Tuesday, May 31, 2016


 Once in a while you run into something amazingly stupid. Take this BOSCH window lift motor for example. It is out of a 1990 V W Vanagon. This thing is about an inch and a half [more or less] square and about 5 inches long.   It looks pretty nasty, and that is after I did some cleaning on it.
 This is the flip side. Even nastier on this side.  But wait...it gets better...
 Well, maybe not actually better...inside, it looked like it had spent a good bit of time at the bottom of Lake Yuk! In fact it took about an hour to convince the brush holder [in my hand] to even come out of the motor body. That brush holder, by the way, has to carry the brushes, the brush holders, the pressure springs, and a set of starter coils.  There is so little room in that brush holder that the brushes have to be of STARTER BRUSH material, because they are so short. Carbon brushes would wear out in weeks, apparently...      Just try to buy starter brushes these days, particularly TINY little shits that could be used in this sucker!
 The armataure is supposed to be shiny and bright....not Lake Yuk black. See, the
V W people, in their infinite wisdom, placed the motor in the door of the Vanagon so rainwater runs right onto--and into--the motor. When I took it apart I got at least three tablespoons full of water out of it.  Good stuff, eh?  Yeah, results of grand engineering...  
Well, I DID finally find some starter brushes that I could cut down and I DID figure out how to install them in this sucker.  This is the reconditioned motor--looking better than new and ready to go back into that superbly engineered VW Vanagon door.  A door that now has a custom made water deflector over the window lift motor. Great stuff, re-engineering what the engineers should have done right in the first place.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


 This is the flip side of a Saab Monte Carlo instrument module, in all its beat up glory. Rust, corrosion, hard handling, and 50 years time have taken their toll.   AK!
 Here is the front of the plastic instrument mounting panel. It was pretty boogered up. You can't see all the cracks and gouges in the panel, in this photo, but they were there.
 The panel had six mounting bolts cast into it--this is the back side--and five of them were ripped out. The panel was also warped and was cracked in about a dozen places. 
 J B Kwikweld to the rescue! A local hardware store was the source for the 4mm x .7mm bolts, as well as the brass pipe I used to provide the centering sleeves for each of the bolts. There were a number of places where I used the JB to straighten the panel by routing out a long groove, laying in the JB, then holding the panel flat as that brand of killer epoxy cured for 24 hours. 
 The front of the panel had eight or ten places where there were a lot of little side by side cracks.  I ground out each tiny crack with a Dremmel tool, then filled it in with auto body filler and sanded it smooth. This sand-fill-sand-fill-sand process went on for a couple of days.... Then it was time to prime-sand-prime for a while, and finally give it three coats of color.  Pretty good, huh?
 Each of the instruments were reconditioned. Here is the full set, ready to install in the car.
And here are the four major instruments sitting in the repaired and repainted mounting panel. All the warning lights--not shown in this photo--were also reconditioned--they were just as grubby as the rest of the module [see photo one--above].  The owner could have just whacked out a panel out of aluminum and screwed it to the instrument panel of his Saab 96, but chose to have me do the job right...and you can see the results. Reminds me of a sign I saw one time on the shop of an old time welder/blacksmith:  "I can mend anything but a broken heart."

Thursday, March 3, 2016


 What we have here is a HYBRID speedometer.  My customer wanted a dual register speedometer--as in a Monte Carlo--for use in his standard 1966 96 two stroke car. The trouble was that the Monte Carlo cars--either two-stroke or V4--had a transmission with a 4.88:1 final drive transmission.  The '66 two-stroke had a transmission with a 5.43:1 final drive. So the MC speedometer would be WAY WRONG in both SPEED and MILEAGE recording......Hmmmmm.....
 Clearly, the solution was to change the internal gearing of the MC speedometer [see first photo]. After some head-scratching, I did that gearing change, and the finished speedometer [above] reads correctly on the test bed, for a Saab with 5.43:1 gears.
Here is the flip side of the finished speedometer. I set the odometer miles to match the miles currently shown on the speedometer in the customer's car. The change-over can be done, but it is nice to prove that the change was done correctly, by running the finished speedometer on the test bed.   Good stuff!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


 Every once in a while it is good to "show off", assuming you have something to show. One of my evils is doing "phantom" drawings. You know, those drawings done as though the outer skin is clear plastic.  The drawing above was my FIRST phantom, done in the winter of 1962.  [Yeah, I know...back when dinosaurs roamed the earth...] 
 John Callies' FIAT Topolino with a 303 CID Pontiac V8 engine was the first phantom drawing that I got paid for doing. John used the car--and my art work--to promote the various products that he marketed. This was one scary little bomb to drive or ride in!
 Another FIAT, this one a 1937 model, my own car, MR T. Mechanicals were almost all FIAT, including the 2-litre twin cam engine, 5 speed trans, disc brakes, etc. It even had some SAAB parts! I built new fiberglass rear fenders, spare tire cover, the hood/front fenders assembly, and some other stuff.
 HA! Another one I got paid for. This is a kit car, built by a small company in Oklahoma City, between tornadoes, one assumes. It has a 5-litre Ford V8 engine, disc brakes, a fuel cell, and a ton of other goodies.
 Well, of course I did phantom drawings of SAABS!  Above, a very special Sonett III with all new fiberglass up front, and a complete re-style of the arse end.  Engine is a  1.7 litre V4 Ford of about 120 bhp, and yup, those ARE Ronal wheels.
 This is FAST FREDDY, my '68 Sonett V4 autocross and hill climb racer. Freddy's V4 engine produced right at 150 bhp and a winter diet got his weight down to 1490 pounds, ready to race. Competitors hated to see me arrive in Freddy. In 5 years of autocross racing, I can count the number of times I was beaten in my class, on one hand.
 Another highly successful race car, believe it or not. My son Chris and I built TITO, an '86 Yugo, for Pacific Northwest autocross racing. The engine was a 1.5 litre FIAT X1/9 engine producing the better part of 140 bhp. This was another car that the competitors hated to see arrive at the race courses.
 Here is another drawing done for a kit car manufacturer. It boasted a fiberglass body and square steel "space" frame, and was set up for VW, Porsche or Corvair power. And yup, I got paid for this one, too.
 I did this drawing of Ford's Mustang One for an article in a magazine. Note the twin radiators, one on each side of the engine. A pity Saab wouldn't consider producing a roadster...Ford's contract builders, Troutman and Barnes, in Southern California, who produced half a dozen of these cars, had done all the work already.  When Ford decided NOT to produce the Mustang One, Saab could have had it for a song.
 I got serious about phantom drawings with this one, completed when I was in my final semester of Automotive Design at Art Center College of Design in L.A. in 1975.  We seniors were doing a design project for General Motors for a proposed new LaSalle.
 Airplanes are fun to draw.  This one is a Bradley Aerobat. Bradley Aerospace was a very small company in Chico, California, building these little aluminum buggers as kits. Modified VW engines were the normal powerplant used. I completed a multi-page, step-by-step assembly manual for this little bird.
My pay for doing an assembly manual for the Polliwagen was a complete Polliwagen KIT!  This was a side-by-side, two place composite bird that could be ordered with retractable landing gear, fixed, or full flying tail, and could be configured for a VW engine, or larger powerplants up to and including the 150 bhp Lycoming O-320. It was fun to fly and was a genuine 200 mph bird with the larger engine.

All of the original art for these drawings was done about 16" x 24" size, in order to get the level of detail you see. I always use a LOT of photographs to get the details correct, and when possible, go to the factory so I can really see--and photograph-- the "bare bones" of the car or airplane. It is not in my nature to guess at anything.

I hope you have enjoyed my bit of "showing off!"


 These are the [made of unobtainium] back up light switches for Saab 95/96/97 cars that I recondition. The drawing above shows where the switch is located on the Saab transaxle, and the internals of the switch. Nothing much to them...right?  Well, yes and no. Because of the nasty environment where they "live", they get really grubby and corroded inside. The trick is to get them apart without destroying them.  AH! as the Bard of Avon said, "There's the rub!"
 Here are 16 switches. At the bottom, one switch disassembled. Above, are 15 switches that I have reconditioned and tested. As I said, getting them apart without destroying the switch is the trick, and it is a bitch....unless...
...you happen to have my special tools. Top center--the tool that holds the switch so  you can use the bottom tool to UN-crimp the steel body of the switch WITHOUT breaking the plastic switch body. The same tool is used to RE-crimp the steel body of the switch.  The little red tool is a special holder for trimming tiny brass screws that I sometimes have to use to hold a new connector when one of the electrical connector tabs are broken off.

If you are wondering where to get these tools....they're made of unobtainium, too. Just send me you dead switch and I'll recondition it.  When I'm done with it, it will look like one of the 15 switches in the center photo.  Good stuff, huh? 

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?