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Fun with old cars...and shattering pot metal


HotRodTom
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Long story short, I bought a 1925 Gardner 4 out of a guy's backyard a few years ago. It had been sitting in his yard for many years, and he told me it was in a guy's 'collection' for years before that. The car is rough, with most of the body missing. I dont have room for it at my place, but was able to stash it at my parent's extra garage. After pulling it off the trailer, I looked at the body (what's left of it) and the running board braces, and it appears the car was hit at some point. My guess is the body was damaged significantly enough that the old wood and metal was just removed, and possibly trashed. Looking at the rest of the car, it looks pretty good. Old, but looked mechanically sound. I think the car was in driving condition until it got into the wreck.

So when I visited my parents I would go out and work on it a bit at a time, removing parts to take home with me for repair or cleaning. I checked the bottom end, and everything was tight, and even sort of clean. (I've seen '70s engines look a lot worse) With a little work, I got the engine to spin, all the valvetrain moved, had compression.. Hell, this thing will run!

Rebuilt the carb, slapped the oil pan back on, new plug wires, a bit of hot wiring, etc, and I had a cranking engine. Then the little Lycoming 4 started! Had not run in at least 40years.

I had a bit of tweaking to do on the carb, and just figuring out the timing setting it liked, so the day after Christmas I went back out to play with it. Hooked up the freshly charged Optima, pulled the choke, gave it a bit of throttle, and hit the starter. She fired right up, and as I fumbled with the timing and throttle, she sputtered and died. Hit the starter...Nothing. Hit it a few more times, nothing.. Looked over the engine and saw a bit of smoke flowing through the air. I pulled the battery, switched sides on the hood, and found this:

post-66627-143142927072_thumb.jpg

The fun is over!

The end cover of the starter shattered when the armature slammed back. Another case of brittle antique pot metal.

Anyone know how to prolong pot metal's life? I have several pieces on my 1926 Gardner that have basically turned to crackers. You can break them with your fingers. This is going to be a huge problem for our hobby.

Looks like I will be modeling the piece and having it cnc'd

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It is not "going to be a huge problem", it already is! Depending on the contaminants in the pot metal when cast, this stuff endures well enough or slowly explodes just sitting on the shelf. Yes replacement usually with aluminum is the answer. Expensive and time consuming but the project of an end bell for your Remy starter is shared by others. Advertize around everywhere and you may be lucky enough to find that others have gone before you. Worst case you could be the leader of the group that reproduces these for a worldwide need.

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Yeah, I am looking into the newer 3D metal printing processes. The early stuff is too stratified and brittle, but they have really improved the process, by infusing more metal into the structure in a high temperature autoclave. I know some people that are making custom trim parts with it, and they are very pleased with it.

Either way, its good I have been looking at an excuse to start doing CAD work again!

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At this point at least the usual solution is to try to find an original that is intact enough to make a pattern. Then cast in Aluminum or brass. 3D printing looks promising , especially in light of the process shown a little while ago relating to the Indy car intercooler casting. Still a pricy option at this point, but it will probably become a bit more reasonable over time.

Greg in Canada

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As I have 3 gardner cars and some parts for 4cyl and 8 cyl I will look for the parts you are looking for. It might be a little while as the temp here was -6f this morning and a high of +16 and 1 and a half inches of snow and a forecast of another foot or more tonight.

Al

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You do not need the extra expense of a 3D printer if you can glue it back together with some crazy glue and a bit of body fill no smooth it out. You will have to put it back together for the 3D printer anyways so why not just us the assembled part for the pattern to cast a part. Give Mike Butters a call he can cast you a new one from your broken part. He made a new casting for my 1930 Cadillac distributer that fell apart and the cap fits perfectly and runs like a charm. His email address nbutters@eagle.ca

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