Wednesday, December 26, 2012


 This photo shows a wide variety of Bosch distributors and distributor parts--ALL of which were supplied to Saab for their V4 engines. There were at least a dozen DIFFERENT Bosch distributors used on the Saab V4 engine, and while some parts are interchangeable, many are NOT. On the left is a really nasty Bosch/V4 distributor--typical of the way they look when I receive them. Moving to the right, there are 7 different drive gears. To the right of that the MAIN distributor parts---body, main shaft, top shaft. Then, a vacuum control unit [one of a dozen different ones used], a points plate [one of four used], a condensor [one of 10 different ones used], a set of points [one of two used], and a rotor [one of 6 used].The box holds half a dozen different top shafts, then several different movable points plates, and one of two different distributor caps. Finally, there are three different distributor assemblies and two different vacuum control units. I've reconditioned close to 500 Bosch distributors, and I still--occasionally--run onto something I have not seen before!

 Here are two Bosch V4 distributors with MAJOR differences. The top unit is what I call a "notch body" distributor. Note the extended casting on the side, near the top of the distributor body. This requires a vacuum control unit with its mount configured for that notch body. The distributor body below it is a "round body" type. Note that the vacuum control unit is assembled with a round mount.  
 Inside, the fun is just beginning. On the left is a very early internal shaft assembly, on the right one of the later shaft assemblies. Because of the orientation of the rotor notch in the top part relative to the 4 lobes that open the points, these will NOT interchange.  To further the fun, the later assembly [on the right] has four different lobe-to-notch arrangements and they will NOT interchange, either.  In reconditioning these distributors, it is essential to know what parts are compatible. If you don't, you will probably get the thing all back together again and it simply will not work.  Fun stuff, eh?
 This shows the parts of the internal shafts. On the left, starting at the top, the lower shaft. On either side are the two mechanical advance weights, with their control springs just below them. At the bottom, the top shaft, with the four lobes that open the points, and the notch for the rotor.  On the right, the assembled shaft. I control--and can tailor--the mechanical advance curve of the distributor, by changing the advance SPRINGS. I plot the actual curve by running the distributor on the SUN distributor machine, noting the degrees of advance at various readings through the useable RPM range. Sometimes a lot of springs get changed before I'm satisfied with the curve.
Virtually ALL the distributors I receive must have a bushing installed at the bottom of the distributor body. I use a special tool to hold the distributor body so I can drill it in the lathe for the brass bushing. In this picture the bushing has been installed and this setup is for reaming the bushing to the correct inside diameter. This is a fairly delicate process, to get JUST the right I.D. for the shaft, plus just the right clearance. Well....after bushing close to 500 distributors, I DO have that process figured out.
What makes YOUR V4 distributor a candidate for reconditioning? Uneven idle, poor performance, excess fuel consumption, hard starting are a few symptoms. Remember---these gesparkers are 40+ years old! Many Saab V4 owners are amazed at how much better their 40+ year old Saab runs with just a properly reconditioned distributor installed. How's yours running?

Saturday, December 22, 2012


You are looking at a very screwed up Saab/Ford V4 engine block. I took this one apart to do a complete overhaul. The piston in the photo IS at top dead center. I rigged the dial indicator to measure how far the crown of the piston is below "deck height" [top surface of the block]. The drill is to get a starting point, so I set the dial indicator at some number greater than the estimated depth of the piston below deck height. I also know the thickness of the steel strap.

 Next is to remove the strap and take a measurent at the piston crown.  I subtract this measurement [plus the amount of the strap thickness] from the first reading. The result was 0.247".  This is a 1698cc V4. We all know [don't we?] that the pistons in the stock 1698cc V4 do not come up to deck height BUT they certainly are not a quarter inch below it! ZOUNDS! Some metally challenged mechanic really did a number on this little engine.
But wait! There's more! It's hard to see in this photo but the cylinder walls are a mess. There is about six jillion tiny hammer marks, all evenly spaced in that shiny area above the piston. What the hell caused that? I am not sure. Perhaps a worn out boring bar [the engine was bored .5mm (0.020") oversize] or an equally worn out hone of some sort.  So what does this have to do with the deck height problem?   Well, sports fans, when I got the sucker all apart I find that the super smart "wrench" who did this work managed to fit [new] pistons for a 1698cc engine onto a 1498cc crankshaft, resulting in the 0.247" under deck height measurement.
This same genius had the crankshaft turned 0.010" undersize on the main bearing journals, and 0.020" undersize on the connecting rod journals, BUT then installed bearings that were ALL 0.010" oversize. That sucker must have rattled quite a lot had had about as much power as an old two stroke Saab with one plug wire pulled off! 

Proving once again that these little V4's are pretty special and require some special knowedge--like factory manuals and 40+ years of Saab experience-- in order to rebuild them correctly. A hack mechanic who once overhauled a Chevy pickup engine has absolutely no business getting within a city block of a Saab V4. This particular rocket scientist managed to make the Saab owner pay TWICE to get his engine overhauled correctly.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


 I need some help here, gang. I received this clock yesterday--for reconditioning--and I have NO IDEA what vehicle it came out of. The owner provided no phone number or email address. Do YOU recognize the critter?The outside diameter of the outer ring is 3.744" and the outer ring is brass color.
 The clock has two mount tabs, as you can see, and the auto-rewind section is the common VDO-Kienzle unit. Build date stamped on the auto-rewind section is 5-73.
Side view of the Mystery Clock. It is a VDO unit so that means it probably came from a European vehicle circa 1973. If you know what it might have come from, please let me know. Jack Ashcraft--phone 541-499-0246  or email me at

Sunday, December 2, 2012


 Holy switchplates, Batman! This is a clear cut case of the good, the bad and the ugly! These are igntion & lighting switch plates from a 72 Bimmer Bike. On the left, the charred remains of the original. On the right, a new switch plate--possibly the only new one in captivity--which set the Bimmer owner back something on the order of $175.00! Yikes!
 View of the BOTTOM of the two plates. Obviously, there is work to be done on Old Nasty [left] which is dead as a door nail here.
 Top view of the two plates. Old Nasty [left] hung in there for 40 years so I reckon the owner can't whine too much about it giving up on him. But it's time to lop off the cremated wires and give the sucker the sheep dip [clock cleaner and rinse] treatment!
HA! There IS life after death! New wires and ready to go for another 40 years! I recondition a TON of switches--for cars and bikes--as well as making auto clocks and cable driven speedometers and tachometers work like new. MOST old dead ones can be revived--good stuff, Mate!