alsancle

How to Sort and Maintain a Prewar car

Recommended Posts

Continuing from my page one post............

 

Craftsmanship:

 

Craftsmanship is the most difficult of the three ingredients to find when it comes to properly sorting a car. Were are going to assume......and I know that NOT a good idea that the person working on you car is talented........above average in mechanical skills in all areas of service and repair. Engine, mechanical, electrical, fuel system, ignition system.......and this person should have years of full time experience in a garage. You just can’t have a decent skill set without spending thousands of hours in the shop..........most people today just can’t seem to make a lifelong career out of working in a garage. Weather it’s a modern dealership or restoration shop, most of the people working on cars find their way into it by accident or necessity. Everyone thinks it’s easier to fix pre war cars than modern computer controlled platforms.......well, having done both extensively I can tell you it isn’t. Fixing pre war cars is hard and difficult work.......most people go on to find other things to do for a career.........let’s face it, fixing cars is dirty, often times can be physically hard and dangerous to ones body, and can become monotonous. Toss in welding, machining, fabricating, and a hundred other talents, it’s just ridiculously difficult to find people today willing to do the work for what most compensation packages pay. The era of working with ones hands in this country is quickly coming to an end. Technical schools have been closing down for forty years now. It seems the pendulum may be starting to swing back the other way...........back in the mid 80’s when I was in high school there were only a select few of  hands on  car guys......and a few years after we left they seemed to be gone. Years after graduation I came across a classmate who was a full time service tech at a local dealership. Back in the school days he couldn’t have fixed a flat tire on a bicycle.....and here he was making a living doing flat rate repair work. I knew he shouldn’t have been doing the job..........his personality and work ethic just wasn’t right for the career. He was the typical “shop hack” we see every day. Slap it together as fast and dirty as possible, push it out the door, and move on to the next job, Well, that’s not any way to fix an old or new car. Most of the people working in shops over the years learn to dislike service and repair work. They do it because they have no other options. You don’t want people like this working on your car! I have been full time in service shops for thirty years of my working life.......and I like it. Yup, got to be crazy, but I ENJOY the challenge of fixing things. What I find most rewarding is fixing things others can’t. I WANT the hard running problems, and look forward to the “non fixable” electrical problems. The more difficult and challenging the better. Of the half dozen car mentors I have had who have taught me to become a decent mechanic, the most important advice I was ever given was very simple and to the point......ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST WORK AND NEVER EVER GIVE UP!   Last year I was working on a 100 point trailer queen. It had been through several owners hands........great looking car, that checked all the boxes. It had a bunch of running and reliability problems. So many it was hard to figure out where to start. Everywhere I looked I could see problems..........so on top of fixing the dam thing I had to worry about causing cosmetic damage. Usually on cars such as this one or two repairs and the car will be mostly ok for the show circuit, and will be fine to pull up for the trophy ramp. (Making a car run acceptable vs correctly is two different things, and most people can’t or won’t pay to make them perfect.)  In this instance the new owner wanted it all....100 points and make a terrific driver out of a notoriously difficult platform. I started sourcing parts before I even started the job.........ignition & fuel parts were difficult and expensive to find........it took me several months to have everything on hand before a I started the job, I spent about fifty hours on the ignition and electrical systems, and about forty five on the carburetors and fuel system. Having put the car “back to new condition” I was able to actually drive it without breaking down.....but it was still a long ways off from perfect. I spent another two weeks full time chasing down all the little pain in the ass things that make it go from running ok, to making it run like it was new. There were dozens of little things I had to fix to make it right. It was taking so long the owner was getting frustrated with me. I would walk away from it for a day or two........just to take a break from the thing. Finally he and i were both at our wits end..........and I just started working  on it full tilt  and never stopped until I i got it perfect. When i finally found the last problem and fixed it, I took a few days off. I was sick and tired of the thing. I felt great I finally fixed the car that a half dozen others couldn’t, but it was a long and difficult journey. The best thing about properly sorting a car is when you finish, it will stay sorted and correct as long as it gets some regular use and exercise. Driving your car is the best thing for it. 
 

 

Notice I haven’t even talked about “how” to fix any one particular system or address common problems on sorting a car? It’s just too much to cover......a lifetime of experience can’t be packaged into a few typed pages. That being said......here is some insight on how to properly approach servicing the car.

 

 

Things to remember when sorting a car.............

 

1: The last ten guys who worked on the car didn’t have any clue what they were doing.

2: The last ten guys probably caused more issues than they fixed. (OK- it’s a certainty.)

3: All the “easy” fixes have been tried, now its time to really dig into it.(Yup, this is going to suck.)

4: You don’t fix a single issue......you go through the entire system. Don’t “spot fix” a problem, make the entire system of the car like new. Example- Ignition system.......fix it all, replace all the normal service items, and check everything. That means the following: Cap, rotor, wires, plugs, properly rebuild the distributor and set it up on a test machine to check advance curve, inspect power wires and grounds, engine timing(that means the timing chain also) check and inspect EVERY SINGLE PART of the system. (Load test the coils and condensers) Almost no one does this thoroughly and correctly.

5: Take your time, this isn’t a speed contest. Good work doesn’t get done in an hour. Embrace the process.

6: Don’t get discouraged.......this isn’t easy. Keep moving forward making everything you touch better.

7: Get help if you need it.......PLEASE.......ask people who know what they are doing....find the expert on the platform.

8: Have fun doing it.......remember this is a hobby and it’s supposed to be fun, yup fixing cars is fun if your in the right “head”.


 

All right , I go on, but I won’t. (Is that applause I hear?)

 

By 1910 cars were decent and reliable for what they were in the day. They didn’t constantly stop, overheat, break down, start hard.....,get the idea? Your car SHOULD be reliable. You should be able to drive it without carrying spare parts and a Snap On truck full of tools. Believe it or not, after all the headaches and hard work, the rewards of driving a well sorted and correct car never stop paying you dividends. When I drive a great car that has absolutely no issues I really enjoy myself......the feeling of satisfaction doesn’t stop. Just yesterday I took a great car out for a spin. A world class automotive masterpiece. I hadn’t really driven it much the last 8-10 months. I had started it regularly and driven it around the block, but hadn’t really taken it for a drive. When last extensively driven it was perfect. The first mile out it went into a death wobble...........then I realized I had not checked the air pressure before I went out......yup, all four tires were soft......they looked fine......but they were WAY down. (Yup, I still make mistakes and forget to check things.) After inflating the tires properly, the car was riding and handeled much better, and was running great........I started pushing it, making it perform.......making sure it was 100 percent.......and another issue popped up. The great thing about properly sorted cars is whenever anything new develops, is almost always an easy fix. In less than an hour the car was back to perfect. Today I’ll take it on a fifty mile drive to be sure it’s bullet proof. The platform? It’s a 1933 AJS.......one of the most difficult and demanding cars you could ever own. I enjoy working on it so much I am almost hoping it needs some more tinkering before ai clean it up and put it back in the showroom. 👍

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
  • Like 8
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ed,

 

I might also add people fixing problems that don't exist. Last year at the museum we went completely through an ignition system - cap, rotor, condenser, wires,

plugs, coil  - the whole works. When we were done it just purred. Then this Fall someone decided to "fix" a a problem

it never had. The result was a frustrating no-start situation during a major event and a lot of people fiddling with a lot of stuff. - it hasn't run right since!

 

Now we need to start  all over again. Urrgggh!

 

Things like hiding fuel pumps in vacuum tanks and trying to boost oil pressure to modern levels just add a whole lot more stuff to go wrong.  You are correct

when you state that automobiles by 1910 were reliable  - yes they were indeed! Most issues centered on early electrical systems, poor fuel and tires.

 

Granted there were some products that were simply cheap and poorly engineered just as today.

 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Terry.......I just love the crowd who's motto is....."I fixed it till it broke!"  Installing hardended valve seats on a pre war car is one of may favorite things people do to spend money, and ruin their car........It's just one of a handfull of common issues.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Sharps45-70 said:

Now just to decide what make and series! Do I want to do Packard, or Buick, or Pierce, or Cadillac, or Chrysler, or....

 

This makes me think of another thread topic I've always been interested in.   What kind of car guy do you self identify as and why? 

 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, edinmass said:

Continuing from my page one post............

 

Craftsmanship:

 

 

I was polishing screw heads yesterday - for the whole day - black hole of time, but you just do it and do it right. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
39 minutes ago, edinmass said:

Terry.......I just love the crowd who's motto is....."I fixed it till it broke!"  Installing hardended valve seats on a pre war car is one of may favorite things people do to spend money, and ruin their car........It's just one of a handfull of common issues.

Agree on the hardened seats - most people never drive enough, matched to metallergy of a head, matched to ...  - I had the Auburn engine apart at 49K miles from its prior rebuild and wear was negligible. 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, John_Mereness said:

I was polishing screw heads yesterday - for the whole day - black hole of time, but you just do it and do it right. 

 

Thats what the neighbors kid does for me..........25 bucks per hour cash! And they still don’t show up.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, edinmass said:

The platform? It’s a 1933 AJS.......one of the most difficult and demanding cars you could ever own. I enjoy working on it so much I am almost hoping it needs some more tinkering before  I clean it up and put it back in the showroom. 👍

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

I would tell you about the only thing more challenging that a PII is a PIII and a PI is right up there too - matched to a bunch of stuff that when restoring you have zero parts availability matched to everything being worn, beat to hell and .... You do as you have and just apply experience matched to time and/or you still do same matched to surrounding yourself with fabulous people that have seen and dealt with it all. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I upgraded a "restored" 1936 Auburn 852 Supercharged Phaeton - it coughed and died about 30 seconds off the trailer and it only took a second to figure out car was not safe.  I had heard the stories that it never finished car club events and  being a tow truck queen, though the dealer sent me a video of their driving it though the neighborhood and up onto the highway for a few miles, and then back to the garage - sidenote: it really did not matter as  friends wanted a tour car and I was going through it for them regardless.  What did we find:  The car had 8 lock washers on it - they were on the back axle and the nuts were not tight., the car was assembled from the junk drawer of the workbench, every wire on the new wiring harness had a crimped on end as they had spun (again a lack of lock washer issue), the rod bolts were just snugged, the supercharger had a square bearing, the transmission was improperly assembled, the Columbia had sucked the fluid from the back axle and near destroyed it (which I did not think was even possible), and ....  

 

All said though, it was a pretty pleasurable project as car had never seen a speck of rust from new, 90% of whatever project they did was well enough done, and ...

 

I can also tell you about the gasoline tank falling out of the 1936 Cadillac 75 Series Town Cabriolet or the 100 point perfect painted radiator that was totally clogged (and the collapsed pistons as a result), and the list goes on and on.

 

Tight folks - ever size bolt has a torque for it (and that is what a torque wrench is for) and the balance of hardware has a "feel" for just right - perfect paint is great, but ...

Edited by John_Mereness (see edit history)
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/28/2019 at 8:22 AM, alsancle said:

Agreed on all counts Ed.   One important point that might be lost in your long winded manifesto is that you really only learn from doing.

 

A side issue is that I've never understood people that watch someone else do something and then think they can estimate that task's time, repeat that task better themselves, etc.   It blows my mind every time when somebody that hasn't actually done the work (pick anything in life) seems to be an expert.

 

 

Thank you for the flashback to my home remodeling/carpentry days! "My husband could do it, but he doesn't have the tools", "It's a small job, shouldn't take too long" " We just listed the house, need a few things fixed." Bob 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ed is right, nothing beats spending time under the hood to really learn about your car.

I was lucky enough to spend my entire childhood wrenching on my two pre-war cars with my dad and my grandfather.

My grandfather was a machinist and he could just 'feel' when something wasn't right, a talent one of my uncles says skipped his generation and ended up with me.

Not sure I agree with his assessment but I think I do OK when it comes to being under the hood and figuring things out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So as a knucklehead novice with the late teen- twenties stuff, what does it take to pull leaf springs out, apart, lube with, reassemble? Dangerous process or fairly easy?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, deaddds said:

So as a knucklehead novice with the late teen- twenties stuff, what does it take to pull leaf springs out, apart, lube with, reassemble? Dangerous process or fairly easy?

Clamp spring tightly with vise grips, c clamp, whatever. Remove center bolt and replace with a long threaded rod. Tighten up threaded rod, remove clamps and loosen nuts. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, deaddds said:

So as a knucklehead novice with the late teen- twenties stuff, what does it take to pull leaf springs out, apart, lube with, reassemble? Dangerous process or fairly easy?

There is a tool that will spread the leaves apart to allow lube to be applied. The proper way is to remove them, carefully take them apart, grind any worn areas. Show car vs driver paint application will differ. Use REAL spring bolts, your local spring shop will have them. Bob 

Edited by 1937hd45 (see edit history)
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, deaddds said:

Lube type? Axle grease or lithium or ?

 

I'm sure the experts here will have something to say about this but here is what Eaton has to say about greasing springs on pre and post 50's cars.

 

https://www.eatondetroitspring.com/greasebetweenleaves/

 

And here is an old thread from this site that has a short discussion on lubing spring packs.

 

https://forums.aaca.org/topic/149550-leaf-springs-to-grease-or-not-to-grease/

Edited by zepher (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Back in the day, spring grease was special and had a high percentage of graphite. You can still get it from Penrite (via restorationstuff.com if you happen to be in the US). Some will tell you it is a bad idea to use it due to corrosion, but believe me if you don't, you will also get a bunch of corrosion, and wear too.

 

Using plastic liners between the leaves and not using graphite is probably better if you can fit them in there. All this assumes springs that were intended to be lubricated when new.

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The late Harold Sharon warned against lubricating brass car springs saying that the interleaf tension had a shock absorbing effect. I don't always agree with Harold but this seems to make sense as long as the springs have been disassembled and cleaned and then painted...but, I confess I don't know. I plan to fit Hartford friction shocks to my car so I'm not sure the tension he was talking about is necessary.

 

 

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interestingly I have never met an expert on automotive spring suspension. So I never have had the chance to get into details with someone who really knows what they are talking about in this area. Whenever there is a question and I can’t get what I consider true, correct, unbiased engineering information, I always do the same thing.......put it back exactly as it was from the factory. The stock results are usually the best solution for today, as they were when they manufactured them.  Most expensive cars had springs lubricated with a grease and graphite combination, and then wrapped in canvas, with either leather or metal covers. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the most important things I've learned while sorting out various cars is that you have to forget what you think you know. We tend to assume that after 60 or 80 or 100 years, we're smarter than the guys who built these cars. We have access to tech that they didn't. Therefore, anything we know today is better than what they knew then. When we see something on an old car and we don't understand why it was built that way, we assume that the guys who built it just didn't know what we know today and did it wrong. And then we set about trying to "correct" or "improve" their work using all our accumulated knowledge and tech. We are often surprised when it fails.

 

Case in point: I had a guy in my showroom a few weeks ago who said, "I always convert all my cars to Pertronix. I don't want that unreliable old points crap in there leaving me stranded." I pointed out to him that points will often continue to work in failure mode but a Pertronix unit will completely and totally stop working in a microsecond puff of smoke and leave you paralyzed. He was completely unable to process what I was saying. The only solution for him was a modern upgrade--after all, we're smarter than those guys back then, right?

 

The same goes for things like the aforementioned hardened valve seats, 8- and 12-volt conversions, and other "solutions" to "problems" that are really just someone not understanding how something works. In many cases, their solution is simply changing it into something they do understand. Repair shops are notorious for this. I recently had a '56 Olds with a fresh Jetaway transmission in it that leaked all over the new owner's floor and it shifted incredibly harsh. He took it to a shop in Florida where they told him the Jetaway was junk even when it was new and that it couldn't be fixed and that it would never work properly. Oh, and they'd happily put a 700R4 in it for $7000 and that he should ask me to pay that bill since I sold him the car. I told him to find another shop that understood vintage transmissions--when he did, they found a leaking fitting from the cooler line and the shift linkage was misadjusted. Fixed, good as new, working properly, charged him $150.

 

One shop understood the problem and one shop only thought they knew what the problem was and decided they could out-smart the Oldsmobile engineers (and me, but that's a different subject).
 

My point is that the guys who built our cars, regardless of age, were probably very smart guys. They were keen to the cutting-edge technology of their time and understood how things worked. They were working at the top of their fields and a lot of money was involved, so they didn't have the opportunity to make junk. It is important for us not to try to outsmart them, because whatever they did, they did for a good reason.

 

Always start there. 

 

Resist the temptation to "improve" a design because you think you see something they may have missed. Ignore the guy at the local car show who talks like he knows all the answers and just because it's on YouTube doesn't mean that guy's an expert. If there's a part on there that seems superfluous, it's not. I promise that however weird something looks, the factory didn't make a mistake; it's that way on purpose. If they had to spend money to put it on the car, then it was necessary (God, I'm so sick of seeing GM automatic transmissions with missing torque converter covers on the bottom--it's there for a reason, you idiots!). Most of all, if you don't know the right information, find out before you start trying to reverse-engineer something and make everything worse.

 

If you want your car to work properly, the only way to make that happen is to put back to it the way it was designed to work. Do it their way, even if you don't really understand exactly why they did it.

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I REALLY think the owners whom buy their car as if they were picking out a costume are the ones with the most troubles, no matter what era.

 

image.png.7ec0cbcb0fa83358c0da4f5d7b62377f.png

 

Prior to the maturity of the internet I always thought the best place to advertise a car was the New York Times or L A Times classified, centers for image and money, good market.

 

Real conversation:

"How much would it cost to braze the ends of the Bijur pipes closed to stop from dripping on my floor?"

"About $15,000 to $20,000"

"That seems like a lot for just stopping a little drip."

 

The two most dangerous words in the English language "I thought". Think of what happened right before you heard them.

Bernie

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, JV Puleo said:

The late Harold Sharon warned against lubricating brass car springs saying that the interleaf tension had a shock absorbing effect. I don't always agree with Harold but this seems to make sense as long as the springs have been disassembled and cleaned and then painted...but, I confess I don't know. I plan to fit Hartford friction shocks to my car so I'm not sure the tension he was talking about is necessary.

 

 

There are probably differences between earlier brass cars to the early 20's to the big classics in the late 20's and 30's.  Also differences between the engineers at different manufacturers as well.  Here is a direct copy from the 1920 Cadillac Type 61 Shop Manual that was given to the mechanics and service departments for Cadillac.  This is their guidance on Spring lubrication and also from troubleshooting on the ride of the car.  The troubleshooting section points you to the lubrication as well as replacement if the lubrication doesn't work.  The Type 61 was the big Cadillac with the V8 engine.  I was lucky enough to find this shop manual and it is excellent.  I have two V8 Cole's from the early 20's that are similar to the Cadillac and a Cole shop or service manual is not known to exist.  A lot of what you see out there today is from people applying modern knowledge to fixing and how they would do it. I try to go by the recommendations of what I can find from original materials.  

 

 

IMG_0152.thumb.jpg.1c114ad05c63f96779206ec1299dcbfe.jpgIMG_0151.jpg

Edited by kfle (see edit history)
  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For Model A folk a lot of great technical advice exists, but my favorite is the very complete restorers guide (I believe the context of the word restore is a little different here, as in restore to service) written in period by Victor Page.  It is really comprehensive, as I imagine the Cadillac manual must be.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Last week I  removed the rear spring on my 1913 T runabout, inspected, cleaned, and painted it with “Slip Plate”. I noticed an improved ride (yes, on a T!) so tomorrow I will do the same to the front spring. One does not need a spring spreader for a T, just a big ol’ C-clamp. At the same time I did disassemble the spring shackles, clean them and install new oil caps. I did use new spring boots as 37hd45 mentioned.

 

 

 

5FA6BCC4-19C4-4B5C-B1A6-E445B7C9EA3E.jpeg

Edited by Jeff Perkins / Mn (see edit history)
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now