Sunday, August 18, 2013


 These are NOT fiberglass bolt bins, though they ARE fiberglass. Each, except for the dark one in the center right, is the main body of a cover for a glass hatch latch, for a Saab Sonett III.  The dark one is the steel mould for these things that I built about 25 years ago. The ten bodies shown have been popped out of the mould and trimmed, at this point.
 Here is another view of the ten latch bodies [I believe in mass production, y'see...] and the steel mould. Each latch body has 8 plies of 8 ounce fiberglass cloth. The resin matrix is polyester. You know---that stinky boat resin stuff.
 You can see that I have added a flat fiberglass plate on what will be the TOP surface of each cover. I pre-drilled the holes in the plates before bonding them to the main cover bodies.  The rusty colored "thing" at the bottom is an original, factory plastic latch cover. The sun warps the plastic, makes it brittle and most of them found on Sonett III cars these days are complete junk. 
 Three further stages of assembly are shown here. On the left, the cover with plastic filler completely sanded, ready for paint. In the center, a cover in primer, wet sanded and ready for color. On the right a cover painted and ready for installation in a Sonett III.  There is a whole LOT of hand labor making these things look this good. Sand, fill, sand, fill, swear, sand, swear, fill, swear....
Another view of the last three stages. I supply new stainless steel 1/4-20 bolts and stainless washers with these completed latch covers. These critters won't warp or get brittle--they'll probably outlast the rest of the car. Pretty neat, eh?

Sunday, August 4, 2013


 This is a study in contrasts. In a vertical row on the left, parts of a British Smith's tachometer. The vertical row on the right shows the similar parts of a U.S. Stewart-Warner tachometer. Both are cable driven. The Smith's unit used what was called a "chronometric" internal mechanism to motivate the needle around the dial. The S-W unit used a common, and very simple, rotating magnet to move the needle.  The Smith's tach was built around 1950, before the Brits had discovered magnetism, I think; the S-W unit around 1960. 
 You want contrasts, here's more. The Smith's tach [left] has a brass face and cast aluminum frame. The S-W tach a thin steel face and plastic frame. But the BIG contrast is in the internal gubbins. Just look at all that "stuff" in the Smith's unit. Levers and gears and balance arms and a couple of crude camshafts, and some other items identifiable only if you live in the outskirts of Coventry, England.  The S-W uses, simply, a rotating magnet in sort of a modified half cup shape that rotates around the round "can" that is connected to the speed needle. 
 There was at least SOME justification for Smith's use of the monkey-motion mechanism. First they used the chronometric jazz in their speedometers. If you look closely at the frame of the Smith's unit you will see holes in the legs of the frame where--if this were used in a speedometer--the odometer registers would be fitted. Take out the odometer gubbins and Presto! Instant tachometer! Clever, aye, mate?
 Well....yes and no. There is this thing called complexity. Murphy's law says that the more "stuff" in a unit, the more apt the unit is to screw up.  When I received the Smith's tach, the needle would go to maybe 15 [x100] rpm and stop. It looked like it had been Arabia with Sir Lawrence [who wasn't a "Sir" then] and needed TWO baths in the ultrasonic unit with clock cleaning fluid. Then a rinse, then careful oiling with clock oil. I didn't have high hopes for the sucker.
But I put it on the test bed and started the [anti-clockwise] rotation and th' blinkin' blighter started working! Chronometric tachs sort of step up, in about 500 rpm jerks. This one settled down at 6800 rpm, steady as a Spitfire in a dive after an ME-109. When the input rpm is slowed to a stop, the chrono tach backs down in about 2500 rpm steps.
Amazing what can happen when you get 65 years of dirt, dust and sand out of all of the monkey-motion bits in one of these critters.
But I look forward to peering into the bowels of a Smith's tach after they discovered magnetism....that happened in about 1990, if memory serves me correctly....

Friday, August 2, 2013


 Believe it or not, what you see above are instruments from a 1950 VW Beetle. I received these beat-up buggers from a customer with a plea to make 'em "like new."  On the left, two speedometers, on the right a wind-up clock. In the center, two "pods", as VW folks call them, that hold the speedo and clock and then bolt into appropriately sized holes in the instrument panel.
 This is the flip side of one speedo, the clock and the pods. Note that the speedo pod also mounts the ignition switch, and switches for lights and windshield wipers. As you can see, 65 years allows pleanty of time for crud to build up on all the bits.
 Both pods are cast in bakelite, as far as I can tell. Four idiot light mounts are also cast into the pod. There was quite a bit of brass--for wire connections, etc--to be polished up, and the switches had to be disassembled and cleaned, then reassembled--in the correct order and orientation. The bits only go [correctly] together one way.
 The clock--cleaned up and ticking--in its cleaned, primed and painted pod. The shaft at the bottom combines to wind and set the time of the ol' ticker.  The new rubber seal [black in the photo] around the pod cushions the unit in the panel.
Here are the pair, ready to go to the owner. Note the switch knobs--very much 1950's style--on the speedo pod. These are to go into a completely restored Beetle, and will probably be the highlight of the interior of the wee bug. They led me a merry chase, but I'm quite pleased with the final result. Good stuff...