Tuesday, December 27, 2011


A change of pace! My son Chris wanted an interesting painting on the fuel tank for his wee Kawasaki Bushmaster motorcycle. Chris rebuilds and restores these little smokers and has a small herd of them---Honda, Hodaka, Yamaha, Kawasaki and a couple whose names I can neither spell nor pronounce--a dozen or so all told.

I did half a dozen pages of sketches of dragons and scarcely clothed women, y'know, to get into the mood of boobs and dragons. This is the final work-up layout--done in ball-point pen--for the painting. I knew it was going to be interesting when I transferred this from the two dimensional sketch to the three dimensional tank, but I had to start somewhere.

So here they are, the dangerous-looking woman with lance, pistol and boobs, and the even more formidable-looking dragon with teeth, tail, claws and a ton of pointy thingies all over it.

I wrapped the background and the dragon's wings around the tank, and since I know dragons pretty well, I knew this meant Mr D was about to launch and eliminate an adversary with teeth and flame, waiting only the removal of his mistress's hand.

Yup, that's me, with the evidence in hand. By the way, the paint used is ONE-SHOT sign writers oil base enamel. There are a lot of brush strokes on the tank, necessary to get all those scales and claws and boobs and stuff just right. Someone suggested it should be clear-coated for protection. Chris vetoed that, since he wanted it to look hand painted and not air brushed! He and I both know that One-Shot is a very tough enamel that holds its color extremely well. Enjoy.

Monday, December 12, 2011


This is one of 14 technical books I've written [and illustrated] on vintage Saabs. I've also written and illustrated 3 books on the 124 Fiat series, but that's another story. I've been sorting automotive electrical systems for 40 years or so but you might be surprised to know how often I refer to this 130 page book myself! I went to a lot of time and effort to write the book in the first place, and it is by far the BEST you can lay your hands on if you are trying to figure out something electrical in a Saab 95, 96 or Sonett.

I used the schematic of the Sonett III headlight relay system for the back ground on the book's cover. I repeated it in the text and I take you through how it works, in great detail, like I do for the dozens of other schematics in the book.

I show you 13 different switches in the book, including how they are internally wired, and then describe in the text how they work. I also cover the fuse box, different relays, ballast resistors, coils, ignition switches, instrument panel wiring and a ton more.

I don't have x-ray vision, so I take stuff apart to see how it works. This is a typical Saab 95, 96 and Sonett headlight relay. I describe in detail how it works and better yet, how to repair it when it decides to take a vacation on you. You won't find that kind of help in ANY other repair manual, including the old Saab Factory manuals!

This is typical of how I show you the way something works in these cars. This is the primary wiring--the under-the-bonnet stuff--in a Sonett III. The Sonett V4 and the 95/96 cars are different so there are two more drawings like this for those cars. The accompanying text takes you by the pinkie and leads you through each one, wire by wire.
My son Mark sells this 130 pager through his business, Ashcraft's Vintage V4 Parts. Give him a growl at 541-779-0731. It ain't free, but it will show you how all those mysterious electrons zing around in your Saab, and it will save you hours of head scratching. Best of all--YOU might be able to chase those electrical gremlins out, and keep your wee Troll out of a hundred dollar an hour repair shop!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I've just finished rebuilding four speedometers for Saab, and, surprisingly enough, for Volkswagen owners [!]. All these instruments were built by VDO, of course, and while they have similar "innards", there are important differences. So I have to use different techniques on each one.

This one [above] is from a Saab Sonett III. Just visible is the SAAB logo, right under the trip register.

This one is from a "Type 3" VW. You know, the Squareback and Fastback models.

This VDO unit is from a VW Beetle, when VW was trying to convince buyers the car would go 90 mph. The first USA Beetle speedos only were calibrated to 80.

This one is from a Porsche 914. These VW-Porsche speedos caused me to design and build a whole NEW raft of special wee tools, but that's the only way to do it right. I also do a speed vs mph calibration on every speedometer and give the owner a complete rebuild data sheet.

So why am I doing VW-Porsche speedometers? Well, like a whole lot of people over 60, I have owned a number of those cars. Lessee....hmmm....3 Beetles, a Westphalia bus and a '61 Super 90 Porsche coupe. Quite a number of Euro cars of the 1950's, 60's and 70's used the VDO instruments and I figured VDO didn't reinvent the wheel for every manufacturer they sold instruments to. Once I got into the speedos a while back, my suspicions were confirmed. See--I can have even more fun with speedometers now--HA!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Special tools are a MUST when working on speedometers, and each series requires similar, but slightly different tools because of minor--but important--differences between series. At this point I have designed and built a dozen and a half special tools to work on these little buggers. Seems like I build a new tool every other day!

I use this tool to remove the speedo needle without damaging it. It's for the early Saab VDO speedos used in 95, 96 and Sonett V4's. For the later 95, 96 and Sonett III speedos I need a slightly different needle removing tool.

This little gem is a pusher/installer. The lateral gear/shaft ass'y must be pushed out [from the RIGHT side] before the main input shaft can be pushed out. Trying to do this without the tool invites an instant broken gear/shaft. The left side of the tool pushes the retaining ball back IN, during reassembly of this part of the speedometer.

This is the side of the speedometer with the longitudinal transfer gear set removed. I need the puller tool [in red] to remove the brass gear on the transfer set or the brass gear on the register shaft [the gear visible at the top right on the speedometer body]. I've made three different pullers for the different series of VDO speedometers used in Vintage Saabs.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Lots of guys have shops and that's great. Mine is heated, has plenty of light, a padded stool, a good radio....and AUTO ART! I painted these scenes, using One-Shot sign enamel, on galvanized steel sheet, about 20 or 22 gauge.

These are all paintings of my cars. Above--a very fast '69 Sonett V4 rally car. It had about 130 horsepower and about a million candlepower of light out front. Nice to see where you are going, at 100 mph in the middle of the night! The sign forms the door of a 10" deep cabinet next to my shop drill press.

This was my first car--a '37 Ford slantback. It had the flathead V8 engine, which produced 85 horsepower on a good day. You can see the reflection of the old South Dakota farmhouse where we lived when I bought this old Ford. Cost me $65, at Rozum Ford, in Mitchell, SD. This painting is mounted on one of three cabinet doors over my workbench.

This is my all time favorite car, of the 70 or so I've owned, a '60 Jaguar 3.8 MK 2. It had a 4 speed box, plus a Laycock de Normanville overdrive, and a ton of walnut and leather inside. It would cruise happily at 100 mph, in quiet comfort. A real "gentleman's express". Quite!

Between my big drill press [left] and my lathe [right] is a 4" deep cabinet with this painting on its door, of the homebuilt, composite POLLIWAGEN 2-place airplane I built. Typical Oregon scenery is the backdrop for this slick little bird.
Want some shop art with YOUR car in it? Give me a growl and we'll chat about it.

Monday, November 28, 2011


The passage of time produces interesting contrasts. One of the most notable is how we use our cars. When I owned a Saab dealership (1967-1974), V4 Saabs were used as daily drivers. Twenty years later, only a few were in daily use, and the emphasis was on keeping them running.
Fast forward another 20 plus years...today most of the V4 powered Saabs are driven on weekends or occasionally and almost never in any inclement weather.
Restoration continues on some of the "lucky" V4 cars still intact and with that there is an almost anal emphasis on "originality."

A number of owner/restorers "beat their chests and rend their shop coats" over fuel pumps. We're talking about an item that is mounted low and almost out of sight in the engine bay.
"That's not original! It's not like the one I took off my engine!" claimed an owner. The logical response was "Is the pump you took off original? Do you even know what was original?"

I'll confuse you with some facts: Ford used at least THREE different series of Pierburg fuel pumps on the V4 engines sold to Saab on contract.

As the years went by and the supply of "original" pumps dried up, Saab contracted with various manufacturers for replacement fuel pumps and sold them to dealers and customers.
So, does this make them "not original"? They DID have Saab part numbers and were sold by Saab dealers...

HELLO? We're not talking vintage Packards or Duesenbergs here...But if having a hissy-fit over a part that you can barely see when you look in the engine bay makes your day, then go for it. But do compare that greasy, drippy lump of a pump with the pumps shown here...just to make sure that the bucks you spend on rebuilding it are for an "original."

Sunday, November 27, 2011


The VDO folks tried to make one basic speedometer fit a whole batch of applications. For Saab alone, this basic speedo worked for 10 or so different cars!
Different transaxle final drive ratios meant that they had to have different ratios INSIDE the speedometer so any one car had the correct speed and miles recorded. This photo shows the left side of a Saab VDO speedo with the little side transfer gear set removed.

At the bottom of the photo you can see the transfer gear set.
I did the exploded view drawing below to show the side transfer gear set at the extreme right. The lateral transfer gear set is just to the right of the main speedometer body. The ball is used to retain the lateral gear set. You need a special, very small, puller and press to push out the ball so the lateral shaft can be removed without damaging it.

The exploded view also shows the trip register reset mechanism [extreme left in the drawing]. The tiny cog wheels at the top and bottom advance the number wheels at the appropriate time.

This is a close-up drawing I did of the main speedo body, with the side transfer gear set still in place. This gear set must be adjusted for the correct mesh with the gear on the end of the top [primary] mileage register.

The four arrows show the worm drive gears on the two shafts and the two gears--that are selected for a given transaxle ratio. The gears are different diameter and have a different number of teeth. So a single speedometer "main frame" can work for a 2-stroke with 5.23:1 final drive as well as Sonett V4 with a 4.67: final drive, by changing the gear sets. Clever, eh?
My next blog will be about some special tools and why I needed them.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Now the fun begins. The knurled, round knob secures the big "U" bracket that holds the speedo into the instrument panel. The thin hex nut holds the speedo "innards" to the outside case. I have to be careful with the relatively delicate gubbins from here on.

I built a holding fixture [in red, below] to hold the speedo securely in my vise so I don't slip and bust some tiny part while I'm trying to replace damaged bits.Then I clean and re-lube the working gizzmos. The 40 year-old grease in these babies gets real stiff. I use a dentist's pick [AKA "torture tool"] to clean the old grease off the gears!

The gear train for resetting the odometer trip meter register is on the lower left on the speedo inner frame. The round drum is where the magnet and speed needle cup are located. At the top is the main odo register [with numbers] and above that the advancer sprockets that allow only the correct number wheel to rotate.

I reversed the mount fixture [red] so I can get to the "innards" easier. See the wee gear train on the side.... these gears are changed to make the speed and miles read correctly for the different transaxle final drive ratios that Saab used over the years.The rest of the "innards" are the same.
My next blog will be more about taking it all apart, with more special tools, steady hands and a lot of TLC.

Friday, November 25, 2011


The Saab VDO speedometer is a good quality instrument. But like all of us, some parts get tired and gummed up after many years, and...uhh...some parts quit working. My drawing shows a dual register VDO speedo with the internal gubbins phantomed in.

MILEAGE recording--on the odometer registers--is accomplished through a double set of transfer gears. My phantom drawing shows the SIDE set of transfer gears. Interestingly, SPEED indication is done magnetically--there is no physical connection from the speedometer cable input to the speed indicating needle. The input shaft is connected to a small magnetic drum that rotates inside a sort of cup that is connected to the needle. The faster the speedometer cable turns, the faster the magnetic drum, and the farther around the speed dial the needle moves. A tiny hairspring insures that the needle always returns to rest at the "0" peg. So now you know, generally, how the thing works.

Next is how to get it apart so what DOESN'T WORK can be fixed/replaced.
I designed and built a fixture [clamped in my vise] that holds the speedometer firmly in place. The ring removal tool [with the green handle] has a specially ground tooling tip that just fits under the stainless ring, that, as I move the tool around the speedo, gently stretches the stainless ring until it pops off the speedometer. CARE and PATIENCE are vital here, but the ring does come off with NO DAMAGE!

I've got the ring off--NO DAMAGE! Below it is the glass, and below the glass a painted trim ring. Now I can get on with the work on the speedo's "innards".

A look at the special fixture that secures the speedometer. Without this fixture it is REALLY EASY to booger up the very soft stainless steel outer retaining ring. I've completely rebuilt a number of these VDO speedo's now--for Saab, VW and Porsche--so if yours is AWOL in the function department, I can rebuild yours, too. Give me a shout---541-499-0246 or email me at jacksonashcraft@gmail.com.
Next---I take you into the VDO "innards". I know---you can hardly wait....

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I did a lot of serious, Monte Carlo style rallies. To be competitive I bought a lot of serious rally equipment. Some of this included a Halda Speedpilot [shown mounted in my '69 Saab Sonett], a back-lit instruction reader [also shown], a Halda Twinmaster [not shown], Heuer rally clocks, and a ton of other goodies including go-fast stuff for the Sonett and driving lights with about a jillion candlepower.

This is the first style of Speedpilot [mine is Serial No. 15363]. I have the original "quick-look' booklet and the factory mount for it. It needs the knobs and professional cleaning and it should be ready to rally! Overall condition is a 7 [of 10], with the exceptions noted. I also have a ton of connecting drive cables and "T" gearboxes, as these units were speedometer cable driven.

This my MK V Speedpilot [Ser. No49691] that I used in various Saabs, Fiats and Honda Civics in SCCA Pro Series and 4-Cylinder Club of America rallies [ca. 1969-80]. I "mothballed" the rally stuff after that time and it has been carefully stored in my heated shop since then. Condition of this little gem is an easy 9 [of 10].

This is my Halda Twinmaster [Ser. No. 30277] and the THIRTY large drive gears--each a different ratio]--that come with it. There are also four small drive gears. The three clips are for drive cable attachment. Condition: an easy 9.

The photo shows my Butler light [for over the navigator's shoulder], a "Tunaverter' unit that allowed tuning a car radio to WWV Universal Coordinated Time, a Saab panic handle, and the rally instruction back-lit reader unit [see the drawing at the beginning of this blog].

I also have seven drive cables, 5 different T-drive gearboxes, and various other bits, Everything is in quite good condition. I'm working on prices for everything. If you have an interest in any of it, e-mail me at jacksonashcraft@gmail.com or call me at 541-499-0246. If you are serious about doing Vintage rallies, this equipment is what you need!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Saab 95 Wagon Progress

Mark sent over some photos of the progress he's making on the 95 Wagon restoration. Looks like has the trans in, and all four corners back int he car.

Transmission installed, together with rebuilt steering rack, axles, brake master cylinder, shift linkage, and new motor mounts:

Rear suspension installed with updated tube shocks:

Rear shock mounts allow the use of tube shocks:

Front suspension installed:

New complete electric fuel pump package installed. Includes easy-to-replace filter, pump and fuel pressure regulator: