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Avanti R2, 1963, refresh

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It is Sunday, December 2nd. Heading to our first Jaguar Club Christmas dinner/party tonight. Will not be taking the Jag, but did take it yesterday to our big farm Christmas party and bonfire. Speaking of Jaguars I just saw this movie, The Fast and the Furious. The plot is not so great, but lots of cars to include Jags, Allards, Nash Healy, TR3 and I think an Austin Healy or two. Also a vintage car race too. Set in 1955. Worth the watch just to see the cars running.

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It is Tuesday, December 4th. The Jaguar Club Christmas dinner was fun. Lots of folks to talk cars to. Yesterday was nice, worked on cars, the modern ones. Changed oil in the VW Passat and it holds 9 qts of special motor oil that I cannot seem to find in any of the local shops, 5W-40. It is easy to order it so I just have to plan ahead. The belly pan continues to be a nuisance Keeps on slipping down and catching on stuff. So made some more mounting holds and used ties to secure it. Now I just have to remember that they all need to be cut to release it for the next oil change.

And nice it was a nice day, Greg had lots to do. Here is his report.

" Matheson: The felt wicking came in for the main bearings. A trip to the hardware store netted some spring stock to assist in keeping the wicks tight against the crank journals. Tonight I got them trimmed and the wicks cut to length. They are ready to install after I fill the bearing cap wells with oil, but before I do that , while the engine is upside down, I'll double check the rod bearing clearances. Looking at the rods, I'm not impressed with the hardware. Not only are the bearings held in place by bolts in shear, they don't all match and some aren't too pretty. I'm considering making up a new set from 8620 steel bar stock while I wait for the new wrist pins.

With the nice weather lately, Saturday saw a little time under the 5054. Got the transmission bolts tightened. That's good.

Even though I don't have the rear brakes installed, the drums are on so that the car can roll. The car having been taken apart years ago, some of it has been scattered and misplaced. That's the story of the brakes. Now the search is on for some of the links and actuators that you don't need for the usual brake job.

Overland. Still picking through engine parts. Today's discovery is that the exhaust manifold had been cracked and broken in two. Awaiting correspindence from Snyder the magician to see if he wants to try knitting the parts back together.

Rob says the crankcase has been soda blasted and looks good. I'll need to go fetch it sometime.

Day job at the factory. The early series of Wright vertical fours used a set of bronze cam roller followers. Photo shows my copy of an original Wright pattern which I identified in a box of random patterns and core boxes in a museum warehouse and the end result.

Their later engines used a sheet steel follower that is much easier to produce.

Also, Scott had worked up the front cover pattern for my V8 project, the casting arrived today. I'll work it into my schedule.

That project has progressed to the point that the connecting rods and pistons are the big ticket items required.

Not a lot to report, but still progress."






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It is Wednesday, December 5th, AM. Spent a couple of hours yesterday detailing the engine bay of the Jaguar and then gluing some interior trim pieces. Pulled the cover off the Avanti and fired her up. Started easily so pulled it out of the pasture barn and had a nice drive.

But while I am driving around Greg is doing real work, errr well, sort of. Here is his very uplifting report. Great to see him in a quandary.

"Busy days lately, so busy that some things just have to wait their turn. And then again, some things don't wait.

For transportation I often drive the company's old Land Cruiser. It's showing it's age. Making noises up front. Turn the wheels hard left or right and at slow speeds it clicked, now knocks like you're hitting it with a hammer. Since I don't know anything about cars built after '64, we sent it out to be looked at. Four hundred and some dollars later it still does it.

I took it to someone else who confirmed that it is indeed the front Birfield or CV joints. This guy was familiar with them, had changed his own. With the thing on his lift , he wanted to pull the wheels and take a look.

The wheels have locking lug nuts. "Need the key" he says. Well, we tore that car apart looking for the special gizmo to allow removal. None to be found. End of that day's effort although I stopped by the local Toyota parts department to buy a new key. The guy just shrugged. I've been trying to find one. Trying keys found in the cars in the parking lot, at the local repair shop, etc. No dice.

Evidently there is such a thing as a lug nut extractor, but the parts store guy gave me the same shrug as the Toyota guy.

Anyway, today being such a nice day, I says to 'Ol Bill "Let's run up to Rob's after work and get my Overland block".

Away we go. We got about fifteen miles up the road and then the car just felt funny. Wobbly. I aborted the mission and turned it around. Letting him off where we'd dropped his car, I took the back road into the darkness, taking it real easy. The slight wobbling sensation had subsided, but I kept the speed down anyway. About a mile or so from Hyde Manor the right rear tire let go.

I had a jack, a spare, a lug wrench, and a #&@*!! locking lug nut with no key. And nowhere to pull off of a lane and a half wide road. This back road is usually a deserted secret. Until evening DC rush hour. I'm bumping along on a flat tire trying to keep the wheel on the grass shoulder at five mph, flashers blinking and I'm holding up the entire DC workforce.

Like on a wing and a prayer, I make it in. It's sitting out there in the parking lot with it's shredded tire waiting to be changed.

As for the locking lug, you might say that after looking around the shop I found the key. A 19mm twelve point socket and my 4 lb sledge hammer. Place the socket on the lug, grip the hammer with white knuckles , and with clenched jaw and all the hatred you can muster for that damned lug nut and try to drive that socket clear into next week.

It worked. I'll do the same thing for the other wheels to remove those lugs. Then I will throw them as far into the woods as I can.

Locks just keep me out of my own stuff.

My friend Mitch always tells me that if he's ever going to rob a bank that he wants me to drive the getaway car. I'll get every last inch out of it."


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It is Sunday, December 9th, PM. On Saturday, which turned out to be rather nice, I dragged the Avanti out of the barn, gave her a wash, and then a long drive. That is my old car stuff for the weekend. But Greg has been hard at work on the black Avanti. Hanging more parts. So here is his weekend report for your enjoyment.

"Kind of cool in the tin barn today, here in the shop too. Yesterday I was going to install the starter, but while lying under 5054 I noticed that I've neglected to prep and paint the steel plate that covers the bell housing. This goes on first. Perhaps one reason for that is that I lost it. A search ensued, it wasn't to be found. Looked for it the whole day while finding other things to do.

Of the miscellaneous parts that I've already prepped for paint, most were to go engine red. So I mixed up some and got them sprayed. I've found that on the factory cars with this engine, the coolant tank and transmission dipstick tube were red. Even though I'm not passing this car off as a factory R3, and even though I've always liked the looks of the normally black coolant tank and the fact that the black trans tube doesn't call attention to itself, I decided to try them red this time. Don't forget my first rule of restoration: Paint's only temporary.

While looking for that housing plate, I found the rear bumper irons that had been eluding me. They were immediately cleaned, primed and painted black.

Today, with the paint drying overnight, the parts were hung on the car. Off the shelf, off the floor, out from under the car seat, etc. now I know where they are. These parts include the rear license plate bracket which is held in place by little rubber wellnuts. Believe it or not, found at the local hardware store.

And as a special bonus, while looking for other miscellaneous parts (like the headlamp buckets) to get ready, I found that missing plate. On a shelf and under stuff, it is now in the paint shop being depainted. Hopefully tonight I can get it stripped, primed and painted. Then the plan will be to get it back to the car asap. Before I lose it again.

Otherwise looking back over the weekend, we enjoyed some local history/culture. Friday evening was an open house and tours of John S. Mosby's (this Confederate States of America Colonel as was known as the Gray Ghost by the Union Army) Warrenton home. This man, dedicated to his Virginia homeland was hated by the Federals for his ability to disrupt communications, railroad and overland supply routes until war's end. At that time he became dedicated to his serving the nation. Because of this he was then shunned here in his native South to the point of being shot at. John S. Mosby - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Politics can be a very costly thing.









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It is Tuesday, December 11th, AM. Steve (68 SS Camero) is going to pick me up, and we are going to an appointment with Tom at Sterling Hot Rods. Steve is complaining of a really iffy suspension with a lot of body lean. He also wants to talk about getting the AC working before summer.

And Greg has a report for us too.

"Another day in the life..........another good one.

Day job: Coming along on the front cover of the V8-60 Wright. It's fitting alright, holes are drilled, about time to move on to something else.

After day job: 'Ol Bill and I made the trip to the Chrysler Building (Rob's) to pick up my newly soda blasted Overland crankcase. Rob wasn't home so I had to give Bill the tour. Rob's got some new toys to look at. The '31 eight cylinder victorial coupe that he drug in last week (very nice styled car) and an intact '26 Dodge Brothers coupe.

The crankcase will be hosed off and the interior coated with glyptol paint to seal it.

With another round trip (any round trip is a bonus) completed and the warm evening temperature, I found time to apply the painted housing plate and starter motor to 5054. That's another check mark on the long list.

Matheson hardware: With the time left over, it was my opportunity to check out the steel that came in today's brown truck. I thought I was ordering steel similar to the ETD 150 pre-hardened material I like for high strength applications. What I got was a bar of hardened 4140/42 chrome-moly alloy.

Jeeze, this stuff is harder than the times of 2009. I've tried cutting it, and I can tell it's going to be slow going and hard on tool bits.

Threading it won't be a day at the beach either.

So, now it's time for some midnight chow."







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John, the problem is in West Virginia. Lots of stuff including video's are on the net. Looks like a big fire. Looks to be in farm country.

Well Steve picked me up in his 67 Camaro, and we headed off to the hod rod shop. Had a nice visit. Tom, the owner, and Tommy, the trimmer, spent a lot of time with Steve going over the car. The car really runs good, but is really iffy on braking as it really pulls if you hit the brakes hard, the back end wants to come around. Anyway, it was decided that Steve would bring the car back in a week or so for a full inspection and recommend refit with estimates. He will have to leave it for a couple of days so will head up with him and bring him home. Tom pronounced the car in very good semi-restored condition and that Steve had gotten a great deal.

Steve was on the hill leading to our place and almost missed the entrance so he hit the brakes a bit hard. The car just kinda jumped. I got out and as he pulled away the back of the car was going sideways and one the rear tires was hitting the lip of the fender. Something was wrong. So he pulled up the hill and up into the front yard. I got under the car for a look see.

It was easy to see the problem. The spring axle plate was missing two of its four bolts mounting. This plate holds the shock and the axle to the center of the spring. With these two bolt gone the axle was free to move back and forth on the rubber pad on the bottom of the spring.

We jacked up the rear of the car and Steve kicked the tire hard enough to move the axle back onto the plate and I was able to line up the holes. So we were able to put in a single bolt to hold it all together, enough to get it back home.

Now I think that the braking problem was not the brakes, but the axle breaking loose and moving back and forth. Steve made it home OK and I was able to find the correct T headed bolts on the internet. So all is good.

There we a lot of cars in the shop so I got to take a few pics. The Chrysler Darrin was in for a full restoration and was just about complete. Will be heading for a CA concours in the spring.













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It is December 12th, Wednesday, AM. Greg is in a writing mood so here is his lesson for today.

"Chasing threads. Sounds like something you'd do on shore leave. Not this time.

Matheson engine department and working on fasteners.

I think that our ancestors leave us with some of their traits. I guess it's luck of the gene pool who gets what. I think my Grandad donated to mine. E. Earl Cuthbert came up the hard way. Pennsylvania born, it's said that he worked in the steel mills. A machinist. Somewhere I've got a brass ignition plug (or key) for his Model 32 Hupmobile (about a 1912 or 13). Later on he found himself in the automobile repair business and even a dealer for Oldsmobile. Then he moved his family to Virginia in '28 to run a gas station/restaurant . I guess late thirties and/or forties he was back in the machinist business in a textile plant.

By the time I knew him I guess he'd retired. I remember him for being master of all trades that required skill and artistry. Gunsmith for his friends, cabinetmaker, artist, and with his modestly equipped basement shop, still a machinist.

Hanging out in the basement with him, I still recall him at his bench lathe. Slowing the four jaw chuck from spinning with the palm of his hand, he'd have centered the work piece with a large piece of blue chalk that I still have. I can still see him taking his micrometer from his tool box and running it's thimble down his arm to fast forward it to approximately the right size for measuring the cut he was looking for. I think of him every time I do it.

Being born in a time when we had to make our own entertainment , it required imagination, usually a crescent wrench and a bicycle. This was in the days prior to computers and the modern generation's desire to devote your life to the mastery of the video game.

Building model airplanes and cars, some drawing, and then afflicted with this car thing.

Bringing home that Model A thrust me into the world of hand tool . Drills, an electric motor with a flexible cable that Dad got me for wire bushing rust away, etc. Seeing guys like John Jackson doing work in his home garage, I knew I'd be stepping up . I got my chance to learn machining as a tool and die maker apprentice. I must admit that it came naturally to me. Like I already knew how to make the cut. Must have been Grandad's influence.

So back to tonight. I got four of the bolts threaded. These will be the long ones that go through the connecting rod caps.

Big deal, all evening to do four threads? Here's my excuse for taking so long.

Chasing threads on the lathe with a single point tool. It ain't just one swipe. After verifying the thread diameter and then the pitch (how of the sharp edges per inch), the lathe must be geared to that number. Used to be checking the chart and swapping some gears around. Then it got easier with swapping levers around like in a transmission.

Then comes the fun part. I find that I'm what they now call a Manual Machinist. Makes it sound like I do manual labor like digging ditches. Guess I am.

When the work piece has been cut to the exact diameter, a V shaped threading tool is used. With the transmission set to the right arrangement, various levers and timing come into play. In modern times, computer controlled machines do the work. In my time here's how it goes.

There is a dial on the crossfeed which moves the tool in and out. Move the tool in until it just touches the spinning workpiece. Set the dial to the zero. There is also a compound feed with a dial. This is adjustable to allow you to advance the tool on an angle of your choice. Just watch the dial for now.

This whole deal is mounted on the lathe carriage. You can guess why it's called a carriage.

There's a clocklike dial and an engagement lever on the right side of the carriage. This dial allows you to time the engagement of the lever to begin the carriage travel. It has to be right every time or you've screwed the thread.........

With the lever engaged, then comes the concentration and the coordination. I mark the end of the thread with a felt pen. When the tool gets to that line, a simultaneous withdrawl of the tool and the disengagement of the lever. Be slow with the removal of the tool and you'll groove the work. Not only unsightly but also a weakening of the bolt.

Taking light cuts each pass to prevent pushing the material away with the cutting tool (that of course louses up the dimension of the thread), I counted tonight that it takes about twenty-five passes per bolt.

If fighting off boredom, it can be more fun and challenging to keep increasing the speed of the lathe. Until you screw one of them up.

So now that I've had an evening of living on the edge, I guess I'll get some sleep and do it again in the morning."






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Many years ago, I learned during apprenticeship the delicate work of doing a thread on a lathe. In the sixties, there was no computer to have the correct pitch, all was done with the proper gears...I'm probably unable now to cut a thread on a lathe as I never did it after the apprenticeship.

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My dad was a machinist too. During the war, he made the machine that made the rifles inside the gun bores for the Corvette ships. I never knew him. He was 39 when he died. I was 2 1/2. Maybe that's why I'm so possessed by his car. A few years ago I spent a bit of time at a local machine shop doing odd jobs. The main machinist there was a welder by trade. Like you, it came to him naturally. He just picked it up by watching the guy before him. Now that i'm in my sixties and retired, I know what trade I should have taken.

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It is Thursday, December 13th, AM. Spent most of the day yesterday taking Tan the cat back to the hospital for a check-up and xrays to see how is broken and shattered leg is doing. Well the little guy is making a great recovery and the leg is healing. On the down side he has to stay in at least two more months. He ain't liking it. A caged lion.

On the way home Alice says "what is that rumbling sound?" Well, said I, it seems that the sealed front hubs on the 02 Trailblazer are starting to go. They are suppose to go about 70 to 100K miles before replacement. I have 173K miles so I guess it is about time. So ordered a pair and put them on my "to do" list. Not much money, $71 for the pair to our door.

And we had a beautiful sunset last night. My little camera did not do it justice.

And this morning we have a report from Greg.

"Bill and I did the usual Wednesday lunch special. Impossible to eat salsa and chips without getting it on your shirt.

Matheson engine: More of the same. Tonight I machined the shanks for the long bolts and parted them from the bar stock. I'll machine the hexes when I've gotten all of the bolts turned and threaded. Eight of the smaller ones to go.

Wright 8-60 engine: The Wright oil pans, like everything else they did, were an attempt to fight mean old Mr. Gravity. Formed from tinplate steel that's no thicker than a post card.

I'd already formed and soldered one for this project while doing some for the four cylinder engines. I found this to be a good time to pull the bottom casting from the crankcase and invert it for convenience in fitting and soldering the pan's details.

The brass breather pipe transitions from round to rectangular where it joins, the reinforcement strips of "flatwire" for the retention screws, the piece of glass tubing for the sight glass held in place by rubber tubing, and of course the cork drain plug. The brass tubing for the oil pump pickup will have to wait until it is fitted to the pump before it can be soldered to the pan.

That's enough for tonight."










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It is Saturday, December 15th, PM. Had a call yesterday from a local guy who said that he saw the Jaguar at the Father's Day Car Show. At the time I was heading home, and could not catch up with me. He called the show sponsor and got my name and phone number. So he called, and said he would like come see the car up close and personal. He also said that he had a Jaguar 150 fixed head coupe, however, the car is in pieces and has been since he bought it some number of years ago.

So today Jack came and we had a nice visit. Turns out he also has a couple of MGBs that need some help also. He said that he may sell the 150 and use the proceeds to fix one of the MGBs. He is going to send me some pics.

And Greg has had a good day too. Here is his report.

"Day job, While I've been looking over the next big hurdle on the Wright 8 (connecting rods), I have been taking care of detail work. This includes installing the flywheel key in the crankshaft. Their method was to cut a keyway in the shaft on a horizontal milling machine, install the key and then lathe turn the portion of the key that straddles a ball bearing seat.

Got that done yesterday.

With some time today, and idle hands, I resumed a project begun sometime around '86. Tappet assemblies for the Overland.

That engine uses square tappets that slide in a solid babbitt guide that has a flange cast on one end. Not only are mine worn, but some of the flanges had cracked and broken. I found this when I tore the engine down after the hard miles I'd put on it.

Rummaging through the scattered parts, I recently found some cut off brass tubing. This refreshes my memory as to the plan for renewing the guides. My idea is to add a brass washer to the ends of the tubes. Then I'll make a mold that will allow me to pour the hot babbitt into the brass tubing and also form the flange. After some lathe work to trim things to size, I'll broach the bores square.

As of now I've sheared some brass , punched the .937 holes to allow me to position them on the tubes for silver soldering.

After machining the washers to the proper diameter, cutting the tubes to proper length and silver brazing them in position, I'm now mulling over the molds to form the flanges.

While in the mulling department, I've multi tasked. Today's pleasant weather gave me the chance to make the gasket and install the cover plate to my 5054 rear axle. I have new brake system parts on order but winter's chill kills my sense of humor and interest in lying under the car.

Now it seems like a better idea to join John and Alice Feser for steaks.

Ps. I'm having trouble with my email capability. For some unknown reason Hotmail has taken it upon themselves to "upgrade" me to this new Outlook system. I hate it. Not only am I the old dog that doesn't like having to learn new tricks, it has made my mailing an agonizing process. Is there an IT in the house?"







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It is Wednesday, December 19th, AM. I spent the day yesterday getting equipment ready for winter. Changed the oil and checked everything over on the 20KW generator and ordered more propane for the house tank. I also went over the Kubota tractor and changed all the filters and oil too. Ready to push snow if need be.

And Greg has a great story for us today. As an old TV show exclaimed "Now you know the rest of the story".

"New news? Not much.

Tonight I'm back in the bolt business. Slow cutting, hard steel. Even though my first tool room boss, John Mayer, a grizzled old tool and die maker tried to instill in me as a newby apprentice that "The world belongs to the greedy." That meant take a cut so deep that it made the lights go dim downtown......I'm not doing it. All I need to do is work harden the steel and I'm starting over.

Old news? Yesterday was an anniversary. Nine years since the Kitty Hawk Anniversary flight attempt. That whole 2003 year was a killer. Working night and day for months to get the boss' Wright B in the air so that he could break it to smithereens in the first few minutes off the ground...... and then I rolled over to the 1903 Flyer project. We had outsourced three repro engines that became my responsibility to sort out and maintain. So that was nearly seven more months of working on catnaps. Engine rebuilds, dyno testing and adjusting, mating power trains to (3) airframes and then flight testing.

The enclosed photo that I found on the net was taken by a photographer unknown to me. It shows Chris Johnson and I at work on engine maintenance. Chris was not only a big help, but of the pilot candidates, in my opinion he was the best. He was the only one who wanted to know everything about the machine. Part of my "night before preflight" was to tear the engine down to clean the make and break ignition system. Difficult and time consuming, I'd be doing that while the rest of the crew was at the Black Pelican restaraunt stuffing down crab meat. Except for Chris who as you can see spent the time learning how to maintain the equipment. Even though our Pilot Training Program leader Scott Crossfield said to me more than once "Chris is the stick", he never got his chance to prove it on the powered machine due to accidents, time constraints, and politics. I think he could have pulled it off.

Not that there weren't Kitty Hawk moments that I'll always remember. Time spent working with the Wright's pre-powered machines, the series of gliders. I'm privileged to be able to see a period photo of the Wrights flying a glider tethered on ropes and to know what it is like to look up at the same thing.... see the blue of the Outer Banks sky and feel the pull of the rope. And I don't even want to recall the launching and carrying of their famous 1902 glider.

As for the powered machine, I'm also privileged to have a first hand look at it. Most have seen the first flight photo of it hanging gently in the Carolina air, or have seen it hanging in the Smithsonian like a giant butterfly, but I know it for what it is. It is a mostly out of control man killing machine.

If you can survive the engine startup. No carburetor, no choke, no throttle, only gravity fed fuel metered by a graduated stopcock. To start it's four cylinder engine you flood it with gasoline. If you don't flood it enough, it won't start. Flood it just right it will start. Flood it too much and fuel flows out the exhaust ports and then catches fire and runs happily. Since I was the only one of our crew that handled the engine development at the dyno shop, I'm the only one that knew that when the engine did catch fire I saw flames erupt high enough to scorch the ceiling in Lee's dyno cell. It took a very fine touch upon startup between a nostart and burning a gas and oil soaked cloth and wood airplane (and probably the pilot). Although I always demand a fireguard when starting any of "my" aircraft, we were lucky at KH.

And after our Pilot Kevin Kochersberger managed a good introductory attempt at flying it, then came Terry's crackup that put us way behind. A badly damaged airplane cost us about a month of repairs with the clock ticking.

With very few days remaining for us to not only to learn how to fly the thing, but to actually prove to ourselves that it could without breaking.

For me, Kevin's next was the deciding flight. With a good engine start and the spark timing advanced (to at least 1050 rpm), he pulled the launching trigger and just as soon as it cleared it's launch dolly (it is self powered down the track, not catapulted), a quartering wind gust caused the plane to weather vane to the right. I watched as the ship's right wing actually dipped into the sand. Kevin was able to roll in some left bank as the wingtip scooped up enough sand to fill a five gallon bucket.

After straightening it out, he was able to control it until it decided to come back to Earth.

The Wright Flyer had gotten him out of trouble.

Of course, on the big day with the whole world watching, and we were to launch at 10:30 like they did a hundred years before.....it was cold and raining on us. Although we had a good startup and the engine settled in at 1050.....while traveling down the launch rail, the make and break components got wet, the front cylinder dropped out and it only had enough power to lift itself off the dolly and fall back onto the rail . That broke some of the skid sticks, game over.

Of course nine years ago today, the day after, the sun was out, wind was good and right down the runway, and oh yeah.....the park was closed and the crowd of forty thousand had gone home to dry out and warm up.

What did we prove? Besides having some of the same mechanical issues that they experienced a hundred years before, and our rain soaked ignition duplicated a failed launch which they experienced in May of 1904, I guess we demonstrated that on December 17, 1903, the day had chosen the Wrights, not vice versa. And that my position here at the Wright Experience is to take the blame as usual."



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It is Thursday, December 20th. Seems like a number of friends have out of town guests for the holidays. So they have been bringing over folks to see the llamas and talk about old cars. Gives me a chance to get them out and run them.

I did do some work on the Jag. I dug out the old sealing rubber on the vertical post of the vent windows. The actual seal was as hard as a rock and took a considerable amount of time to dig them out of their holding channels. But got everything out and put the new rubber in. After some cutting to get everything to fit, they look good and the vent windows are sealed for the most part. I have two other pieces of rubber to put it, but have to remove the vent window to get them in. At some time in the past these rubbers had been replaced as they are still pliable but they have shrunk over time.

And of course Greg is getting closer to get that massive Matheson engine ready to go. Here is his report.

"While I'm between passes of the Matheson bolts, time to get this off.

On today's big brown truck came the new Matheson wrist pins. Now I will be able to take them, the pistons and connecting rods to Lee's were I can mooch the use of his Sunnen hone and fit them all together.

Otherwise, thanks to John Feser I'll enclose a link to a Nova PBS film covering our ill fated flight of the Wright Model B. If you cannot get the link to work, it's appearing on a Youtube near you....

search Wright Brothers' Flying Machine by PBS (it's 54:17 duration).

I haven't seen it. I believe it first aired in late 2003 while we were doing the First Flight thing. We were busy, and it was also very fresh in mind, kind of like watching slow motion replays of seeing a favorite puppy being squashed by a dumptruck.

A very demanding year, 2003, and I did learn some things. I had devoted much of my life to the Wright Experience pursuit. And although it was a very worthy cause, when it was finally over , to me it felt like the circus parade had left town and I was standing there with an empty bag of popcorn. I gotten too close to things I had no control over. 2004 saw my return to projects that had been in long term storage.

So as of now:

Stoddard-Dayton together and running check

1910 REO up and running check

1914 IHC up and running check

1921 Dodge up and running check

R-5 Studebaker engine together check

'63 maroon Avanti up and running check

'64 black Avanti in the works check

1910 Overland in the works check

and a few detours as well.

It's been a wonderful ride and I hope to keep after it.

Now it's back to the lathe."


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All, here is some more information from Greg on the plane that crashed and one of the Wright Brother's pilots, Frank Coffyn.

Greg, thanks for the update. And you should watch it, you are one of the main characters.

This looks like the video, and some other interesting stuff.

Frank Coffyn

Coffyn Flies Under the Manhattan Bridge

Just gotta love the WWW.


In a message dated 12/20/2012 10:02:23 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, gregcone@msn.com writes:

Good morning John,

I was surprised that you found the video. Maybe I'll watch it someday.

Ken's inadvertant destruction of about ten years of work, it might not be easy to relive. Definitely a life changing moment.

The plane itself. The engine of course we hadn't meant to fly on. Old number 20 built in the Wright shops in late 1910. One of the few remaining (about 15 originals) that we can trace to a specific airframe, the first Wright hydro on floats, pilot Frank Coffyn used it to make the first aerial motion pictures of New York (the footage is out there, search that one), and as the only Wright artifact that was functional, it was too precious to risk in the air even though it still dynos at 34.9 hp out of 35 advertised.

But time constraints dictated that I'd have to use it. It got slight damage, other than a cracked gear cover (I straightened and welded), the other parts bent were my repros.

The airframe that was salvaged was rebuilt into the Model B now on display at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. As a static display we could reuse parts that we woudn't fly on. The engine is also a non functional Scott special , they aren't as heavy as the real thing which is a factor since the Navy hangs the airplane from a cable.

Meanwhile, we also have replaced Ken's airworthy machine. I'm not sure how much of the first found it's way to it. The engine is the one we'd meant to fly on. An original also, it's Number 33 which found it's way to us as a pile of parts used for a 1920's window display. Crankshaft cracked, mismatched cylinders, lots missing. I chose to make it airworthy by replacing everything except the crankcase and flywheel. It dynos at 35.04 hp.

And no, Ken hasn't flown it yet.


Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2012 08:47:48 -0500

Subject: Re: Wednesday night in the shop


Greg, question. Got a couple of email asking what happened to the broken bird. Did she get patched up? Or did you have to start all over.

Glad I found that video, sure surprised that you had not seen it. Was a very good piece.



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It is Christmas Eve. I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas; and wish you all a great holiday with family, friends, and old cars. Snowing here so it is like a winter wonderland.

On the car front I met Steve (he has the 67 SS Camaro) and trailered his car to Sterling Hot Rods for repair of the rear axle assembly and an over all check-up. It will probably be a couple of weeks before he sees it again, but then he should have a better running car, and one that stops without the rear axle breaking loose.

And we have a report from Greg too.

"Christmas Eve. Surprise snowfall. Shopping to be done, some stores closing early, gifts to wrap.................... you'll be relieved to know that I did make it to the hardware store in time to get the rubber tubing for the Avanti 5054 hand brake cables.

I can't believe that Chrismas is here. It seems like just the other day I was scrambling to find the wrapping paper and bag of bows.

Looking back Christmas' Past, I remember one in the 'fifties. We always got up early, my sister and I , to decimate wrapped presents, then we'd all make the tip across town to Grandmother's for breakfast. This particular one was memorable because of the snow that had fallen during the night. Dad had borrowed the new Jeep from where he worked. A cabin model.

The sun was up and the bright red Jeep glistened in the snow, and we were the first one's out, breaking the first tracks in town.

Then there was the year that when asked what did I want for Christmas, my only reply was that 1937 Terraplane sedan that Earl Shade had for sale. What else I was asked?

Nothing. My sister wanted one of those new battery operated transistor radios. Wasn't any Terraplane in the driveway, but I bet my sister still has that little GE radio.

One or two Christmas' later, I did mention I'd like a set of 4.75/5.00/19 tires for my Model A Ford restoration. They're still on it.

Now my Christmas wishes are much simpler. A gathering of my friends and family, a good meal, a safe journey home for everyone home. And to do it again next year.

Progress this week, not a lot. I did receive the box of brake parts ordered from Dave Thibeault He was short one item, that link that separates the brake shoes. Even though there's a set on ebay, I simply cut a new one from flat stock. I have found some time to get things ready to install and refurbish the hand brake cable assembly. As of now I' ve been dashing through the snow to get them hung on the axle so that I can find them.

That's about the latest. I'll send this out with Best Wishes that you'll have a great Holiday Season.







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It is Sunday, PM. Hope that everyone had a great Christmas. We had a great one with family and lots of friends. We had a "car guy" neighborhood party yesterday. Too cold and wet to bring the old cars out, but there we all were, talking carbs, engines, HP, etc. The wives thought we were nuts. But we all had a great time. And Greg was there too, describing the construction of the Wright 8 engine. He had the audience mesmerized.

And speaking of Greg, here is his latest report.

"I've had a great Christmas and past week. There has been some ground gained in the Matheson Engine Battle of the Century. One day spent at Lee's Sunnen hone has gotten the wrist pins fitted in the rods and pistons. Turned out real well. I'd calculated the right amount of oversize , the new pins were ground to my specs, and a minimum amount of material was taken out of the bores to bring all four assemblies to the same dimension. I've known shops who hone pin bores by the dial indicator gauge dimension and I've also been known to tear fresh engines down because of the resulting wrist pin knock. I hone my bores by feel, the old fashioned way.

I've also almost knocked out all that rod hardware. Done except for trial assembly to determine where they must be drilled for cotter and safety wires.

And I have also uncovered another Matheson Mystery. The complete disassembly of the connecting rods has revealed that they are indeed adjustable. What appeared to be two bolts retaining the upper half of the bronze bearing was misleading. Actually the upper bronze slides in the rod fork. The two bolts control a sliding steel wedge which positions the bronze, pushing it tighter against the lower bronze bearing cap. The lower bronze is of course captured by the big through bolt and nut.

I've never seen anything like this in automotive practice, it looks more like steam engineering or railroad practice. I welcome any reference to other engine manufacturers doing this, and look forward to any input from Dave Liepelt, the Ford Museum's Railroad Specialist.

Also enclosed you'll find a series of photos, ( A Steel Life) showing not only the generation of the slotted nuts, but also the advance of the time of day.

Of course it wasn't all slaving away in the shop. Last evening Barb and I crashed a gathering of the Feser Neighborhood Car Talk group. An enjoyable evening of entertainment and Alice, not only a great host, but the food was terriffic.

That's the latest."








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It is Thursday, January 3rd, AM. Still in the 20s so not much going on outside on the cars. So spent the day on inside projects, none car related. At one point in my life I was into old clocks. I still have a number of them, at one time I had over thirty. I enjoyed restoring them to running condition. I think I still have about ten of my favorites and rotate them throughout the house. About a week ago one decided not to tic-toc anymore. So within a couple of hours I had everything cleaned. Turned out that a spring was hanging up on itself and holding up the works. There is a very fine line with a mechanical clock working or not. With a little oil she is back on time.

Heading over to Wayne's tonight to see his restored 1964 Corvette frame. He has it painted and started hanging on new parts. Will have some pics tomorrow.

Meanwhile Greg continues to work on his projects. Here is his report.

"After a day in the Wright factory, Bill and I made an unexpected road trip.

Wright engine 8-60 progress. I've now successfully pressed the flywheel onto the crankshaft. Anyone who's done any press fitting knows that you hold your breath until the parts are mated. The parts interfere, the "goesinta" part being just a trifle larger than the hole. Not a lot of difference between oh-oh too loose and awshucks, stuck in the hole. Not far enough and can't get it out. Something has to be sacrificed.....which piece do I destroy to save the other. Today's effort turned out alright, the parts groaned and complained every bit of the way until the flywheel was home.

Then, a phone call to Dave Coleman. I'd spoken to him about checking the balance of the front brake rotors on the Maroon Avanti, Seabiscuit. He said bring'em and we'd do'em. Immediately after work Bill and I blasted off for Summit Point, about an hour away. My first visit to Dave's shop, I must say he is equipped to take on most anything. Always good to see how the other guy does it, even though we're in different trenches together.

When I was going over the maroon Avanti, I had elected to replace the rotor discs. We found them to be terribly out of balance. Dave spent the evening with us, showed us around and got the balancing act finished.

It was a good evening.

Photos of the flywheel installed and the rotors drilled."





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It is Friday, AM, January 4th. Alice had a meeting to go to last night so it was just me, the dog and all the cats. I was roaming the internet so the house was almost as dark as outside and quiet about 8 PM. All of a sudden I heard a crackle on the scanner, which was set to the local county fire and rescue channel. The dispatcher said that there was a report of a car off the road on Conde and Wilson. Whoa, that is our street. She was calling out police, fire and rescue units.

So old me threw on my coat, grabbed the dog and some flashlights and decided to head out to see if I could help out. Not many of us too close by in the countryside, and we all seem to rush to help. Got outside and I could not hear any rescue vehicles coming so started the Suburban and headed down our lane to the road.

Got down to the end of the lane and was preparing to turn when I caught a figure in the dark out of the corner of my eye. It was person coming towards me crying "can you help me?"

I jumped out of the truck, held her so she would not fall and put her in the passenger front seat. She was sobbing, scared and hurt. Her hand was bleeding. She said that she was OK and just wanted to go home, which was about two miles down the road. But I was afraid that she was about ready to go into shock so turned on the car heater to high and backed up the driveway to the house. Ran inside and called 911 and said that I had the girl and would be waiting for aid at the end of our driveway.

The rescue units were about five minutes out so just talked to calm her down and offer some reassurance. Stephanie is nineteen and was on her way home. She said that she rounded a corner, and there was a car stopped in the road, she swerved and hit the gravel and went off the road. She had gotten out of car and started walking home, she made it a half a mile to our place.

By now I could hear the fire and rescue truck coming and soon they were at the truck. I turned over Stephanie to them. In about fifteen minutes they had her on a backboard and took her off to the local hospital. Her mom was contacted and she was soon there to follow the rescue truck to the hospital.

With that over I went down to see if I could find the car. Well it was in our neighbor's pasture. I could see where it left the road and went down a very steep embankment, but I could not see the car. Police were there so I did not stop.

Got home and called Henry who owns the property. He said that he heard the crash, saw the headlights in the pasture and called 911. When they got down to the car, no one was in the car so they when back to the house. Henry said it looked like the car left the road a high speed, clipped some trees, rolled 360 degrees in the air and landed in the field next to the pond. So it was a much worse crash than I had imagined from her description of driving off the road. Could not have been at a more dangerous place. The drop off is about twenty feet and then maybe 300 feet to the pond, which is more like a small lake. Stephanie was really lucky.

Alice came home about an hour later. She said they were pulling a car out of Henry's pasture and why wasn't down there. Well, sit down I said.

So that was my evening. Hope Stephanie is all right today. I am sure that she is pretty sore this morning. Told her mom to stop by and let us know how she made out.



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Still Friday morning. Now for a couple of car reports.

I went and saw Wayne last night. He has the 64 Corvette that he is restoring. He had the body at the shop when our Avanti was being painted. Pictures of the car are in the blog someplace.

He has been working on the frame at the shop, got it all painted with an Eastwood ceramic type paint and got her home to begin assembly. I think he has only had it in his shop for a couple of days and is busy starting to refit parts. So here is what it looks like, pics below. He told me that he got a bolt on rack power steering system versus the old manual steering unit and that was his next job. He plans to have her back on all four wheels by the end of the month with the everything done by the end of April so the car can go in for final paint.

Oh, here is a pic of Wayne's other cars. The gold 73 is really a nice looking car and is for sale. If I had a place for another car I would snap it up. It is clean as a whistle from top to bottom. I think that he wants less than $30K for it. The black one is, I think, a 2007 model, with almost no miles. In fact, I have never seen him drive it.

And of course, Greg has a short report for us too. No pics.

" I'm not at all impressed with this cold snap. I did take time today to reinstall the Avanti's brake rotors and button up the calipers so Bill and I could take it for a quick test run. Last night's effort to balance the rotors was a success and we got the car put away before our deer population came out to play in the road. Ol Seabiscuit is anxious to run with the best of them.

Now to find the source of a power steering fluid hemorrhage. But not until it warms up outside. I'm a cold weather sissy."







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It is still Friday. We headed out this morning and took a look at where Stephanie ran off the road. She is one very lucky woman. According to Henry the car did a 360 when it hit the ground as it slopes away from the road. I am sure that it was starting its rotation as it left the road. The car took out several small trees. Good thing, it cut the speed of the car and it did not go down into the creek bed. I would say that it went in about 100 ft off the road. Henry said that the car was totaled. Lots of plastic parts still in the field. Here are a couple of pics. You can see where it left the road.

About Henry. He is one of our local fixtures in the "hood". He raises about 80 head of Angus cattle and hay. He is a former crew dispatcher with United Airlines. He few his own little airplane into work when the weather was good. Mind you this was at a time when you could fly your private plane into Dulles International AP. He does not fly any more but still has a grass airfield on his property, which other still use. It even has its own FAA designation, AICP. One day we asked Henry what AICP meant? He said Ayers International Cow Pasture. That is Henry.

Well, Henry has a lot of junk, I mean stuff. Henry calls his collection of stuff, spare parts.

About 1980 Henry had a chance to purchase a 1937 Ford for $2,200. Seems the engine had blown, but the body and interior was in good shape and all original. So Henry pulled the engine, sent it off for a rebuild and kinda forgot about it. Until now.

Well the engine was long gone. The shop went belly up and by the time Henry heard about it, the engine was sold as scrap. That was thirty years ago. So the old Ford sat in his mom's house garage for decades. Unloved for sure.

This summer his mom passed and the house was sold so the Ford had to come to the farm. Henry has vowed to get it running again and if off on the quest. Last week he sourced an engine in upstate PA and drug it home. Did I say that Henry never buys retail and is tight as drum. He figures that he can get the car back on the road for less than $1000.

The Ford has been sitting outside for a few months while Henry makes room in one of his farm garages, which are crammed full of "spares". So now that he has the engine he can start on his quest. The body is in great shape, no rust. The interior with the exception of the headliner is presentable. The paint is OK too. Lots of work to do.

So I saw the car for the first time today and its new/old engine. He is missing a starter and flywheel, but figures that he can source those easily. Here are a couple of pics. I will update his quest when permitted to check on him. Oh, Henry is 78.












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I don't know if you noticed or not, but the picture with the big 20s Lincoln (or whatever it is) shows that the gas station is selling corn alcohol. Gee, I wonder why they didn't continue to sell this fine product throughout the years? Was it because it damaged parts on the car?

Edited by packick (see edit history)
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Joe, they must have had a corn lobby in Washington DC even back then. Probably had deep pockets too.

And Greg has a report for us this Monday morning, January 7th, AM.

"Not much to talk about. This weekend was devoted mainly to the Matheson engine project.

I've spent some time learning how to set up the connecting rod bearings. Sort of makes sense now. Since the components have to be dismantled prior to assembly to the crankshaft, I made some tests utilizing a torque wrench, snap gauge and micrometer. I'm pleased that the bearing adjustment is repeatable.

I've also prepped the pistons and now they are hung on the rods, the wrist pin bolts are saftied, waiting on the piston rings.

That was my snag. Being copies of the original type plain rings, they are so large that I'm unable to spring them open with my bare hands so that they can be stretched over the pistons. I'll check with Lee to see if he has any stout snap ring pliers that will hold them open.

Enclosed is photo evidence that this thing is a real brute. The rod and piston assembly weighs in at eighteen and a quarter pounds. This is without the rings.

Not as far as I wanted to go this weekend, but there is progress."





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Pat, it just goes to show you that the old can become the new. Now these are all the rage in Japan. Of course, highly automated.

And Greg has another reports and story for us too for Tuesday, January 8th.


Monday night wrestling match with the Matheson.

Held up on the ring installation until I get a suitable ring expander. Cliff here at work thinks he might have some pliers that will work, should bring them from home tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I realized that even though it's a chore, now would be a good time to verify that my rod bearing adjustment technique actually works in real life. Without ring drag to interfere, I've inserted the #4 rod and piston assembly in the bore and hooked it up to the crankshaft. With everything snug and the journal oiled, it's a go. Things turn. (sigh of relief).

Also now I understand why they used that unusual through bolt to retain the lower cap. With a nine pound rod and a nine pound piston to keep inside the engine, that bolt in shear makes more sense to me. More so than relying on the treads of a nut and bolt.

On other matters, things here aren't always deadly serious. I do have some fun.

Squirrels. Most people hate them for their ability to decimate bird feeders like little Mosby Raiders. Or they like to eat them.

With roasted and unsalted peanuts I've got some cheap entertainment. A number of them come around to be fed. Hard to tell apart visually (although one has a torn ear), they do each have a personality. Although a few of them will peer into the plate glass door to see if anyone is in the apartment, when you open it, they react differently. One is really agressive. Sticks his head inside and demands to be fed. Kindof like the IRS. Puts it's cold paws on you and snatches it's due. After it's gone (he chases the others off and then stands guard), another (with the torn ear) will stick it's head in the door, rest it's paws on my hand and gently take his. There's the one that Barb calls Timmy . He waits timidly out of reach and hopes you'll toss one at his feet. But there's another one that just cracks me up.

When it first appeared, it would keep it's distance . You could always recognize it though, it would stand up and wave. Really. You've got to reward that . Now it comes much closer but won't take it from my hand. It likes to play catch.

The darned thing will stand there , paws outstretched, and if the peanut is tossed to him, he'll catch it. I gotta get this on film. Not a fluke, so far it's snatched about ten nuts on the fly. Even Barb has not only watched, but he's caught some from her. Today the thing met me as I approached the apartment for lunch. (They know my schedule) and since I had one in my pocket, it nailed another.

This one deserves a name. Not being much of a sports fan, I'm not sure what to call it. I do have one friend who was a pro ball player. And actually it does remind me of Frank Gable. We could call him Frankie. I don't think we could teach him Frank's other trick however. Doubt the squirrel could reach the pedals of a Model T. "






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It is Wednesday, January 9th. I have been working on the modern cars as they all have to be inspected yearly. Three are due this month. So the 03 Passat W8 wagon got the once over yesterday, some electrical repairs and then off to the shop for new tires. Today we get to pick her up with her new shoes and safety inspection sticker.

Greg has a report for us too.

"So far so good. Cliff brought his heavy duty snap ring pliers for me to try on the rings of the Matheson engine. Initially I didn't think they'd work either. Using them as intended, they wouldn't open the ring far enough to slip it over the piston. However, with some experimentation (desperation is the mother of invention) , I found that if I slipped the ring farther up the nose of the pliers I could then slip a length of steel keystock inside the ring to hold it open enough to allow me to get the ring started over the piston. Then I was able to spring each open end of the ring over too. A conglomeration of steel strips (as seen in the 1911 Dykes Auto Encyclopedia) then allowed me to slip the rings over the gaping ring gaps until the right one.

Tonight I was able to install the first four rings without breaking any. So far.

Ps. I reweighed the assemby with the rings and locknut. 19 Lbs even.

For those of you interested in the squirrel saga, I was joined by a couple during my lunch.

Didn't score very well with my catcher . Must have been off it's game. Pitching the nut isn't the easiest. You've got to put it right in the zone and it isn't very big. But I did bounce it of it's nose a few times. And as you can see, it's friend wasn't interested in working to be fed. Handouts are fashionable these days."




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Saturday, January 12th. We have been busy with family and have had zero opportunity for any car activities. But today we were home and the weather was decent, but I had farm chores to do. I have been keeping the llamas out of a pasture as I have not checked the fencing since the last couple of storms. So I had to walk the line and do my inspection. All was good.

But then I remember that I had posted a few weeks ago that I saw something in a far reaches of our property that looked like a truck. Seems like the previous owner buried some equipment under debris. When we bought the property I saw the big lump of old wood fencing and wood debris. But it was too deep and steep to get to it. After 12 years the wood debris is breaking down and has uncovered a long lost treasure. So headed down the hillside with the camera.

I pulled some debris off it it and behold it is the rear of a pick-up, an International. I have no idea of the year. With a little more digging I determined that it had been made into a trailer at some point in its life. It is full of debris and way down the hill. It would take a big tractor to bring it out of there. I think I will leave it for now. There is other stuff buried there too. Here are some pics.












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John, You are correct on the water trough. We had them out in the feed yard for cows during the winter. There was an electric heater element to keep the water unfrozen.

Used to tease my brother saying it was used to electrocute cows. Of course this was he same brother I got to pee on an electric fence.

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January 13th Sunday PM. Still doing farm stuff. My little Kubota tractor needs new front shoes. The other tires are cracking badly and loosing air so time to replace them. Here are some pics.

I also had a note from a forum reader who told me that he had just purchased a Jaguary XK 120 SE OTS (open two seater) in PA. It was owned by his best man early in the 50's. He does not quite know what he is going to do once he gets it home. Just wanted to let you know what a garage find looks like and what you may be up against.











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