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Timing gear alignment 32-67


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I have been reviewing many posts about pre-war timing setup and I am not sure I am 100% clear on how the flywheel, cam gear and crank gear need to be setup, and then also how their setup can be confirmed so I have confidence before I reinstall the cover and put the car back together.

I also read and reread the shop manual sections about timing.


Any advice on how to install the new cam gear, and positively confirm proper timing and alignment?


The hash line on the crank gear is at the 12 o'clock position when the flywheel line for ADV 11deg aligns with the hash mark on the flywheel cover, so I think the flywheel is installed correctly, but I am not sure. 


Do I need to confirm intake valve #1 is starting to open with the flywheel at ADV 11deg, and then intake #1 should be fully closed when the crank gear hash line is at 12 o'clock position?


I am planning to align the cam gear 0 mark with the crank hash line.

How many revolutions does it take for the two marks to align again? 

2 or 3 revs of the crank gear for every rev of the cam gear?


As final verification, should I simply hand crank the engine and watch everything cycle through the firing order?


Any advice and thoughts are appreciated!


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The flywheel can only be on at 6 positions.  Put the crankshaft with #1 piston at top dead center.  Use a 30/60/90 degree right triangle.  begin to slowly rotate the the crank shaft counterclockwise looking from the front to the engine.  As you turn the crank watch for the flywheel timing marks.  If you see the timing marks before you rotate the crank 60 degrees,  the flywheel is properly installed.  If you go further than 60 degrees you will have to decide if you want to pull the motor and properly install the flywheel or ignore it and know that you will need to use other methods for ignition timing.


the engine is a 4 stroke intake, compression, power, exhaust process.  each one is 180 degrees of crankshaft rotation.  The cam shaft has all 16 valve lobes and only  needs to turn 1 full revolution per 2 crankshaft revolutions?4 cycles.

With the #1 piston at top dead center, you are in one of two conditions,1.  end of compression stroke/beginning of powerstroke: or 2,  end of exhaust stroke/ beginning of intake stroke. the camshaft timing must match these conditions.  both valves closed for condition 1.  both valves open for condition 2. 


Attached photo shows my 32-50 series engine.  two photos of alignment marks. some are "0"or"I" .

Once you put the cam in. you may want to set the head and #1 cylinder lifters and rockers in place and check the timing as detailed in the 1932 Specifications and Adjustments manual.   Once you are sure you have the cam properly installed you can then proceed to complete assembly.


One last note, remember, the flywheel timing marks are for setting distributor ignition timing, NOT cam or crank timing. There is nothing you can do to change the firing order except cross ignition wires.


Bob Engle


32 engine 003_800x600.jpg

cam (1)_800x600.jpg

crank (1)_800x600.jpg

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Cam gear has twice as many teeth as crank gear, 2 full crank revolutions=1 cam revolutions for ALL 4 stroke/cycle engines.  The intake valve better not be opening at the 11 degree timing mark.  11 degrees is the number of degrees before the #1 piston reaches top dead center on the compression stroke with both valves closed.  Roughly speaking each stroke in the 4 stroke cycle is 180 degrees of crankshaft travel and 90 degrees of camshaft rotation.  The 31 Buick specifications manual has a valve timing diagram on page 16 and it states under valve timing the intake valve begins to open 1-1/2 degrees before top dead center for all models.  The light hashed areas of the rotation graph represent typical idle engine speed timing.  The black portions extend the valve timing as the engine speed rises.  To simplify this description forget about the black graphic, we will work with the idle speed gray hashed area of the valve timing. 


So the 4 strokes in order are intake/compression/power/exhaust.  Rotating the engine in clockwise running direction the camshaft is properly timed when the intake valve for #1 cylinder just starts to open 1-1/2 degrees before the #1 piston gets to top dead center, then continuing rotating the engine clockwise until the piston passes top dead center then continues until the piston passes bottom dead center is considered the intake stroke.  According to the valve timing chart the intake valve actually closes 56-1/2 degrees AFTER bottom dead center as the crank rotates clockwise and now the cylinder is charged with a combustible mixture of fuel and air. Now both valves are closed and the compression stroke commences pressurizing the fuel air mixture in the #1 cylinder.  As the crank continues to rotate clockwise the 11-1/2 degree mark on the flywheel will pass the center of the timing window at which point there will be a spark that starts the fuel air mixture burning.  This is not an instantaneous explosion, the combustion cycle takes time hence it is started 11-1/2 degrees before top dead center and cylinder pressure rises as fuel air burns until sometime after the #1 piston passes over top dead center starting the power stroke and continues to burn forcing the piston down in the cylinder.  The exhaust valve begins to open 54-1/2 degrees before bottom dead center is reached by the #1 piston.  The power stroke ends and exhaust stroke starts as the #1piston passes bottom dead center.  The #1 intake valve begins to open again 1-1/2 degrees before #1 piston reaches top dead center ending the exhaust stroke and beginning the intake stroke but the exhaust valve actually does not close until 30-1/2 to 43-1/2 degrees after the #1 piston passes top dead center on the intake stroke. 


The time during which both intake and exhaust valves are open is called valve overlap.  As the engine runs and the exhaust valve opens a high speed discharge of spent fuel air into the exhaust system tends to lower cylinder pressure.  The effect is called scavenging.  The reason the exhaust valve stays open so long is the scavenging has a supercharging effect on delivery of the fuel air mixture into the cylinder on the intake stroke, it actually helps pull fresh fuel air mixture into the cylinder.  


Okay- now that your head is spinning, the cam gear and crank gear are timed correctly when the #1 intake valve begins to open 1-1/2 degrees or just before #1 piston reaches top dead center when rotating the engine clockwise.

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Well, Bob called it, the flywheel is off by one bolt hole (-60deg) in the CCW direction when facing the front of the car. 

I don't think its worth it at this time to pull the motor and rotate the flywheel just so I can see the timing marks, I suppose I can punt and follow the other timing instructions in the shop manual the old fashioned way.


Cam gear is installed and I was able to follow both your instructions for confirming timing (I cannot use the #3 exhaust valve per the 1932 shop manual due to flywheel being off 60deg).


While the crank is rotating CW, a few degrees before TDC, #1 intake opens and remains open until <60deg after BDC for intake stroke.

Then #1 intake closes after BDC, #1 piston goes to TDC for compression stroke, fire, then #1 piston pushes down toward BDC.

Then <60deg before BDC, #1 exhaust opens and remains open as #1 piston goes to TDC for exhaust stroke.

Then #1 intake opens a few degrees before TDC to start intake stroke, and about 40 degrees after TDC (after scavenging), #1 exhaust closes, and #1 intake remains open to repeat the cycle for the intake stroke.


Bob and Dave, are you guys engineers or from a high-tech industry/field?


Thanks for your help!


Now I must patiently wait for a local machine shop to finish a new cast iron piston for this 60 series so I can get to the final phase of energized timing...

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12 hours ago, 32buick67 said:

Bob and Dave, are you guys engineers or from a high-tech industry/field?

So my engine knowledge started at age 10 when I inherited the neighbors 2hp 4 cycle Clinton horizontal shaft reel lawnmower which didn't work when I got it but I cut grass with it after a week of tinkering.  I have 50yrs experience of 1931 Buick cars, 3 of them starting at age 13 but learn something new every day on those.  I learned how to smoke my dad's cigarettes in the first one.  The gas station jobs started at age 15 and ran thru age 21, Johnson outboard service from age 17 when at the behest of the marina owner in East Tawas, MI that my dad bought a boat from in 1960 (Jerry's Marina) I was sent to the Johnson advanced trouble shooting and new models training in Waukegan, IL.  I worked there repairing outboards the summer I graduated high school. 


I took a great high school medley of drafting,  auto mechanics  and metal shop classes. I got into a bit of trouble in the auto mechanics class one warm fall day when I arrived late to class due to a dentist appointment.  That day was a practical hands on tune up test day where everyone was assigned a runnable engine on a test stand which had the distributor, plugs, wires, points, condenser, roto and caps removed and laid out on the floor in front of them.  My engine was a 425 Olds and I whipped the distributor back together, rolled the engine to find top dead center on #1 cylinder, installed the distributor putting it back in time, then plugs and wires.   I needed to start it to set dwell and timing but since I was late there were no exhaust dumps to use.  I approached the shop instructor and he said go ahead and start it up since the garage doors were all open anyway.  I lit it off and was just finished setting dwell when the director of the industrial ed. classes showed up and started hassling me because I wasn't hooked up to exhaust dumps.  He was conveniently standing just behind the right exhaust manifold with his every day Robert Hall wool pants and I couldn't resist- I revved the Olds to about 3000 rpm and started retarding the distributor until flames were exiting the manifolds then advanced it back to make the flames go away.  That got the attention of everyone in class including my instructor who thought that was just hilarious but it also got the attention of the vice principal when I got hauled to the office.  I found out later he thought it was pretty funny too and I got an A+ for my tune up test. 


I built a model steam engine in metal shop and got an honors convocation award for that.  I spent lots of time just hanging with car guys thru high school.  I took a few Industrial Ed classes at Eastern MIchigan University and a few technical classes at Lawrence Tech but I never got a degree.  I also worked a year at the old Cadillac Motor assembly plant on Clark Street in Detroit.  My dad was an aeronautical engineer and an advanced engineer at Ford, my brother was an electrical engineer who rose to the rank of Mfg. Manager at Ford Electrical Fuel Handling Division and I finally joined Ford Motor Climate Control Engineering Office starting in 1972 and ending in 2008.  Over the years I owned and rode some 30 different motorcycles starting with the one I built at age 15 from a Schwinn Stingray bicycle to which I attached a 5hp Lauson lawnmower engine and it was good enough after the cops caught me riding it they suggested I get an assembler's title and license it which I did.  I sold off the last 2, a 2000 BMW R1100S and a Ducati 996 Superbike in 2015.  I also owned and restored a few 60's muscle cars, a 97 Porsche 928 S4 and a mid 60's Chris Craft runabout.  


To summarize I'm an experienced jack of all trades but master of none...

Edited by Str8-8-Dave (see edit history)
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There are 156 teeth on the flywheel.  Divide by 6 bolt hole spacings equals 26 teeth.  You can remove the flywheel bottom cover and bring the 11 degree mark to the bottom and count 26 teeth and mark a new 11 degree mark on the flywheel.  You can do the same for the 6 degree sync mark. All the manual spec setup for timing will then work off of these new marks.  use a different color paint for these new marks.


My dad had an auto repair shop.  My first toys as a kid were distributors and carburetors.  I would take them apart and put them back together.  As long as I could remember, I worked  in the shop until 1964 draft notice came and I signed up in the Navy and worked in the engine room on an aircraft carrier.  After my 4 year hitch I went to work with a printing company as an engineering assistant working on development of high speed presses and bindery equipment.  In 1995 I bought my first Buick, a 1932 model 58.  I worked on it off and on until I retired in 2006 and di a complete restoration on it.  Since then I added a 1960 Invicta custom model, a 1987 GN and then the unrestored 1917 D45.  I enjoy learning the inner works of these cars and sharing my knowledge with other Buick fans.


Bob Engle




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Just one more item.  You are a ways off from installing the distributor, but there is one point to note on distributor advance timing.  The spark control pull belden wire control on the dash is in reality a timing retard.  The distributor set up is with the knob pushed in to the dash.  You want the initial timing advance to be set in this position.  These engines have a mechanical advance in the distributor.  


I like to set the initial advance 4 to 6 degrees more than factory spec.  You can then use the dash spark knob to retard the timing for best running condition.  Modern fuels usually mean that these antique cars run better with more advance than spec.


Original concept of the dash spark control was adjust for different fuels which were not octane consistent from one fill up to the next to prevent knock.  The other use which by the 30's was outdated.  was for hand crank starting you want the timing at or after TDC.  I can't imagine trying to start a 32 Buick with the handcrank!!!


Bob Engle


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17 hours ago, 32buick67 said:

How did a guy like you with a Ford family end up in the Buick camp?

My dad, being a pretty good engineer, realized Buick's advanced engineering, way beyond it's time.  He was looking for a car project to share with my brother Al who was 7yrs my senior.  My dad could have picked a Ford model A, that would have been a 4cyl flathead, or a model B which would have been a flathead V8, but just by chance he was driving home past a watermelon farm on Van Born Rd. west of Dearborn when he spotted the first of 3 1931 Buicks I would become involved with, an 8-86 coupe.  The Buick was an inline overhead valve 8 featuring roller tappet cam, dual point distributor, oil temp regulator, Marvel constant velocity vacuum operated 2 barrel carburetor with adjustable preheat, all mechanical accessory drive except the fan itself, thermostatically controlled radiator front shutter, dual disc clutch, synchromesh trans and torque tube drive.  For a mechanical engineer the car was fascinating for 1931.  


Having the Buick sitting in an unelectrified garage behind the war box house we lived in had a different kind of fascination for me.   I watched and listened to it run while my dad and brother tinkered with it.  I heard my sister's outrage after my brother used a 9" x 9" baking pan to catch oil from an ancient bypass oil filter on the Buick, wiped it off and put it back in the cupboard before mom caught him.  Later my sis used the subject pan to bake brownies in for a passing dish at a senior high school party.  The brownies had, well, a particular taste to them, kinda like Quaker State!  She was not amused... 


I learned how to smoke my dad's cigarettes in the Buick, usually after dark.  I was 12 years old by the time the Buick took up residence in that garage.  I could sit in the car and smoke while playing with the instrument lamps, headlight switch and I even learned to start it.   One night while my brother was away at college and my parents had gone out to a movie I was left in the care of one of my brother's high school buddies.  Both my brother and his buddy were ham radio nuts and when his buddy got into a good QSO on the radio I saw my chance and headed to the garage for a Salem filter.  After smoking for a bit I happened to push the vent pedal forward on the driver's side cowl vent which instead of resulting in a thump resulted in a blood curdling scream outside car.  I bailed out the door to see what the matter was and found our cat's tail stuck in the vent as it had wandered quietly up the running board and was in the wrong spot when the vent overcenter spring slammed the door shut resulting in the cat's tail being broken in 2 places.   My brother's high school buddy discovered the poor cat's injury and cleverly spiral wound it's tail with some #12 bare copper wire which became invisible under kitty's long white hair but the cat's tail now went on a straight line from it's butt to the floor and made a curious sound as the wire dragged on the floor.  Later that night my mother was greeted by the cat who rubbed against her leg as she stood in the kitchen.  Mom felt the wire and discovered the cat's dilemma and was not particularly amused as I recall...


The car had a miss that could not be cured with a tune up.   The cylinder block had a curious weld patch on the side of the crank case adjacent to #6.  My brother ran a compression test and found cylinder's 6 and 7 had about 30PSI compression which led to removal of the cylinder head and discovery of 6 iron pistons and 2 aluminum pistons.  The rings for the aluminum pistons were stored neatly at the top of the cylinder bore above the pistons.  My dad came home with a box of 8 30 over Ogden Nash aluminum Buick spec pistons from work.  My brother took the head to Wayne Motors and Magnaflux testing revealed a crack between the combustion chamber and water jacket.  This led to my brother and me taking a trip in his real car, an Austin Healey Sprite, to a Spring Lake, Michigan junk yard that had an 80/90 series chassis with complete engine sitting in a field with grass grown up between the frame rails.  An attendant at the yard charitably issued a 53 Plymouth yard car for us to drive to the scene of the Buick where we harvested a good head, some pushrods and some other spare hardware which was eventually transferred to the boot of the Sprite and after an A&W foot long coney dog and a root beer float was transported back to our house in the Sprite whose attitude was so affected that on low beam every passing car challenged us to turn down the brights.    


Then Wayne Motors came out and bored and honed cylinders in the car in our driveway.  On a night when my folks were in Niagara Falls my brother finished reassembling the engine with the 8 new pistons and rings and it was tight enough the starter wouldn't turn the car over, even on 12 volts.  So I was summoned in the middle of watching The Day the Earth Stood Still to sit in the car and hold the starter pedal down while my brother assisted with the hand crank.  After a couple of tries it rumbled to life producing clouds of smoke which attracted the attention of another of my brother's high school buddies who was stopped for the stop sign on our corner.  He rumbled into our driveway with his 63 13-1/2-1 Ramchargers Dodge to see the show.  


About 10 years later after my brother had long lost interest in the Buick it was still sitting in my dad's garage.  He happily donated the car to me just to get rid of it.  I pulled the body off that car, completely disassembled the running gear down to bare frame, sent the block and rods out for re-babbitting and basically restored the chassis and reinstalled the body.  I put a complete reproduction Waldron exhaust system on the car and completely repaired the Marvel heat control system.  My brother couldn't believe his ears the first time he heard it run.  But the car had suffered a major body fire in it's past which burned a lot of the original wood out of it.  I gave up on it and sold it off.  Years passed, I married, had a family and worked at Ford but the fascination with 31 Buicks was always there.  I bought an 8-57S sedan from Marietta Ohio and hauled it to Michigan, gathered mechanical parts for it, made it run but lost interest after discovering it had been sand blasted to death and I sold it off.  After retiring, launching all kids and re-marrying after having my first wife die, I found the 8-66S coupe I am restoring on E-bay and hauled it to Michigan.  This car is nearing completion with only seat upholstery, some paint repairs and sorting to make it a good driver quality car that is as authentic as 50 years of experience with 31 Buicks allows me to make it.

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22 hours ago, Robert Engle said:

There are 156 teeth on the flywheel.

I could be wrong about this but 31 60 series flywheel had 123 teeth according to specs and adjustments manual, page 13.  Unless there was a change to flywheel and starter for 32 the flywheel has 123 teeth which divided by 6 = 20-1/2 teeth each 60 degrees of rotation or 1 bolt hole.  Having the flywheel off 1 hole is easy to do if the assembler doesn't install the flywheel with #1 piston at TDC and then install the flywheel with the timing mark near the timing port in the bell housing.

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Wow, appreciate the colorful stories, thanks for sharing!

Bob, nice venue with the 87 grand national, very cool.  Brings back memories....I seem to recall stock ones posting ~11sec in the 1/4mile at the drag strips, quite a car.


Dave, I have to agree with your dad, I am an engineer, and having owned Fords, there are some immediately distinguishing and remarkable engineering elements with the 30s Buicks (I am learning there are many innovations prior to 30s as well).

Whether the innovations on my 32 Buick work as designed, or not so much (Wizard control, carb heater, steering wheel throttle, etc.), they are still quite amazing considering these ideas and prototypes were probably conceived by the engineers in the 20s.

The well-engineered elements seem bulletproof and almost able to outlast time.  Its too bad the 31-32 years are so rare, similar to 31-35 designs, because these cars are fun to drive, swell to look at, and are a great highlight of the higher-end automobiles within the fabric of our nation.

I actually don't mind the updraft carb because I have spent a lot of time working and operating old tractors, so I kind of know how to coax and plan ahead for updraft carb deficiencies.


Any advice on torque specs?

I wasn't able to find info, and I of course don't want to overtorque/stress.


Anything wrong with using antiseize on some of the fasteners?


I made some of the following guesses:

Cam gear bolt = 50ftlb

Connecting rod bolts = 60ftlb

Rocker arm nuts and cap screws = ??


While I continue to wait for the piston, I am slowly putting the car back together, and I will check out the distributor and be sure to set the spark advance as you mention Bob.

I think I might try installing the rocker arms this weekend and checking cold valve lash.

The water pump, generator and new cam gear are in and the engine turns smoothly by hand.



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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Well, thanks to so many of you for your advice, support, parts, and by the grace of God the engine is running again and I was even able to take my wife for a ride around the neighborhood this evening to wave to the neighbors!  (I didn't realize that one single piston has become such as big deal in our neighborhood over the last few months)

Much to be thankful for in another year, indeed, and I do mean grace in this case because of the niche unobtanium parts which were received over the last 3 months to get to this point...stuff that just cannot be made, or the lack thereof which would require a major engine rebuild and major change of plans ($$).


No leaks beyond the usual culprits (water pump packing still settling in), surprisingly leak free was the new canister oil filter (Packard with Wix filter) and new custom hand-fit oil lines.

This is my first experience with straight-8s, and it seems like I can hear the new rings wearing in as they seat in the replacement cast iron piston and old cylinder - its a sort of high pitched sound like skinny knife edge metal sliding on flat metal, hopefully this is normal and ok.  I am still a rookie with this 8, there is so much more access to the cylinder walls external to the engine and I am not sure what I should expect regarding sounds and performance.  If the sliding metal sound is impending doom and not normal wear-in, please let me know.


The arrow inside the piston points to the front (fan side) of the engine.  I didn't realize the wrist pin centerline has a 3/64" offset on the 272 engine...this is essentially imperceptible to the eye when looking at a cast iron piston on a bench, but the Buick engineers had the offset figured out.

The replacement piston fit into the cylinder with about 0.002-0.003" clearance.  Its not as tight as the specs in the shop manual suggest I should achieve (0.00175" ideal if I recall), but its the best I can do based on what is available.  Compression is good, valve lash is now set at 0.008" hot per the manual.


Oil pressure is steady at 30psi with the NOS connecting rod (yes, I had another miracle to obtain one of these because the old rod pin bushing was fatigued due to the missing wrist pin screw and wrist pin sliding around for 20yrs).  Connecting rod has about 0.002" on each side (0.004" total) play side to side.  Always be sure to point the arrow on the rod cap to point to the journals.  Important for wrist pin screws - I followed the forum advice and installed a new grade 8, 5/16" cap screw with drilled head for ss lockwire, and now the wrist pin screw is properly lockwired.  The entire reason I had to replace the piston is because the original wrist pin cap screw backed itself out and fell into the engine (20yrs ago), and during its fall it broke off the piston skirt by getting wedged at just the right moment when the crank counter weight was rotating up.  Nobody has dropped the pan of a running/driving car to inspect the motor in 20 years, crazy.


I measured temps throughout - intake and exhaust manifolds, block front to back, oil pan, generator bearing, water pump shaft and housing, head, valves, etc.

All seems to check out just fine per specs and the extensive experiences of y'all.


As y'all probably suspect, the engine sounds very different now vs. a few months ago when it was parked due to the timing gear shred.  So much has been done, cleaned up, rejuvenated, etc. that my wife and I are both thankful and surprised to hear it roar to life again today.  The motor now sounds to have a more throaty, and even purr, and the exhaust smells better.  During the drive with my wife I decided to lug it just a little in 3rd gear to see if it was still holding oil pressure and developing good torque without engine knock at very low speeds.  All seemed good, and in our outdoor ambient temp of 40F, the engine water temp never went above 115F, seems crazy overbuilt and over-engineered with a lot of extra cooling capacity.


Don't shoot me for saying this, but I timed the warmed up engine while running it and listening to it so I could determine what it wanted.  I am kind of old school like that - I set everything per factory specs, then I rotated the distributor for best sound/smoothness, then I locked in the distributor.  Then I advanced and retarded the timing to ensure the user-adjustable spark controls didn't cause harm (within proper range), and then I adjusted the choke to make sure the motor responded as expected, and then finally I ran up the accelerator per spec and ensured the idle is perfect.  I know its old school, but I have found incredible success with a variety of motor/vehicle types over the years following this music-tuning method vs. a more data-scientific engineering approach (strange, I know considering I am an engineer by profession).


Best, and thanks to all,





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