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!


 This photo shows all the internal gubbins of an ANCIENT Bosch windshield wiper motor, as used in Saab 93/95/96 two-stroke models of the late 1950's and very early 1960's. It turns out that these early motors were quite high quality, with a lot of brass and evidence of a well thought out design. This motor, which is over 50 years old, showed little wear and tear, and required nothing more than a thorough cleaning, fresh lubrication with modern lubricants, and careful re-assembly.

These early motors did require a careful alignment of the brush holding "saddle" [bottom right in the photo] and even more careful alignment of the permanent magnet assembly [bottom left, in the photo], the latter to assure even clearance of the armature from the permanent magnet. 

The bean counters at Saab got busy after the first 20,000 cars  or so were built, and changed wiper motor suppliers to the German SWF company. Saved a few pennies, but the quality of the SWF motors was crap compared to those early Bosch motors.
I always bench test ANY wiper motor I recondition and this is the setup for this little Bosch motor. The interesting switch on the right is a Saab wiper motor switch, which incorporated the windshield WASHER.  You pulled the switch OUT about three inches and let go, and as the washer fluid began to spray on the windscreen, you turned the switch clockwise to start the wipers.

There were TWO different switches used by Saab, and they looked pretty much alike, but the second series switch had TWO "ON" positions, for the TWO speed motors that were used in the GT 750 and GT-850 Saab 96 cars.  The second series switch still used the same windshield washer setup.

This all worked pretty well unless the washer fluid froze and cracked the plastic pump portion.  Then washer fluid--when it thawed--pee'd on you leg.  Hmmmm....not cool.  So in 1967, Saab switched over to Lucas wiper motors, with an electric motor attached to the washer reservoir, which was now located in the engine bay. No more pee-ing on your leg.  What fun was THAT?

Sunday, November 17, 2013


 BIG RIGS have speedometers, too! This one is out of an 18-wheel Peterbuilt logging truck. It came to me dead as a hammer, with over 500,000 miles on the odometer. 500,000---that's not a misprint. Even Stewart-Warner speedos get tired, and it took parts from two old, dead ones to nurse this one back to health. The outer rings and the glass are on the left, the outer housing at the top, and the speedo internals plus the face and speed needle on the right.  I built the holding fixture [in red], a necessary thing when I'm working on the delicate "innards" of a speedometer. Even one from a Peterbuilt.... 
 A different view. The lower inner ring still needs to be painted in this picture, but everything else has been thoroughly cleaned---some parts in the ultrasonic cleaner---and are ready for reassembly.  The special Phillips screwdriver at the bottom is yet another special tool I built. Handy little bugger.
One down, one to go... On the left, the reconditioned and calibrated speedo, ready to get back to work in a big ass logging truck. On the right, all the parts of another Stewart-Warner speedo for a Peterbuilt. Note that the speed faces are different. I ASSUME that the face on the right indicates a later version, as it has speed ranges in both MPH and Km/h.  Except for the case, the parts on the right are ready for assembly and calibration.   See, I can have fun with TRUK parts, too---HA!


 BAD? Dead, too. This is typical of SWF wiper motors I receive for reconditioning. These were used in a TON of V W's, some Saabs and who knows how many other Euro cars--Borgwards, NSU's, DAF's, early Porsches, etc. They came in one and two speed varieties, though the only external difference was the contact panel [bottom left, on the unit].   This one is definitely dead. 
 Here are the [cleaned up] internal parts. From the horseshoe shaped permanent magnet [bottom left], clockwise: the armature, the aluminum base assembly, the brush assembly with wires to the contact plate assembly, the main drum gear and bottom plate assembly, the smaller intermediate gear, and  the cover bail + four bolts.  It is worth noting that these parts usually look like they've spent time at the bottom of a swamp when I take the motor apart. Except for the drum gear/bottom plate assembly, ALL of these parts have been through the ultrasonic cleaner.
 Assembly time. The green parts comprise a jig assembly that I built to steady the base as I install all the reconditioned parts. The cleaned up aluminum cover is at the right.
 SMOKE TEST TIME! At left, the reconditioned motor on the holding jig [green color]. A V W wiper switch is in the center and a 12 volt battery is on the right.  I like to leave the aluminum cover OFF for the smoke test, so I can....uhhh....see where the smoke comes from.... You can see the three brush holders at the top of the motor assembly. One speed motors have just two brush holders.    
This motor passed the test---no smoke and both speeds plus self park worked just fine.  I let these motors run for 10 minutes or so...just to make sure the smoke isn't just hiding out on me.
Ready to go.  Tested, serial numbered and eager to flop the wiper blades back and forth on someone's Beetle. Good stuff!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


 From the dark, spider-infested depths of son Mark Ashcraft's shop emerged this pretty dang straight 1968 Saab 96 V4 Deluxe. We are starting a complete restoration on this car, which will include reconditioning or replacing bloody nearly everything mechanical PLUS a host of up-grades.
 You can see that the car is complete--even the made of "unobtanium" light covers are on the car and in very good condition. I'll completely recondition the transmission, the engine [to be 120 bhp 1700+ cc], distributor, alternator, starter, wiper motor, heater motor and a ton of other small stuff.  It will get a cooling system upgrade, including the "Florida Fix" side-of-hood vents, electric fan(s), and new everything in that area.
 Would you believe those are the original mud flaps and that they are in very good condition? Well, the suspension and brakes will be renewed, too, and if we find any rust, we'll simply cut that panel out and replace it with one of our heavy duty panels. 
This area will get a lot of attention, too. We'll rebuild the gauges, install one of our new dash tops and put in new upholstery and carpeting.  This car will not only look like new throughout, it will be BETTER in many ways because we use modern, heavy duty parts in many areas, some we manufacture ourselves.

If YOU would like this car, we can put your a name on it NOW, and can do the special touches to the car to make it YOURS!
Interested?  Contact me--work has already begun on the car.

Friday, October 11, 2013


 The rear license plate shroud is ready to be mounted on the car. This shows the license lights mounted, though I removed them for the bonding-in process. There is a stainless steel strip [with nuts welded to its back side] riveted to the light strip to receive the light mount bolts.
 AHA! The shroud is bonded in place on the spare tire cover of MR T. Final sanding and trimming is yet to be done.
 This is a good photo of the arse end of MR T. You can see a LOT of my fiberglass work, including the removable top, the rear fenders [with Triumph TR4 tail lamps], the fiberglass fuel tank filler door, the fiberglass bumper valence [bumpers not yet laid up], and the fiberglass spare tire cover, now with the license plate shroud bonded in place.
 A good rear view showing the 'glass parts. If you look carefully at the top area of the fiberglass top, you can see the "double bubble" I built into the top. If you look closely at the center of the bumper valence you will see a small square hole cut in the valence surface. Just inside the hole is a trailer hitch receiver. Just ahead of the right tail lamp assembly [sort of in the middle of the white bondo area] is the connector plug for the trailer lights wiring.  It's called "plan ahead".....  
 A low angle shot of the license plate shroud, showing the lights as well as the license plate location. The dark areas on the spare tire cover are where I added a ply of graphite cloth for extra strength.
The spare tire cover is hinged on the left and swings open as shown to remove the spare tire. You can see the wiring [with a disconnect plug] for the license lights and the cover prop. I used plug connectors throughout the car as I wired it. So far there are 68 plug connectors.....
I might have mentioned that I like working with fiberglass. Well, I also like working with auto electrical wiring. Heh heh heh....


 FIBERGLASS TIME!  I really LIKE working with fiberglass!These are carved and sanded urethane foam blocks, the basis for a rear license plate shroud for MR T, my '37 FIAT Topolino "EuroRod".  Also shown are multiple layers of 8-ounce bi-directional cloth. The foam blocks are stuck together with small dabs of "bondo", which I also used to stick the blocks down on an aluminum sheet that was covered with clear shipping tape.
 The layup is complete. The thin strip to the left is for a mount panel for the license plate lamps. I added a license plate to show the scale of the layups, which are ready to be trimmed. The dark areas of the layup show where I added a ply of graphite cloth, for extra strength.
 I used an air driven die grinder and cutter wheel [yes, I used eye protection] to cut the cured fiberglass. I used Fiberglast 2000 epoxy resin so the finished product is HARD, folks.
 Here are the finished, trimmed pieces, ready to be assembled.
This photo shows all the parts, with a South Dakota license plate for scale. The small strip is yet to be trimmed and fitted to the lamps, then bonded to the shroud. I use small dabs of "bondo" [catalyzed "hot"] to hold the light strip in place, then add narrow strips of cloth, with epoxy resin, to bond the strip into place.
Did I mention that I really like playing with fiberglass?

Next time: Bonding the shroud assembly to the spare tire cover of MR T.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


 This is a very useful tool that I built, patterned after plans I found in an ancient POPULAR MECHANICS magazine. On the left, in red, are all the parts for this little metal bender that I clamp in my bench vise. On the right, in green, is the first one I built. I've used it for about 10 years. It will bend a 12" wide piece of 18 gauge steel, or smaller widths of 16 gauge. The "holder" piece--the middle angle in the red parts shown--is adjustable fore and aft to accommodate different bend angles, up to about 115 degrees.
The operation is straight forward--put in the piece to be bent, set the holder angle where you want it, tighten down the nut on each end of the holder and lift the handle. Bend the piece to the angle you want. You can see how a piece of metal can be bent into more than one angle and it produces a nice crisp bend every time.
I'm amazed at how often I use this critter--it works really well! Want one? Contact me.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013


 Everybody with gasoline in their veins loves Weber DCOE carburetors. This is the setup on my 2-litre twin cam Fiat 124 Spider engine, shown with the 5 speed trans attached. This is the engine in MR T, my 1937 FIAT Topolino "EuroRod." I find that I have more DCOE's than I can use in my lifetime, so someone else who wants to GO FAST can own them.  DCOE's are great carburetors, and once you get them set right, you can forget about 'em and just go have fun.
 Here's a list of the carburetors and parts. Note that a Lynx intake manifold--to fit the carbs to twin cam FIAT or LANCIA engines is listed. The manifold, and most of the parts, are NEW. I prefer to let the whole lot go, and not sell bits here and there.
 These 40 DCOE 24's are a matched pair. That means they are all jetted the same inside. Shown are the new air filters and a set of four aluminum velocity stacks. You can see the new LYNX intake manifold to the left of the carbs.
This photo shows the other two DCOE's, some of the linkage parts, the four venturi's, and the other velocity stacks that I mention. The two flat gaskets fit behind the velocity stacks.
If "Mr GoFast" is your name and DCOE's are your game, give me a growl. Another 40 horsepower under the hood of your car--what can it hurt?  Heh heh heh.......