Transmission work: REASSEMBLY

Posted: June 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

Here is a video of my transmission being taken apart and rebuilt by John Karal

Its good stuff and a GREAT “how to”.

A Model (A) of In-Efficiency

Posted: June 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

I HAVE MY ENGINE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It took me forever to pick it up.


Let’s go through the timeline since the last post…..

It is 4/10/15 and J&M has let me know that the babbitts are poured and the rods are balanced.  They are waiting on a clutch from the supplier.

Pour the Babbitts

Balancing Rods.  You would think the rods are balanced.  They aren’t.

Is this manly stuff?  Yes….but I have to keep myself from commenting that they are handling rods and playing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”.

Do you know how to line bore a block?

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Machining the Thrust so there is less leakage.

It is now 4/14/15 and there has been little recent progress on my Phaeton.  Even if all the pieces/parts were magically to appear in my garage tomorrow, I wouldn’t be able to reassemble the car until sometime in May or June.  So what is going on?

1)      I’ve been busy at work and haven’t been able to get to my to do list as I am working during the weekends:  What do I need to do:

a.       Address the front cross-member.  Sand it down, weld any found cracks, replace a rivet, prime and repaint.  I figure that this will take a couple of hours to strip/sand and a few hours of my cousin’s time welding.  To do the welding I need my cousin Robbie and some rivets from John Karal.

b.      Replace the rubber in the rear engine mounts.  This is probably a couple of hours of work.  I’ll also sand, inspect, prime and paint these parts as they tend to develop cracks according to John Karal.

c.       Clean garage from the parts piles that grew over the winter.

2)      John Karal, the local Modal A Guru, is having his knee replaced.  Len and I wanted to video John assembling the transmission and we all agreed that it would be awkward to do the video at the rehabilitation center.  The reassembly will likely occur in early May.

3)      Brattons

a.       Brattons is waiting on a pre-painted exhaust manifold.  They had the unpainted on, but I wanted to go with the painted one.

4)      J&M Machine

a.       J&M are now sitting with 8 Model A engines in various stages of completion.  Mine is in the works.

b.        The clutch is ordered and pending from the manufacturer who is behind schedule in delivery.  Once the clutch is received by J&M, they can reassemble the engine and I can schedule the pick-up.

It’s now 6/1/15 and the engine is in my garage.  J&M and I had some coordination issues related to the engine.  They had a delay waiting on their clutch supplier that pushed the engine completion date to the later part of their original time estimate (they estimated 6 to 9 weeks).  When the engine was done, I had neither a vehicle large enough nor the time to pick up the engine (so it sat at their shop).  John and Mike were great to deal with throughout the process.  They send photos of their progress and were around to answer questions and make suggestions. If you are considering rebuilding your engine, you will want to speak with them.

This past weekend I was able to borrow my mother’s Toyota Highlander and took a daytrip to J&M to pick up the shiny green rebuilt engine.  It is amazing how you can really see the casting flaws now that the engine is clean and together.  I removed the engine from the car solo.  Interestingly enough, the engine was easier to transport without the stand (I used a stack of blankets instead).   The solo removal was actually a lot easier than I thought.

I actually finished the removal solo.


Ok, back to the check list from April…. Items 4 is done.  Item 3 is done.  Item 2 (the transmission) is going to be reassembled by John Karal this week.  Len Spinelli is going to film this rebuild and we will post it online. Item 1, I’ve done none of this — but hope to do some of it this week.  Rob is going to be by this weekend to weld.

6/4/15 – Went to John Karal’s place to pick up the transmission.  We still need a part.  Filmed the whole thing. Told that they filmed a part before I arrived and John thought my car was a 1928 instead of a 1929 and announced that the transmission was a 1929/1930 version.  I’ll probably do a separate post.

6/7/15—more forward motion.  So today I removed the engine mounts (front and back) as well as tried to drop the front axle to inspect the front crossmember.  The mounts came off without issue.  The front mount .  I may or may not show this as a separate post.


On March 11, I finally got around to finishing the removal of the transmission.  This was in preparation of John Karal (the NJRA Guru of things Model A) making a visit to Nyack to look over my car and let me know what needs to be done before the engine is reinstalled (and as one more “you should do X while you are doing Y” thing).  John has been in the Model A restoration business for years.  He had an automotive supply company, he was trained in aeronautic repairs (writing the field manuals for things like doing repairs to the carrier jet), and he runs a small shop which services and restores Model As and Ts.  We are lucky enough to have him as our local “go to guy”.  As my Model A isn’t able to “go to” John, John was willing to “go to” Nyack.  Len Spinelli joined as well, picking up John in route.

Arriving at 6:30, John stepped out of Len’s car, licked a finger, put it in the air, felt the wind direction, and then started to rattle of “to do” items for me based on his “I am one with the car” understanding of Model As…. ok, it wasn’t quite like that.  John, light in hand, inspected the car looking at all major areas of concern.  Here were his “big three” findings.

1) The rubber under the motor mounts should be replaced and the mounts should be inspected for cracks.  If you look really closely, you can see the old rubber between the mount and the frame.


2) The rusty rivet should be removed, the area cleaned, and a new rivet installed.  The other visible rivets looked fine.  Yes, I know the springs look rough…. They are.  I’m not replacing or repairing them this year.


3) The front cross member should be sanded down, inspected for crack(s) and any found cracks should be tig welded if needed.  It is hard to tell what is old flaking paint, new flaking paint, or possibly a crack under the paint.  I’ll admit that I’ve added a few coats of rattle can black to this part of the car every other time I took off the radiator… and no, I didn’t prep the surface first.


All in all, it sounded like John thought the car was in moderately good shape. He also made some suggestions regarding the steering column and the front springs… all of which could be addressed at a later time (like in a year or so).

We then went inside where I had the transmission and tower set up on my dining room table.  YES, I HAD IT IN THE DINNING ROOM ON MY KITCHEN TABLE AND PREVIOUSLY CLEAN PARTS IN THE KITCHEN SINK.   You can even see the foil I keep on the counter in one shot.


This is when John laughed and announced, “this is the worst worn universal joint I have ever seen!”

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Here is a video of John giving his first thoughts on his first look at this transmission.

After looking over the trannie, it seemed John was pleased with its overall condition (having expected it to be much worse), John focused on the tower.

Just for reference, here are links to “Tom Endy’s Transmission Prudence” and “Tom Endy’s Tower Restoration”.  These are GREAT writeups.  Tom has a whole bunch of tech articles he posted on  You should check them out.

Click to access Transmission%20Prudence.pdf

Click to access Transmission%20Tower%20Restoration.pdf

John believes that some of the original bearings are better than the modern replacement ones and that, if the originals prove to be in good shape upon inspection, they shouldn’t be reused as opposed to replaced.  John suggested that he take the transmission and tower to his shop to properly clean, disassemble, and inspect the transmission and tower. Excitement was expressed by John in that this would also allow him to use a new spring tool that he purchased to specifically help him in his work on the transmission towers.

I drove John home and was privileged to hear tales of his aviation adventures and one notable mishap.  At his shop, which is adjacent his home, he provided some initial advice on what I should (and more importantly should not) be doing when reinstalling the engine.   He also showed me the tools I he suggested I borrow from him to make this all happen (including a frame spreader).  For the re-assembly of the transmission and tower, John has invited Len and myself to the shop to watch/record/help put these parts (and any replacement parts) back together.


So much has happened to the engine since the last post. The engine is in great shape. It has been cleaned, fluxed, machined, leveled, bored, honed, balanced and by the time I post this most likely poured, peened, balanced again, painted, and reassembled. Most of the work was done in my absence; however, the J&M boys were kind enough to send progress photos throughout the process. They also welcomed myself and Len Spinelli (President of the North Jersey Regional Model A Club, good guy, and camera man) to come to the shop for a day of fun/work/schooling. Len and I met up at the NY/NJ border at 6:30AM and hit the road to get to Southborough Massachusetts for an early AM start (targeted arrival by 10AM.  We arrived just before 10AM.

We started by leveling the head and the block. They are both placed on a level base on a milling/boring machine. The machine head then takes swipes If a swipe “shaves” off something from one part but not another part, then the head or block isn’t level. This is an iterative process. The machine takes swipes until the head is level, then the bit is exchanged for a finishing bit that shines the surface down a wee bit more.
J&M Machine Company Cylinder Head Resurface

Once the block is level, the machine is set to bore the cylinders. There is a complicated process to locate the “center” of each cylinder, as you don’t want to measure on one specific spot, as that spot may be warped or worn down. The cylinders are then subject to the same process as the head, but at specific bore sizes (which match piston sizes). All cylinders must be bore to the same size and must not have warps, rust, or groves that would impair the engine.

J&M Machine Company Engine Block Decking and Boring

Don’t forget to shape the valve seats

J&M Machine Company Cutting Valve Seats

Once all cylinders are bore and the valve seats are shaped, the cylinders are honed and finished with precision. J&M maintain that this is where many shops skip a step.

J&M Machine Company Cylinder Honing

J&M Machine Company Cylinder Hone Finish

Let’s not forget straightening the crankshaft

Here are some photos of my crankshaft that they addressed prior to the visit.  I know a bunch of cranks I would like straighted out….


(this crank in the video isn’t mine).

J&M Machine Company Crankshaft Straightening

…and then grinding it.

J&M Machine Company Crankshaft Grinding

They sent me home with the bellhousing.  They installed the pedal shaft on the bell housing and replaced/installed lower bushings plus installed new bushings in pedals.

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The block is now finished and honed.  Please note the crosshatching on the hone.

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Here are some images of the pistons once they were made ready for the rebuild.  Apparently the heaviest was 2.2 grams off from the lightest.  They are now all within .2 grams of weight.

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You remember that dirty flywheel…. Here is the a before and after of it.

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….. and in case you didn’t see it already posted on, here is a tour the Mike gave of the J&M Shop.

I’ve also decided, since spring is around the corner, that I would have J&M’s contacts rebuild the starter and the carburetor. I really wanted to do these things myself, but there are only so many hours in a day and I want to get the car back on the road this Spring.  If timing allows this Month (March), I will be taking apart and restoring the transmission with John Karal (the “North Jersey Model A Guru”).

As I sort through all the options being presented to me regarding my engine’s rebuild as well as the plethora of mutually exclusive recommendations from multiple folks “in the know” (all good suggestions and from well intending folks who know better than I), the Gulbankians haven’t stopped their rebuild process. The parts are cleaned and inspected and the nine cracks have been stitched. Prior to this process, I thought the stitching required some welding. Apparently this isn’t the case. It is a cold process that seems more mechanical than metallurgy.

These are the pins (locks?  screws?  whatever!) used for the job.


How do these pins become stitching? Apparently the metal stitching process is one where multiple holes are drilled into the cast iron and then a collection of screws (locks) are put in place then more holes are drilled into both the iron and the screws and then more screws are added.  All the screws are are overlapped and engineered in a way to pull together the cast iron.  Let me try to explain in a more visual manner.  Imagine that these series of letters Os are the screws put in place “O O O O O O” .  Now add a second set of “O”s that fill the spaces in between the “O”s and also overlap each of the first “O”s by just a little This creates a line (stitch) of materials pulling the sides together.

Here is what the results look like.

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The following is a video from a third party (Lock-N-Stitch), showing the process. The stitching method seems similar to how secant pile walls are constructed in civil and structural engineering. Here is Lock-N-Stitch’s tutorial.

With J&M going at it full speed, I also need to make some quick decisions and start getting ready for putting the engine back in the car.  This is much more work than just putting it back in. While the engine is out, it sounds like I “need” to:

1) Rebuild the transmission
2) Replace the throwout bearing
3) Rebuild the starter
4) Replace the motor mount (or at a minimum checking them for cracks and remaining useful life)
5) Replace the intake/exhaust manifold
6) Rebuild the carburetor
7) Rebuild the distributor
8) Install a thermostat

I am arranging for some people “in the know” to stop by my place and look over the car to see if there are any other more immediate repairs that should be addressed with the engine out. Let’s not forget, I have no real idea what I am doing.  I am assuming there are several repairs related to steering, suspension, etc. This is where I can see repairs further snowballing. While I understand the logic of “while you are doing X it you really should do Y”, this logic doesn’t have an end point until a full frame off restoration is done.  I am NOT doing a frame off restoration at this point.  I want to do the “life safety items”. The car took 86 years to get to its present condition. I want to take my time bringing it back. This said, my desire to “be hands on” with each stage of the restoration is becoming increasingly impossible. There aren’t enough hours in the day.  With unlimited time, I could do things paced, but if I want to have the car back on the road this Spring, I have to send out some parts to respective part gurus… which isn’t something I was intending to do.

More to follow……………

Crack is Whack!

Posted: February 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

The G-Boys are at it again… in fact, I don’t know if they stopped.  Since dropping off the engine this weekend, J&M have been emailing me progress photos at least once a day.

The studs are out (not a reference to the G-Boys but a reference to the bolts in the engine — come on readers…. these puns do come with limits).  None of the studs broke.  The G-Boys found yet another stray Bendix screw in the flywheel housing.  I guess the starter will be rebuilt too — I haven’t decided if I will take that on myself or send it out. All engine parts are now oven cleaned and have been subjected to magnafluxing and a meticulous inspection.  I now suspect the G-Boys are actually in the drug enforcement industry, as they are proving themselves experts in finding crack.  I suggest you try to imagine them chasing eachother around the shop yelling “Crack is Whack” in their New England accents.

The block has three small cracks.  Here are images of the crack at the burnt valve and on the oil return.  I am told that these are “standard” types of cracks and will be “easy” to fix.


The head has two small cracks.  They are between the distributor hole and the water jacket.  I am told these are “standard” types of cracks and again easy to fix.  I am fairly certain this (in combination with the warped head) is where the oil was getting into my coolant. Here are two photos.


The flywheel housing has two cracks on either side and the side cover has a crack as well.  I’ve got to ask them how/why the cracks occur at this place.  One would imagine that this housing isn’t subject to much change in heat… perhaps it is stress due to vibration at this point of contact.  I’ll ask.  <<JG tells me that, “The cracks on the flywheel housing are due to a lack of support . The wishbone of the front axle pushes against that portion of the housing via bell housing. If you hit a bump hard enough (”pothole”) then the stress is transmitted to the unsupported area of the flywheel ” he also states that “Ford rectified this in 1931”>>

Here are some photos of the flywheel housing.


Fortunately the crankshaft was in good shape with no cracks and will be reground. This is the crank on a larger magnet, allowing for the mangafluxing to occur more efficiently than if the G-Boys had to use the single horse shoe.  This device allows them to hose the crank down and inspect.

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That makes 9 cracks in total. I am assured that these are all very common cracks and most likely have been there for years. This said, my overheating the engine prior to installing the Bergs HD touring radiator and my driving while knowing that I had a burnt valve likely didn’t help the cause either.  Still, i got a few years out of it and apparently could have pressed my luck for a little longer if I just left things alone.

The G-Boys have also machined out the valve seats and installed hardened seats ones in all but the one spot that needs to have the metal stitching.


If I am following the process correctly, the “next steps” include crack repair via metal stitching.  We are also discussing some of the “options and improvements” that folks keep suggesting (like adding a counterweight to the crank).  More to follow as I have more to share…..

The Gulbankian Brothers

Posted: February 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

John and Mike look like they could be a WWF tag team complete with pro-wrestler stature.  These brothers appear as two barrel chested pitt bulls ready to take on any challenge.  John once told me “on a good day I used to lift a short block into a car myself”.  If you see him you would believe it.  Thankfully, most pitt bulls are friendly.  Once you meet John and Mike, you realize that they can not only play catch with a short block, but they are soft-spoke, humble, and good natured (almost shy).  They also have a ridiculously encyclopedic knowledge of Model A engines and LOVE what they do.  These are two of the big-shot-industry-pros when it comes to the engines.  They are masters of an art and they don’t bother trying to impress anyone…. because they don’t have to try.

It is impressive watching skilled professionals do their thing.  If you have ever watched foodnetwork, you’ve seen the ease at which their celebrity chefs prep and cook a meal.  John and Mike no longer were wrestlers… they were now a master chefs butchering a piece of meat and prepping a meal.  John and Mike sliced and diced.  As they were doing so, they were spouting out dates and back-history on parts and the reasoning why certain parts were modified by Ford over the years and what/how the modifications were.  In this regard, perhaps they were more like archaeologists than chefs… either way, still impressive.

John At Work Photo Feb 14, 12 31 59 PM Photo Feb 14, 12 33 35 PMPhoto Feb 14, 12 32 22 PMPhoto Feb 14, 12 59 40 PMPhoto Feb 14, 12 52 17 PMPhoto Feb 14, 12 35 08 PM Photo Feb 14, 12 39 23 PM Photo Feb 14, 12 54 07 PM Photo Feb 14, 12 59 44 PMPhoto Feb 14, 1 04 07 PM

Mangnaflux Video:

Steel Cap Old School

Original Pistons/Rods and Caps Turned Magnet

Why should you go with poured Babbitts (as opposed to inserts)

So what do we know now that the engine is in pieces?.  As Al Clarke (of Go Devil Garage in NY) had previously noted, the engine looked like most of it was un-restored (and yes, I have given GDG a plug…. Al seems like a solid guy and I remain appreciative of his help in October).  With John and Mike’s teardown complete, we could see:

  • The majority of the engine appeared to be untouched since it left the factory floor. The pistons, rods, lifters, valves, clutch, gaskets, etc all appear original.  The clutch is an original wagon wheel design — which I will likely make into wall art. The timing shaft was a replacement (but clearly stated “FORD”).
  • Most of the shims for the crank shaft were gone. The babbitts appeared original although most of them were worn, only one had a small missing piece.
  • There is a burnt-out valve and several more valves ready to go
  • Pistons, rings and chambers are well worn
  • The engine was running very rich and the carb may need a rebuild
  • The starter needs a partial rebuild
  • The distributor shaft is beaten up and the distributor should be rebuilt
  • The oil pump works but should be replaced (it is not the rebuildable type)
  • The engine has some cracks in the block, flywheel housing, and side cover. These are all “typical”.
  • The snow is starting to come down, Boston is still expecting a blizzard, and Gary and I still have a long drive to make.

Overall the Wrestling Team of Chef Galbunkian and Archaeologist Galbunkian (they can choose who is who) thought the engine was in better shape than they expected.  They warned me that more damage would likely be revealed upon the parts being cooked and cleaned but assured me that no major surprises were expected.

Over a two hour period the Gulbunkians tore apart the engine and generated two piles of parts.  All parts to be replaced I have in my “take home box”.  If anyone needs some spare parts (mostly nuts/bolts/guides/springs that are well past useful age), let me know before I have a local artist turn them into a “car part dog” for my desk.  After Mike and I did “some paperwork”, Gary and I left at 2:00 PM to head back to NY where we were heading to his folks place to dig out their car.

Since the 14th, John and Mike have emailed me several times with photos of the engine.  They have already commenced their work.  More to follow……