Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer in full swing!

Woah yeah, so after that last post, I swore I'd start getting posts out every Monday. Usually I do cool things on the weekend so Monday seems like a good time to tell y'all about them. The last couple weeks have been way too busy to blog but I have made some serious progress on a number of fronts:

Black Batty VA:
Finished modifying M56 exhaust to fit on M46 engine with M56 cylinder. Sounds like a mouthfull but I'll be writing this whole project up soon. This has been the test bed for all my crazy M48 performance parts and it hasn't been complete and running since last summer. The M56 cylinder was installed last summer but I haven't had time to weld up the stock muffler until now. This write-up may come in two parts as I took a lot of good pictures to serve as a 'how to hack'n'weld an exhaust pipe' tutorial.

Long story short, the M56 cylinder alone with stock M48 carb, reeds, intake, and stock M56 pipe is good for 32 MPH out of the box. The air filter for this thing also disappeared somewhere in the last few months and so that was 32 mph with me holding the choke closed... pretty impressive!

I wanted a benchmark with all the stock goodies, so now that I have that I'll be putting the moped factory upgrade kit back on with a 12:10 SHA from a Vespa that I happened to have laying around. We'll see how that goes. If it is as fast as I hope, I'm going to sell this sweet 170 mile machine to a lucky collector looking for something pristine and cool lookin'. You really cant beat the classy lines of these early Batavus, but the 20mph stock speed is just too slow to ride comfortably in traffic. This whole M56 setup really makes the bike a practical rider keeping the character and reliability of the stock machine.

I've agreed to take on the Cranks raffle bike for the rally this year, which is a top tank Starflite with some minor cafe' mods. We'll be doing the same things to that one, maybe keeping the M48 cylinder, i'm not sure, and trying to get it fast enough to hang with the big boys. If you come to Milwaukee to the rally, you'll get a chance to ride this bike and feel the pure power of Batavus!

Puch Polini ZA
To say that the polini'd ZA is coming slowly would be an understatement of incredible proportions. It seems like every time I get closer to finishing this thing, I find that there is something else that needs to be done on it, or another part I need to save up to purchase. I was able to get the M7 studs tapped in there but they were too long, and had to get cut down and ground down twice. I chose to do this at the machine shop because I dont have a bench grinder and there is nothing more annoying that bodging the end thread when you are reaching nuts down into the head pockets to install them. Now I need to find hardened M7 nuts which i haven't been able to source anywhere. Even McMaster just has shitty low grade hardware for M7... back to the drawing board on that one.

Peugeot 103
Ach, the poor Pug! It has been getting me to and from work every day now for almost the entire summer. I've completely worn flat the Kenda tire I installed when I bought the bike.  A combination of poverty (impacting my ability to fill my car's gas tank) and a bad voltage regulator that was damn impossible to trouble shoot, has precluded me from driving my daily driver ford escort 'pickup truck edition'. That little Pug has been a reliable little bugger, but 36 mph is just wayyyy too slow. With the help of my friends at Treatland, I've begun work on a new Peugeot exhaust for the 'stock' crowd.  Right now there is just nothing decent on the market for stock ripper 103's. The pipes fall into 1 of three categories: Stock (which is pretty good), Joke pipes (like the Faco and mini circuit) which don't really do much and in many cases are worse than stock, or mondo gigantor loose your pedals and kickstand swivel ball  joint 10,0000000 rpm pipes, which are totally awesome but not well suited to people who just want to get their stock bike going a happy 40 mph.

(sorry no photos yet, I want to get this tested first)

To fill in the massive hole in that market I'm developing a mild circuit pipe. It will be pretty obvious when it comes out that it is just a hacked-up common pipe for a different moped, but the genius (and a lot of R+D) has gone into the hacking, trying to take something that is already well suited to a peugeot layout and powerband, and making it work better by adding a bigger, shorter header (for variator revvin) and making it more compact. Plus I'm trying to create a bracket that will hold up to abuse and keep this thing from cracking. Finally I'm looking into some heat treating that will take this to the next level making it even better than the commercially produced import pipes. That all combined with being precision jig-welded in the good-ol' U S of A will hopefully blow this market wide open.

Oh, and did I mention the pipe is designed to work with both flange and screw mount cylinders?? Yeah, its gonnna be rad.

If anyone feels like they would be interested in testing one of these let me know, prototypes should be out next week. I want at least one person with an airsal or similar 50cc kit, carb of your choice, and one person with a completely untouched stock gurtner bike.

Regular MF production
Its a terrible time to be out of stock on so many MF parts, but I've been hella busy trying to get stuff re-stocked and huge $hipment$ will be going out in the next couple weeks. Good thing 'cause i'm broke!

Made a pile of engine stands, Tomos and Minarelli too!

Hobbit rollers have been selling fast as heck too. I cut up 4, 6 food rods of material over the last two weeks and have literally hundreds of rollers waiting to be assembled. They should be done soon and back in stock as well.

Heads will be coming, I know a lot of them have been out of stock for a long time, but it has been hard for me to come up with cores. I'll be buying up cores soon so email me if you have some you want to sell or trade for other parts. The more heads i can find, the more i can make, thats good for everyone!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sea-Bee outboard tuning

This one is from the files, I was digging through some old SD cards that were in my desk the other day, making sure i had all the important DATA off them, and I found pictures I thought I'd lost or forgotten to take of my outboard project.

About 2 years ago Caitlin told me her grandpa promised her his old fishing boat at one point in time. Its an ancient 13 foot aluminum thing that has been sitting upside down behind a shed up at his land for the last 10 years since a notable incident where he almost drowned and decided to stop fishing from a boat. He's 90 now, and probably was in his late 70's when he last got in it, and almost never made it back to shore.

Johnson QD - my ideal outboard (from

I decided that if we were going to be getting this boat I should probably find an old outboard of the same vintage to compliment it. Luckily I live in the home of Ole Evinrude, a few miles from Mercury and within shooting distance of almost every notable outboard manufacturer in America. Craigslist is literally littered with antique outboards in need of a carb cleaning, and most can be had for about scrap prices. Its a shame because I'm sure wisconsinites send dozens of these things to the shredder every day, and they are a real unique part of our manufacturing and sporting history, as well as being some of the most interesting industrial design pieces of the 20th century.

I found a kindred spirit who runs the website Oddjob Motors .A fellow Moped and subaru fan, he has one of the most complete outboard sites on the internet chronicling dozens of beautiful vintage outboards, and his love of them. I was infatuated and probably looked through the entire site getting all excited for a summer of boating. I even emailed the fellow and discussed what to be looking for in a candidate for restoration. I concluded the QD Johnson above would be about perfect, and let a few slip through my fingers that were priced too high ($40+).
Mercury marine were some of the best looking outboards of the day

The Goodyear/Gale SeaBee I thought I was getting

Long story short, I finally settled on a Gale 5 hp, marketed by Goodyear Tire as a 'Sea-Bee.' I bought the engine sight unseen from a friendly guy who offered to deliver it to my work for $15. I gave him a $20 and had him keep the change.

It ended up not being the model I wanted, I was looking for the later model with the transmission, but regardless this one was pretty cool. The styling wasn't my favorite at first but since having rebuilt it, has kinda grown on me in its overly flourished 40's garishness. Obviously they expected this to be going about 80 mph to need such elaborate streamlining!

The 1948 SeaBee as I got her
Cursory inspection revealed that the pull starter, while somewhat operational, was pretty mangled. The tank was still partially full of gas that probably had lead in it. A sealable gas cap was used, presumeably so you could put it in the back of your vista cruiser sideways without gas spilling out, and that cap preserved the incredibly varnished gas for many years. I was soaking the tank with MEK thinking 'this gas is probably older than I am.. crazy.

Obviously the engine would need a thorough cleaning, new gear oil, maybe a seal or two here and there, but by and large looked mostly complete and turned over smoothly.

I thought it was going to be a quick saturday project. I started off puling the tank, starter, flywheel, carb, reeds off the power head. Everything was going along smoothly when I got to the part of pulling out the drain plug to check on the gear oil in the gearbox. The screw was kinda stripped coming out and behind it was a pile of rust dust. damn. That is never a good sign.
Yup, there's the problem.

Turning the propeller by hand in relation to the power unit revealed the source of the dust, what used to be the bevel gears in the gear box. One was half rusted off. Probably a previous owner stripped the plug for the gear case and didn't concern himself with the fact that the engine was sitting with water in the gearbox. Doing that for awhile turned the lower gear (which runs on a horizontal axis and was therefore half submerged) to dissolve the submerged half. Someone surely tried to run it after that and made a mess out of the rest of the gearbox. Totally mangled.

Since drive gears for a 1948 Gale outboard aren't exactly something you drive down to NAPA and pick out of a catalog, I had to start doing some research.  Turns out Gale was making outboards in northern Illinois since world war 2. The engines were marketed through 'brand engineering' at department stores, sporting goods stores, and even Goodyear tire stores (which used to sell a lot of general automotive-type junk). The Good Year store sold the Sea-Bee, Hiawatha was sold by some long deceased sporting goods store, there was another one that came from Montgomery Wards even. With this additional knowledge, I was able to get on Ebay and find some of the more popular brands. A short search turned up a lot of lower unit gearboxes, but only one matched visually to the one I had. Several years of Gale shared similar lower units, but the very early model that I had was a slightly different casting and assembly. I ordered it and paid $25 including shipping from Arizona, crossing my fingers that it would be the right one, and not be trashed in a similar manner.

The new lower unit came a couple weeks later and I set about to adapting it. No propeller and the water pump was a mess, so i was able to keep those. The water pump casting was a little different but enough parts were similar that it could be cobbled. The mounting hardware was different too, a short stud where i had a long stud and a different water pump feed tube. No biggie, that was all adapted as well.

At this point summer '11 was quickly approaching and I was hoping to get something running ASAP to get out on the lakes and rivers around Milwaukee. I was also moving my shop and trying to get the engine finished up before having to pack everything into boxes and risk loosing a bunch of parts. What a mess.

The engine at this point came all the way apart, I was pretty close by having removed everything from the engine and removed the stern drive. It was logical that I continue the process. Plus the inside of the water jacket, from what i could tell, was a complete mess. There was some kinda crummy coating that was peeling off with lots of scale behind it, someone had done some work on the engine at one point in time and bent part of the engine casting leaving it with some sealing issues, and I figured while i was this far along, it would be fun to port the thing out a little bit and see if we couldn't get that '5' hp up a little higher.

I pulled the covers off the engine, no small feat considering the 60 year old gasket goop holding them on! Cleaned everything up with quite a bit of time in the ol' sand blaster. The porting was crossflow, which is the predecessor to loop scavenging and much more suited to low rpm's. Large heavy pistons with scoops on them direct the flow of air from the transfers up and over the piston so it scavenges the chamber, then down out the other side through the exhaust port. Definitely not ideal for performance. I could also tell that the ports were drilled into the casting with a drill bit. Obviously a manufacturing concern, trying to avoid the use of additional cores or tricky machining, but not the best for performance. Since I don't really know anything about porting crossflow engines, I pretty much just went by feel, trying to get a little more exhaust area and get the ports to open a bit earlier. Hopefully my gut feeling isn't too wrong, but i really dont think three crummy drilled holes are magical in any way.
Ported on the right, unported on the left.

I also left the raised area on the casting around the ports. Not sure why this was there, but I think there might be some significance to it, a port without significant length can cause wierd eddy current stuff and I didn't want to risk getting the area too thin around the ports where they could have heat problems.

Final porting. symmetrical? you be the judge.
The flywheel, points and stator plate was all in pretty good shape. Spark plug wires were gone. I found some cool fabric braided spark plug wire and soldered that on the coils, dressed the points and adjusted everything. How did I know what timing to set? It doesn't matter, the engine is goverened largely by adjusting the timing advanced/retarded. This was a pretty common thing back in the days of crappy carburetors that really only ran well at full throttle or no throttle. The carb in this thing was really crummy, one jet and no real metering system other than that.

I had thought about putting a big mikuni on there, but thats just getting silly. I'm not trying to set a record with this, i just want to put around the river and crash condo parties all done up like Huck Finn.

Here is the engine all finished up. There is a shroud that will go over it, but I haven't put that back on yet, still ironing out some bugs.

In the end it should look like this Hiawatha which I photographed at an outboard museum in Sayner, WI.

The patina will be retained on the Sea Bee, I like it looking like something that I dug out of my grandpa's shed and miraculously still works. I think leaving it like that does true justice to the heritage of the machine and the people who designed and built these beautiful things with old school american craftsmanship.

In other news, Leo the 90 year old grandfather-in-law has since decided he doesn't want to part with his boat for now, so it will remain sitting in the weeds in northern wisconsin while my poor engine languishes in Milwaukee with no boat. Oh well, what'cha gonna do?  Fire it up in a 5 gallon bucket and annoy the neighbors? Yes please, I'll try to get a video for you!