The Restoration of a 1926 New Zealand Raceabout
After I got the car, I discovered that there were a few problems, most to do with it sitting in a museum since the 70's an the fact that it had been driven all over the New Zealand between 1964 and 1974. According to the museum, parts of it saw first light in 1931, where the motor fitted to another vehicle, raced on the Beach at Brighton. The speed is reputed to be 100.6 MPH, not bad for a T motor. The car itself was constructed in 1960 by John and Richard palmer with a different motor and rearend. John Palmer was dealer principal of three Ford outlets in Canterbury NZ, a firm that his own father had started, and he remains very active in veteran and vintage car circles. I'd like to thank Mr. John Stokes from NZ who 'stumbled' onto the original builders and passed the information along. The truth is always better than a rumor and I now have a more correct history.
What started out as a simple project to ‘clean and touch up the paint’, developed into a ‘frame off’ rebuild as discussed below. My intentions were to put the car back the way it was rebuilt in the mid 60's but add a few touches of my own. Along the way I discovered that the transmission bands, namely the brake band, had disintegrated spreading small brass wires through out the motor. I've never seen bands with brass wire mesh in it before and some of the small pieces were lodged in the rear main babbit however salvageable. Further inspection showed that all of the bushings in the transmission were worn out mainly the triple gear and needed to be replaced. By this time I had the car down to the frame. My classic car club friends kept saying ‘as long as it’s apart, why not fix so-n-so…..’. Well that’s how I got a runable car to a pile-o-parts in no time at all. (I’m sure that this has never happened to anyone else.) So once doomed to this path I started. My wife was a bit upset abut storing the fenders in the spare bedroom but soon got over it.
Transmission: I replaced all of the bushings and gear pins as well as the tail shaft rivets, clutch spring and longer band springs. As the drums were OK I had Dave at Chaffin’s insert bearings and pins, bought new Kevlar bands, rear bearing and finished the transmission. I forgot to put the bands on before the hogshead and made a discovery. In a RH drive car, start at the rear band and move forward.
Motor: Not much to do here. At the time I couldn’t afford a new babbit job so I set the clearances the best I could. IF I find that I need to after its running, I’ll upgrade the crank, rods and have new bearings installed. At the same time I’ll find a better grind cam. The last owner had replaced the pistons with 0.040 over aluminum ones. I replaced all of the internal and external oil lines and re gasketed the pump. The pump, I have been told, is a single stage unit oil heater pump from the 30s. All that copper and brass will be a pain down the road but it looks better and more period. I also made some home made tubing clamps out of .050" 5052 Al that look a bit more authentic than aircraft type to secure the tubing. I got the period wire from Sacramento Vintage Ford. The generator was way too heavy for the mount fabricated on the left side of the motor and blocked #1 sparkplug. It looked as if it had cracked and been replaced many times in the past. I decided to go with the smallest 12V alternator I could find with an internal regulator. A local shop that makes alternators for emergency vehicles and street rods had a small, Nippon Denso 60A unit that was perfect for about $110 as I remember. Email me if you need to know more about what model it is and where I got it. The motor was missing the rocker cover but I was able to get close to the proper one from Dan McEachern. It fits better than the ones from local vendors that aren’t for the C-35. I also replaced the valve cover and plate over the unused ports in the block with the finned ones from Snyder. Just to confuse my Model T friends, I painted the block less pan, and oil pump Ford Model A Engine Green. Everything else is black. Because the car is RH drive and my brain is LH drive and I almost killed myself the first time I drove the car, I decided to redesign the throttle and spark linkages. To my brain the throttle should be on the right and spark on the left. A RH drive is the other way around. This caused me to blitz through a stop sign while retarding the spark which had very little effect on velocity. Being the brakes weren’t too good at the time I got the attention of a woman in a BMW who was talking on a cell phone. Good thing the pedals are in the same order. The original radiator was shot so I had it re-cored too.
Carburetion & Exhaust: The carburetors are Tillotson U1As that came off of a tractor in the 30's and an outfit back east said that they would build a gasket kit for $250.00 each!! One hour with Corel Draw, a friend’s laser plotter and some gasket material and I had three sets with a perfect fit. Total cost, $10.00 for materials and a 6-pack of beer. At the present I intend to keep the intake-exhaust manifold and replace the exhaust pipe to clear the Langs brake system (poor mans Rocky Mountains). I was told that this brake kit wouldn’t fit a RH drive car, but with some different parts I fabbed it does right well. I hope to redo the headers to something better but that's waaaay down the road.
Body and stuff: I kept the original (1970s or later) paint on the fenders, hood and gas tank, which by the way has a 36.7 gal capacity and must be a record for a speedster. Now the car has the non-stop range better than my kidneys. The body side panels and seats were repainted using Rustolium Safety Yellow to match the color and type. My wife has told me what color the seats and kick panels will be and patterned after a 1913 Mercer Speedster. We are going with a brown instead of the original faded red. Two of the best things that I did was to have the fame and rims powder coated. Most all of the wood in the car needed to be replaced or refinished. The ‘bed’ is made of stained hard rock maple and the rest is stained poplar. I was able to keep the original gas tank supports and frame covers by the motor (I forget what the proper name is). This combination best matched whatever woods were originally used. I made a storage area under each bucket seat by lifting the cushion and will be adding pouches in the kick panel coverings as well as a matching wooden tool box on the RH running board. The floorboards are finished with Battleship Gray linoleum and trimmed out with .625" wide AL mitered strips along with 104 screws. I have completed the wiring diagram and installed all of the wiring for the car using vintage looking cotton covered, vinyl coated wire. I had hoped to stay with the classic Model T wire colors but lost sync somewhere along the line. Besides no two Speedsters or Raceabouts were ever the same, so all bets are off and anything goes.
Miscellaneous crud: I hope to have a set of ‘Rally’ type wind screens done in a few weeks but until then I’ll ware goggles and keep my mouth closed. I still need to find a way to secure seat belts. However as my head is the tallest point in the car, I don't think I'd want to stay with the car in a roll over anyway. Last time I used my head as a roll bar in the Army I was goofy for a week.
I started the motor yesterday for the first time in 6 months. It runs, loud but runs. I Can’t tell if rods and mains are noisy because of the exhaust noise from the open headers but the oil pressure is 60psi at idle and 90psi+ at 2000 RPM. If I had the seats back, I’d drive it after checking for lose hardware and adjusting the bands. There were a few oil leaks in the copper tubing fittings and many gas leaks, most of which were fixed with one more ‘grunt’ on the wrench. The Autopulse fuel pump was the biggest source of leaks what with the home made gaskets and such. Would anyone have a manual on this type of pump?
That’s where I am mid July. The seats are out for upholstery and then I’ll have the kick panels and cowl done next. The CA license is “26 KIWI” but I’ll still keep the NZ plate and hide the CAL one until I get stopped. My wife was very happy to get the fenders and hood out of the spare bedroom before the grand kids came last week. So life is good so far. I poked two holes in the hood to clear the velocity stacks and secured the original leather hold down straps. Due to clumsyness I have to color sand the cowl and touch up the hood in a week or so.
Next biggie... exhaust and finish upholstery.
First of August: The exhaust is finished but for the heat shield on the muffler. Added a hand bar to the dash and braced it to the firewall. Pat needed something to grab on to when traveling at brake neck speeds (40mph +). Still working on a windscreen design that would fit the period. The monocle is way to early besides everyone has one of those it seems.
GOT MY SEATS back with the new upholstery. They were able to copy the general style of a 1913 Mercer and look great. Next week I'll get the kick panel done. Drove the car down the road for the first time today. Need to adjust low and rev.
This is how I wired it if any one is interested. Raceabout Wiring Diagram
Well now all of the above items are done and it's on the road as of 8/27/2004.
The following pictures are in some sort of order, start to finish, but don't bet on it. I'll just keep adding pictures as I go until it's finished. The Cal Rods at the NHRA Motor Sports Museum in Pomona is interested the car for an up and coming 'Twilight Cruse Night' honoring 'street rods of the past' and, because the car is more of a 30's street rod than some of the true speedsters on the NWVS site. I came within 5 points out of 500 in getting 'Best of Show' at a big SoCal Hot Rod show a few months ago. I was beat out by a $500,000+ Boydster. ...Damn, money does buy things...
Enjoy the pictures and email me with any comments, suggestions or questions.
For I get to far, I'd like to thank a few friends for help along the way.
Chuck, Scott, Brent, Tommy, Don, Dickie and Ken. You know who you are, thanks guys, I owe you.
Upholstery by Citrus Auto Upholstery, Covina CA
I've had two major starter failures in the last two months, both attributed to worn out starter snout bushing and 12V. I decided to rebuild the starter and convert it to 12V. I never got around to taking photos of the project for some reason but here's how another person has done it. Starter Conversion to 12V.
I will have to pull the motor in a month or so to replace a broken tooth on the starter ring gear. It busting was the main reason I rewired the starter to 12V. It now sounds just like a 6V car. (Changed ring gear 9-2005 and now life is good.)
Added a period spotlight thanks to Don Allen.
Found a Stewart model 1000 Speedo' and now looking for the cable and hardware for the front wheel drive.
I've been driving the car for almost a year now with out to many problems. The carbs still leak causing it to load up. I have to tighten the jet and dump tube about once a month. I did replace the stock points with a Pertronix ignition with a bit of difficulty. I was forced to make a new shaft and cam to fit the replacement parts but it's working fine. I added some pictures at the end of the progress pictures. The big surprise is that the car has won about 7 awards at some rather big car shows this year. The next big step is to install a 3.00:1 rear-end gear set after we finish Kens T. I decided to go to higher gears to keep the motor from over revving at 45 to 50 MPH. With the old (3.68:1) gears I never have had to use the Ruxstull even in the mountains.
12-17-05 I now have the new gears, shims and seals for the rearend. Hope to do the swap the first of the year.
5-3-06 Well haven't done to much to the car but drive it. We picked up a 54 Pontiac and it's blocking the garage, but I do get the '26 out on occasions. By the end of the month I'll be retired from Rockwell Collins and will have to start working on the house. So I still haven't changed the rearend, but it's on my list...... BIG list. Ive been taking a welding class at Mt. Sac for the last semester and have discovered a new respect for good welders. It's as much an art as anything. The object of taking the class is to build a new set of headers, exhaust and the Cyclops II..
6-26-06 I am finally retired from Rockwell. Can't say I miss the place, just the people. I haven't changed the gears yet because I'm waiting to get a new driveshaft and U joint.
10-9-06 I won a trophy at the Hot Rods and Airplanes Car Show last week. So that's a good thing. I wrapped the exhaust in fiberglass exhaust wrapping tape more for looks than anything else. Now I'm still waiting for a new driveshaft to upgrade the rearend.
This site was last updated 11/13/09