too.

As it turns out, Ken has a shoe-box full of old SU needles that he's pulled out of this car and that one over the years-- dozens and dozens of them, all thrown in together. So I stopped in today after work and rummaged through that box, looking for a pair (the first challenge) of straight needles (the second) that would be somewhat richer than mine but not over-the-top (the third).

Turns out there was one good pair that met all those criteria-- #7. On paper, they're quite a bit richer at all points. And in the car, they're an insane improvement over the "stock" M87s! I'm still not pushing this motor really hard, since it's only got about 350 miles on it so far, but even under fairly moderate acceleration (maybe 3/4 throttle, and only up to about 4000 RPM) this motor just cooks. Yee-haw!

The best part is that these needles take all the worry out of putting my right foot down. The AF ratio sits between 12 and 14 under medium-hard loads and around 15 or so while cruising on the flat, which is pretty good. Unfortunately the idle is too rich (about 11-12) even with the jets raised up all the way to the top-- which seems to be a problem with pretty much all of the British needles I've been looking at. Their first 3 settings (top 3 stations on the needle) are invariably richer than the Datsun ones.

So maybe I'll end up modifying my Datsun needles the way Julian describes it in DQ 4.1 in order to find a sweet spot between the stock Datsun needles (great at idle but too lean thereafter) and some of the more tempting British needles (too rich at idle but sweet from that point onward). More work ahead! Bu believe me, it's GREAT to be getting this close to having this motor running REALLY well. :D
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Re: Fun with needles

Postby okayfine » 16 Sep 2015 06:00

Well done Steve. You're a lot closer than you were. Your current results seem to mirror where I was with M66 needles, I could have an overly rich idle and good mid-range, or the opposite. You'll probably end up rolling your own needles (I did), but you've got something you can run for now and not worry about.

As an aside, at least here in the US, the flat-top SUs were never sold by Datsun Comp; those all came on import L18s in the '80s. I'd be interested to know if that was not the case in Canada.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Re: Fun with needles

Postby Byron510 » 16 Sep 2015 06:44

Great write up Steve. The needle gauge for measuring the station is brilliant - but likely something you found in some old British tuning book I would assume. I too played with SU's for a while on a mild L20B when I was a teenager. I knew little of carbs, or tuning for that matter. But I did the play with those quite a bit. At the time I worked at a Volvo dealership, and the old Swede was teaching me a few trick with SU's. I also played with various weights of oil to try to tune them, but never did venture into modifying the needles. I spoke went to Webber's, and didn't look back. But you story reminds me of the trials I had of a lean running car.

My father knew Ken very well from when I was a kid. They were members of the same car club, and they ice raced together. At the time Ken had a killer Mini I believe. Years later we raced with Ken in the Honda Michelin series with drive Darren Gordon. Ken was always a good driver and a good guy. Good to hear he's still around. I didn't know him well as I was quite young, but say hi to from Barry Meston - I'm sure you'll get a grin. :-)

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Re: Fun with needles

Postby SteveEdmonton » 16 Sep 2015 17:56

Thanks to both of you guys for the encouraging word. It's a thrill on several levels to be at this point now. (1) The car is fun to drive. (2) I'm making real progress on the vital but oft-overlooked "sorting" process that's part of any good restoration. (3) I've learned a ton about SU carbs, most of which I wasn't even aware that I wasn't aware of (if that makes sense). (4) The intellectual stimulation of solving this problem, then that one, and then the next one, has been a blast!

Anyway, a couple more thoughts on selected issues.

Julian:
As an aside, at least here in the US, the flat-top SUs were never sold by Datsun Comp; those all came on import L18s in the '80s. I'd be interested to know if that was not the case in Canada.
Others would know better than I do whether or not flat-tops were sold in Canada. The guy I bought these from intimated that he had bought them new in the Vancouver area, and certainly these carbs' condition would seem to go along with that story. They were exceptionally "tight" and pristine in every way. The heat-shield was immaculate too, except for a wee bit of aging, including the asbestos backing. I'm guessing the setup couldn't have had more than a few thousand miles on it. Or maybe that was after a major rebuild? Anyway, your question remains open I guess.

Byron:
My father knew Ken very well from when I was a kid. They were members of the same car club, and they ice raced together. At the time Ken had a killer Mini I believe..... I didn't know him well as I was quite young, but say hi to from Barry Meston - I'm sure you'll get a grin.


That's awesome that you know Ken Miles. It's definitely the same guy; he'd quit racing by the time I met him but he's still the "go-to guy" for anything Mini-related in the Edmonton area, and also for hot motors and custom work for a wide range of British stuff. He supplied lots of parts for my MG restoration a decade ago and rebuilt this L20B for the 510 too-- plenty of $$$ but his work is impeccable and I trust him completely. I will indeed say hi from you and your Dad the next time I'm rummaging through his SU needle-bin (these #7 needles are definitely too rich!).
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Re: Fun with needles

Postby okayfine » 16 Sep 2015 19:10

SteveEdmonton wrote:Anyway, your question remains open I guess.


I mentioned it as an aside, it's not terribly important. Desmogged, as they are, they function just like the dome top versions, and many parts interchange.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson

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Re: Fun with needles

Postby Byron510 » 16 Sep 2015 21:51

Thanks Steve, I forgot to mention this to my father, but I certainly will tomorrow as he’s over helping swing hammers on the shed.

Julian, I can't say for sure how readily available the flat top SU's were in Canada, but right up through the 90's, you could still buy round top SSS SU's from the dealer for insanely low prices. So I'm sure that flat tops were available as well if you wanted them.
My set were purchased new, and used only 5 years before I got them - I even got the original SSS air cleaner (in the same orange as the stock 240Z ones). Some things I guess you wished you'd hung on to in retrospect.

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Re: Fun with needles

Postby Three B's Racing » 18 Sep 2015 06:33

Now that is good work on carb problem solving. Always seems you find needles that work great at one end but suck at the other. In the Just SU's book from ZTherapy there is a section on needle profiling for that perfect combination of air/fuel ratio top to bottom. With my LZ22 and ZTherapy 240Z SU's I did as the book said, I profiled/reshaped/filed down the needles at set stages on the needles shaft using my drill press. Worked great and wasn't to difficult to do but it was time consuming and worth the time and work in achieving that final result of a smooth accelerating correct fuel ratio engine. Now that SU engine run on is another issue DOH!!!
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Re: Fun with needles

Postby tr6racer21 » 18 Sep 2015 19:35

Steve,

Nicely done work. The British stuff is where I started years ago, and also had my hands on many 142 Volvos. I also crewed for a friend who ran a F-prod spitfire and we would play around a lot with the emory cloth, drill, and checking plugs back in the late 70's and early 80's.

The ability to get instant feedback with the wbo2 stuff can save you tons of dyno time. If you combine it with an old G-tech and a stopwatch you get further gains.

What wbo2 setup did you go with?

Not sure how you managed to have your son watching the carbs while you were driving, but sounds like fun

keep us posted on further results

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Re: Fun with needles

Postby datzenmike » 18 Sep 2015 20:39

Image

These look very similar to my set of Hitachi SUs on their K-14 intake. I see yours have been 'de-smogged'. If you want to see what they look like before this here are some pictures.

Image

Image

We did not get these carbs in North America, period. No car sold here had them and it's very doubtful that a dealer would stock them. As near as I can tell and have been told, the flattop 38s ( in no way related to the infamous 260Z flattops) were used on the very late L16SSS Bluebird coupe in Japan and all subsequent L18SSS engines. Early L16SSS engines had the round top.

So how did these carbs and intake get here? Well in Japan as cars get older it's harder to keep them on the road. I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs but they are more expensive to register fo the road. Most opt to just scrap them and buy a newer car. So in 7-10 years this leaves the scrap yards full of low mileage cars.

In North America about this time there are lots tired high mileage Datsuns needing parts and expensive work done on them. What do you know! You can get an import a long block with low mileage for 1/3 what it costs to rebuild them. All you need really is the block and heads and the intakes with exotic carbs are removed and thrown away and the customer's intake put on. Some of these parts, including close chamber heads A87, W58 and (including the 219) and long dogleg transmissions are from japan.

If you look at my SUs you can still see where the Japanese wrecking yard cut the choke cables with bolt cutters. Used in every wrecking yard in the world as the fastest method to quickly and cheaply remove an engine. I suspect this set has never been run here as they would have been disconnected or included and the carbs de-smogged. I bought these from a 510 member must be close to 10 years ago

If yours were bought from the Nissan dealer in the late 70s then this fits nicely. Maybe they got an import engine for the head or whatever and had no use for the carbs. Possibly the dealer could have ordered them for a customer if they would do that back then. I'd owned Datsuns for an accumulated 8 years by the end of the 70s and had never heard of Hitachi SUs.
"Nissan 'shit the bed' when they made these, plain and simple." McShagger510 on flattop SUs

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Re: Fun with needles

Postby SteveEdmonton » 19 Sep 2015 09:33

TR6 racer-- Not a surprise you started with British stuff, your username kind of gave it away! :lol:

What wbo2 setup did you go with?
I'm using one from APSX Wideband. Bought it on Ebay. The unit seems to work pretty well, but the customer service is terrible. I was having trouble getting the unit calibrated, or rather wasn't sure that it had been properly calibrated, and discovered that the only customer-service option is email. Fair enough, they did email me back, but by that time I'd already figured it out on my own....

Mike, when I bought these carbs they still had all the smog stuff on them, and it was all in absolutely perfect shape. A little grungy (just from time, I presumed) but with zero wear. In fact I kept all of the smog stuff I removed, just in case anybody ever wants it. The condition this was all in, is partly why the seller's story made sense to me, namely that he bought this stuff new from a dealer.
Steve's carbs 013.jpg
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Anyway, I guess it doesn't really matter all that much for my present purposes where these carbs came from. I'm glad to have them, and am enjoying working on them.

I'd owned Datsuns for an accumulated 8 years by the end of the 70s and had never heard of Hitachi SUs.

I owned my first 510 from 1981-85. Around 1982 I rebuilt its L16 and picked up a set of 38mm Hitachis from a buddy who wrecked his 1965 Fairlady roadster. They had a really crappy linkage setup that was a royal pain to adjust-- a separate turnbuckle to each carb from the common rod. I also had to get some welding done on the Datsun Comp intake manifold that I bought from a Datsun dealer (I forget their name, but they were on Marine Drive in Vancouver), because these Fairlady carbs were aligned differently from the later 1600SSS ones. I forget the details, and can't quite see it well enough in the photo I'm attaching below. Anyway, it was a bit of a sketchy arrangement, but I learned a lot and had a lot of fun then too.

Here's a pic of that original setup. I couldn't afford proper air cleaners but discovered that a pair of metal paint-can lids formed a perfect "frame" around some round filter elements that were readily available at that time, after-market. I soldered on the appropriate fittings and went for it!
Datsun 510 green 1981 twin carbs 2.jpg
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Here's the car those carbs were mounted on. Cool, eh? 8)
Datsun 510 green 1982 1.jpg
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Re: Fun with needles

Postby tr6racer21 » 19 Sep 2015 11:21

nice 35 yr old pic...good times no doubt

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Re: Fun with needles

Postby SteveEdmonton » 20 Sep 2015 19:29

More fun over the last few days-- and good progress, using a technique I haven't heard anybody else talk about so far.

The idea came from Ken Miles, my British-car guy. I stopped by to borrow a few more pairs of needles after discovering that the #7s I was running were pretty consistently rich. True, at the higher stations (that is, greater load and higher RPM-- the bottom sections of the needle), the motor was still running lean (17+), but that was a separate problem that I'd been handling by judicious use of the choke. The main issue was excessive richness at idle (about station 2) through mid-range (about stations 6-7).

Finding British needles that are a bit leaner at and above station 4 is easy. There are dozens of needle choices listed in an old SU book called Tuning S.U. Carburetters (published by Speedsport Motorbooks 1975, ISBN85113-072-0). You can download it in PDF here: http://mgaguru.com/mgtech/books/pdf/Tun ... retors.pdf. The problem is finding British needles that are lean enough at stations 1-3. Their default thicknesses at those stations are just a hair thinner than our Datsun needles (M66, M87, etc.). As I told Ken, "The problem is that I know how to make needles thinner-- but not how to make them thicker!"

That's when Ken had a brainwave: The standard way to install needles into pistons is to have the top of the needle's shoulder line up flush with the bottom of the piston. What if I tried lowering my needles just a wee bit lower than that? It obviously wouldn't work to have the needle's shoulder colliding with the bridge, or preventing the piston from descending right to the bottom of its stroke. But if there might be even a tiny bit of room to drop them just a little bit lower, maybe that would help lean things out.

So that's what I did yesterday. I didn't know how much of a drop I needed, but after measuring things up it looked like I could push the needles about .040 (basically 1 mm) below the bottom of the piston without having their shoulders collide with anything. So I tried that. Idle was excellent: the AF ratio changed from about 11-12 to about 16-16.5, which astounded me. As soon as I touched the pedal though it dipped back down to 11-12, and stayed there for the first bit of acceleration. At some of the higher other stations too-- I'm guessing, but probably around 5 or 6-- the engine was also running lean, which it certainly hadn't been doing when the needles were flush. I could hardly believe such a small "drop" would make that much difference, but there it was.

Today's experiment was to split the difference. Needles flush = too rich; needles .040 dropped = too lean, so I set them up today with a .020 drop and did another driving experiment like the one last weekend. That is, I removed the hood and enlisted my son again as "riding mechanic" so he could read the calibrated rod on top of the carb to determine what station we were at, while I drove and kept an eye on the WBO2.

A caveat: I'm not positive that the readings below actually correlate precisely to the stations I've listed. This is the hardest part of running such a test, figuring how what station you're actually using. But I think we hit the stations better than we did last weekend, because of this pair of circumstances: (1) my pointer was indicating that idle was at station 2.5, which matches most of the books I've been reading, and (2) unlike last week, we succeeded this time in getting readings all the way up the scale to station 9. I'd have been even happier if we could have managed to reach stations 10 and 11, but even with heavy throttle and heavy load (as close to "WOT" as I want to push the motor right now) we still couldn't get there. But even if station 9 isn't quite the top of the scale (= bottom of the needle), I think it's close enough to make this data reasonably usable.

Anyway, here are the readings:
Station 2.5 (idle) = 14 or 14.5
Station 4 (light acceleration)= 12.5 to 13
Station 5 (moderate accel) = 13.5
Stations 6 and 7 (booting it a bit) = 14
Station 8 (reaching for the floorboards) = 12 to 12.5
Station 9 (pretty much WOT, and at pretty high RPM too) = 11 to 12

Just as important, at a steady 80 mph on a flat freeway, turning 3500 RPM in 5th gear (.875 trans ratio / 3.90 rear end), we were running at station 6 (which seemed about right) and AF ratio of 14.0. For fuel economy I'd have been happy to have that a point or two higher, but this is a huge improvement over previous tests when I could never achieve anything lower than 17 or 18 at highway speed except by pulling out the choke.

I know the weather makes a difference. This was just after a significant rainfall and the temperature was about 11 degrees Celsius (52 or so F), which means these readings will likely be somewhat richer when the air is warmer (less dense). But for today's conditions this all seemed pretty darn good.

Finally, I think it's worth mentioning too that I adjusted the timing before today's run. Up til now I'd been running 9 degrees static advance, but I bumped it up today to 12 degrees after seeing that that's what both the Clymer and Haynes manuals recommend for the L20B. My matchbox dizzy is from a '79 620 truck that's said to give 11 degrees of mechanical advance at 1950 RPM. When revving the motor in the driveway, I found that the total advance is now about 28 degrees somewhere around 3000 RPM. The vacuum advance is still disconnected since I find that it adds another 14 degrees of advance, for a total of 42, which I've heard / read is quite a bit too much.

Anyway, I'm not sure how much this change in the timing might have also been affecting the mixture, but with the needles now dropped .020 below the piston bottoms, and timing at 12 degrees BTDC (static), I'm one happy camper! The car runs strongly and my WBO2 is in a pretty good range. Fuel economy probably isn't the best, but everything else seems so copacetic that I'm not going to get too exercised about that right at this point.
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Re: Fun with needles

Postby Byron510 » 21 Sep 2015 01:00

Great work Steve.

On the timing side, generally running around 32-36 degrees total usually works until the cyl pressure gets up there due to compression. Advance till detonation and then back off till it's gone, or until it won't start cold. You'll likely find that spot is in the 32-36 degree range running 94 octane and static compression under 10:1 with a mild or stock cam.

I'm loving the read on your progress on SU jetting. Well done.

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Re: Fun with needles

Postby Three B's Racing » 21 Sep 2015 05:10

Byron510 wrote:Great work Steve.

On the timing side, generally running around 32-36 degrees total usually works until the cyl pressure gets up there due to compression. Advance till detonation and then back off till it's gone, or until it won't start cold. You'll likely find that spot is in the 32-36 degree range running 94 octane and static compression under 10:1 with a mild or stock cam.

I'm loving the read on your progress on SU jetting. Well done.

Byron


One of the Dime Quarterly mags has an article on recurving you're distributor and resetting the vacuum advance pod for less advance so you can still have it hooked up with a bunch of static advance with limited total advance all in at around 3500rpm to keep you out of the ping zone. I did all that when I was running an LZ22 with 10:1 compression, Damb cam setup and 240Z carbs from ZTherapy. I can tell you this, it sure ran a lot smoother and was much better off the line with vacuum advance than without.
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Re: Fun with needles

Postby okayfine » 21 Sep 2015 06:12

And vac only comes in when it needs to, i.e. at high manifold vacuum, which is low load, so worries about detonation are relieved. As Lou states, you can also tune the vac advance to suit.

Dropping the needle is a known trick and could be a long-term solution, especially if you're only having to drop it .020". I'm surprised you couldn't adjust the fuel jet height to cover such a small change. I've dropped needles before, but typically need to cover a bigger gap and so end up dropping a full station to test.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson


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