Tuesday, November 10, 2015


 IT'S A 1948 TUCKER! I was more than pleased to see THREE of 'em recently at a Concours car show at Ironstone Winery, east of Sonora, California. That center headlight DOES turn with the front wheels...And the trunk is "up front."
 This is the view drivers of other cars saw in 1948. This car, number 21 [of 51 built] is owned by a friend of mine who lives in Chico, California. He was good enough to spend several hours with me and my son Chris, filling our memory banks with things Tucker. He also gave us quite a long ride in the car.  I'll tell you this: as good as this car is NOW, with over 200,000 road miles on it, it must have been over the moon sensational in 1948! The car still has NO squeaks or rattles and is very quiet, even at
speeds up to 90 mph.  And it is FAST!
 Alex Tremlis had just ten days to design this car...Preston Tucker was always in a big hurry, it seems.  That air intake grille on the back fender hinges open to expose the fuel filler nozzle. Cars after about number 30 had the fuel tank "up front." 
 That's my son Chris, saying, "Well, what are we waiting for--let's GO!" This car has the original hub caps, that had six radial cooling slots cut into them, and the Tucker coat of arms attached to their centers. Note that the doors open well into the roof.
 The safety interior--no instrument panel to bash your head on. The heater is under the front seat. You can see the radio on the right side of the instrument module. The extension coming out of the right side of the steering column mounts the control for the Bendix pre-selection of gears in the Cord 4 speed transmission.  You move the little lever, then when you are ready, you just push in the clutch and the pre-selected gear is engaged. Release the clutch and away you go....
 Driver's view of the instruments. The 4 ivory knobs control heating and ventilation. Below that are the light switches, ignition switch and starter button.  On the right you can just see the control knob for the Bendix pre-select system. 
 The business district. The all-aluminum, flat six is NOT a helicopter engine. Preston Tucker bought the Franklin Engine Co., and Franklin engineers built a WATER cooled version of the helicopter engine. It displaced 335 cubic inches, produced 166 bhp and just under 400 ft/lb of torque.
 A STOCK Tucker was clocked at the Bonneville Salt Flats at over 130 mph. The car's low coefficent of drag, estimated at 0.30, and the engine's prodigious torque, were the reason for that incredible performance for a 1948 car.
So there's the rocket ship. An incredible design in 1948 and still gorgeous today. 
Fifty-one of them built....and I got to ride in one--WOW!


 Mass production time again--Saab 95/96/97 transmission oil dip sticks this time. The red "thingie" in the foreground is the jig I built that I use to get the correct bends and "fit" for the dip stick. The dip stick in the jig is an ORIGINAL Saab item. The eight new dipsticks [above] are ready for customers, tho the last three need to have their handles painted green.
Another view of the eight finished dip sticks.  See...having a transmission oil dipstick just might mean you would actually CHECK THE OIL LEVEL in your transmission. Just remove the fill plug near the top of the gearbox, wiggle the dip stick down into it until the bent "stop" sets against the sides of the open hole, pull out the dipstick and read it. There are notches for MIN and MAX on the dipstick--just like the original--so you can tell the oil level in the unit.
You don't have to get greasy trying to take out the stupid check plug on the side of the transmission, and you don't have transmission oil dripping on your garage floor.   AND...the transmission you save--from lack of oil--just might be YOURS!

Sunday, October 18, 2015


 Wiper motors again! This ugly duckling is a Lucas motor for a late SAAB 95 or 96. This one was in its fairly ugly, not working, state when I received it.   Nasty....
 Here is the same motor...DE-nastified, and ready to be reassembled and tested.
 Ah, Henry Ford would be proud of me....three of 'em reconditioned and ready for reassembly.
...and here they are, ready to do their duty happily in a vintage SAAB 95 or 96.  All have been tested for both speeds, plus self park.  Neat, aye?


 SAAB speedometer reconditioning time again, but this time a SAAB 99 EMS speedo!
These units are full of plastic gears [typical of bean counter work at VDO, I assume] and in the top photo you can see the END of one [of 2] bad plastic gears in this speedo. It is the white gear between the two spiral gears.
This is the speedometer out of the 78 EMS. All looks good here.

 The top [main] register has a grey, toothed gear at the right end --it is mostly lead and is pressed onto the register shaft. After umpteen years of work, it loses its grip
--literally--and the odometer stops odometering.  I replace that gear--using a number of very special puller and pusher and holder tools--with a gear made of some modern, miracle plastic that is tough and won't slip on the shaft.
This photo shows the bad [cracked and slipping] small, white gear, the main register shaft, and just inside the speedometer frame, the bad [also slipping] part lead drive gear. I replaced both gears, lubed the unit, set the odometer to the  figure the customer wanted, then reassembled it and calibrated the speed. Every speedometer has a specific gear ratio. The master VDO book [which I have] shows speeds for the speed needle, given various input speeds [from the speedometer cable]. I use a calibrated input speed, and set the speed needle to agree with the VDO figure for that speedo's gear ratio.   No guess work.  We all like the speedometer to read right. This one is ready for another 87,000 miles.... 


 SAAB/Lucas wiper motor reconditioning time again--three of 'em at a time. Most of 'em look like the one shown above when I take 'em apart---YUK!  No wonder they don't  work worth a damn.  Well...over 40 years of working wiper blades....
 Here are three of them--reconditioned. One assembled [on the right], two ready to go together.  
 Ahh...that's better. The brush plate inside has been replaced on this one--you can see where the wires to the self-park switch and main connector have been spliced.
Here is one of the motors on my test bed. I can test any style Lucas motor with this unit. The electrical connections are exactly the same as if the motor was mounted in a car.  No guess work here---I run the motors for a while, on both speeds, and test the self-park feature.  Nothing like the right tools for the job--aye?

Sunday, June 7, 2015


 Mass production time again! Here are six [of eight] Bosch distributors for Saab V4 cars, completely disassembled, and with a zillion miles worth of grease and crud cleaned off. They are ready to have the bottom of the distributor housing rebushed. The housing "hogs out" at the bottom, with age and a jillion miles of useage. This wear causes the point gap [thus the dwell and the ignition timing] to fluctuate and the engine runs like crap. Note that the second housing from the right already has a steel bushing installed.
 I use a bronze bushing...BUT...first the distributor housing must be reamed to a certain diameter.  It is essential that the distributor be held perfectly square and the tool that I made [which is in the lathe chuck in this picture] does that job. You can see that several distributors have been drilled, thus the pile of aluminum FUZZ on the lathe bed.
 You can see the bronze bushing set in place, just ready to be pressed into the distributor housing.
 Once I get the bushing in place, I have to ream it to the shaft size, plus 0.003". This is a tedious process, but doing the job with a hand reamer makes sure I get the correct fit. Every distributor is a LITTLE DIFFERENT and has different amounts of wear--remember--these suckers are about 50 years old! 
 You can see the five distributor bodies with bronze bushings and the one with the previously installed steel bushing here.  All the shafts have been fitted and they are ready to go back together again. Now the REAL work starts, as the points advance plates must be fitted and adjusted, a vacuum control unit fitted, and then the assembled unit has to go onto the SUN distributor test machine to set the advance curves.  This usually means I get to take the suckers apart 2 or 3 times to adjust the mechanical advance gubbins to get the correct advance curve.  Swearing usually helps. Quite a lot of swearing helps quite a lot more. 
All eight completely reconditioned distributors are shown here. These all have points and a condenser installed. If the customer wants a Pertronix unit, I take out the points and condenser and install the P unit. Then I add a rotor, a cap and a new set of spark plug wires, and the bugger is ready to go into the customer's V4 engine, for another 100,000 miles.  Good stuff!  

Friday, April 24, 2015


 Here we have two ancient Saab 96 speedometer/multi-gauge units. Because the temperature gauge [left gauge in top module] is a so called "bulb" type, the capillary tube from the sender in the cylinder head to the gauge itself gets damaged and the gauge is kaput. NO new assemblies are available. The SOLUTION is to change to an electric gauge/sender unit combination.  The PROBLEM is figuring out how to mount an electric gauge in the old module. Head scratching time....
 My solution is to remove an electric temperature gauge from a Saab combination gauge unit. I trimmed the gauge face slightly and mounted it on an aluminum plate, as shown above. Making the gauge fit the mount plate and the mount plate fit the speedo module....let's just say that part took the most head scratching.  

Once you get one of these suckers apart, you have quite a few pieces. I've cleaned them all up here, and have repaired the inoperative odometer in this one, and it's ready to go back together. That's another the tricky part, as you might imagine...

 I always have to strip the main, cast aluminum case because it was painted white at the factory and the old white paint flakes off. You can see it is all cleaned and repainted here, and the mechanical bits are all lubricated correctly and yes, the odometer now works!

Go back to the first photo [bottom] to see how the electric gauge looks when it is installed. It is a good "fit" and a good "match" for the other original gauges. This photo shows the back of the module, with the electric gauge mounted. The tan wire is marked "tank", but that's my mistake--I changed it to correctly read "temp sender".
All electric gauges--except an ammeter and a voltmeter--need 3 electrical inputs: 12 volts for reference, an input from the sender unit, and ground. The latter is the black wire in the photo.  So you see, the head scratching worked! 

Monday, February 2, 2015


 Lucas square body wiper motors!  For Saabs once again. This is how they look--usually--when I get them....YUK!
 All the "innards"...  At the top---a motor that hasn't been taken apart yet...Yup, that's how they look when I get the suckers.  At bottom right---that's how they look when I'm done with 'em.   In the middle---all the "stuff" that goes to make up a wiper motor. Starting at the left: Main housing and drum gear. Round cap below that contains the self park plate. Next on the right is the field winding module, which also carries the brushes. Next is the armature assembly, then the armature housing, and finally the end cap assembly. The sort of triangular "thingie" below the armature is the mount plate, then a worthless sponge dust seal, a washer and the actuating tab.    Good stuff!
Here are two reconditioned Lucas/Saab wiper motors. Same, but sightly different. Note the connectors. On the left is the early [1966 Saab 95/96] motor, with two connectors. On the right is the later [1967-69] motor with only one connector. Inside, the motors are identical, and will interchange if you switch connectors...AND...if you hook them up correctly.  Some fun!

Thursday, January 15, 2015


VOLVO!  This SWF windshield wiper motor came from a Volvo 544. It is single speed, 12 volt unit and is SIMILAR but not quite the same as SWF motors for early Saab and Volkswagen cars.  In this photo all the parts have been cleaned and the unit is ready to be lubed with modern, temperature stable, non-hardening lubricant and reassembled.  Above the parts are a couple of the page I made as I took the motor assembly apart. I always make drawings and notes like that so the NEXT time I get a motor of that type, I won't have to scratch my head to remember how they work, and how they go together.  I'll also know if anyone else has been into that particular motor and left something out.
Bench test time. I like to use a switch just like the one in the car for the test. I run the motors for a few minutes to make sure they run at the correct speed and that the self-park switch works.  Next to the battery is another page of drawing and notes on this little SWF motor. This little motor says, "I Roll!"


 A world of square body VDO auto rewind clocks!  I have to play the percentages on old clocks, so I usually do four of the buggers at a time. Here they are---all apart, but completely cleaned, oiled and ready for reassembly. At the extreme left center is an auto rewind unit. Below the three outer bodies [silver color] are three clock mechanisms [brass color]. Below them are the white plastic back covers.  Whole LOT of pieces!
 The red object is one of about 100 special tools I've built to use in the reconditioning of clocks, speedometers, wiper motors, etc.  This one is a multi-use HOLDER. The arm of the tool [on the right] fits into my vise, to hold the clock steady while I work on it.
AHA! Four of the buggers reassembled and ready to go. I test them for function and time--on my test bed--before I put the plastic "glass" and the chrome outer ring back on. Remember, these clocks are getting close to being 45 years old, so they "enjoy' a failure rate of about 25%.  Old age takes it's toll.  These are four that "made it."  
The red gizmos behind three of the clocks are in-line fuses. I have to re-solder an internal fusible link, and the 3 amp inline fuse protects the coil that actually makes the reset link arm go "ka-KLIK!" and resets the clock so it keeps on ticking. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014


 Although this looks like a sardine can with wires...it actually is a Bosch electric sunroof motor, from a Porsche 356. Bosch built these in 6 and 12 volt varieties and they all look similar. Bosch DID stamp a voltage identifier on the thin aluminum covers of these little buggers.
 Here are all the gubbins of a sunroof motor. I put my digital caliper in the photo to give some idea of the size of the motor. The orange wires in the "U" shaped case are the dual field windings. There are actually TWO windings on each side, which is necessary to make the motor turn both directions. One way to open the sunroof, the other way to close it. The case end piece--to the right of the "U"--has the armature brushes in place. You can see the armature in the center of the photo. 
 These are just two of eight pages of my own HOW-TO instructions that I made as I did the reconditioning of these motors. I take a dim view of recreating the wheel and these personal instructions make it easy to remember how to do it when I get to the next motor of this type, a week, or six months from now.
 I actually had three of these motors to recondition--a six volt and two twelve volt units. This is a late twelve volt motor.
Here are the three victims. Top motor is a six volt unit. Bottom left is an early 12 volt motor [which had burned out field windings] and to the right is a late 12 volt motor. Two are hot to trot to run Porsche sunroofs open and closed, the other is spare parts.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


 I have reconditioned a TON of Saab 95/96/97 transmissions over the years--this one is number 519--and have seen a lot of different combinations of CRAP oils that owners or mechanics have put in them.  This one was new to me and was probably the nastiest GLOP I have ever found. It was about 1/8" thick and was total SLIME, and completely unidentifiable in nature. It looks like RUST but none of the trans parts were rusty. It WAS sticky, so I suspect SOME of the YUK was STP, which is a complete NO NO for these units. 
 The GOO was all throughout the transmission--thick, ugly, yet more or less pliable, sort of like molasses at zero degrees F. I completely dismantled the transmission and sent the case and covers to my machine shop to be run through the hot tank. No way was I going to spend 2 or 3 hours trying to clean the CRAP out! Clearly the last owner had no clue about what transmission gear oil to use in a Saab transmission.
 There is a VERY good reason to use the correct gear oil[s] in a Saab transmission. The exploded view above shows a section of the gears, bearings, etc that fit on the MAIN SHAFT of the Saab 95/96/97 transmission. There are four needle bearings on this shaft--see numbers 30 in the drawing. The numbers 31 indicate a slightly different size needle bearing used inside 4th gear [No. 33] on later transmissions. Gear oils heavier than SAE 75 GL5 or SAE 80 GL5 simply will NOT lubricate these needle bearings. Similarly you must NEVER use a HYPOID differential grease which is available in SAE 90 or SAE 140 viscosity, for the same reason.
 Above is a typical differential assembly. Items numbered 6 and 11 are the heavy duty differential carrier bearings. Items 16 and 20 are the pinon shaft bearings. These are large and open, so it is easy for the heavier greases to keep them lubricated. It should be plain to you that this is not the case with the needle bearings in the Saab transmissions.  DO use the correct gear oils. I have used AMSOIL synthetic gear oils for 40 years or so and have never had ANY problems with them--they are the kindest thing you can do to your Saab transmission.  It is also a very good idea to get off your duff and check the oil level in them about once a month. [I offer a dip stick OR an oil check petcock  for this purpose. Either will simplify checking the oil level and make it quicker, easier and less messy than unscrewing the check plug to see if oil will run out on floor].
Here are two of the transmission case pieces--post hot tank--ready for reassembly.
I STILL don't know what that CRAP was in this particular transmission....