[This rebuild story has been written by our good friend and VCCC member Bill Trant. Thank you Bill for sharing this fascinating tale and we encourage other members to do the same. Please email your stories and pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org]
This is the story of my 1910 Model 17 Buick engine failure and rebuild project. Last July during the Babe Run my engine experienced a catastrophic failure when, with a loud bang and shudder, the centre main bearing in the engine crankcase broke.
Upon taking the engine apart it was quickly determined that the crankcase was not repairable and, in fact had experienced another major failure long before I purchased the car. What to do – find a new crankcase of course! Within 1 hour of discovering the failure I found a person in Massachusetts (Skip Carpenter) who had the patterns to recast these crankcases at the modest, in my opinion, cost of only $1,800.00. A new crankcase was ordered as well as arrangements made to have the major part of the machining done in a shop almost next door by a friend of Skip’s by the name of Doug Layport. The picture below shows the end result of the rebuild.
What we have here is a picture of how things looked when I first opened up my engine. Not very pretty is it? Obviously there was no chance it could be repaired so the new crankcase was ordered, machining and all. A couple of months later a brand new Model 17 crankcase arrived made of a superior aluminum alloy but looking identical to an original casting. None of us could imagine the work it must have taken to make the patterns for this casting – it was perfect in every detail. Other than the fact that the centre main was no longer broken the new crankcase looked absolutely identical to the original and every component bolted in perfectly. This was a testament to not only the original pattern maker but also to Doug Layport, the machinist who did the bulk of the machining on the new casting. After pouring new babbitt for the main bearings, with major help from my brother Peter and friend Paul Carter, the crankcase and other engine parts were sent to Pacific Parts in Vancouver for line boring. With that and other engine work done such as cylinder honing, cylinder resurfacing, valve seat grinding, rod bushings honed, etc. the reassembly began. The other work we did during this rebuild included:
- New valve springs
- New valve guides
- Rebuilt valve rockers
- Rebuilt valve lifters
- Rebuilt valve linkage using all new pins
- Reground camshaft
- Reground valves and seats
- New rings
- Honed cylinders
- Refit pistons
- New rod bushings
- Polished and ground crankshaft
- Resurfaced cylinders
- Rebuilt water pump (more on this later)
- Rebuilt magneto
- New gear stack cover
- Rebuilt carburetor needle & seat linkage
A big thank you here to Barry Rutherford of
Shadbolt Cams for creating the masters and
grinding the camshaft!
I promised you more on the water pump. Well as the engine was rapidly being completed it was time to start on some of the smaller repairs. The first of these was the water pump. When I picked it up I noticed that there was a lot of rattling of loose parts coming from inside it. This pump is a gear pump and shouldn’t make much if any noise. I took the cover off only to discover that it had wrong gears, a makeshift spacer to accommodate the wrong gears which were so badly worn that they didn’t resemble gears at all, worn shafts and bushings. All in all it was a mess. What to do now – I needed new gears. Paul Carter walked by at that moment and asked what was wrong – I showed him the gears. Paul didn’t say anything but walked out of his shop and came back a few minutes later and placed a set of brand new water pump gears on the bench beside me. Obviously I was ecstatic with the gift and asked where they had come from. It seems that 25 or so years ago Paul needed new water pump gears for his Model 17 and when he had them made he had 2 sets done. He had kept this second set all these years and knew exactly where to find them! Eat your heart out Ron Morris.
With the engine back together it was time to put it in the car. More testament to Doug Layport’s machining, the engine lined up perfectly with the transmission input shaft, with no shims required! To say I was nervous about trying to start it is an understatement but my brother has always said that if everything is right it has to run. Well I guess everything was right because with a few cranks of the engine in order to draw gas into the cylinders it started and settled right down. It ran smoother and quieter than it had ever run. I was overjoyed as you can imagine.
A big thanks to Paul Carter for allowing me to use his shop and to both my brother Peter and Paul for their help and expertise during this rebuild, without them I couldn’t have done it!
Hopefully I will now be able to enjoy many more miles of touring in this car. It truly is fun to drive.
I’ve included a few pictures to show some of the failures and rebuild progress that I thought you might be interested in. As they say “A picture is worth a 1,000 words”.