Odd Jobs

Matchless Test Plate Camera Mount Ford Clevor Head Plates
Bearing Narrowing Chamfer Plate Vin Code Re-stamping

Matchless Engine Cylinder Head Test Plate.
 Matchless Pressure plate and torque plate

A fellow at a local university was restoring an English 3 wheel car and wanted me to make a test plate for a pair of vintage heads and cylinders. That was interesting and went OK. He was really happy with the parts shown here, saying he'd share them with his club associates.  I also made a proto type tappet guide and something for an odd swash plate style oil  pump. It was a case where his sample parts were shot beyond being able to copy them well, and as I didn't know what in the world they really were, it was hard to guess exact finished dimensions. However, he liked the rough finish and crude fabrication of my proto types saying they looked original. He promised to bring in more of his parts and show me a finished vehicle but I never saw him again. It was a Pre-war vehicle I'm sure, but exactly which war, or what manufacture I may never know.

Camera Mount   I'd done some pro bono work for a woman who was trying to live in a 30 year old trailer pulled behind a pickup truck after the tech bubble burst in Silicon Valley. She felt I was just the right guy to help a friend of hers and promised to bring him over. She said he needed a mount made that he couldn't figure out so he could photograph Vulcanoid Asteroids during total eclipses and then told me a fantastic story of his years of searching and thousands of dollars spent and countless hours of effort for just a hint of their existence. I thought to myself "sure thing; I'm not holding my breath on this one. Sounds like sponsoring an amateur race car to win". But awhile later they came over and sure enough it was exactly as she said. Every word about Vulcanoid Asteroids was true.  Landon is a real nice guy, totally dedicated and mentally fit. He brought a star chart over and dove in telling me about angles, declination, parallax, and using planetary bodys to block solar radiation so redundant digital images would reduce random data corruption. What he was trying to do wasn't that hard to figure out. He did trigonometry and astronomical calculations in his head while I rough sketched an outline on a billet that could be milled to create surfaces corresponding to the celestial angles he needed to fix a twin camera array on. The design goal was to engineer alignment into the fixture so he didn't have to calibrate anything on site except an offset from Polaris and then start exposure timers . 

camera array billetLibia camera array

Then his telescope gear drive would precess and compensate for the earth's motion during the eclipse. I finished the mount in time for him to do several trial exposures in Death Valley, then he was off to Jalu Oasis, Libya, for the real event. I heard it went well. He came back alive, with data indicating several possible asteroids in that region of space. His results were published internationally and interest was sufficient to gain funding for another attempt. 

Landon called the shop in 2007 and wanted an array to hold three cameras for an event in Beijing China in 2008. We started to work out an equipment criteria much different than the Libya event which would allow location of a point in space during the day, with clear sky or cloudy, that would allow synchronization of the tracking drive at night. The new mount would have to align all camera fields of view on the right and lower edges for easier comparison of data points. It would have to be redundant, robust, and capable of being set up by untrained assistants. I knew a combination of modified sextant and forest service fire sighting table could fix most of the location parameters so I built one within his shipping size and weight limits. Then I designed a camera mount so it could be pre-aligned on distant objects, swung to the celestial fix, and engaged to the gear drive for observation. Some of the parts are commercially available items reworked for our application, some are handmade on my mill and lathe. So far it all works and Landon is headed to somewhere on HWY 5 in Oregon to calibrate the azimuth lock when his GPS says he's at the same latitude as the event site. camera array in shop

Landon and camera array

If he finds an asteroid or two he's going to name one for my shop. So if your ever in space past Mercury near the sun feel free to drop in on Fowler Automotive. We're all having fun with this project.

Ford Clevor Head Plates.

Ford Clevor Head platesAbout fifteen years ago I started building engines for a local IMCA modified race team.They were buying engine kits from a nationally known shop in North Carolina which a local race shop would assemble.They were having all sorts of troubles for all sorts of reasons. One of the first things I needed to do for them was reduce overheating damage. Their heads, blocks, and gaskets were often from different sources, modified with different templates (or no templates at all), so coolant passages and holes never lined up well. Even the parts purchased from North Carolina were never the same twice. I made this template which locates off block deck dowels to mark coolant passage holes laid out from a Ford blueprint. Then every block, gasket, and head I made was machined from this plate which doubles as a drill guide. While these engines have a number of difficult areas, doing coolant passage holes this way eliminated one of them.

Bearing Narrowing Chamfer Plate. This is another tool I made which allowed their long, stock rod, Clevor engine to run at racing speeds without bearing failure. 

bearing chamfer plate partsbearing chamfer plate set up with cutter

After the rods were narrowed in a mill (held in this plate), lightened, polished, bolts changed, resized, balanced, and generally kissed up all over with a couple of other processes they went back into this fixture to have their bearings fit and narrowed. Doing it this way allowed slight variations in rod width to be matched exactly in bearing width. Rods were all built to one master balance standard and became interchangeable between engine reincarnations. While I built or freshened up about two engines a year for them for eight years I only had to make about 25 or 30 rods. They were quite durable and didn't break until 7600+ RPM was maintained for nearly a season of races. I'd had words with their driver he didn't want to hear on that subject because Engine Expert software predicted rod failure at 7200 RPM. I'd told him to stay under 6500 to create a margin of safety but he wouldn't do that, and he kept forgetting to erase the tachometer tell-tale, and the car owner put up with it, so they explored the world of total engine failure together..... once. I don't sponsor parts abused for no good reason. They had to pay for the next engine and it never happened again.

Vin Code Re-stamping.  Now and then a special job and vehicle requires a block code or data tag be re-stamped. I started to run into this problem about twenty years ago when match number Corvettes became popular. I've gathered up quite a few stamps in various points and faces and can often modify a die that is close to become acceptable.  While there are quite a few opinions on both sides of the ethic about re-stamping parts, my position is this: If you can prove you own both the number AND the part you want stamped, we'll start talking. If you cannot, we won't get past hello. I made this location and spacing guide for small block Chevrolet engines. I make similar guides for other applications and data plates. 

vin code stamping prep.vin code stamp plateThe deck surface is likely cut to a specific compression height and/or gasket surface finish. Warp and twist is corrected also. Then the stamp area is prepared to match an OEM finish by hand lapping. A guide plate which locates off a dowel pin is then installed.

vin code stamping done.
This finished stamp is quite close to an OEM stamp. It is often an expensive project because of the shipping costs and takes some time to finish. An owner and I usually send a lot of e mail and several trial stamp tag plates back and forth to agree on subtle details before a final impression is created. Typically an original number is photographed before it is machined away so it can be re-stamped in the exact location it had before assembly of a finished component. For confidentially reasons these photographs have been deliberately blurred. 

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