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 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....

Thursday, October 2, 2014


 Time to recondition some more clutch release arms. These get worn in the area where the release bearing is held--[see fat arrow at the TOP drawing, above], and in the loop at the outer end and in the clevis pin itself. I weld up the wear areas and machine them back out to fit the new release bearing.  NOTE: Currently there are TWO styles of release bearing available, and the mount "pins" on them are different diameters. The release bearings shown in the photo below are the OLD style, with larger diameter pins. 
 The old release arms are usually pretty grubby when I receive them. Compare an old one [right] to one of my reconditioned arm assemblies [at left]. What you can't see in the photo is how much slop was in all the joints and how bad the release bearing was.
I prefer to recondition a batch of these critters at one time. I did eight of 'em this go-around. If you look carefully you can see early and late release arms. The three on the left [top row] and one on the left [bottom row] are LATE arms. The rest are EARLY arms. There is no difference, functionally. Just a running change that Saab made at some point in the production of these parts, and not at all unusual for a car company.

Friday, September 19, 2014


 Once in a while I get to work on my toy, MR T, my 1937 FIAT Topolino. This side view shows the small size of the wee coupe when compared to....
 MR Z, our 2012 Honda CRZ Hybrid Coupe. I had installed the heater box [from a 1980 FIAT 124 Spider] but had not installed the control cables or the defroster ducts. So...
 I finally convinced myself to press on with that work. Above, you can see the [more or less] rectangular frame for the main switch/relay/fuse panel. Behind that frame are the new defroster ducts. Below the frame is the heater control box.
 This photo shows [top left] the end of the heater control box. You can see two of the three control cables coming out of it and two relays [for the left and right semaphores] at the end of the box. The black box to the right is the FIAT heater box.
Here is a straight on view of the heater control box. The defrost ducts [above] are easy to see. Just visible is one of the flasher relays [lower left] and the two semaphore relays [lower right--black].   
This car is very small inside and I built it so it all can be UN-bolted. I completely re-wired the car and used plug-in connectors throughout. You can see three of them in this photo. Building a car essentially from scratch is a LOT of work, but it's also a lot of fun.  I've enjoyed working on MR T for years. Hell, I might even live long enough to get it finished---HA!

Thursday, September 4, 2014


 Another of my evils is automotive art in a variety of media. The photo above is a '42 Chevy near the Bandon, Oregon light house. The Oregon lighthouse fancier said the Chevy was her dad's and was one of the last sold before auto production in the USA was stopped because of World War Two. The media? Permanent markers and India ink. Size was 12" x 18".
 A Saab enthusiast in Canada owned these four Saabs and the John Deere tractor and fancied Canadian grain elevators. This was done in gouache [opaque water color], markers and India ink. The size of this one was 28" x 40".
 A man who likes Willys had me do this one. I used OneShot sign enamel and painted it on galvanized steel. The size was 12" x 16".
 I painted this one for me. It was my first car, a '37 Ford slantback. This is a South Dakota setting, showing the windmill on my dad's farm. A reflection of the old farmhouse is in the highly polished side of Henry.  Again I used OneShot sign enamel on galvanized steel. Size is 10" x 16".
 Another painting using OneShot sign enamel, but this time for fun on one of my aluminum shop cabinet doors. The subject is my '69 Sonett V4 rally car and my first wife, one of the greatest rally navigators known to man. She never got carsick and she never screamed when I got the car sideways at about 80 mph. At night. On a narrow mountain road. Size is 24" x 30". 
A 1936 Chevy [and a '40 Ford truck] are the subjects here. The setting is Webster, South Dakota, the building was the family business, lo, those many years ago. Media is gouache, permanent markers, India ink, and at the bottom, pencil.  Size is 24" x 30". 
I have an extensive automotive library, and of course, these days, there IS Google.... You ever dream about YOUR first car???


I've just reconditioned another Saab V4 engine, this one for a  '73 Sonett III. The photo above shows new piston rings about to go onto a cleaned up piston. Note the piston ring expanding tool at the right. The yellow sleeves are to protect the crankshaft when the piston is installed in the engine block. I always have the connecting rod big ends "sized" and always use NEW connecting rod bolts and nuts. These are torqued to a "stretch" or "yield" condition and can NOT be re-used, as they may well break if they are again torqued to yield.  
 I always take a picture of the installed, new timing gears and tuck the photo into the records for that engine [this one was rebuild number 474...].  Note the new design of the big camshaft gear. Nice quality...BUT...the manufacturer didn't do enough homework. The two standard bolts that retain the intermediate plate [visible at the very bottom of the photo] contacts the outer ring of the aluminum center of the gear. I make special THIN head bolts to retain that plate and use Loctite to keep the bolts in place--no room for lock washers, not even the thin spring plate type.  I call that "close, but no banana".
 Note the big valves in the right cylinder head. I use these big valves in ALL my reconditioned V4 engines.  ALL the valve parts are NEW except the top retaining plates that hold the split keys. The exhaust valves are hardened and I install hardened valve seats for the exhaust valves. This was a warmed up street engine so the owner wished to stay with a single barrel carburetor. I use NEW Weber carburetors on ALL reconditioned V4 engines, this one a 34 ICH.
You can see the Weber carb and special air cleaner assembly, the reconditioned Bosch distributor, the new oil fill cap and the light flywheel and new clutch and pressure plate.  What you can't see is the camshaft, reground to Iskenderian F4 specs, and the new tappets [cam followers]. The yellow tabs are shims this clutch set required to get the release bearing plate [the six-sided plate in the center of the pressure plate ass'y] in its correct fore-aft location. The six shims go between the pressure plate and the flywheel. These MUST be offset by installing a slightly thicker shim WASHER under each of the six coil springs inside the pressure plate. About HALF the NEW clutch kits [clutch disc and pressure plate] I get these days require this shimming. I am really picky about the machining of the flywheels to maintain the STOCK depth of the pressure surface to the pressure plate mounting surface, so I know the problem is NOT the flywheels.   Necessity, someone said, is the mother of invention......

Monday, August 25, 2014


 MR T once again--my '37 FIAT EuroRod. Time--finally--for an exhaust system. In the top photo your can see the tuned header system on the 2-litre FIAT twin cam engine. The white tank to the right is the expansion tank for the aluminum Saab 900 Turbo radiator. The diagonal bar across the engine bay ties the roll cage into the front spring tower. Visible, just ahead of the door is the slot for the right side semaphore, and ahead of that the right vent door for the cabin area.
 There is FAR too much STUFF--fuel tank, Panhard rod, suspension trailing arms, and a box on each side behind the seats for A--the electric fuel pump, filter and pressure control,  and B--the Optima battery, as well as the standard FIAT 124 rear brake hydraulic pressure control unit--for the exhaust system to run under the car, back of the rear axle.  So it must exit the car just ahead of the right rear fender.  The photo above shows the system, ready to install under the car. Note the notch in the body of the car [extreme top left in the photo] for pipe clearance.
 Tip your head to the right and this photo makes sense. I had to notch one body mount channel piece to clear the pipe at the front, and cut another notch in the body itself at the rear for the pipe back there. The bolt-together flange to the header is on the right.
MR T is now "exhausted." Yup, those are "suicide" doors. The whole hood and front fender assembly tilts forward [see top photo], and the each rear fender comes off after two Allen head bolts are removed and one electrical connector detached. I will add a Coke bottle shaped valence under the door that will disguise the exhaust pipe. The removable roof section, the hood/front fenders ass'y, the rear fenders and the spare tire cover are ALL new fiberglass parts that I laid up, and the lower side valences will also be made of that "wonder" material. [Some folks wonder how they made such a mess using the stuff--HA!]