On January 6, 2017, with Dad, Janet, Tori and Bandit the dog all anxiously watching, I attempted to start the engine.
We were astonished.
On January 6, 2017, with Dad, Janet, Tori and Bandit the dog all anxiously watching, I attempted to start the engine.
We were astonished.
By now it is January of 2017. I had previously installed a new leather fan belt and installed the radiator & hoses to the water pump and water jacket connection at the top of the engine. After a quick visit to Fresno to see family, we picked up my Dad and headed home to Carlsbad. If all went well, the plan was to….. maybe…. try and start the engine. I had the magneto working and arbitrarily set the timing of the spark on cylinder #1 for the most retarded position on the spark lever at 7.5 degrees before TDC. Why this number? Well, my second car to actually do engine work on was a 1966 VW bug that my parents bought new in Germany. And, if you know air cooled VW engines, and you do a valve adjustment and tune up, you are supposed to manually set the timing of the #1 cylinder to 7.5 degrees before TDC. Would this work on a 1912 BUDA engine? Who knows — there isn’t a manual or other instruction that I have found. So it’s all guess work. At any rate, we had spark at the plugs and the carburetor was now installed and not leaking. My Dad & I added oil and put water in the radiator. And we had leaks.
There were leaks at the water pump and there were leaks at the hoses and leaks in the water jacket cover bolts. So hose clamps were tightened, shaft seals torqued a bit more and silicone gooped where necessary. The leaks stopped.
We next took a look at the valve adjustment for which we DID have some BUDA recommendations. (See Buda Bulletin #176- in the ENGINE section of the NUT & BOLTS menu)
The Bulletin says to set exhaust valve lifters to .005 inches of gap, and the intake valve lifters to .003 inches of gap. We checked that and things looked pretty good.
Ok…. Let’s review our status here.
We have: Spark, Oil, Water, Fuel —- hmmmm.
When we brought the car to California we stopped outside of St. Louis, Missouri to visit with John Fleck, grandson of Michael Fleck the original owner of the car. Part of our discussion was about his recollections of the car when he was visiting Hobart, Indiana. Apparently it had always been in a garage and wasn’t working, but he and his young siblings would play in it and bounce on the seats. He had never seen it run. John is now over 70 years old.
I think we should see if we can get this long dormant engine to make some noise and maybe cough or pop.
With wiring and approximate timing of the engine mostly done, there is the issue of fuel. Because I was leaving the body off the frame, the gas tank would not mount where it is supposed to go. Because I added my nice Econoline back seat, it wouldn’t fit under there anyway. Besides, I don’t need a 10 – 15 gallon tank on the car to test the engine. And…… do I really want a lot of flammable fuel around when I’m messing with a carburetor and fuel lines of unknown reliability? Probably not. So let’s go small. The search was on for an appropriate container for small quantities of fuel to be located at an elevation above the height of the carburetor. There is no fuel pump, so gas gets to the carburetor by flowing downhill. I came up with the following rig. The emojis on the aluminum water bottle did not cost extra, but gave the fuel tank a nice touch.
I had rebuilt the carburetor several years ago.
The carb came apart and mostly went back together pretty nicely. But it had not been tested for leaks or otherwise adjusted in any way. It looked nice, but was it functional?
As it turned out, it leaked. A lot. And it required use of magic EZ Turn fuel resistant lubricant (and goopy sealant) in all sorts of places. Unfortunately, it still wanted to flood the float tank so I spent many hours putzing around trying to get the float needle to seat properly. Because I have been buying up Stromberg B No. 4 carburetors, I’ve seen several versions. Indeed with an inventory of 4 now, no two carbs have similar needle valves. They are all different. Some were in terrible shape, others, like our original carb, were in pretty good shape. Still the needle did not have its original plating intact which may prove to be an ongoing issue. I honed and spun and cleaned and even bopped it gently to get it to fit snug and not leak. And eventually I “mostly” succeeded. Let’s just say that the leak is very slow now and most of the gas evaporates before it can actually drip on the floor or into a container.
Another interesting fact turned up from using supposed “clear fuel line” to connect the little fuel tank to the carburetor. It hardens up in about one day and becomes inflexible. Who knew? That isn’t reassuring. But again, this is another reason I chose to have a very small fuel tank — thereby minimizing potential fuel spill issues. When I get to the point where we have solved the leaky carburetor and adjustment issues, I will convert to a standard black rubber fuel line. In the mean time, it is nice to be able to see that the fuel is or isn’t flowing through the tube or isn’t blocked by bubbles.
One of the necessary parts for initial start up and running that is absent when you have removed the body of the car, is some place to sit. I found a back seat from a Ford Econoline van advertised on-line and picked it up. The floor mount brackets were missing, so I had to buy a set. You can see from the picture that if I sit in the middle of the seat, I get a seat belt. I hope I don’t need it.
Our GEMMER, Model “O” steering column comes with a quadrant situated in the center of the steering wheel. This mechanism controls the linkage for both advancing and retarding the spark at the distributor on the magneto and another lever for controlling the accelerator. The inner lever controls the spark advance and retard. The outer lever controls the accelerator. Both levers are in the top or near top position in the photo below, which is the most retarded position and the lowest accelerator (engine idle) position.
Getting our magneto installed and properly timed with the engine (a guess) was a bit of a project and took both research and some educated guessing. Carl Bloom had a new magneto adjusting connector disk built for us. (The one on the car as we got it was for a tapered shaft and our magneto has a straight armature shaft.) The disk and the matching “shaft connector” each have 20 holes around their circumference. Each hole represents 18 degrees of a circle and moving one of the disks one hole in either direction relative to the other disk (remaining stationary) changes the spark timing 18 degrees. See photos, below.
It is unknown what the number of degrees of change can be achieved by moving the spark lever on the steering column. We may be able to determine this at some point in the future by using a timing light when the engine is running.
To determine an approximate “correct” spark timing necessary to run the engine, I needed to do several things. First, get all the magneto and ignition coils, spark plug wires, spark plugs and a new 6 volt battery installed. Next, to see if the timing marks that are on the fly wheel actually match up to engine positions. (Is TDC – Top Dead Center, really TDC?) and what the engine cylinder firing order was. BUDA Motors pamphlet number 176, indicates that the firing order is 1, 3, 4, and 2, starting with the cylinder closest to the radiator.
I installed a small 6 volt battery in an inconspicuous place on my temporary frame behind where the floor boards would fit. This lead acid battery replaces a completely corroded Ray-O-Vac dry cell lantern battery that came with the car.
With the battery installed I needed to figure out which terminal on the magneto matched up with which cylinder in the proper firing order — 1, 3, 4, 2. so the easiest way to do this was to wire the magneto up, pull out the number 1 cylinder spark plug and lay it on top of the engine to see when it sparked. After a bit of trial and error, I developed the following map of the magneto rotation and firing order. See photo.
With this knowledge, I could now see if we had #1 spark plug firing when the fly wheel was coming up on Top Dead Center. The engine is intended to turn clockwise when viewed from the front of the car, so the direction of rotation of the fly wheel in the photo below is from the bottom towards the top of the photo. I did a lot of finger in the priming cup hole testing to see what cylinder was under compression as I manually rotated the flywheel. I verified that, yes, the notation “TOP DC- 1&4” corresponded correctly with what I was feeling going on inside the engine. It was a lot of slurping and puffing through the priming cups but, it was nice to confirm that valves and pistons seemed to be doing their jobs at the right times.
By the way, priming cups are little brass cups with lever valves below them that screw into little holes in the cylinder head. One priming cup for each cylinder. With the valve closed, a teaspoon of gasoline goes in each cup then the valve is opened to let the gas into the combustion chamber (cylinder). Then the valve is closed so no pressure can escape. Then you theoretically try to start the car. If you leave the valve(s) open, no vacuum or pressure can develop in the cylinder because it is venting to the outside air. But they are very useful in feeling suction and pressure as the engine is manually turned and they make a sucking wheezing sound while you do this turning. Priming cups were no longer installed on most car engines as electric starters and better carburetors were developed. I don’t think any were used after about 1920, other than maybe for tractors and some motorized farm equipment.
From September 28 through October 24, Janet & I were on a road trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania and beyond. For those unfamiliar with “HERSHEY”, yes it is the home of the candy bar……. but it is also the home of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Fall meet. The Fall meet in Hershey is also the venue for the super duper largest in the world antique auto parts swap meet & flea market. Miles & miles of swap meet booths numbering in the thousands. And auctions and shows and oh my goodness — car geek overload. YEAH!!!
We had a laundry list of things we were looking for, including Detroit brand demountable rims (27″ diameter to accommodate 34 x 4 inch tires), any sort of hub cap of the Michigan style circa 1912 and, of course, the mysterious missing radiator cap.
On our way East we stopped day 1 in Tucumcari, New Mexico; day 2 in Memphis Tennessee and day 3 in Bagdad, Kentucky where Janet’s brother Jeff Ewen and sister-in-law Gail have a new house & farm. Jeff is also a great grandchild of our car’s original owner, Michael Fleck.
Next stop, Hershey. Three days of massive a car parts Easter Egg hunt.
We got some leads on Detroit demountable rims, but there wasn’t one here.
Nestled in the middle of the photo is….. THE MISSING RADIATOR CAP! The photo shows the cap installed on a piece of PVC pipe I sized and threaded to match our radiator. We tried hundreds of “about the right size” caps over 3 days at the swap meet. But Janet found this one. It is the correct Bakelite material with indentations for finger grip and with the cap already drilled for installation of a Boyce Motometer temperature gauge. Hooray Janet! You win the egg hunt!
After Hershey, we headed to New York to see our son, Eric and wife, Kristie. We spent a day down town at the 9/11 memorial museum and then went to the sea shore and the Fire Island lighthouse.
From New York City we went to the Finger Lakes region where the wood wheels for our MICHIGAN were made. Specifically, Shortsville, where nothing remains of the factory or any local recollection of the factory.
Next, it was on to Niagara Falls – Canada (the most scenic side of the river).
Next, to DETROIT – and the Ford Piquette plant.
Next we went to the Benson Ford Research Library which is adjacent to Greenfield Village. There we found some information on BUDA engines, Sheldon Axles, Gemmer steering gears, and an interesting fire insurance inventory of the Kalamazoo, Michigan factory for the Michigan Motor Car Company. Kalamazoo Michigan was our next brief stop to see if the library and Western Michigan University had any MICHIGAN related materials. They did. An extensive collection of advertising for MICHIGAN cars collected as Exhibits to the company bankruptcy. I will add a complete listing of all the advertising in the ledger at some point.
From Kalamazoo we journeyed to Hobart Indiana to see Janet’s sister, Sally & husband, Clarence and then to visit Janet’s farms in Benton and White counties. Harvest was in full swing and one of our farmers, Brad Hamilton had promised Janet she could run the combine and harvest soybeans.
From Hobart we did the following in order on our way home. I may elaborate on this later, but not now.
Old Salem Village, Lincoln Museum in Springfield IL, Lincoln’s Tomb, Hannibal MO, Monks Mound (Cahokia Mounds) IL, Steamboat Arabia Museum Kansas City MO, Correll Homestead – Kay Co. OK, Citizen Potawatomi Nation HQ – Shawnee OK, Las Vegas NM, Chaco Canyon NM, Durango & Silverton RR – Durango CO, Monument Valley UT, South Rim of the Grand Canyon AZ — and finally ….. home.
While this restoration isn’t really a race, the reassembly of the running gear was aimed at actually attempting to start the engine. All to be accomplished before taking steps to put the body, fenders, and other parts back on the car. To that end, I needed to come up with some sort of temporary frame to support the dashboard – firewall on to which the starting coil and steering column are attached. When the body is on the car, this is not a problem. Without the body, the dash just wants to flop around. Probably NOT a good thing.
I made lots of measurements and came up with some temporary wood brackets that would accommodate the floor boards and pedals as well as making room for a temporary seat, should I actually get the engine started. By September this is what it looked like.
On August 22, 2016, I picked up the finished BRIGGS Magneto from Carl Bloom and started re-assembly of the car’s components in preparation for trying to get the engine started. But all that had to wait until after a much anticipated trip East to attend the gigantic auto parts swap meet in Hershey Pennsylvania.
In August, I visited our Michigan’s magneto (Type C, BRIGGS MAGNETO COMPANY of Elkhart, Indiana) that was being repaired by Carl Bloom in Orange, California. Carl has a really interesting shop filled with vintage testing machines and many antique magnetos on workbenches in various states of meticulous repair. Carl had already replaced the old intermittent unreliable coil with a modern coil. The old coil was a solid block of hardened resin of some sort surrounded with insulating mica sheets. The wiring was seriously decayed and brittle.
It was much better for several reasons to enclose a modern ignition coil in the original box and remove the 3 or 4 pound chunk of mystery resin and crumbling wires.
On the tester, our magneto was working and nearly ready to go. Then there was the matter of the oil channels & oil supply tank unique to BRIGGS brand magnetos. These, Carl told me, needed to be by-passed as too clogged or damaged. A shorter, direct oil line with felt wicks near the armature shaft would be installed.
I gave my approval to Carl to remove the tank and shorten the lines leading to the armature shaft. I would just have to remember to put “Oil the magneto” on my start-up list.
The January 25, 1912 edition of MOTOR AGE gave the following description of the BRIGGS line of magnetos, at pages 74 & 75:
“The Briggs magnetos are of the primary armature type, having a single low-tension winding on the armature shaft, whose current is transformed into high-tension by an auxillary dash coil. The arrangement of the high-tension distributor over the circuit breaker at one end of the machine is conventional; and a feature of the construction is the enclosure of the magnets and rear end of the machine in a metal dust and water-proof case… The magnets are large and carefully fitted to the pole piece. The distributor is made of hard rubber with a secret compound added, which gives it a reddish brown appearance and renders it peculiarly impervious to heat. The circuit breaker is of simple and sturdy construction, the parts are heavy, and the cam is made of steel case-hardened, and operates a case-hardened roller on the striker arm. The circuit-breaker parts are lubricated by means of an oil cup which feeds oil to the cam by means of a wick. Contact points are heavy pieces of platinum iridium with positive means of adjustment, and a shield is provided to protect them from oil. A feature of the model C magneto is an oil tank placed in the arch of the magnets which holds six ounces of oil. The oil feeds automatically from the tank to all bearings and this tank should hold sufficient oil for 15,000 miles of travel.”
A lot was accomplished during July of 2016. After Tori & I got the axles back on the car, I added in the transmission, which I have yet to open or otherwise mess with, other than exterior cleaning.
Then I reconnected the drive shaft & universal joint to the back of the transmission. Unbeknownst to us at the time — the entire drive shaft assembly including the differential case had been seriously messed with at some point and was put into the car UPSIDE DOWN.
My Dad, Vince, came down from Fresno to help re-install the engine on July 27, 2016.
Later in the day, I removed the oil pan to inspect the crank shaft, rod caps and anything else that might look amiss or wrong.
Nothing seemed obviously wrong or loose. Just inside the oil pan was an interior splash pan which was part of the same oil pan casting (aluminum) positioned so that the crank throws would splash through oil as the engine rotated, with the oil pump pick-up line in the sump below.
With the engine in, it was time to re-install the leather cone clutch and front universal joint.
By July 31, 2016, I had also attached the water jacket cover, water pump, spark plug & acetylene injector plugs, exhaust manifold & exhaust pipe and temporarily attache the steering column & steering wheel.
It’s starting to look like a car again.
June 11, 2016 our daughter, Victoria (Tori) took time off between quarters at U.C. Santa Barbara and helped me with some reassembly. First to go back on was the rear axle & differential, which got grease in all the cups and various friction points.
Next up was the front axle.
By June 17th, we had the car starting to look sort of like a car again.
Next the transmission went back in.
In the process of attaching the transmission to the universal joint that goes to the drive shaft, I discovered a plug on the universal with the logo or monogram shown below. We are pretty sure that the transmissions were nearly unique to the MICHIGAN company. It appears that the transmission was manufactured by the FULLER company ( for more about this, go to Nuts & Bolts, Transmission – ). But that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the universal joints. There are three in the car. Two from the engine to the transmission and another from the transmission to the drive shaft. All of which allow the component to be varied and the use of longer or shorter wheelbases or other tweaks between model types. Anyway, we will be on the lookout for any such logos that may lead us to the company that produced the universal joints.
Our differential and rear axle were removed along with all other running gear when we sent the frame out for powder coating. That gave us an opportunity to clean it up, look it over from all sides and really inspect it. We found some interesting things. But first we got it cleaner. Eric & I scrubbed and scraped with Simple Green and then power-washer it.
The result was mostly grease & oil free.
And here’s what we observed — casting dates: Feb 16, 1911 D1, and Jan 27, 1911
While we had easy access to the rear end, I opened up the back of the differential to see if it looked nice or nasty. Actually, it wasn’t bad at all.
While the oil was not golden, it wasn’t gritty dirty nasty either – so I count that as GOOD. What was odd, was that the ring gear was on the right hand side of the differential. This is the opposite of what is depicted in various line drawings and brochures that exist for our car. I have attached page 15, of the “announcement” of the “Michigan Automobile 1912” also referred to as “The Michigan Through a Microscope” brochure. Interestingly, the steering drag link shown on page 15 is on the left side, which is the reverse of the actual right hand drive set-up for Michigan’s in 1912. (The 1913 cars did have left hand drive and the gear shift was mounted in the center of the car.) This leads me to believe that perhaps the images on page 15 have been reversed which might explain why our car has the ring gear in the opposite position from what is depicted below. Confounding this is the image of the Sheldon Jackshaft from the Motor Age article at the end of this post. That image has the ring gear on the left side. Is it possible that when Phillip Dickey was going through the car that the axle sides got flip flopped the wrong way? I’m not sure, I’ll have to ask Mike Howard which side his ring gear is on.
While we cannot definitively state that this rear axle and differential were made by SHELDON SPRING & AXLE COMPANY, the indications are pretty strong. The front axle is marked: SHELDON AXLE CO.
This hidden marking on the front axle (back side on the left) prompted me to see what I could find out about SHELDON AXLE CO. also known as SHELDON SPRING AND AXLE CO.
Apparently the company did lots of leaf springs too. Maybe our car has SHELDON springs. I did find this marking on one of the REAR half springs. Is it year of manufacture? Location of manufacture or destination?
I also found this on the FRONT spring mounting bracket (holds spring to axle). It appears to be a monogram with the letters CBW. It is distinctive, but I have yet to connect it to anything and it is not the trademark used by Sheldon Axle, which is a sort of horizontal double anchor logo. (-o-)
The differential had no other distinguishing marks. But research into descriptions and diagrams of SHELDON differentials and rear axles seems consistent with the diff on our car. I found the following description of a SHELDON rear axle & differential in the Jan. 25, 1912 edition of MOTOR AGE: Progress in 1912 Axles FULL