Sunday, July 27, 2014


 Here is a FIAT twin cam cylinder head, from a 2-litre [1995cc] carbureted engine. The owner wanted more performance, so in addition to adding a Weber 32/36 DGV-5A carburetor and a set of headers and better exhaust, I put in a set of camshafts from an earlier, 1438cc FIAT twin cam engine. They are an exact interchange, BUT the earlier cams have more lift and will give a big bump in the horsepower curve.
 The valves, when pushed open, extend below the level of the cylinder head so a holding jig is necessary to avoid bending one or more valves in the process of doing the camshaft interchange and subsequent valve adjustment. I built this one some years back and it will support several different types of cylinder heads, even a GEO Metro head. [GEO metro....?] 
 Here are the exhaust camshafts for both engines. Note that the 2-litre cam has big, lazy lobes. You can't see it in the photo but the lift and duration are different between the two camshafts.  The cam followers are all in a row at the top of the picture. The actual valve adjustment shims fit in the TOP of each of the followers, not inside.
 This shows the exhaust camshaft housing, with the cam and drive gear for the notched belt in place. At this point the housing with the cam followers [not installed here] is ready to be installed on the head.
 I build a lot of special tools. The stud with the screwdriver slot in it is one of two. They serve to hold the cam housing-to-head gasket in place and as a guide while I set the cam housing onto the head. All the bolt holes line up--no fudging around. Neat.
 Now the fun begins--getting in the correct shims to give proper valve clearance. The tools are FIAT items. Here is how they work: With the camshaft turned so the lobe is angled up, away from the lifter, you use a feeler gauge and measure the clearance [between the camshaft and the follower]. Spec for exhaust valves is 0.018" to 0.021"--I like to set them at 0.020". If you do not have the correct clearance, you push the spade ended black handled gizzmo in between the camshaft and the hardened shim, which is sitting on top of the cam follower "bucket". Then you rotate the little tool [which I have in my hand] around the cam and situate it so its fingers sit on each side of the "bucket". Then you use a shot of compressed air and the shim will pop out of its place on the top of the "bucket". 
Measure the thickness of the shim. I use the micrometer to check that my digital caliper is reading accurately today. If the clearance is too tight, you install a thinner shim. Then remove the tool and recheck the clearance. Repeat as required.  [Note--spec for the INTAKE valves is 0.015" to 0.019"--I set them at 0.018"]. 

Note the cam followers ["buckets"] next to the digital caliper. Four of the followers are turned "right side up". Two of them have shims set on them so you can see where the shims fit into the recessed area at the top of the follower.

It is nice to have a full set of shims, separated by thickness sizes.

And here's the finished head, ready to set on the engine.  If YOU are doing this, some things to remember: The camshafts MUST be in the correct position, the engine timing mark on the front pulley MUST be on Zero, and you MUST use a NEW timing belt. It is also a really good idea to install a NEW belt tensioner--the bearings in the old one are probably shot. READ THE SERVICE MANUAL!

Thursday, July 3, 2014


 Contrary to contemporary Germanic myth, even BMW speedometers screw up. GASP! I know that's difficult to believe, but what you see here--on the left in the instrument module--is a dead one.  At least, the odometer is dead.
 So let's see vas ist kapoot.  This is the back of the module. Simple, eh? [That row of lights across the bottom is a sequential warning system tied to increasing speed, to tell a Bimmer pilot how close he/she is to going to jail].
 Well yes, simple so far. Remove 8 screws and lift off the plastic outer housing. We're not there yet....
 Take out some more screws and whaddaya know? A speedometer! And that little gauge at the base of the tachometer? It is fuel mileage gauge, but in litres per 100 kilometers. See, Bimmer drivers have to have SOMEthing to wow the drivers of LESSOR cars that happen to ride with them [and they explain how it works while speaking German, of course].
 This speedometer was built when--apparently--neither BMW or VDO had figured out if they wanted to fish or cut bait. Mechanical operation or electrical? GOSH! I don't know---let's do BOTH.  So they did. The speedometer is electric, much like a tachometer. The odometer is driven by a wee electric motor, through a fairly complex gear train.Obviously, they did it because the COULD, not necessarily because it made good sense.  So what screws up? Those gears are plastic [of course] and one or more of them get tired of it all and spit off a tooth or two.  In this case, TWO gears spit teeth. You can see the dark brown gear [bottom center] that's missing a couple of teeth. Harder to see is a WEE LITTLE shit of a gear just at the bottom of the other brown gear, still in the speedometer apparatus.  It's minus a couple of teeth too. The more or less clear plastic housing to the left of the speedo body supports the gear train shafts and keeps the gears in place.
 The three new gears are at the lower left. The only fly in the ointment is removing the chewed up WEE gear [that is still on the shaft in this photo]. That shaft is pressed into the wee electric odo drive motor. If you reef on the wee gear to get it off, you'll pull the guts out of the drive motor and that will turn your whole day very dark brown. I used one of my special pullers to remove the little shit.  The two new larger gears just drop onto their respective shafts [in the correct order and location--they do not have the same number of teeth]. The new WEE gear has to be carefully pressed onto the motor drive shaft--to the correct depth.  Oh yeah, it's great fun repairing something that was a crap design in the first place.
But, here it is--ready to rip once again, and log many happy miles at speeds well above any posted speed limit. Anywhere.


 What you see is the familiar Monte Carlo or Saab Deluxe instrument panel.  But wait! Take a closer look---this is from a VERY rusty car. In fact the steel instrument panel itself was rusted through in a number of places. I wanted to see what I could salvage from this mess....
 The back of the panel didn't look so hot either. Almost all the bolts are rusted beyond any hope of unscrewing. In fact, the clamps for the speedometer and tach have been removed, and the retaining bolts broke off.  THAT didn't bode well....
 Rust never sleeps, as you can see. At this point I wasn't feeling good about this....
 The speedometer case is toast.  But...hold on! The "innards" don't look too bad...maybe SOMEthing can be salvaged here, yet....
 Well, I'll be...! The innards look better than some I've seen that weren't rusted! The little tool is one [of 50 or more little speedo tools] that I've built. I use this one to operate the speedometer by hand. Turns out I was able to do a normal reconditioning of the speedometer--including replacing the odometer drive gear [which is normal]--and the sucker works like a champ!
 My spares stash yielded a good outer housing that cleaned up nicely....
And even the chrome ring and the glass cleaned up just fine. So a word to the wise--don't throw away a Saab speedometer or tachometer just because it has a bit of rust on the outside. It's what's INSIDE that counts! And if you have one you don't want---I DO!

Sunday, June 15, 2014


 Ancient V W speedometers, clocks and their mount "pods" seem to find me no matter how good I hide. This shows how they look when I get them....UGH! Nasty! But I guess if I'd been sitting around in an old, musty 1950 V W all these years I'd look a lot worse! Time to make 'em look and work good....
 V W did things differently in 1950...above is the flip side of the speedometer pod, and the photo shows the bakelite casting, with the bosses for the three switches and the four warning lights, plus some crusty 1950 wires....
 AHA! All better now! New wires, even. This particular V W obviously had an accessory item of some sort taking power off the input connection [No. 30] of the ignition switch. The old, inline fuse holder was kaput so I installed a new one [the red fuse holder to the left of the speedometer pod]. They're ready to go back into the old VeeDub.
[Drumroll...] And here they are--almost as nice as when they were first installed in Der Beetle back in 1950.  Cool, huh?


 Ancient Volkswagen parts seem to find me. This is a complete V W wiper motor assembly, with its mount, from a 1950 Beetle. Above are the pristine bits, ready for reassembly. Below is what the nasty bugger looked like when I received it. I put in the dial caliper tool to show the scale of the V W parts.
 I never send out any part I recondition without first testing it. This is the test setup for one of these old SWF wiper motors. That is a V W wiper switch and the wiring is exactly as it would be in the car. Here the wiper motor still has its aluminum cover OFF.  See...I want to see the smoke and flames if the sucker self destructs! HA!
Below are all the motor gubbins, cleaned up and ready to be reassembled. The three brushes on this unit indicate it is for a TWO speed unit. The 1950 motor [above] was only a ONE speed unit. I got lazy and didn't shoot a picture of the internals of that one. However, they are the same except that the one speed motor only has two brushes, and the electrical connectors on the '50 model are screw on, not push on connectors. 
A careful look at the big brass gear on the base cover shows you a shallow "U" shaped item riveted to the gear. That "U" shaped thingie is the critter that allows the motor to self park.  As it rotates it actually pushes a little pin that opens and closes a set of contacts behind the electrical contact plate. This self park system is typical of all the SWF wiper motors of this era.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


It has been Porsche instrument reconditioning time around here for a while. Above is a typical Porsche 911/912 multi-gauge unit, taken apart, cleaned, gauges tested and OK, and ready to go back together.
 This is a typical before and after picture. The temp gauge unit on the left is pretty much what they look like when I get 'em.  The multi-gauge unit on the right is what they look like when I'm done working my magic on 'em.
 Here are two pages [of six] that I did on the first 912 speedometer I reconditioned. I make these illustrated how-to notes for ME on EVERY different instrument I get in for reconditioning. Keeps me from having to re-create the wheel the next time I get this type unit in.  My speedometer rebuild "notes book" is well over 100 pages long at this point...
 I believe in TEST SET-UPS for nearly everything I recondition. This is a set-up to test a VDO tachometer. Four cylinder VDO electric tachs indicate TWICE the RPM of the input. So if I set the drill at 1000 rpm, the tach better read 2000.  This tach, from a Porsche 912, DID read correctly. Note that I tested it before I disassembled it for reconditioning.  It looked pretty nasty and had obviously seen better days.
All five reconditioned units, ready for another 51,596 miles in a Porsche 912. Even the average egocentric Porsche owner would love 'em!   HA!

Thursday, February 20, 2014


 Here we have an expired four speed transmission from a '66 Saab 96 two-cycle. The half inch accumulation of grease, dirt and general crud has been cleaned off the outside of the box. I put it in this position to remove the retaining bolts from A] the end case cover, and B] the bell housing. You can see that these bolts are missing in the photo above. Now the transmission itself can be lifted off the bell housing and installed in the Saab transmission press.
 The bell housing assembly has been partially wiped out inside, but I get them much cleaner before I do any reassembly. The clutch shaft--which you can just see inside the housing--has to come out so the center ball bearing can be replaced.
I clean and paint the axle drivers, as you can see.
 Now this is more like it! I changed all the bearings, synchronizer rings and shaft lock plates, plus the main shaft which had rust in the free wheel hub. The correct end plate shims are in and the shift selector forks [gold color in this photo] have been adjusted [fore/aft] correctly. I use anerobic sealer on both sides of the gaskets so synthetic oil can be used with no leakage problems. 
 VOILA! The little beauty is ready for installation in the little popcorn popper! I do use a gasket at the top shifter cover, again with anerobic sealer on both sides of the gasket.
You can see my rebuilt clutch release arm with a new release bearing in this photo. I  also add a petcock so the transaxle oil level can be checked without having to remove the little plug on the side of the box.  So let's go ring-a-ding--ya sure!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Above is the data on Ford/Saab V4 engine PISTONS, for your information.

I am in the process of rebuilding a 1500cc Saab V4 engine, one that has been screwed with by some "wrench" who quite obviously had no concept of engine reconditioning in general nor of Ford/Saab V4 engines in particular. As a result, I've found some really "interesting" stuff...
To start off with, the balance shaft bearings were so worn there was about an eighth of an inch of side-to-side movement on the balance shaft [belt] pulley.  OY! The wear was so bad the balance shaft and the pulley BOTH had to be replaced. I expected to find really BAD connecting rod bearings due to the loss of oil pressure caused by the insanely loose balance shaft bearings.  But no...they weren't  too bad and the crankshaft wasn't damaged.  Obviously, the crankshaft bearings had been recently changed, and maybe the crankshaft as well....hmmm   BUT...neither the camshaft nor the balance shaft bearings had been replaced.  
Next clue: the pistons had almost no carbon on their crowns [see top arrow, below] and behind the rings [see side arrows, below].  I THINK the "wrench" did an overhaul--more or less--but didn't think to change the camshaft or balance shaft bearings.
The number three piston, however, had broken piston rings--both in the oil groove and the middle groove. The other three pistons were fine. I DID find a bashed place on the crown of the same [No. 3] piston where it looked as if the piston had been dropped. 
I cleaned up the pistons, then put them one by one into the engine and checked the clearances of the new bearings, using Plastigage--All OK. I installed new rod bolts and new rings, oiled up the pistons thoroughly, and installed pistons 1,2 and 4--all went into place just fine. But installing the new rings on No. 3...the center and bottom rings were not free in the ring grooves. I measured the grooves and found that in the area of the "bash" the grooves were almost 0.030" too narrow!  OY! Apparently the dumbass "wrench" filed open the TOP groove after he'd dropped the piston onto his concrete floor and let it go at that. I refuse to jury-rig something as important as a piston---I replaced the piston.
God save us from the non-professionals......

A couple of other notes: ALWAYS replace the connecting rod bolts and nuts with NEW parts during an overhaul, as they are torqued to a "yield" [stretch] condition at the Ford/Saab spec of 25 foot/pounds. [This is also true of the FLYWHEEL BOLTS don't want to true the NEW rod bolts !] Always check the clearance of the new connecting rod bolts with Plastigage. Use the OLD rod bolts for checking, THEN replace the old bolts with new for final fit-up in the engine. [You only want to torque the new bolts to stretch condition ONCE!] Use Loctite compound on the rod nuts for extra security.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


This is a Volkswagen Vanagon speedometer--late version--all laid apart. The plates in red are two of about 40 special mounts and tools I've built for working on all manner of speedometers. On the left, the plastic main mount, and in its center, the magnetic drive for the speed needle. UNDER the light color, round housing--barely visible--is the worm drive gear for the odometer portion of the unit. 

At the top, orange colored, is the printed circuitry for counting off the miles driven so a warning light can come on urging the Vanagon owner to boogie to a V W dealership and spend a lot of money to have a tech push a reset button and turn off the warning light. This B.S. was done in the name of lowered emissions. Dealerships loved it. The owners?  Not so much.

To the right, the dual register odometer assembly with its plastic framework. Previous Vanagon speedos had an aluminum framework, so you see the result of company bean counters at work. Look at the BOTTOM, main, register. On the right end you see a white gear. On the left is a much smaller, yellowed gear. Both are plastic and both tend--with age and jillions of miles of use--to get tired and release their press-on fit with the register shaft.  Result?  No odometer activity, though the speed reading may still work OK.

The FIX is to replace the larger gear, and in this photo the white gear is a new one that I just installed.  Additional FIX is to replace the small drive gear on the left, which I have also done in this photo. The "innards" are ready to be carefully lubricated with modern temperature stable, non-hardening lubricants and reassembled.

According to ancient V W Service Bulletins, these late model Vanagon speedos can get noisy.  The problem is that the wee bushing holding the speed needle shaft [see the center of the round housing in the main mount, in the photos above] gets worn badly, as the miles build up. This lets the magnetic "can" below the bushing to move around, touching the outer housing, and causing a noise that drives m'lady bananas. I have a FIX for this, too, but this particular speedometer didn't need it.

M'lady can drive this one a couple hundred thousand more miles before it drives her bananas.


 Saab V4 flywheels are, at the youngest, 40 years old and virtually ALL of them must have their pressure surface [see drawing, above] lightly machined to remove damage from clutch slippage or chatter.  A critical dimension of 0.660" from the pressure surface to the pressure plate mounting surface must be maintained. If this distance is NOT maintained, the aft surface of the release plate [the hexagonal flat plate in the center of the pressure plate [see photo, below] will not be in the correct fore/aft position. That surface must be 0.125" to 0.140" aft of the three flat pressure plate surfaces [the ones with two big holes, each--see photo below].  If not, the clutch will NOT release, and the release bearing arms will strike the surface of those same three flat pressure plate surfaces.  NOT good. 
This customer's machinist had machined the pressure surface and the pressure plate mount surface allright, but the measured distance was 0.670", not 0.660", which allowed the hexagonal release arm plate to sit forward too far, down in between the 3 flat plates [the ones with two big holes, each]. Although the clutch disc and the pressure plate were both new, the clutch would NOT release and the release bearing arms hit the pressure plate. The customer sent the whole schmere to me for correction.  
There are two solutions:  1] Machine the flywheel to get the critical dimension to 0.660", or 2] Shim the flywheel.    This is a shimmed flywheel/clutch/pressure plate assembly. 
I used a special tool in my shop press, disassembled the new pressure plate and added 0.030" valve spring shims under each of the six coil springs in the pressure plate. This was to compensate for the shim 0.024" plates [in red, in the photo] that I fitted under the pressure plate mount bolts.   The 0.024" shim plates moved the pressure plate so the release bearing plate was in the correct position--0.125" aft of the three flat plates.  HOWEVER, adding the 0.024" shim plates takes too much mechanical clamping action off the clutch disc and the clutch will slip.  The 0.030" valve spring shims restore the mechanical clamping action [and adds just a touch more than stock], so the clutch works just fine and the releases properly.

Interesting "fix" for improper machining.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013



 This is the instrument module from a '78 Mercedes Benz 450SL. It speedo's but it's speedo don't odo.  Drat! So 'twas time to get inside the bugger and work my magic on it. Out with the demon tweak tools!
 This is the flip side of the instrument module. Clearly, a whole lotta screws have to come out to get to just the speedometer.
 Here the speedometer is out of the module. If the speedometer was all that needed attention, that's as far as I'd have to go. But life ain't that simple. This critter was dirty and dusty INSIDE the plastic face plate, so it all had to come apart. In addition to the photos, I made a couple of pages of illustrated notes so I had some chance of getting it all back together on the first pass.....
Here is the bugger all apart. A lot of cleaning was necessary on ALL the internal parts of the module, and then I reconditioned the speedometer itself [lower left in the photo above].

 So, after a lot of cleaning, wiping, dusting and polishing--along with liberal amounts of questioning the ancestry of the designer of this conglomeration of parts--it's done, pretty and ready to go get dusty and grimy once again in a drop top Merc.    And...the odo now odo's---HA!