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Why do we never see original schematics?


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For any antique vehicle that a manufacturer has stopped producing and stopped providing service support for, why is it that original schematics never see the light of day?

 

To clarify, I'm not talking about the couple pages of frame blueprints that you can find for vehicles like the Model T or such, and I'm not talking about service manuals, etc. I mean the original designs for every last piece of the vehicle, measurements and all. The practical purpose of having these schematics now would be to accurately refabricate those hard-to-find parts that can't be found in NOS.

 

This dilemma came to mind because of an old set of Zundapp motorcycles I've acquired, but it goes for our American manufacturers too. Why wouldn't these schematics be considered part of the public domain? There's surely no patent that would still be enforceable, at least not in the US. Wouldn't manufacturers want to release them to the public after so long, if for no other reason than to see their vehicles be restored and still running? Our industrial history is slowly rusting out of memory, and without original schematics, we will never be able to preserve all these pieces of history. What does it take to obtain these? Are they sitting in an archive somewhere in, for example, Ford headquarters, and someone can simply make an appointment to go look through them or what? Lawyers, engineers, former manufacturer employees, your input is warmly encouraged.

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Patterns, copyrights and trade secrets. Frank Loyyd Wright never wanted to have his blue prints out there either. He built a house with a very large overhang  and a special beam that supported that overhang. One of his student/employees copied the  plans except the beam which FLW kept locked up. The overhang sagged after about a week and had to have support post put in to hold it. Ruined the balance of the house. Trade secrets are very valuable 

Edited by SC38DLS (see edit history)
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2 minutes ago, SC38DLS said:

Patterns, copyrights and trade secrets. Frank Loyyd Wright never wanted to have his blue prints out there either. He built a house with a very large overhang  and a special beam that supported that overhang. One of his student/employees copied the  plans except the beam which FLW kept locked up. The overhang sagged after about a week and had to have support post put in to hold it. Ruined the balance of the house. Trade secrets are very valuable 

I understand where you're coming from and all, but I'm not sure the designs for a 100-year old piece of history are something that a lawyer can very well go into court and defend as a trade secret. From my understanding, a trade secret isn't such if a company no longer utilizes it for profit.

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I don't think they were deemed important once production stopped and the years past. The offices would move and the old stuff went in the trash. I do not believe much is left at the manufacturing headquarters. GM has made some info available at the heritage site maybe others have as well.

 

Dave

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2 minutes ago, Dave39MD said:

I don't think they were deemed important once production stopped and the years past. The offices would move and the old stuff went in the trash. I do not believe much is left at the manufacturing headquarters. GM has made some info available at the heritage site maybe others have as well.

 

Dave

This will inevitably be true for at least some productions, however unfortunate. But I like to hold on to hope that they've been preserved somewhere, even if they have been forgotten about.

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I don't know if I believe this but supposedly the original dies for the wood (do you call them dies?) on woodies were up for auction. The bidding stopped just shy of $40,000 and it was a no sale. Now how could someone make that back selling reproduction parts? There are not that many woodies running around are there?  But the company still thought they were worth more. Does not make sense to me. 

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I hope so too. When you said antique I was thinking pre war. There should be more saved for the newer vehicles. The info you need may have been donated to the AACA library?

 

Dave

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1 minute ago, Dave39MD said:

I hope so too. When you said antique I was thinking pre war. There should be more saved for the newer vehicles. The info you need may have been donated to the AACA library?

 

Dave

I mean pretty much anything before 1980. The motorcycle that sparked the question is a 1957. But I'll have a look around the AACA library and get back to you, not a bad idea.

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Ok, You and what, six other guys own a Zundapp motorcycle, have you any idea what it costs to manufacture reproduction parts? Twenty years or so ago I sold a NOS Chevrolet door handle to a parts manufacturer, he was going to tool up and make reproduction door handles, the first one would cost him a crazy amount of money. He has a catalog of top shelf reproduction parts Lord knows what his total investment was. Bob

Edited by 1937hd45 (see edit history)
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15 minutes ago, 1937hd45 said:

Ok, You and what, six other guys own a Zundapp motorcycle, have you any idea what it costs to manufacture reproduction parts? Twenty years or so ago I sold a NOS Chevrolet door handle to a parts manufacturer, he was going to tool up and make reproduction door handles, the first one would cost him a crazy amount of money. He has a catalog of top shelf reproduction parts Lord knows what his total investment was. Bob

Well when you have the capability to machine your own parts, it's pretty cheap. I'm not trying to "tool up" and make a business out of this. I'm trying to preserve the pieces of history I come across. So even if I am one of seven people in the whole world who owns a Zundapp, doesn't that make it that much more important?

 

When these vehicles are gone and the last one has succumbed to rust, we will never be able to get them back. Come here to be constructive to the conversation or don't come at all.

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17 minutes ago, 1937hd45 said:

Twenty years or so ago I sold a NOS Chevrolet door handle to a parts manufacturer, he was going to tool up and make reproduction door handles, the first one would cost him a crazy amount of money. He has a catalog of top shelf reproduction parts Lord knows what his total investment was. Bob

No manufacturer will let the old drawings into the wild. Many people/businesses reverse engineer all manner of products (fakes)

With 3D scanning and 3D printing of molds and now 3D printing in plastic & metal making reproductions is now a fraction of what it cost 2 or more decades ago

Note : drawings and schematics are not the same

 

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4 minutes ago, 1939_Buick said:

No manufacturer will let the old drawings into the wild. Many people/businesses reverse engineer all manner of products (fakes)

With 3D scanning and 3D printing of molds and now 3D printing in plastic & metal making reproductions is now a fraction of what it cost 2 or more decades ago

Note : drawings and schematics are not the same

 

What's the difference between the two?

 

I've thought about the possibility of 3d scanning, but quality and complete files are few and far between. There are some interesting 3d scanning devices out there, but even they have a hard time measuring out cavities and recesses in an object. Not to mention the fact that even the most accurate machines would have a hard time getting measurements precise enough to record tight-fitting pieces. And anything involving making your own CAD files would be incredibly time-intensive.

 

And about letting drawings into the wild: what about companies that aren't in business anymore? Surely they don't just go through the files and have a burn party when the business collapses.

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Well there is some of this stuff around. When I got my 1931 Buick it came with a folder of engineering drawings of the engine. The car was flipped by a dealer so I found the original sellers. The owner had passed away and the estate had sold the car. Turns out the guy bought the car in 1965 and he happened to be an engineer at Buick. He was smart enough to raid the Buick archives at that time and save as much as was still around for the old Buick. The family had a whole file cabinet of drawings! Everything for the car except the body wood. All of it would have been destroyed if he had not done what he did.

 

Of course they thought this material was worth a fortune, I was willing to pay up but not that much. Long story short I touched base with them a couple of months later and they had come around so we made a deal. Well over 100 drawings when all was said and done. Everything from running boards to radiators, dimensions, metal hardness, everything.

 

Of course this is just one year of one model of one make, but who knows what else is out there.

 

I donated the drawings to the Buick Heritage Alliance and they were nice enough to give me a full set of digital scans. So they are available to anyone at the AACA Library for research.

 

post-96840-143142534198_thumb.jpg

 

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12 hours ago, atlanticsailor said:

And about letting drawings into the wild: what about companies that aren't in business anymore? Surely they don't just go through the files and have a burn party when the business collapses.

 

You can't have very much exposure to serious industrial history. The answer is... Yes, they do just throw all the old stuff out. Unless the company is still in business AND has the unusual practice of keeping old drawings, they will all have been destroyed long ago. I know of a couple of cases where the paper records of a company have been preserved by an individual but they are very rare – almost to the point of being unique. Even in the case of companies that are still in business, most will have long discarded obsolete drawings. These are or were expensive things to store and management has fiduciary responsibility to not waste the shareholders money. A friend of mine has devoted years to researching one company and, by his estimation "they were in the business of making money... once their products were sold they didn't much care about them and NO ONE expected that they would be "collected" 50 or 100 years down the road." The company my friend is interested in is still in business but has gone bankrupt once and been sold two times. Each time it was sold, the new owners trashed all the records of the previous company.

 

Perhaps the biggest issue with doing serious industrial history is the lack of documentation. Financial records might, occasionally, get saved by lawyers or those that had a stake in the company. Working drawings of obsolete items, like cars, motorcycles etc... practically never.

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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Two saves I know of:

 

Dave Cammack bought all the Tucker drawings. I used to go through them in the second floor of his private museum in Alexandria, VA. I guess they were donated along with the cars and other (lots of other!!!!) stuff to the AACA.

 

The Graham Owner's Club International has bought the Graham factory drawings from the estate of the fellow that owned them (Mr. Liddell). He also had the parts from the Graham factory spares, which were sold to American Vintage Parts.

 

 

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Blueprints etc would stay in the engineering department files until they ran out of space then they would throw out the oldest stuff. Some small fraction has been saved in museums and one make clubs. When it was thrown out it was just old scrap paper.

 

In the 20s and early 30s they made car bodies with wooden framework. When they made a new body the first frame was assembled without glue. Then the frame was taken to pieces, the pieces labelled with indelible pencil and varnished. These pieces were the patterns from which the body parts were made. They kept them around for the model year in which the car was made and maybe a while longer. But I expect eventually they were used as firewood. A major body manufacturer like Fisher would not have storage room for all those body pieces.

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5 hours ago, Frank DuVal said:

Two saves I know of:

 

Dave Cammack bought all the Tucker drawings. I used to go through them in the second floor of his private museum in Alexandria, VA. I guess they were donated along with the cars and other (lots of other!!!!) stuff to the AACA.

 

The Graham Owner's Club International has bought the Graham factory drawings from the estate of the fellow that owned them (Mr. Liddell). He also had the parts from the Graham factory spares, which were sold to American Vintage Parts.

 

 

 

You can add a third.

The H.H.Franklin Club has 20,000+ factory engineering drawings - saved in digital format - for club members on their website.

Including many of the wiring schematics, harness construction drawings, and body wire routing drawings.  

 

Paul

Edited by PFitz (see edit history)
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There is  lot of stuff on a lot of cars. Bob Sohl told me that one l model Lincoln owner had a print run made of the massive dealer parts book, and the last few were not sold for years.  All I could do was borrow a loaned copy, which had all the body details, and even certainty that Right Hand Drive parts were made.    There is probably everything in print, from Bruce McCally's massive reference to Murray Fahnstock's books on how early owners made them go much faster. Yet before the authoritative publications we used to derisively say that the best way to start an argument was to restore a T Ford.   There is a lot in National manuals to help you service and overhaul cars of the thirties,  but I confess I was not interested in those cars of the decade because they were too broad for my taste.  Derek Grossmark in England was the custodian of the Napier records for decades.  I have body drawings for my 1911 Napier , thanks to him.  And Randy Ema has all the production data for anthing you might need for a Duesenberg.

 

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As far as Packard's files go, the excellent Automobile Quarterly book,

"Packard:  A History of the Motor Car and the Company," quotes

Richard Teague on page 621:

 

"When [Packard] really appeared to be finished, in the fall of '56,

nobody was around.  We were all on the payroll but every Friday

the department you saw in action last week would be gone.

Those big yellow carts would come through and they'd take 

all the files.  The cart would come down, the files would be 

pulled out and dumped upside down, the file drawer would be

put back in and a few weeks later they would have an auction

[for] office equipment. ...The contents went to the powerhouse

across the bridge and it would all be burned."

 

So much of Packard's history has apparently been lost.

I wonder whether there were a few nuggets here and there

that have been saved--I hope so.

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In addition to trade secrets, legal liability is a big issue these days.  The makers of small airplanes got sued many times for the crashes of planes 50+ years old, even when the planes had been modified by owners, and accused of faulty original design.  Eventually, the aircraft makers went bust, reorganized, and got congressional action to prevent future suits.  For both cars and planes, we currently know a lot more about metal strength, fatigue cracking, etc., and we now have great computer tools for analysis and design.  No existing manufacturer would want to turn over design and manufacturing drawings, no matter how old.

 

Studebaker owners are fortunate that when the company stopped making cars in 1966, about 70 TONS of drawings dating back to the 1920s or earlier survived and are now housed in the archives building of the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, IN.   For a small charge, the Museum will extract a drawing by part number and make a paper copy.  I've used this service many times, including detailed engine block drawings at actual size - they are almost as big as bed sheets.  I got the 8-1/2" x 11" drawing for the kingpins for my 1948 truck, thought about reproducing them since the drawing included all the dimensions, material specification, surface finish, and heat treating process.  Making a batch of 50 or 100 wouldn't have been too costly, but if any buyer ever crashed or had a steering problem, I would have been on the legal hook, so I didn't.

 

On the other hand, during the 1966 shut-down, all engineering test reports and associated information were deliberately destroyed for liability reasons.  A pity!

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Back around the turn of the century, people on the Reatta forum here scanned the service, parts, accessory, and radio manuals plus several other factory items such as the convertible top manual for all four years, 1988-1991, the Reatta was built. Permission was granted by GM legal to post these items in a controlled manner on the Reatta website,  In 2015 GM legal rescinded this agreement. Corporate lawyers fight tooth and nail to avoid losing rights. See Steamboat Willie.

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23 hours ago, Gary_Ash said:

In addition to trade secrets, legal liability is a big issue these days. 

 

Most of these documents were simply thrown out long before lawyers started cashing in on the liability gravy train.  People today just can't comprehend how much it cost to store large amounts of paper files.  Yes, in the 50s and 60s blueprints were converted to microfiche in a lot of cases, but that still requires storage space and cost.  Auto manufacturers are in business to sell new cars; they aren't historians and certainly aren't in business to assist restorers 50 or more years later. 

 

As usual, the simplest answer is usually the correct one. Storing obsolete files meant a hit to profits.  Guess which choice won.

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1 hour ago, padgett said:

Back around the turn of the century, people on the Reatta forum here scanned the service, parts, accessory, and radio manuals plus several other factory items such as the convertible top manual for all four years, 1988-1991, the Reatta was built. Permission was granted by GM legal to post these items in a controlled manner on the Reatta website,  In 2015 GM legal rescinded this agreement. Corporate lawyers fight tooth and nail to avoid losing rights. See Steamboat Willie.

 

Sadly this probably happened because of the fear of lawsuits not because they wanted to keep the rights. Our wonderful lawsuit happy country is to blame I think. And we can't just blame lawyers for this. I've seen to many ridiculous lawsuits go to trial where the jury somehow came to the conclusion some idiot who wouldn't read instructions, follow directions or use common sense is entitled to millions of dollars because of an accident he or she is to blame for.

 

I am even running into businesses in other countries that will no longer sell me parts because they are getting sued across the pond somehow now as well.

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Copyright laws also vary a lot by country so some things that are restricted here can be posted elsewhere. One of the stranger things is how something can pass into the public domain and lose protection.

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On 01/07/2017 at 6:07 AM, PFitz said:

 

You can add a third.

The H.H.Franklin Club has 20,000+ factory engineering drawings - saved in digital format - for club members on their website.

Including many of the wiring schematics, harness construction drawings, and body wire routing drawings.  

 

Paul

 

Yes - this is an amazing collection - I have found (and downloaded and printed out) many many pages of drawings of parts of my 1926 Franklin Series 11A.

 

They let me see how things should be, have replacement parts made to the factory drawings, how parts were specified originally for finish (e.g. nickel or black enamel etc) or if they were purchased items like the tool in the toolkit, what brand, size etc they were to be.

 

These drawings are are an amazing benefit of being a member of the H H Franklin Car Club.

 

Roger

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Then there's the loss of early info by fires, floods, and wars.

 

The first restoration I worked on  40 years ago was a 1914 Renault.  The boss wrote to Renault in France asking if they had any info. They wrote back that if we found any to please let them know. Two world wars had destroyed their early files.

 

Paul

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23 minutes ago, theKiwi said:

 

Yes - this is an amazing collection - I have found (and downloaded and printed out) many many pages of drawings of parts of my 1926 Franklin Series 11A.

 

They let me see how things should be, have replacement parts made to the factory drawings, how parts were specified originally for finish (e.g. nickel or black enamel etc) or if they were purchased items like the tool in the toolkit, what brand, size etc they were to be.

 

These drawings are are an amazing benefit of being a member of the H H Franklin Car Club.

 

Roger

 Yes, they have been a great resource. But,.... the drawings are not the end-all be-all. They are mostly a guide and must be tempered with caution. There are many examples that the final product didn't always follow every drawing exactly. Sometimes changes at the production line didn't make it back to the drafting room to revise the drawings. That became even more of a problem as staff cutbacks increased as the depression set in after 1929.

 

Paul

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BTW I have collected factory service manuals for many cars. For quite a few I have electronic copies, purchased from eBay or the Mfr & some were scanned, simply because they are much easier to carry with me. Earlier the most complicated thing about wiring was the radio and most of those are available either online or as a Ryder's "Perpetual" or Sam's "Photofact". Charging, ignition, starting, and lighting were somewhat standard since many bought from Delco or other suppliers. Not many were wholly in house. Car computers did not exist prior to 1981 (except for the aftermarket Prince onboard computer).

 

ps while there are laws protecting complete works like a service manual, excepts such as a schematic page, for educational purposes only should come under an exception. IANAL but is what I have been told.

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