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sleeve valve engines

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I'm thinking of buying a Sterns Knight that hasn't been on the road in many years. I understand the principles of the sleeve valve engine, but am still a bit intimidated. Some people tell me to stay away, while others say a rebuild should cost no more than a regular poppet valve engine.<BR>Any thoughts?

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Silverghost    1

These engines are great when in good shape...Better power because no valve head is in the way!!!BUT...a pain in the butt to rebuild!!!It is costly...(5-10X) conventional engines)Parts cannot be found + must be made!!! Engines are very quiet!!! Some smoke more than standard poppet valve engines!!!

I had a friend who had restored a fantastic high-end touring car. He, at the time, could find no one to fix the valve issue that his engine had. The valves would not seal properly + he had little power!!! This car was a one family owned car and that was the reason that they "Retired it" to the carriage

house in the first place. The origional family (Elkins in Philadelphia) had replaced it with a Model J Duesenberg which also was found in the same carriage house!!! These folks had kept every car they had ever owned!!! They are all still there today not running!!! Talk about a Barn Find!!! They seem not to care about selling these cars!!!

I still check-in from time to time!!!

If you want a car with this type of engine

why not find one that is already running in good mechanical shape???!!!

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Mark66A    1

Have no fear!!! These are great engines and the cost of rebuild IS NOT excessive. I'm in the process of rebuilding a 53 Ford Flathead and have significantly more invested in parts and machining than the rebuild on my 1928 Willys Knight Great Six sleeve valve motor (255 CID, 70HP). The Sleeve valve motor was stuck solid when I got it. Soaked it for 9 months, got it free, bolted on a carb and started it! I replaced the rings, had an engine shop boil out the block, hone the sleeves & bore and take 0.010 off the crank. Put in new babbit bearings, and have been running it since. Total over 20,000 miles at significant highway speeds (three Great Race events - Coast to Coast & normally about 4,500 miles). I've driven this car as fast as 75 mph for short periods (less than 15 to 20 minutes)and have run for hours and hours at 55 to 60 mph. My engine does NOT SMOKE. Oil consumption is about 1 quart per 250 miles - well within design tolerance. If the bottom check valve in the oil rectifer sticks (happened to me once) then it smokes enough to fog a square mile of mosquitos. One tap on the rectifier with a hammer solves the stuck check valve. I just brought home an 8 cyl Stearns Knight and am looking forward to starting it and hearing it run. Soon as I figure out where a few oil lines go, I'll fire it up. BUY THE STEARNS, you won't be sorry. The 8 cyl Stearns of 28 & 29 was the fastest, most powerful car in America until the J Dusenberg was introduced. The 8 cyl Stearns was guaranteed by the factory to exceed 100 MPH - and they did!!!

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Mark66A    1

Regarding your valve sealing problem. If, during rebuild, the grooves on the sleeves were cleaned and all carbon removed (ask me, I did it too), you will experience low power until the carbon accumulates again in the grooves. Took my car about 10,000 miles, then I began to experience a signficant increase in power. All the sleeve valve car ads say "power increases with use". That's because the engine is sealing itself as the carbon accumulates. If your friend drives the car it WILL regain it's power.

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Ivan Saxton    28

There are a number of aspects to this. Interesting references which have information on the charcteristics of sleeve valve engines are Rickardo "The High Speed Internal Combustion Engine" , Setright (spelling?) "The Power to Fly," and Reynolds biography of Sir Harry Rickardo "Engines and Enterprise".

There are two distinct types of sleeve valve engine. The Knight double sleeve was invented by a journalist, and was first adopted by Daimler in England. When the material available for poppet valves was so poor, the Knight engine offered freedom from valve problems that conventional engines suffered. If Elwood Haynes had abandoned auto manufacture and invented stellite 20 years earlier, perhaps the sleeve valve, which had problems of its own that needed solution, might never have happened. The Burt McCollum single sleeve valve, in which the ports were controlled by a sleeve with combined vertical and rotational movement, was a far better practical proposition than the Knight, and was used in the best high performance piston aircraft engines in WW2. The absense of hot exhaust valve heads in the combustion chamber allows a compression ratio one numeric unit higher to be used than in a poppet valve engine on the same fuel; and if the market demanded the ultimate in efficiency, performance, and longevity, we might be driving cars with single sleeve valve engines today.

All the early Knight engines smoked. (The very first tanks in WW1 had Daimler engines like a Railway cup of tea, -big and weak, and the smoke the emitted made them visible to the German artillery from a useful distance.)

The sleeves naturally need lubrication. The exhaust smoke comes from the oil that gets into the exhaust ports: Oil that burns in the combustion chamber does not cause smoke. When I first ran my 1918 Mercer, which saw everyday use for 40 years, it consumed 2-3 quarts of oil on a day's run but it was not smokey. It was using oil past the rings, not the valve guide. My rationale when I had to deal with two worn Willys Knight engines of a friend was that the smoke was caused by compression loss past the junk head rings forcing oil from around the sleeves into the exhaust. That seems justified by the results we got.

First I had to hone the sleeves about 10 thou oversize with a rigid hone so they cleaned up parallel. (WK originally finished sleeves internally with Heald planetary grinders. Bob Chamberlain bought about a dozen of these from the old WK factory in Indianapolis in 1936 when Rolloy pistons in Melbourne bought a licence from RayDay. He and Bill converted them into machines which the could bore the pin holes in their pistons accurate to a tenth of a thou. Women operated these machines on production, and Rolloy's biggest customers for pistons was GM here in Australia. I have one of these machines that Bob gave me, to use when I need to make pistons for my own cars.)

Tom, the owner of these two WK's, managed to get NOS semifinished pistons for the smaller engine, which I camground to size. We peened the skirts of the pistons of the big 66 to give the right clearance, and that worked fine. This was easier than making core-box and pattern to make new pistons for him.

Now it was necessary to either make new junk rings, or rebuild the originals. Because of basic consideration of material compatability, and because I have Metco metal spray equipment, it was better to rebuild. Like materials in working contact mostly preform worse or wear faster than disimilar metals. So I made acurate centred mandrels to hold the junk rings with the correct end gap. After required preparation, and with shim copper to avoid filling the end clearance gap, I rebuilt the rings with Metco Spraybond, which is molybdenum. This material is mostly used today for putting a special surface coating on high duty top compression rings. It has excellent wearing compatability with cast iron, and being a sprayed coating it has a slight porosity, which you seal with Metco's air-hardening phenolic sealer, but which still holds lubricant in the surface pores. I finished the rings (mounted with WK's specified end gap) in the grinder using my centred mandrels. I would be very surprised if these engines every need this attention again. They have both been trained permanently to give up smoking.

If you wish to raise the compression ratio of a sleeve valve engine to suit the better modern fuel, you have to make new junk heads. In the early 1920's someone at Voisin made a design error, and the experimental car had unbelieveable performance without detriment. It was running 8 to 1 compression ratio, when the standard for the time was probably below 5 to 1. Engines like the WK 66, Voisin, Minerva, or similar are quite strong enough to handle the extra power. (Other makes I am not familiar with). A more steeply conical combustion chamber shape gives a smoother but less powerful engine, while a flatter combustion chamber gives much more power but a "rougher" engine on the same fuel. Bear in mind that modern fuel means a different optimum. If anyone wants to play, I would suggest they get a copy of Rickardo, which was a standard text book for generations of mechanical engineers. And if anyone wants to build a single sleeve valve engine for a modern car, Rickardo Consulting Engineers,or Bristol, or possibly Rolls Royce would have all the information they need.

Ivan Saxton

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frank1935    0

I have a 1928 8cyl [color:\\"blue\\"] Stearns Knight which has a very badly damaged motor ( thrown rod due to too many early revs when cold by previous owner ) We require a 8cyl motor complete or for parts, any offers anyone ? Am located in Queensland Australia. Email at kirstineh@bigpond.com.

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BillSides    0

Sleeve valve engines are wonderful devices and utterly vice free normally. The worst thing that can be done is to needlessly disturb one. They all have premium quality materials in their sleeves so wear little. Only the bore condition matters anyway, not sleeve to sleeve fit. The bore is easily honed if pitted or grooved but being old low compression engines, bores do not need to be perfect. These engines take a long time to run in if disturbed and improve with use, unlike almost all other engines. They love hard work, the harder they pull, the less oil they will use and run smoother. Immediately drive, but never rev one hard until it has warmed up some as cold oil puts a big load on the sleeve actuation lugs and rods. Basic design varies little between marques so the comments are true for most Knight engines. One area is critical if rebuilding and that is the piston fit. They they should always be fitted loose as the sleeves reduce heat conduction to the water jacket so Knight pistons run hotter so expand more than in other engines and if they get too tight, it will be goodby sleeves, they will be dragged down into the sump, break a lug or rod or maybe worse. As the bores wear very little even in high mileage cars, things are best left as they are, maybe resize the ring grooves and fit new rings if too soft.

Oil consumption is normally high but not excessive by standards of the day. My 2 litre 1913 Minerva handbook boasts how good its oil consumption is - it says it only used a litre every 100 kilometres or almost a quart per 100 miles and this is for a good one! Most engines will only smoke a bit at idle unless an oil reclaimer as fitted to some US brands is faulty. Like any engine, crank bearings must be good but most sleeve valve motors I have opened have been OK even there beacuse most were very conservatively built. I have only heard of a few Willys Knights needing bearing remetalling, all the Minervas I have done up all retain 100% original internals and are being extensively used at high speeds over great distances and are always trouble free with over 70,000 miles done to date on pre WW1 Knight engines all paddock found seized engines with rusted bores. I have a large engine sucessfully restored by others who fitted cam ground Packard pistons .006" undersize and with higher crowns than Minerva used which increased compression significantly. That car is a rocket and 20,000 hard miles have proven that he got it right. It uses barely a drop of oil and its vpower and smoothness are incredible. Use cheap modern multiviscosity 20W-50 detergent oil in these engines, they need no better. They do not need carbon to seal compression, that was an old tale used by Willys, the junk and psiton rings will lap in and seal perfectly after a few thousand miles and then stay sealing for a lot longer than you will live! Have no fear, these engines are good, but beware of any engine "restored" by "experts", they will probably be too tightly assembled and a piston will grab and break a sleeve the first time they get good and hot. I always tell owners to leave them alone if possible and to drive them hard but keep the revs down until the motor has some warmth in it. I have heard of far too many having to expensively undo the work of "experts" and seen too many smoky engines because their rings had become carboned up because owners were using non-detergent "sleeve valve" oils in them. Few if any other engine can match even a tired old Knight motor for power, silence and reliability.

Bill

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I have a car with a Burt McCollum or Argyle Straight 8. We are in the throws of rebuilding it and are at a critical juncture where timing is important. My friend, an experienced mechanic, who is leading up this charge, I beleive is uncertain of himself on this project, so it has stalled. If anyone knows a shop that would be competent to handle this job, or if anyone has literature that would give us the correct timing information it would be greatly appreciated.

This is an extremely rare motor and we don't want to do anything that will compromise its integrity. It is unfortunate that it was disaasembled but thats the way it was when I got it. One of the original sleeves has a large bulge/rip in it where obviously combustion occurred at the wrong time. the guy who disassembled it said this was why it wasnt runnign when he got it, which may be the case but I think he caused this problem. No matter, here we are!

Shawn Miller

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Willys77    0

See that this topic was started over 12 years ago - but very relevant to me! I'm looking at a '28 Willys Knight that hasn't run in many years. What recommendations do you guys have in preparing to start this engine? What should I especially want to be aware of? I'm not familiar with the Sleeve Valve first hand. Just kind of handy. What do I use to prelube the cylinders - straight weight non detergent oil or ? weight detergent oil? I noted that it was suggested to use detergent oil. I'm a non detergent fan in my original '35 Willys! (non rebuilt 134 Flathead). Who is a good contact? Thanks for any recommendations, guys! I'll await some help.

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Aid1971    1

Hi,

 

I'm new to this forum as need to look further afield as exhausted my search here in England...

 

My father is restoring a 1927 Daimler which sports a Knight Sleeve Valve 35/120 6 cylinder engine. He's rebuilt and restored the Engine but needs an inlet manifold and carburettor completing it to its original form. If anyone knows where I could find such a thing it would be much appreciated. Long shot but you never know!

 

Photo below of the engin so you can see.

 

thanks

Adrian

 

 

 

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Aid1971    1

I thought about fabricating something as could draw a 3D file up, print a 3D lost wax model and cast one as per the original but last resort. Someone must have something tucked in the back of a shed somewhere! Even if I could find an original carburetor would help. 

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JFranklin    71

Your biggest problem is that it is an uncommon car and engine, and look how many scrap drives it has survived. If you cast some than you can help maybe someone else.

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Paul Weeks    0

Hi Adrian

reading your post with interest as I have just become the proud owner of a 1912 B.S.A which has a Knights Sleeve valve engine 

4cyl. I am on a steep learning curve and I am after any information on these engines / cars. I am aware that your engine is a 6 cylinder but if you are looking to get 1 made and it would be of any use to you to study / measure my manifold that would not be a problem.

it is nice to see there is a fellow enthusiast in the uk, where abouts are you, I am in Kent.

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Wascator    10

Love sleeve-valve engines! There are quite a few YouTube videos explain operation, and one series in particular shows a Peter Brotherhood industrial Diesel being rebuilt and started/run in the UK. AS I recall, Part 16 is a detailed explanation of the motion of the single sleeve.

There are even hobbyists who convert lawnmower engines to sleeve operation. Fascinating!

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Dave Bell and Dad spent many many a weekend working on his 1929 Stearns Knight 6 cylinder - just do not break anything.  And, they are pretty forgiving engines.  Dave was fortunate to have extra parts, but it was the 1960's and 1970's and at times there was not much money around - many times a problem part was pulled out and the best used put back in.  I believe the car covered some quarter of a million miles.    It smoked quite a bit too - just live with that.  My best advice though with a 30's car (any car for that matter is to drop the pan and make sure there is no sludge in it - sludge is a killer.  Also, I remember dad and Dave on the quest for alcohol based antifreeze (and I believe they added water pump lube to it) - Dave was always concerned about if water in the oil via head design.

 

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Mark66A    1

Dave Bell's 1929 Stearns Knight Model M Coupe is still running and touring regularly in far eastern North Dakota. The current owner is a young man in his 30's who is doing a great job of preservation. He had done just enough engine work so that the car tours very well and for long distances. It's appearance is the same as when Dave Bell owned it - no changes there. The suspension has been tightened up and it rides and handles better than it did a few years ago.  Not bad for an 88 year old lady. Oh, and she has cut back on her smoking habit due to some of the engine work.

Edited by Mark66A (see edit history)
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