The 'As Is' Engine

Gibb key puller

Diagram 3: Gibb key puller.

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26 Mott Place Rockaway, New Jersey 07866

I am writing this article in response to an old saying that was really emphasized in a recent purchase I made. I had written to the 'Reflections' column in Gas Engine Magazine about the existence of marine engines built by the Detroit Engine Works. Until about a year ago, I did not know that Detroit had even made marine engines. Further research has uncovered some information, but that is the subject of an article yet to come. Among the responses to my  query about the Detroit marine engines (and I most sincerely thank those who responded), was a gentleman from Rye, New York, who said he had a 2 HP Detroit marine engine and it was for sale!

We talked on several occasions and exchanged information. He did not know much about the Detroit, other than it was stuck and rusty when he obtained it. He stated that he had freed it up, that it had good compression, and he hadn't run it yet because the water pump drive was incomplete (the eccentric rod was missing).

I told him that I also owned a Detroit marine engine, and maybe he could copy the eccentric rod from my engine, in order to make one for his engine. We exchanged directions to each other's homes, and set a later date to try to get together.

A week later, my Union Hall (UA Plumbers Local 14) called with a job offer on a site near the George Washington Bridge (that goes over the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey), on the Atlantic Palisades. I took the job, and on the second day thought, 'Gee, I'm almost there already, why not go over the bridge after work and see the engine?' I made the call that night and we set up a time for the following day.

The job had an early start, and we finished up at 3:30. I left the jobsite and was on the bridge in less than two minutes. It took less than 30 minutes to find the town of Rye, and the man's shop was only a couple of minutes from that. As I got out of the car, I spotted a couple of nicely restored trucks in the shop, as well as a couple of very restorable projects! After getting a quick tour of the shop and the many neat things inside, I was led to a work bench upon which sat the Detroit Engine Works Marine engine, serial #1157, that was built about 1910.

My first impression was 'Man is that thing UGLY!!!' It had been painted a strange lime-green color, much like the lime-green paint used to protect the steel rebar used on highway repair jobs.

All of the exposed brass looked like it had either been dipped in a cleaner, or had been sandblasted. It was not polished, but it was clean. Unknown to me at this time, it was an ominous sign of things to come.

On closer examination, I noted the following items:

1)  The pump eccentric rod was indeed missing.

2) Besides the rod, the eccentric strap itself was also gone.

(3) The eccentric itself had been cut off of the crank, to facilitate the removal of the crankshaft. I was told the original was a tight press fit, and it was damaged during an attempt at removing it. A new one had been made, but had not yet been installed.

4) The flow restrictor was missing off the ' Kingston carb, as well as the retention springs.

5) The oilier mount had been broken off, and the part had been repaired with 50-50 solder, which, in my opinion, would have sheared under vibration.

6) The timer arm was bent.

7) There was a fine threaded tapped hole in the end of the crankshaft that was open.

8) The fuel tank was missing.

The rest of the engine appeared to be in pretty good shape. It had good compression, and had no visible cracks in the water jacket.

The engine ID plate, made of brass, was off the engine. Apparently Detroit made their ID plates from heavy flat stock. The company name and information was acid etched into the surface and, on later engines, the serial number was stamped onto the plate. The plate  was then wrapped around the cylinder jug, and mounted in place with two screws. On most of the plates, eventually the stress of being bent was relieved by the breaking of the platetherefore the cracks. About 70% of the Detroit Engine Works ID plates I have seen are cracked (including one on another Detroit engine I own).

We talked about the engine for about half an hour, and during the conversation the price of the engine came up.

I thought that it was a fair price, but I really didn't know if 1 wanted to take it, as at my garage (as many people who know me can attest), space is at a premium. I should note here that there were several other items that were for sale as well that caught my interest. We also speculated as to what the hole in the end of the crankshaft was for. On my other Detroit Engine Works marine engine, the crank was drilled for a grease passage to the connecting rod. As this was a later engine, with the dual feed oilier, I felt that the grease cup was not really necessary. Some probing of the hole revealed that it was about two inches deep, and that it was a blind hole. When we were done, I told the man that I would keep him in mind, and if I heard of anyone who wanted the Detroit, I'd give him a call.

Several days later, I gave a call, and I told him I was interested in the Detroit, as well as the old water pump that he had. We set a date, and I went to his shop to pick up the two pieces with my minivan and trailer.

First the old pump was loaded onto my trailer. It is a Kewanee Model N 8 C, 1 cylinder, that had been removed from a mansion in Rye, New York, when city water had been installed. The engine was loaded into the rear cargo space in my minivan, as I didn't want to take a chance of it bouncing off the trailer. The prescribed amount changed hands, and we said our goodbyes.

As I was walking toward my car, the man called out to me, 'You bought it AS IS you know, there's no guarantees.' I stopped for a second, the words sinking in, and I thought, 'Now why would he say that, especially now, when our conversation had ended, and we were going in two different directions?' I turned to ask why he had said that, but he had already gone into the shop and was talking to one of his workmen. I just shrugged and drove home with my prizes.

When I got home, I decided to start work on the Detroit right away. First, I wanted to tackle the missing carb parts. I took off the top of the carb, and noted that it was pretty clean inside. I made up a new restrictor plate out of some old stock parts I had, and I installed a new pressure balance spring as well. It was then time to set the engine on the floor and give it a test run, even if only for a few seconds.

As I picked the engine up off my workbench, it began to slip, and I grabbed the carb in order to hold onto the engine. Fortunately for the engine (but not for my pinched fingers), the carb assembly turned in the ' pipe screw fitting into the block, pinning two fingers between the fuel bowl and the block. This made me put the engine down very quickly! I pushed the carb down in order to free my now purple fingers, and noted that actually it was the check valve assembly that was loose in its fitting to the engine block. In order to tighten the check assembly, the carb would have to be dismounted, in order to be able to turn the assembly in a complete circle.

The carb was then removed posthaste, and what I saw in the mouth of the check inlet stopped me cold in my rush to get done and hear it run. The inlet had about ' of blasting sand inside. A quick look inside the throat of the carb told the same story. At this time my heart sank, as I realized that if the sand was here, it was probably inside the engine already. If the engine had been run, or even had been pulled over fast enough, the sand would have been ingested through the intake tract and into the block, cylinder, piston and bearings as well. The engine could be ruined. The man's warning about the 'as is' condition now stood out clearly. If indeed the engine was run with this sand in it, then what I owned was now a hulk, just fit for parts and pieces, instead of a possibly run able engine. I have seen engines with wiped out cylinders have compression, due to a judicious use of some 40-weight oil; all I could do was hope that this was not the case.

I removed the Lunkenheimer check assembly and disassembled it. It looked like the engine had indeed been run with the sand in it. The check valve guide shaft was scarred by the sand and the seat was loaded with sand too. There was evidence of oil and carbon mixed in as well, which meant that the engine possibly had backfired through the intake. I also noted that sand was also present in the intake passage, a fact that meant a complete teardown of the engine was now necessary. I had no choice.

The first item off was the muffler. A quick look at the piston told the story: the sand was indeed through the engine. It was all over the side of the piston, and I could see abrasions on the piston skirt and the cylinder wall as well. There was plenty of oil on the piston, that's why the compression was still good.

The next item to be removed was the cylinder itself. I removed the four mount bolts, the oilier was removed, and the jug was then lifted off of the cylinder base and piston. As the piston came out of the bore, I could feel the sand grating between the piston and the cylinder wall. On first inspection, the bore did not look too bad; it seemed to have been only lightly scarred by the sand, and it was set aside.

I then examined the piston. The piston is about 2' in diameter. It had three ring grooves, two above the wrist pin and one below. This followed the usual practice of the Detroit engines, as oil trapped between the lower two sets of rings tended to flow into the hollow wrist pin and then lubricate the upper connecting rod bearing through a hole made for that purpose (see diagram 1). Not standard for Detroit, there were two rings per groove, all showing sand damage, as well as some telltale darkening in select areas due to a poor fit to the cylinder bore. I noted as well that the wrist pin was loose on the connecting rod, and figured that the piston had to be pulled from the rod as well.

I then removed the inspection plate off of the engine block and removed the connecting rod big end retaining bolt, in order to remove the connecting rod and piston assembly from the crankshaft (see diagram 2). The big end of the Detroit connecting rod is hinged in order to simplify adjustment and removal, so this did not take long. The bearing was not scarred at all by the intruding sand, although there was about of an inch of sand within the sump of the engine crankcase. The crankshaft itself was also scar free, and indeed had a mirror finish to the journal itself! The piston and rod assembly was set aside for later disassembly and inspection.

The flywheel was the next item to draw my attention. Even though the Gibb key was fairly tight in its hole, the flywheel still moved about 1/8 to either side of a given point, a total of 1/8' Engine end play was excessive at approximately ', but this was with the engine thrust bearing not in place.

The Gibb key was removed with a pair of wedges and a homemade puller that I built myself (see diagram 3). With some filing of a few high bump scars on the crankshaft, the flywheel slid effortlessly off of the crankshaft. The timer assembly was then removed, and the engine crank and cap was now easily accessible for removal. The crank was removed, and I quit for the night.

The next morning, I examined the crankshaft and found it to be in good shape. Luckily, the sand did not damage the crank main bearings. I did note that the crankpin oil slinger was loose, and the excessive endplay had worn the journal shoulders on the crankshaft itself. An .040' thick bronze washer was placed on the flywheel side of the crank to help alleviate the endplay problem.

The now stripped base was thoroughly washed with kerosene, and was blasted with high pressure air until the interior was dry, in order to be sure that all of the sand and residue was removed from the engine block.

The used kerosene was caught in a large clean tub. It was strained and filtered and then reused to clean the sand from the remaining parts. All in all, I retrieved about cup of the infernal sand from throughout the entire engine!

I began the cleanup and reassembly phase of this project. The first order of business was the piston, connecting rod, and wrist pin assembly. The wrist pin floats in the connecting rod and is anchored in the piston bosses by a x 20 set bolt (see diagram 4). The pin was tight in the piston, and the set bolt was loose, and partially stripped. I removed the set bolt, and noted that it was not safety locked. That is, that it could have come out if the engine was run. The wrist pin was removed and the piston was freed from the rod. I checked the pin fit in the rod bushing, and found some slight play. The pin itself had some pitting to the sides, but the wear surfaces were clean and not badly worn. The rings were then taken off of the piston and everything was cleaned in fresh kerosene. After the piston and other parts were dry, I looked closely at the piston. The tapped hole for the wrist pin retainer was in good shape and it took only a couple of minutes to repair the set bolt. The end where the threads were stripped was ground off. Then about 3/8of an inch of the remaining threads were removed and the end of the bolt was reground to a point. If you look at the diagram of the bolt (#4) you will see that there is a slot cut in the head of the bolt, as well as a hole is drilled through the bolt head. The hole is for a cotter pin to be placed within, to prevent the bolt from backing out. I also saw that the screw slot was buggered up and so the slot had to be recut with a saw.

The play in the wrist pin bearing was taken out by compressing the bearing within the rod.

This was accomplished by placing two heavy steel blocks against the bronze bearing and squeezing the assembly in a heavy vise (see diagram 5). The pressure was added 1/8 turn at a time, checking the wrist pin fit at every stop, until the pin was just snug (a light drag) in its fit. I checked the pin for square with the connecting rod, and it was in good shape.

In the meantime, my son Andrew was looking at the piston. He asked me what the pins sticking into the cavity inside the piston were for. Then I realized that they were the locating pins for the original full width rings (5/16'). The original rings had been removed, the pins driven through the piston, and two rings inserted in the grooves, with no locators. I was afraid to try and drive the pins back out for fear that they would work loose and destroy the cylinder wall. So, I decided to retain the rings that were on the piston. The piston exterior wall was sanded with 120 grit sand cloth, until it was fairly smooth. The six rings were glued to an old cylinder hone with silicon sealer. The old hone was then set in a block and the faces of the rings were cleaned up with some 180 grit sand cloth mounted on a block (see diagram 6). The rings were removed from the hone and the silicone residue cleaned off. The rings were reinstalled on the piston, making sure that they were both 180 degrees apart in their respective grooves and 120 degrees apart from each other, as well as being away from any ports in the cylinders. It took four tries to get everything aligned.

The cylinder was sanded with 90 grit emery on the high spots and then honed until there were no more spots left. After the honing, the cylinder underwent a good washing with fresh kerosene and was dried off. The piston was inserted in the bore after being coated with a liberal coat of WD-40, and then the assembly was set aside.

I put the crankshaft back into the block, reusing the end cover gasket, as it seemed to be in good shape. I had my son, Andrew, help me assemble the cylinder to the base, as well as linking up the connecting rod to the crankshaft at the same time. The cylinder-to-base gasket was also retained, as it too was in good condition. At this time, the thrust bearing and its retainer were mounted on the crankshaft. The crank was cooled with ice, and the eccentric was heated to the point where I couldn't pick it up in my bare hands. The pump eccentric was driven onto the crank until it hit the shoulder on the crank itself, trapping the bearing in place between the eccentric and the case. There was still a lot of endplay to the crank! I painted the block assembly and the flywheel with Dupont Dulux  #72001D-H, and left them to dry. This color matches the green paint on my 1904 Detroit Engine Works 3 HP engine. The engine timer was also painted at this time, too.

I didn't bother to try to straighten the timer, as the part that is bent is made of cast iron and I was afraid that it would break if stressed.

I began the work of polishing up all of the brass pieces, making sure that they were ready for installation. Most of the pieces were pretty clean, as I mentioned before. A little wire brushing and some rouge had them clean and shiny right quick! When I got to the water pump, I decided to pull it apart in case there was sand in it.

I found that the packing was shot. The piston was lightly scored from the d--n sand, and the checks' brass closure springs were missing. A quick check of my spring goody-box soon had two springs in short order. The packing was found in my grandfather's old plumbing supply box, and I polished out the scoring on the pump shaft with rouge and the wire wheel. I blew out the pump with air, and got ready to assemble it and mount it to the engine. The check valves were installed with their new springs and the packing was restuffed. The pump was then set aside.

The first thing to be mounted was the inlet check valve for the carburetor. I polished the exterior and replaced the closure spring, as the old one had broken from age. I also lightly polished the check guide, as the sand had gotten to that too. In making the fitting up on the block, the last two turns were a bear, as the outside of the mixer came very close to the block itself.

Next was the mount for the twin oiler. I melted out the old solder from the repaired base, and resoldered the joint using a silver bearing no-lead solder. This stuff is so strong that you will rip the fitting before the joint will fail. The brass was polished, and the ell was mounted on the engine. I installed the brass oil feed line from the oiler's position to the feed point for the connecting rod bearing. I noticed that the gaskets used on the base of the oiler were actually Neoprene faucet washers, and that the oil had attacked the Neoprene and made it swell up to the point of being useless. New gaskets had to be made. I made them out of some sheet cork that I had in the garage, mounted the oiler, and then tightened all of the connections.

The muffler was painted and installed on the engine. It was finally beginning to look like an engine again.

At this point, the timer was reinstalled and the mechanism was cleaned. The timer arm was reassembled with its brass parts and then the flywheel was installed. Trying to set the flywheel in place with the Gibb key was a real pain. The flywheel would either be too tight against the block, or there was too much clearance, and therefore too much end-play. It finally took my son and I about three tries to simultaneously hit the output side of the crankshaft and the Gibb key on the flywheel side, in order to set the flywheel in place, where it was wanted.

As we were taking a breather during this frustrating piece of work, Andrew asked, 'What is the hole in the end of the crank for?' At the time I happened to glance over to my Detroit Engine Works 2 HP stationary engine. A shiny spot caught my eye and suddenly I realized what, indeed, the hole was for!

On the stationary engine, there was a brass end cap, held in place with a brass bolt, over the end of the crankshaft. This decorative cover helped retain the Gibb key in place and it also helped keep the flywheel from walking on the crankshaft. I tried several sources for a brass cap that would work, but ended up making one out of a ' copper sweat cap fitting instead. The silicon bronze mount bolt, also, is copper colored, so the end effect came out quite nicely.

The water pump was the next item to be operated on. I mounted it on the engine and pulled the pump shaft down about ' to allow for clearance of the packing bolts. I had to figure the offset, the measurement end to end, and the diameter of the pump drive rod and its eccentric strap, as they were missing when the engine was purchased. Unfortunately, the pump used on this engine is different than the pump on the 3 HP engine I own, so I could not copy that one for a template.

I ended up making the eccentric rod out of a piece of 5/8' brass square stock, with the ends being altered in the following manner: the rod was heated and given a 2' offset at a 2' radius rounded turn. I did not want to make it on a 45 degree or sharper square break, because I thought that it could lead to stress fractures in the brass. At one end a x 20 copper plated nut was silver-soldered to the short end of the newly bent shaft, to act as a bearing at the pump end of the rod. The other end had of a square cut 90 degree 1/8 tapped ell silver-soldered in line with the offset, approximately from the end of the rod. The remaining rod was ground and filed to a round profile approximately 3/8' in diameter, which was then threaded with a 3/8' die (see diagram 7). This was drilled out to allow passage of grease.

The only thing remaining was the making of the eccentric strap itself. I had a general idea of what I wanted, basically, a plumber's split ring hanger. The trouble was getting one to fit. I ended up using a 2' copper clad split ring hanger made for copper tubing. I took a ' wide piece of 2' copper type DWV tubing and cut it open. A 3/8 piece was silver-soldered onto one of the open ends, and then the interior was filed smooth. The copper ring was trimmed by trial and error until the fit on the eccentric cam was just snug, with the hanger tightened around it. A 3/16' hole was drilled in the ring, in line with the eccentric rod mount, so grease would be able to get to the bearing surfaces. The brass was polished and the new eccentric strap was painted. The entire assembly was installed on the engine. Some ' brass IPS size piping finished off the plumbing for the water cooled exhaust.

The last thing to be mounted was the name tag. I used a special acid base flux and soldered the cracks with the silver bearing solder I had used earlier on the oilier mount. The plate was then soaked in a baking soda and water solution, to make sure that the acid was neutralized.

The plate was polished and mounted on the engine with two 10-32 screws. All that remained was to set up the ignition system and a coil.

I located a good model T coil and mounted it on the wooden base that came with the engine. Of course, the hi-tension lead went to the spark plug. The positive lead went to the plus side of the battery, and the negative went to engine ground. The battery negative went to the kill switch contact on the engine timer. Current flow is as follows: power flows from the battery through the coil to the timer contact arm. As the timer cam rotates with the crankshaft, with the timer arm straight up, the ignition will occur at top center. The timer cam makes contact with the timer arm completing the circuit through the engine block. The current then flows through the timer arm through the kill switch contact and then back to the battery. When the kill switch is opened, current flow is interrupted, thus stopping the spark.

At this time, I still have yet to locate a fuel tank, but the engine has been test run and it appears to be in good shape. If anyone has information on the Detroit Boat Company or the Detroit Engine Works, either the marine or stationary engines, I would like to hear from them. Please contact: Andrew K. Mackey, 26 Mott Place, Rockaway, New Jersey 07866, or call (201) 627-2392 after 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

William J. Earl, 63 Wilstead Dr., Newmarket, Ontario, Canada L3Y 4T8, sent this photo of two popular tractors used by Canadian threshermen, situated in a field 25 miles from Toronto. On the left, a 1924 Eagle 20-40 HP model H; on the right, a 28-50 Hart-Parr built in 1929. Both tractors have been immobile since the early Fifties.