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1923 OAKLAND 6-44 SEDAN~Restoration Diary

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Hello to all my new antique auto friends!! My dad and I bought the Oakland on 9 JULY 2009. It was sitting on the corner down the street from our family-owned business and we noticed it while returning from lunch. Old things are more my thing so dad was pretty perturbed when I made the unannounced turn out of traffic and into the parking lot were the Oakland was sitting on a trailer. Dad and I quickly learned that we were both well acquainted with the car as it used to be part of a display at a local museum since 1966. <o:p></o:p>

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Because we work in manufacturing and business had been slow, dad and I decided to purchase the car and this will be my space to document the restoration process. I welcome any comments and advice but please be kind as I have never tackled anything of this caliber before. Honestly, I thought if I was ever able to own a neat old car like this I would be retired and much older. Moreover, I envisioned if that time ever came that I would buy one already restored because I have never been mechanically inclined. I am more of the artist-type and I just got past mourning the end of my band after 15 crazy and very eventful years. So, goodbye to my coveted 1976 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe and hello to my new interest in antique cars!<o:p></o:p>

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THE CAR<o:p></o:p>

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The Oakland was donated to the Franklin County, Ohio Historical Society in 1964 by the estate of a long-time resident of Plain City, Ohio. In 1966 the car was given to the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio, when at that time it underwent a partial restoration. There was a full roof replacement done and a quick patch to the body behind the passenger side front wheel…..which I discovered was an old tin gasoline advertising sign formed over wood and spray painted black! <o:p></o:p>

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When we got the car it didn’t run but everything that really matters was there. We pulled the engine and transmission first and found there must have been a collision of some sort with the car. The inside honeycomb to the radiator was partially smashed and the part where the front bumper was attached was bent. The engine cleaned up wonderfully and we had to get new piston rings and a timing chain. I don’t know what is considered high mileage for this vintage of car but the odometer reads 23k which is confirmed by the title.<o:p></o:p>

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In the past few weeks we reduced the car down to the frame, sanded and painted it. We sanded the wheel spokes, sealed them natural and painted the hardware black. We rebuilt the generator and distributor and have a couple big decisions to make regarding the carburetor and pump. I understand the Marvel carb was not dependable when the car was new and might be dangerous to use and alternatives run $500-$1500. The vacuum pump (I think that is right, the thing on the firewall with leads to the gas and water) I understand is fragile white metal that needs to be carefully cleaned and if broken is hard to find and expensive. <o:p></o:p>

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Today the engine and transmission went back on the frame and the wheels will be put on in the morning. If everything tests well with the engine we will tackle those tough decisions with the carb and pump. I understand the radiator might be salvageable depending on if there are holes or bursts. One good indication is it was holding a lot of fluid when we pulled it. I also understand the honeycomb can either be replaced with a restoration piece or something modern. <o:p></o:p>

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In the meantime, I continue to keep an eye on eBay, local auctions and swap meets for side mirrors, headlight lenses, tail light lens, handles, door releases, dome light, visor, shock strap, instrument light, rubber cover for the running boards, radiator cap and gas cap. I’m sure I am leaving things out but that is basically the little details plus whatever extra or after market things I learn about along the way. That travel trunk would be really cool!<o:p></o:p>

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I don’t expect my follow ups will be as long winded as this was basically a run-down from day 1 to day 46. My gallery will include a more comprehensive collection of photos if anyone is interested. THANKS COMING ALONG ON MY JOURNEY!




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Looks like a good start to a great project. I am no expert on the Marvel carb but in 1923 it should still be a brass unit so should be safe from "pot metal disease" and should be rebuildable. If your vacuum fuel pump is a Stewart type the top casting is pot metal and could be a problem. You can buy rebuild kits cheaply, do not use teflon tape at the fittings! If you need a new top the units are pretty common and cheap on Ebay if you can find one that matches yours. Be sure to clean out the fuel tank and check for leaks before you attempt to run new gas thru it. Good luck!

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I was actually going to say that maybe that car should be preserved as is, but as I read further, I realize that ship has sailed. Welcome to the group of nuts here and if there is anything you need, just ask. Get stuck on something and surely someone here will help you figure it out. Above all....HAVE FUN doing the restoration.

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Is this the tail light lens that you need? The bucket says "OAKLAND TYPE-A" on it. It is nickel plated and has splits. The lens is held in by a snap ring. The lens still seems to be in one piece. The actual lens is 3" in diameter. If it's the right one, we can talk. I am VERY reasonable. John




Edited by keiser31
had to add size of lens (see edit history)
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Greetings John, Don and CJ!! Thanks everyone for your insights! Below are shots of the engine before we pulled it. Right now it is all cleaned, painted and perched on the frame. I had meant to snap photos today but didn't have time. I will post the new ones tomorrow night.....

...but can you believe it.....we got a few pretty big purchase orders yesterday so all of us at the shop had to drop what we were doing with the car and get back to regular work. We machine parts for Honda 4-wheelers & boats. Anyway, CJ if you don't see what your are looking for let me know and I'll get you what you need. I also have the 8th edition of the Oakland Six Owner's Manual (1926) that has some really comprehensive illustrations of the engine, transmission and other parts. I scanned it in 300dpi if you want a copy sent to you on disk let me know.

Thanks for the info on the vacuum pump. We haven't done anything with it yet except comment on how it looks to be in remarkable shape. If it is like all the other things under the hood, it shouldn't take much to put in order. I know, I know, looks don't mean anything. And you're right about cleaning all the gas parts. That has been the biggest bit of advice across the board since I started telling people about the car. I guess there has been a history of people being on the wrong end of carbon build up.

And the tail light.....I know I need a lens and that is about the extent of my knowledge, so I will take a closer look tomorrow. I do know it is small and it is wrapped in black electrical tape; which I am sure was done decades ago by the museum just to keep it together. There's probably bigger issues with it....good photos of yours by the way.

Again, thanks guys. There is no way I could have gotten this far without all the selfless help!!





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Hello All~~

John, that tail light is beefy and handsome but mine is petite. Since I never concentrated on it before I never noticed that I need not one lens but a smaller glass plate underneath to illuminate the license plate also. Mine has no ID on it whatsoever. A very quick look in my manual on the way out the door looks like I have the right one. But now I am thinking it will probably be something that is easier to find at Hershey as a complete replacement rather than waiting to find the bottom glass peice. Does anyone know what that bottom piece is supposed to look like? It will be curved with little metal tabs inside.

Below are shots of the tail light and new ones of the engine cleaned and painted.







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WOW!! Thanks for the pics. The engine is beautiful. You have done some wonderful work. It looks like a Northway engine and not a Saganaw, which surprises me for being a later model and year.

I also have a 1920 Oakland that is in much better shape than the '22.

I have worked on the vacuum tank some, and the only really questionable part is the top where it is pot metal. The distributor housing on later models was also pot metal. The Marvel Carb is workable, but notorious for leaking, and getting dirty/clogged and not working. You will want to find a good Dykes manual - ebay or swap meet item, don't pay more than $40.00 for a working copy - that will give you intructions for adjusting the carb, and the vacuum tank. We should talk sometime. Send me a PM, and I will give you my phone number.

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BTW, the headlight lenses were from "National", with a distinct "V" design in the upper half of the lense. Measure the headlights & that will give you the dimensions to find the right ones.

Door latch parts for this early are very hard to find. I may have a few ideas to find some , but they may have to be made.

Enough for now.

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Visualsoup —

I have tried twice now to send you two articles from old issues of Skinned Knuckles that cover the care and feeding of Stewart-Warner vacuum fuel pumps. They cover the pumps rather completely as to service and operating principle both. I think they might help you in getting your pump back in service. The problem is my ignorance on the workings of this new forum software which seems to frustrate all attempts to add any files or photos.

These pumps are reliable and require no real service. I went through the one on my '28 Packard 25 years ago and it has given trouble-free service ever since. Until the laws of physics are repealed these beauties will continue to work quite well.:)

I will be glad to send you both articles by email, (I know that works and how to do it), if you will email me your email address. Here is mine:



Pete P.

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The guys are right. The vaccum tanks are fine once they're rebuilt. And the rebuild process is easy. You'll be surprised when you get the rebuild kit... a bunch of screws, a couple gaskets, and a few crush washers... that's pretty much it. Do not make the mistake of putting an electric fuel pump on. That's what leads to the complaints about the Marvel carb. The problem lies with the "mechanic" who doesn't understand 1920's engineering, not the carb or vaccum tank.

The Marvel carb is not designed to handel the pressure of a pump, only the gravity feed from the vaccum tank. When used with a vaccum tank, they're fine.

One tip on the vaccum tank... put a shutoff valve on the fuel line that comes out the bottom. When you turn the car off, open the hood and close the valve. That keeps the gas in the vaccum tank, and avoids the problem of it leaking through the carb and emptying your vaccum tank. When you're ready to run, open the valve and you've got a ready supply of fuel for the carb (and no leaks while it was sitting).

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All you guys are awesome! My mind is buzzing so much I can't get away from the computer and off to bed....it is 2AM......Concerning the type of engine, I haven't consulted my owner's manual yet but I asked the guys and we searched all around it and all we find is forging/serial numbers and no name. But, there is a forging emblem of a 3 leaf clover in two places. Watch me make all this big deal about describing it and then find the info in the manual tomorrow.

I can't fully express how grateful I am that people think we are going down the right path and doing an acceptable job. My dad and I have two really great guys working for us at the shop and their combined experience (mostly in muscle cars, large pickup "farm trucks" and tractors) has made this restoration move quickly and smoothly. With this economy these guys are the last two non-family workers out of 30 who were not laid off. Dad would never have started this project with me if it wasn't for the recession and our downtime. The Oakland is the reason those guys had a job up till this week when they had to resume regular work.

We are going to have a sit-down on Monday to make plans on the car as dad is leaving town and I am going to show everyone all the info. I am sure we will finally make our minds up and keep things moving. In anticipation I have two more questions:

1. I was told to clean the inside of the vacuum pump with glass bead. I have no idea how to do that. I am guessing that is something that requires sending it out? Maybe there is another way? It is old and a little dirty but it is not terrible....nothing about the car is.

2. I searched online for a suggested carb replacement called a Zenith 14992. Does anyone know if the modifications are major or minor? One of the guys at the shop is confident he can make the modifications if he knows what should be done.....we are a machine shop; we have over a dozen CNC's and a 50 year accumulation of older standard machines. We just need an indication. The price on the Zenith is around $250 and modified $400-$500. But I must say, I feel encouraged after hearing about others who have used the original.

Alright, I have to get myself down for the night. If anyone is interested I am going to get shots of the finished wheels and more of the original interior in the next couple of days.

Thanks again guys!

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Bryan —

I would suggest you try cleaning out the interior of vacuum tank yourself before sending it out for any bead blasting. I cleaned out the tank to my Packard by the simple expedient of loading in a handful of nuts and screws, covering the top and shaking the tank vigorously for a few minutes and then repeating the process with some clean sand. Repeat if necessary. The result was a very acceptably clean interior surface.

Pete P.

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I've cleaned the inside tank part of the vaccum pump with a dremel & brush attachment, took about 20 minutes to clean off the powder that had turned to laquer. (wear a mask) The rest of the inside of the vacuum pump was easily cleaned with carb cleaner. Looks good as new.

Of course to get the car started, all you really need is a small lawnmower gas tank put up high enough to get some gas to the engine.

I still wouldn't give up on the old carb just yet. If nothing else, it would probably be cheaper to see if the marvel will do what you want, and if not you can always look at options. A good resource here would be the carb king @ THE CARBURETOR SHOP There is a phone number on the website. I know he has worked on marvel carbs, had them working, and can give you different options if you decide to go with somethinge else.

Sounds like your engine is a Saganaw because of the clover leaf. Inside the leafs there is probably an "S", "G", & a "C" or something like that...it has been a while, my Saganaw engine is in storage. I can send you an article about it if you would like.

Gook luck,

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Why are you giving up on the marvel carburetor? They can sometimes cause a little trouble but they are really easy to fix. Dykes will provide most of the info that you need. Sometimes it is necessary to carefully reseat the float needle and you need to make sure that the float level is 1/8" to 1/4" below the level of the low speed jet other wise it will leak gas everywhere. I have seen occasional queries about carburator kits but there are only two gaskets and a few round seals used. I have drilled out the high speed nozzle on mine to deal with alcohol in the gas. Let us know what kind of problems you are having and I'm sure we can help you. You are really making rapid progress. Remember, if you get it done to fast it won't be as much fun. Its nice to see all the responses you are getting from other Oakland owners. Don't have one myself (have a 15 Olds) but do like to see cars that are a litlle lower profile get some action.

Edited by nickelroadster (see edit history)
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Greetings everyone!! First, thanks Dennis for the link to the Stewart Manual. I think everything is going to be just fine with all the instruction and manuals sent my way. And Marty, I have already sent my initiation dues to OOCI and I am looking forward to meeting everyone in the group during Hershey.

And “nickelroadster”, thanks to you for your information and kind words too. I want to address the whole Marvel Carburetor situation since you asked and I have received several PM’s asking the same question…”Why am I giving up on it”? Before I joined the AACA and other groups I had the fortune to receive a visit from two very knowledgeable antique auto guys and befriended another longtime Oaklander over the phone. I’m not going to divulge their identities but chances are some of you out there know them.

Right off the bat and without asking I was warned on three separate occasions that the Marvel carb did not always function properly when it was new and there is a good chance that after sitting for 80 years that mine wouldn’t work correctly. Like everything else on the car the carb is just dirty, a little rusty and in need of a good cleaning. Had I not been told there is an inherent problem with it I would have moved on as business as usual.

I have to make one thing perfectly clear…I am terrified of fire. Not like a bonfire and s’mores or a gas stovetop, but I literally freeze up, petrified when I encounter an unexpected fire. Granted, a worst case scenario with this Marvel is a fire but the suggestion puts me on edge. Of course, losing the car is a big concern as well. I further understand that a malfunctioning carburetor will affect other systems. Finally, I hear the carb will work but not fully function resulting in lower top speed and I’d like to get as much out of my 30-35 mph as I can!

So, what we have here is a simple difference in opinion and I am hoping I can gather enough personal experiences to form my own opinion and course of action. At the moment I have one person speaking on the behalf of literally dozens of antique auto owners who have had specific problems with Marvel carburetors ranging from a starved or drowning engine to complete loss of vehicle by fire. On the other hand, I have three people tell me they performed a meticulous cleaning of the carb, exhaust components and fuel line and they haven’t had any problems.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not looking to spend any more money than I have to. Beyond that, my desire is to keep the car as original as I can. It is unrealistic and naïve but I want to use all original or NOS. That would be fine if I was going to keep the car sitting as it has for the past 40 years but I want to drive it and bring it out to be enjoyed by others.

Another bit of information: I spoke to The Carburetor Shop a few weeks ago and got some quotes for three different replacements ranging in price from $500-$1800. I was also told that they would not have anything to do with Marvel whatsoever, which made a pretty strong impression. So, I am not judging or taking one side over another right now, and we haven’t even decided what we are going to do. This week we have one man out sick and another on vacation so I have been spending a lot of time with the wire wheel making everything shiny.


I received a comment about how fast we are working and how it is more enjoyable to take my time. With that, I am conflicted. Like I’ve said, we are keeping two employees busy and these guys are used to keeping with a schedule. Since they are experienced with engines and transmissions the Oakland was very exciting to them. In the meantime I spent the bulk of my time cleaning everything from the clutch housing down to the smallest washer. I also do the research and acquire needed parts and keep this post. Dad spent his extra time on the wood spokes, painting the engine and sanding the frame. We have this 2-shift puzzle thing going on where dad and I get things ready for the men to reassemble.

On the other hand, while I can hardly stand the wait to get the car rolling, I do feel like I am missing out on valuable experiences. Before we got this car I could only tell you a handful of things under the hood and what their purposes are. Now, with the help of the manuals I have collected, online research and watching the men work, I have learned so much more. But I don’t feel I could do a project like this on my own, which I do want to do. I have already threatened the wife that we need to move out of the city and onto some acreage with a nice barn or other out building so I can have a nice garage all to myself.

Next post will be less of my thoughts and more photos. I snapped quite a few over the weekend. And if people have more to say on the whole carburetor situation, by all means keep the conversation going.

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One thing there is no shortage of on this or any other car forum is opinions. There is an enormous knowledge base here but it has to be kept in perspective. Most opinions are based on personal experience but that can vary from one extreme of accuracy to the other. In the end you need to educate yourself with hard data like the manuals you are collecting and make your own decisions based on what you really want, and no one else's opinion should matter at that point.

Regarding the speed of your restoration, I only wish I had the time and talents of four people to apply to my cars! I do most of the work myself and it seems to take forever to get anything done. While that leisure is nice sometimes, if you are itching to get the car running and driving then your method is the best. But that is just my opinion.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, it’s been a crazy past several weeks and the blog has fallen fallow. Recently I have been the only one working on the car almost every night after work and the weekends with the exception of last weekend. The wife and I packed up and took a drive to PA and CT. The first leg was to meet with an Oakland man to gain some knowledge and acquire parts. Then we went to just outside Hartford to drop off my great grandparent’s antique stained glass lampshade to be restored into a chandelier. Lastly we went to my father-in-law’s to visit and watch OSU lose to USC. A lot of miles in one weekend but it was a good time.

For those of you who are interested I am finally loading the photos of the finished wheel spokes and some good ones of the inside and out of the cab. We bought a floor blast cabinet (cheap @ Harbor Freight!) and are supposed to finally get past the vacuum and other delicate parts. For the record, we are still up in the air about the whole carburetor situation but things aren’t moving fast like before so that is fine. I am just trying to keep things moving while the real function of the shop is finally back to some kind of normal operation.

I think the photos will speak for themselves so I will start a new topic. I read an article in the July edition of Hemmings about preservation versus restoration and I thought about comments I have received about the Oakland. I understand the literal definition of preservation as basically leaving it "as found" but I wonder if there is a middle ground? I guess it is subjective.

First, the car doesn’t run. I guess we could just let it sit and admire it but that would make no sensible use of money. We replaced the piston rings, timing chain and there is a chance we are going to replace the carburetor. Other than sanding off the rust and what I call “road barnacles” (crusted tar, dirt and pebbles) from the body and engine and painting it, it is pretty original, right? If the car was piece of 18th century furniture with 19th century paint then the advice would be to leave it alone. But wood furniture doesn’t rust and it doesn't depend on the concert of moving parts like the Oakland.

Second, and again, except for the carburetor we have no plans of replacing anything that can be cleaned up, repaired and used. We plan to replace the parts that are missing like door knobs and mirrors with originals via meets and eBay rather than reproductions or wrong pieces.

Last, in relation to the furniture analogy above, the roof was replaced on the car about 1966. We plan to keep the roof but reconstruct all but the one surviving ceiling slat and reattach the headliner I found bundled up underneath the davenport. The only way I can foresee us changing the roof would be if another Oakland appeared as a parts car that just happened to have a complete roof. I have to admit however, I still have not seen an original 1923 Oakland sedan roof so I don't know if that comment is absurd.

So, in the purest sense, no, we have not preserved the car but we aren’t trying to replace everything either. As written in the abovementioned article, preservations are important in that they demonstrate construction methods, etc. Except for the roof, ceiling slats and missing items I think the car still serves that purpose. One thing is for certain, the car was intended to be sold at a hotrod show the day we found it. I know the big thing is the bucket seat rod and I can't imagine someone making this body into a rod. Dad and I went to that show and we both felt good that we got the car with the intention of bringing it back to it's original glory.

It was good to finally sit and get back to the blog and I have my eye forward to my first trip to Hershey…

I had to show off the lampshade I took to be restored....









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Thanks for the compliment merman86!

I have been busting my butt tearing through the car so I can find all the things I need next week at Hershey. Unfortunately I just learned that I might not be able to attend until the second or third day and having not been there before, I am concerned I'm going to miss out. But, I am still looking forward to this experience.

In the meantime, here are the last of the photos I took several weeks ago. These are more of the carriage and not the parts we are working on now. Again, I am not impressed with how they turned out so hopefully I get a nice, dry day soon to replace them.











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Do not be afraid of opening up the Marvel carb and cleaning everything. A good cleaning is all they need. My 28 Buick has been running terrible, would only run with the choke half out, and then she was way down on power. So opened everything up, cleaned everything, etc. The two long and short venturi tubes were both blocked with debris, so cleaned them out, made new gaskets, and put everything back together. Here are a couple of pics. Also do not put the carb in a hot tank/solution. Just use carb cleaner in a can and use it to clean everything up. I used a dremel tool with a little wire brush to clean the bowl, etc, and compressed air and carb cleaner for the venturis and jets.






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