February 2005 Archives

'59 Engine Started!

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I had time today to work on the '59 engine, and I was able to get it started with a minimum of trouble! Here's how it went.

I realized that the plastic cast starter housing I got from Energy-1 in California wasn't doing the trick. It simply had too much give in it and allowed the starter to move and flex, causing poor engagement with the flywheel. While it looked cool, I can't recommend purchasing it.
Chuck has an engine test stand rig that has the bell housing of a Type-IV VW transmission, which incidentally, Type-I and Porsche 356 engines can bolt right up to. So I borrowed it and brought it down to my work area. With a little help, I got the engine off my own engine stand and onto the test rig. At first, I just turned the engine over with the starter for 30 seconds or so. I left the coil disconnected from the cap so no spark was reaching the engine. This made sure that the oil pump was primed and the engine would have pressure when it finally came to life. It also gave me a chance to do a preliminary oil leak check, and I did find two: the oil pressure sender (I had used the wrong size crush washer, and it was easy to fix) and a little seepage from the bottom of the oil pump cover (which I haven't dealt with yet, but will require a little more work). Other than that, the engine looked dry as a bone.

Then I made sure that the distributor was near 0 degrees advanced when the engine was a TDC, and I poured a bit of gas down each Zenith carburetor throat. I took some rubber gas line and lead it from the engine to a can of gas a nice safe distance away from the rig. Finally I hooked up the coil wire, and I hit the starter button.

To my great relief, the engine started to catch almost immediately, and started up with a minimum of trouble. At first, there were a couple of very nice loud backfires through both the carbs and out the exhaust while the float bowls filled with fuel and everything settled down, but after a short while, it was running very nice and smoothly at idle! Seems I even got the idle mixture screws on the Zeniths in a decent approximate position.

There are two tiny gas seepage leaks at a pair of crush washers on the Zeniths that I saw that will need to be fixed, but otherwise, no gas leaks. I put the timing light on the engine and adjusted the distributor, which was already pretty advanced (20 degrees) at idle from my initial "eyeballing it," so I retarded the timing back to 2-3 degrees retarded at idle. The engine is running smoothly with no strange noises. I can't even put in words how happy I am that everything seems to be running smoothly, and no leaks left! Major accomplishment.

More pictures of the 1959 Normal rebuild are available here.

It seems I'm back to once-monthly updates on the progress of the project. I'm sorry to say that there haven't been any major changes in the last month. Much of my free time has been devoted to my family and to our house construction project, which is proceeding rapidly. We hope to be back in our own house in early May.
The '59 engine still needs to be test-run. It is all together and it looks very nice. However, the plastic bell-housing casting that I bought to hold a starter to start the engine on the stand was a poor fit, and the starter doesn't like to engage the flywheel smoothly when bolted to it. I need a real bellhousing/test stand. Chuck has one in the upper shop, and has offered to let me use it, so now it is just a matter of trucking the motor up the hill. I'll get to it one of these days in the near future.

My crankshaft came back from Ollie's after being cut to 1st under on the main and rod journals, and then heat-treated. The thing looks like brand new, I'll get a picture up here soon. Not cheap. Cost to recondition 4 rods and cut and harden the crank, plus shipping, was $650. I'll reiterate what I discovered before: Don't rebuild a 356 motor if you are on a budget. The only major thing I need to get before I can assemble the "C" motor is a new set of pistons and cylinders, and I'm still making up my mind which set to go with.

The car hasn't seen any bodywork in a month. Don Mills has been busy with the Ford he is trying to finish, and the progress has been slower than he expected. One of these weeks, I'm sure. I'm getting tired of waiting though, and I want to go out to the shop and just start doing it myself. I can't wait much longer. If I need a little bit of extra filler because my welding isn't the most beautiful in the world, I'm more and more prepared to live with it!

Yesterday I drove out to Frank Gibson's shop and collected my rear bumper, which has been there for over a year. I kind of forgot about it. The bumper was damaged in the past and repaired somewhat badly; there was a pretty thick layer of filler on the top middle portion, and it still didn't look quite right. Probably part of the accident that damaged the rear of the car. In any case, I stripped off the old filler and Dee gave me some tips on metalworking with a pick hammer, and then a low crown hammer and dolly. It isn't beautiful, but it is better than it was, and will require less filler this time around. Additionally, one (and maybe another) of the captive nuts in the bumper that attach to the bumper brackets had become a "spinner." I.e. the captive nut was not being held captive, and spinning when the bolt that screwed into it was turned. The only way I was able to get it off originally was with an impact wrench, just relying on momentum. I cut open the bracket with the plasma cutter and removed the portion that holds the captive nut. Then I sand blasted this piece and repaired it. I'll weld it back in as soon as I get some more gas for my welder.

The whole backside of the bumper really needs to be sandblasted anyway...right now it is in epoxy primer, but it didn't get stripped/blasted very well when the car was done, so I see old paint and rust. Better do it now, while it is still relatively easy.