Willys-Knight sleeve valve engine

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Jim O’Clair on at 4:00 pm

We spotted an interesting item that was recently sold on an online auction site, a Willys-Knight Moving Piston Sleeve Cutaway Demonstrator model. The model has a knob on the back of the unit for rotating the cylinder, so that the operator can see the motion of the mobile cylinder sleeve “valves” as they travel up and down in the cylinder bore. Invented by Charles Knight in 1905, this design was said to reduce engine friction by moving an intake and exhaust sleeve during the power and compression strokes to open and close the intake and exhaust ports, instead of using a more traditional overhead or side-valve system.

Ray Bohacz wrote a story about this odd engine configuration in the December 2010 issue of Hemmings Classic Car entitled Silent Knight.

The sleeve valve design was not used exclusively by Willys-Knight, but was licensed to many other engine manufacturers including Mercedes, Panhard, Daimler and Minerva of Belgium. Willys produced both four and six-cylinder sleeve valve engines that were used in its vehicles as well as in Federal trucks during the twenties and thirties. Several engines of the era were labeled with the “-Knight” nomenclature, including Daimler-Knight and Moline-Knight because of the licensing agreements. This demonstrator is an interesting piece of automotive history, and it sold for $530.00.

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Art and Automotive Restoration

Daniel Strohl for Hemmings Classic Car

San Francisco art school becomes the latest to offer degree in automotive restoration.

While an art school in downtown San Francisco might not seem the likeliest of places to conduct an automotive restoration program, officials at the Academy of Art University believe it’s a natural extension of the university’s existing offerings and have put together what they describe as a more up-to-date curriculum than other such programs.

“We want to do the same thing that we did with clay modeling,” said Tom Matano, the executive director of the university’s industrial design school, which houses the automotive restoration program. “Many people said that was an outdated process, and so there were no young clay modelers being instructed in clay modeling. We started teaching it, and now three or four of our students are hired on at GM every year. Much like clay modeling, auto restoration is an old-world skill that’s seen as dying, but we want to keep it going.”

To do so, Matano and other university officials, including former university president Richard Stephens, worked over the last three years to devise a two-year associate’s degree program that encompasses everything from machining and woodworking to body, paint, and upholstery. Beyond the hard skills, the program also includes classes on automotive design history, vintage car documentation, and even photography and automotive journalism. Nearly two dozen classes in all make up the program.

“Our program will not only focus on technology, but it will also provide instruction for building unique skillsets, historical knowledge, and research skills required for replicating historically authentic classic cars,” AAU President Elisa Stephens wrote. “Most programs lack the historical restoration and preservation elements necessary to restore vintage vehicles.”

Matano, whose resume includes design work for General Motors, BMW and Mazda as well as the design of the original Miata, said he has leaned on the expertise of a select few in the field of automotive restoration to select instructors and flesh out the program, noting that it hasn’t been too hard to find qualified professionals in the San Francisco Bay area. “Ed Gilbertson from the Pebble Beach Concours has come in as guest lecturer, and we’ve found that a lot of concours judges want to teach—they want a place to dump their knowledge,” Matano said.

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Nor has the university had to build most of the program from scratch. It already has facilities for woodworking and metalworking, and Matano said that some classes just needed some tweaking to fit into the automotive restoration program. In addition, the university’s car collection—which includes a Tucker 48, a Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow and a number of coachbuilt European and American cars—will play a role in instruction, Matano said.

Fourteen students have already enrolled in the program, which started in September, and Matano said he hopes to eventually expand that number and set up optional apprenticeships for students in the second year of the program.

For more information on the program, visit AcademyArt.edu.

1923 Model TT Ford

ford TT (6)This truck has been a guest at the shop this past winter, and got tended to as my regular work schedule permitted..   It’s a 1923 Model TT Ford closed cab truck.  Passenger vehicles were designated as a T, but trucks were identified as the TT’s.  Powertrains were the same in all of them-  L-head 4 cylinders that produced about 20 horsepower coupled to an innovative planetary 2 speed transmission.  A heavy duty worm drive differential in the TT models along with heavy duty rear springs, axles, larger rear wheels and tires made it capable of heavy loads.  I was told that it hadn’t run in 40 years or so.  The tires had dry rotted, and mice had been living in it.  The good news was that it had been inside all of those years.   Most of the fabric insulation on the wiring was gone due to mice and the ravages of time, so all of the wiring was replaced, and rebuilt ignition coils were installed.  With a new battery and fresh gas in the tank, the old TT came to life. It even ran on the magneto after starting!

The earliest Model T’s had no generator or electric starter.  They used a “hotshot” battery that had to be recharged periodically, and cranked by hand.  Later production added a generator to recharge the battery.  Eventually an electric starter was optional and became standard equipment by the end of production.   This truck has a generator, but no electric starter, so it has to be cranked by hand.  The ignition switch is turned to the left, which allows the battery to energize the coils so it will start at the low rpm cranking speeds.  After it starts the switch is turned to the right- past the off position- to connect the magneto (which is built into the flywheel) to power the coils.  Spark advance and throttle are controlled by levers on the steering column, and fuel mixture is controlled by a turning a rod on the passenger side of the dash that’s connected to the carburetor.  Driving an old Ford required lots of driver input and active participation!  Then there was the matter of getting it to move.  A lever coming up through the floor between your left leg and the door was the parking brake/neutral/high gear control.  Three foot pedals were L-R:   low gear, reverse, and brake.  It seems a little daunting at first, but with a little instruction and practice, it becomes second nature.

Other than vacuuming and cleaning the glass, I tried to leave as much “patina” on it as possible.  (funny how we used to call it dirt not too long ago).   The old truck wears it well, and with all of its’ warts and battle scars, it looks just right with it.

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1930 Model A Ford

model a (3)It’s been a busy late winter and spring here at the shop.  During that time I’ve added a couple of vehicles to the ever-growing fleet.   This one is a 1930 Ford Model A Deluxe Coupe.   I’d been looking for a Model A for some time, and heard about this one through a friend of a friend.  It had been restored sometime during the 1970s by the father of the seller.  She inherited it, but was unable to drive it, so it sat in her garage for the last 10 years.  After hauling it home I performed a complete service and tune on it.  Nothing sounds as wonderful as an old 4 banger Ford idling.  Thunka, Thunka, Thunka!

After the Model T’s were discontinued in 1927, the American public anxiously awaited the unveiling of the “New Ford” during the period that the factories were tooling up for Model A production.  Model A Fords were manufactured from 1928 through 1931.  Although all Model A’s were virtually identical mechanically, the styling was updated beginning with the 1930 model year.  It differed from the 1928-29 cars with the most recognizable features being the radiator, which became more upright and rectangular and the wheel size being changed from 21″ to 19″.  It was thought that the 1930-31 cars looked more modern.

I especially like this particular car because it has the stock trunk instead of a rumble seat.  Hopefully this summer we’ll manage to take a few weekend trips in this great old car!

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Pinky

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This gallery contains 9 photos.

“Pinky” found its’ way to us through an acquaintance that I made during my employment at  Denver Motor Vehicle.  Knowing that I was interested in vintage cars, Michelle came to me one day to ask if I knew of anyone … Continue reading

1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88

Gallery

This gallery contains 8 photos.

1950 was the second year of Oldsmobile’s famed overhead valve V8 engine displacing 303 cubic inches producing 135 horsepower – up from 115 hp from the previous year’s straight 8 engine.   All the other manufacturers were having to work overtime to come … Continue reading

1929 Ford Sport Coupe

29 ford spt cpe (2)29 ford spt cpe (3)This car is a local Yuma County car since new.  Ford designed the sport coupe to look as if it had a folding top, but it actually has a canvas covering over a fixed wooden framework.  If you wanted a drop top version, you would buy the cabriolet- it’s top folded down, but it still had roll up glass windows.  If you were more adventurous, you got a roadster with it’s convertible top, and no side windows at all.  In case of inclement weather, it was supplied with side curtains that you would position onto the doors with a metal frame and a series of snaps to help keep most of the rain or snow out of the interior.   This vehicle had a ground up restoration by a local Model A Ford specialist in the early 1960’s.  I have done the repairs on it for the past several years, which included an engine replacement.  One of it’s many period accessories is the rare Twin-X two speed rear axle that provides for lower engine rpms during highway cruising.