Monday, January 30, 2012


Some years ago I was road testing--at a good rate of speed--a Sonett III with one of my high performance engines. I had taped my radar detector to the top of the instrument panel and was making "good speed" on a local winding road. As I rounded a bumpy curve at a speed some 20 mph too fast, I hit a serious bump. Simultaneously, the engine shut off, the radar detector went ON, and the headliner came down around my ears. Talk about an adrenalin spike!

Clearly, it was time for a new headliner. I decided that trying to glue another vinyl headliner in place was a fool's errand. I used a foam-backed CLOTH headliner and it worked so well that I offered them as KITS to Sonett III owners. The cloth headliners absorb sound, rather than reflect it, they look really good and best of all--they stay UP THERE! I sold dozens of the kits over the years and I still do.

The kit includes the new top material [pattern cut for good fit], new trim panels for above the doors, a can of excellent spray-on contact cement, a special scraping tool to get all the old crud off the top, and an eight page instruction booklet. If your headliner is down around your ears, contact me and I'll tell you more. You never know what will happen when you're going too fast on a bumpy road!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Direction signal switches get tired after 40+ years of directing, and they come to me with a variety of maladies. They don't stay switched on, they don't GO on, the handle is broken, and they are ugly dirty and nasty. I have to take 'em all apart, clean out the grime and old, solidified grease, renew the electrical contacts, and do other magical tricks to them to make them think they should work for another 40 years or so.

Above is a 4410 [manufacturer's number] switch, as used on the early Saab 95/96/97 [Sonett] cars. There are a number of wee springs, retainers, and movable contacts in there. This shows them after I've worked my magic on them, and the switch is ready to go back together.

Here is the before and after. The one at the top of the photo has given up on directing. The one below has had my magic wand passed over it and is ready for the next 40 years. If your switch has gone wonky on you, don't despair--I can probably make it work like new once again!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Somebody said, "Hey! Reconditioning speedometers is great, but...what about the speedometer cables?" What? Your speedometer won't run without a cable? Oh, all right, then, I'll build you a new speedometer cable.

Vintage Saabs [1961-80, models 95, 96 and 97(Sonett)] used two different style cables, each in two different lengths. The Saabs through 1969 used the early style cable, shown above. This is about the early style cables. I'll deal with the later style...ummm...later. You can see that the early cables used metal screw-on connectors on both ends.

I need your old, dead-as-a-doornail cable, even if it looks like this, which most of them do. I need the end connectors. The rest is junk.

The INSIDE cable shown here is a not-quite dead-as-a-doornail Saab 95/96 cable. The OUTSIDE cable shown is one of my new cables. Saab thought they needed a fat, bent, rubber section on the transmission end. Not one of their better ideas, because A--the cable is constantly bending in that area, and B--the rubber rots and breaks [see the photo above]. Later cars did NOT have the fat, bent rubber piece and guess what? The speedometers worked just fine with a "normal" cable. I do add a piece of plastic sheath about 8" long at the transmission end, to protect the outside of the sheath. I also use modern sheath material with a vinyl tube inside, so the rotating cable never rubs metal-to-metal. So if YOUR speedo cable is dead-as-a-doornail, I can make it all better!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


This is what usually gives up in a Lucas wiper motor--the brush plate. I keep a good supply of these on hand because ALL these 40+ year old Lucas motors need a new brush plate to run like new once again.

After about a jillion rotations of the armature, the brushes wear down, the brush springs get weak [and sometimes rusty]. Result? Motor runs slow, or not at all. No big deal unless it rains...

At this point, I have turned the armature commutator, installed a new brush plate, lubed the moving parts and tested the self park switch. Lord Lucas' wonder is ready for the final assembly, adjustments and bench testing.

This delightful array of switches, wires, relays and holders is my bench tester for ALL the Lucas wiper motors. With it, I test the speeds, self park and general operation of the assembled motor. It's nice, y'know, to see that the sucker is actually working right when it's connected to an actual circuit, just like the one in the car.

This is what the reconditioned Lucas wiper motor looks like just before I chuck it into a CLEAN bag, box it and ship it to the customer. Pretty cool, eh?


The Lucas wiper motors in Sonetts have a hard life. Saab engineers, in their infinite wisdom, placed the motor right where rain water drips on it, so after a number of years, the motor's gubbins get tired, rusty and ugly, and give up their good work. But, of course only when it's raining...

So the sucker has to come out of the car. No problem, just take a few hours to get the hood assembly off the car, and then you can go to work. I'll be happy to send you a HOW-TO on that process. One of the pages of my HOW-TO is shown below.

My instructions are good [see above], but of course, you will only want to refer to them when all else fails....

These motors do NOT live in a friendly environment and this is typical of what they look like when I take their nasty carcass out of the slimey bag you sent it to me in.

This is an exploded view photo of the motor and its "innards." Note that these are the CLEANED UP parts. It is all ready to go back together again, be adjusted, and then bench tested. I also use modern, temperature stable, non-hardening lubricants. See--I want the sucker to last ANOTHER 40 years or so!

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I find that a fair percentage of speedometers I receive for reconditioning have broken speed needles. This one happens to be for a VW Beetle, shown with the stainless outer ring, seals and trim plate removed.The speed needle is a little short, though only on one end.....

These speed needles are made of unobtainium, so it was up to me to figure out how to make new needles, which had to be not only light, but shaped exactly like the originals and the same color.

The first order of business is to remove the needle without damaging the face of the speedometer. I use my special puller for that job, shown here. This particular speedo is a VDO for a Saab, but all the analog VDO speed needles--from Audi to Volvo--use the same needle mount system, so their needles can be removed with the same tool.

I make up a super light needle blank with the same cross-section as the original needle [at bottom in the photo]. Next up in the photo is a needle center cap with what is left of an old needle, plus one of my needles, sanded to the correct cross section, but not quite small enough. At the top is a finished, repaired needle, ready for installation. I get the length, shape and section exactly the same as the stock speed needle.

This is the VW speedometer, reconditioned and with the new speed needle installed. I set this odometer at 00000, at the owner's request. I also provide the owner with a data sheet showing all the work that was done, plus the original, and current odometer readings, since some states are "picky" about this sort of thing, and demand such documentation.