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Seagrave 16000 ccm speedster

Karsten - Seagrave

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About 5 years passed since I read the first time about a eccentric race back 1907, where drivers had to manage 16.000 km from Peking to Paris. I was overwhelmed of this effort to prove horseless carriages were more reliable than traditional transportation, that the search for manufacturers of those big engines started. I focused on American Lafrance with the 6 cyl. simplex licensed engine when I found out that such a firetruck would be hard to find. 2014 finally I decided to acquire a 1929 Seagrave fire pumper with a 1000ci F6 T-head engine and brought it from the northern US down to Querétaro México. As soon as my buddies from the classic car club saw it, they prohibited to make any modification to the truck. It was in such a good shape that it has to remain as it is. I was convinced that I had to find another chassis, but with chain drive. Late 2015 I finally found exactly what I was looking for close to the mexican border. The chain drive is complete, also the chassis and suspension, the wooden spoke wheels would be fine after a good amount of work. The chassis has to be shortened to have a closer wheelbase.

Some delay didn't allow me to bring the chassis down to MX, but I am confident to start the project mid 2017. Meanwhile I have been collecting a lot of information about the technical solutions different manufacturers hat that time for the chain drivetrain.  

So far, I present some pics of the actual status of the project. IMG_5262.thumb.JPG.cc80d08db13a3e6a514d4718a7e6e123.JPGIMG_5305.thumb.JPG.da62d8b10708cd56dfab482d0eba45cf.JPGIMG_5287.thumb.JPG.347f3800cf65c87e8427eea2e344bbb7.JPGIMG_5262.thumb.JPG.cc80d08db13a3e6a514d4718a7e6e123.JPGIMG_5268.thumb.JPG.365d373e49e4eab58740a29cb5c67252.JPGIMG_5005.thumb.JPG.7b0300994bbadd4736251039703f5d7e.JPGIMG_5030.thumb.JPG.4d1f2b727cec3e7036c292387627b03d.JPGIMG_0344.thumb.JPG.7569d72af781f904cfcda288049358bb.JPGIMG_0598.thumb.JPG.60e3bcc9e5343deca79fa5ae2d78290a.JPGIMG_0406.thumb.JPG.6dcbffb98627529c236bbff3d0872d57.JPG

Edited by Karsten - Seagrave (see edit history)
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  • 7 months later...

Yes, it is exciting!!  Saturday Oct. 28. 2017 will be in my memories. The Seagrave 1919 Chassis arrived in Querétaro, MX and will be restored into a 1919 state of the art race machine. It was a 2 year journey to organize the shipping. The border crossing was a nightmare and loaded with adrenaline. Everything got complicated, as the chassis weight is over 5 tons and to find an adecuate transport a little more difficult than I expected.

After a 1900 km voyage through Mexico it arrived safetly without major issues but the police, which on some terms needed to be convinced it was not a pre war military truck (!) to be converted into a Narcomobile... Well, phantasy raises in Mexico while they need some income increase.


For now the dismanteling process of the overweight has begun. A huge 1000 gpm solid bronce water pump with a weight of far over 1 ton has to be lifted out carefuly. It is a precious piece of the era that will be restored later.


My question now is if I should leave the patina on the old chromed parts, as it would look original and worn out, or to try to vanish the almost 100 year old history while polishing and chroming them.


The chassis itself will be hot galvanized and painted. I think beige or dark grey would look good.


Anyway, first of all gallons of WD40 are finding their way through, and  every screw has to be checked and parts replaced if needed.






















Edited by Karsten - Seagrave (see edit history)
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I will borrow the F6 engine from my 1929 Seagrave pumper. The drivetrain has to look as original as possible. Meanwhile I have all parts together. The wooden spoke wheels are a headache, as they are in a pretty bad shape. I am exploring making the spokes of cast aluminum.





Edited by Karsten - Seagrave
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Hello Al,


yes, I would like to keep thespoke wheels , as together with the F6, chain transmission it matches my idea of the speedster. Even considering the wheels with the 40x8 tires are huge. My wheelbase is 4,400 mm and I am considering cutting off 400 mm to shorten it. But this is beeing analyzed with some CAD drawings we are making.

The proportion has to remain so it does not look weared after all.


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When you get you final sketch made, share with us and post some pictures.  I am using an American-LaFrance running gear as a basis for my Special.  Yes, proportion is what its all about to keep the looks what you would like.  I am patterning my Special on the early Simplex cars from 1909-13.  It will be nice to see what your design tastes will be for your Speedster.


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The ALF was the one I was looking for 2012...2014. Unfortunately without luck. Then I bought the Seagrave. ALF / Simplex are not so massive in design as Seagrave and in my oppinion are just beautiful.  The Seagrave F6 Engine is an extrem workhorse  and expects an even massive and good finish all arround .


As soon as we have the details over I share and hope for comments how to do some things better.


At the moment I have to decide if I leave the old patina on chromed parts or to polish them up and chrome again. I think I will leave the patina as it gives the worn out look of a well used classic car. What do you think?


I found  a museum close to Frankfurt: www.central-garage.de . It has the original Simplex engine drawings hanging in the shop... Hilarious!!


 Also the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart and Museum Sinsheim are woth to take a closer look as they have a lot of expossés of our main interest and good for ideas!


Best regards











Edited by Karsten - Seagrave
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We had a very nice time in Rothensburg, I would go back in a hurry.  Not too far from Rothensburg, is a nice transportation museum that has an American-LaFrance speedster.  I think You Tube has a clip of it running down a pretty German back road.  Now for the cast aluminum spokes on the Seagrave speedster.  I have a friend with a 1912 Buick.  They decided to cast the wheel center in aluminum and yes it looks nice and it is solid.  The trouble with his car is he can't keep the wheel all tight together  with the rim hardware due to expansion and contraction of the aluminum.  His wheels are not very safe, ( I have ridden with him and have first hand experience).  Maybe you can make provisions to counter that issue but I would sure be careful on a rig that will be as heavy as you are building.  (My two cents)


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I have seen this done with  3 spokes and a section of the felloe cast in one piece. I believe 4 such pieces were used so that the wheel had 12 spokes. The sections were attached to each other with felloe plates with retaining bolts threaded into the rim. I believe it also had machine screws countersunk into the felloe through the rim from the inside but I never saw the wheels apart. These were made at least 25 or 30 years ago and are still in use today on an ALF speedster. I would not try making individual aluminum spokes but I have heard of it being done for Model T Fords... it might be best to look into how first was done first.


And... these wheels were assembled on the hubs with the felloe plates holding the outer rim together. They were then turned to size with the actual wheel bearings in the center on a gap-bed lathe  as the OD was 27". The rim was then heated and shrunk on as it would have been with a wooden wheel so that they were very tight.

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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  • 8 months later...

July 2018 The speedster project goes on. Up to now all parts have been brushed and cleaned. At the moment I am trying to recover the wood spoke wheels. The rims are in an awful shape, but can be made. This wll,give me the chance to mount 700x24 tires.

Enclosed some pictures of the job done somfar.




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Thanks for the advice. Enclosed some other pictures. Cronologically they are mixed up. but should give an idea. End of this year I will assemble the gearbox and chain drive. If there is time left I will extract the F6 Engine from my 1929 Firetruck and installit in this 1919 chassis. Up to now everything works well. Of course gears and sprockets had to be made, change hugest bearings, the brakes completely overhauled and left as they are. I intend to change just the needed parts. A difficult problem are the wood spoke wheels. I am goint to flush them with Abatron Liquid wood, hoping to gain strenght and stability. This also should be end of the year. If I have time left this week and Liquid wood arrives, I may try on the worst wheel. Hopefully this will work. The anti - sag tension basr will be removed as soon as I can calculate the total weight on the beams. I am afraid, even if I took out the 1000 kg water pump made out of solid brass, that the beams may collaps.

I love the 2 layer gearbox. State of the art. These engineers did know what theiy were doing 1910...1919. The upper layer is the shifting mechanism, the lower layer the differential. Fantastc solution. Compact but still outstanding big. I wonder how the oil is going to be used, as there is no connection between the layers and it seems to be 2 different oiling systems.  Maybe somebody knows about how this works.


More pictures soon


Thanks for passing by


Best regards















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Hello Dave, I went to El Paso to pick  up the chassis . It is a long and very interesting story, close to an adventure as it had to be passd over to MX


. I was very lucky to find this 1919 seagrave pumper, as my later 1929 model has the exact same chassis dimensions wirh drive shaft. 



Indeed a wonderful project which ends up in passion. I dismanteled everything. Now that I am rebuilding and giving fresh breath to this unique automobile I can imagine the intense job it was manufacturing it at that time. It is easy to be said: 1919, but refering to the technological improvings they were at the very beginning of combustion engines. But fire engines seemed to be far ahead of its period.


Be Safe





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  • 5 weeks later...
  • 5 months later...

The gearbox was a complete mess. The gears grinded and a pound of metal pieces  sedimented. I could tell the day I opened it in El Paso 's yard that there was nothing left there. It happened to be wrong g. As one of the main tasks I started to dismantle the transmission and was truely exited about the engineering behind it. A two floor transmission. The upper half the shifting gears, the lower the differential with separetad lubrication system. Beautifully manufactured and well thought. The differential was about mint. A heavy oil, more grease protected the conical gears from rusting. The bearings top.  So I had to focus only on the bearings and grinderd gears. In total 3 that had to be made.  In Mexico we may have a lack of high tech skilled machine operators, but we have a surprising good fundus of artisians knowing how to mill a gear with their 80 year old machines. Even the cutter for the gear modul was in a dusty forgotten wood box from the shops grandfathers time. These guys made a terrific job. The parts matched 1:1 immediately and testing was successul. The bearings were brought together from several shops arround the country, as they are also rare and discontinued. So, despite leaking oil through some unaccessible joints, the gearbox has become a proud piece of prewar engineering, designed and build when Titanic was on the drawing board. Same as the engine. The F6 T Head was designed 1910. 

Up to now I have only one major problem unsolved; The wheels, the metal rim is totally corroded. To make new ones cost over 1000 US a piece. I have to figure out what to do here and maybe someone has an old Seagrave truck and wants to sell the wheels.

Anyhow. In a few month I will have this issue on my time frame.. Meanwhile I will prepare to change the engine from the 1929 Seagrave truck to the 1919 Speedster chassis.  I am very exited about this step. 






IMG_1368 2.JPG

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  • 2 months later...

I am not familiar with Seagrave motors... however, my assumption is the valve guides are either screw-in or pressed in.

I would replace them given the condition and the fact that they are all probably well worn from years of use.


If they are pressed they can easily be pressed out. If they are threaded than I would suggest boring them out

until the remaining shell is thin enough to break-up and remove.


For material - that's a no-brainer - good old grey cast iron.


While your at it I would look into either doing a complete re-build of the original valves (grind stems etc. and

ream the new guides to compensate) or find or fabricate new valves.


I went through this whole process a few years ago with a big 18 liter Wisconsin T-head. I had to replace all the valve guides

and fabricate new valves.


The valve guides we machined out of grey cast iron. Since I could not find replacement valves I ended-up using a wonderful

set of blanks intended for EMD diesel locomotives. These were stainless bi-alloy (one alloy for the stem, another

for the head). After turning the head to the proper 2-5/8" diameter, cutting the seat, keeper slots and to length they came out great!

However, the original stems were .500" dia and the new stems were .577" dia. That wasn't a problem because we simply

reamed the new valve guides to fit.


I believe on the valve guides I held .002" clearance on the intake side and .003" on the exhaust.



New valve guides




Valve blank a received from Carl M. Cummings Manufacturing



Turning to size and cutting the seats - we also used a tool post grinder on the seats as well.



12 new valves, 12 new valve guides all installed









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  • 4 months later...

August 2019... The project becomes more and more reality, dozens of parts remanufactured and repaired. Now it comes to reposition the engine and control gear. I could lower the steering shaft down to the angle I find best by moving the engine about 15 cm back. steering gearbox and carburetor had a space conflict, so I turned the carb 180 deg. Seat, steering wheel and gear shafts repositioned.

After looking for more than one year for rims it turns out that we will remanufacture the rims in aluminum cast. Wood molds are being made at the moment. This is a major improvement as I prioritize of using the original wood wheels.


I dismantled the engines carter and found a beautiful cathedral of cylinders and pistons in an outstanding condition. The art of casting the aluminum block is surprisingly perfect. The Seagrave engineers were amazing in r&d. Taking notice that this F6 T head was designed 1910 it surprises with advanced technology  for those days.


This journey into the past of our automobile history is mindblowing. 



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  • 7 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...
  • 5 months later...

I was underwhelmed by the initial post, but now I'm convinced you've done an outstanding job worthy of great praise! It's looks like a blast to drive. Good luck with it in the future!

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