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Post War Flathead V-8 Ford Engine Rebuilder Shop Tour Part II

Today’s feature is Part II of a photo essay covering the Titus Manufacturing Company, an authorized Ford engine rebuilder located in Tacoma, Washington. The business opened during World War II to rebuild Ford engines and keep cars, trucks, and other vehicles equipped with them used for military or other necessary needs in operation. At that time three workers rebuilt twenty engines a month, but in 1947 and ’48 when these images were taken sixty-five men were reconditioning 750 engines a month, and over 20,000 V-8 and four-cylinder Ford engines had been rebuilt by Titus.

The lead photo contains a group of workers assembling valves and valve springs in V-8 engines that already have the crankshafts, and camshafts installed, one of the men is working on a four-cylinder engine.

Note that the first engine on the right-hand side of the image has a u-joint attached to the rear of the crankshaft. Located behind the engine being assembled on the far-right center of the image is a portable engine turning device powered by an electric motor with reduction gearing that attaches to the u-joint. At the end of this assembly operation, the device apparently was used to make sure that none of the added parts were binding and there were no sticky valves after this part of the engine assembly was finished.

Two of the images in this installment were taken in Titus’s first engine rebuilding shop in an older building in another location. View Part I of the series here.

This photo was taken in the old shop building showing left-to-right, a worker boring a cylinder on a fixture used to clear the head studs. Some of the V-8 engines had cylinder sleeves, and the man on the right is pressing a new ones into a block. The two workers on the left and center rear are line-boring babbitted main bearings in early engines.

Also taken in the old shop building, this image contains another turning device used to check the installation of the crankshaft and main bearings and possibly run-in babbitted bearings. After this operation is finished the worker places a box containing a set of connecting rod and pistons on the top of the assembly to be installed at the next station.

This image contains the area of the new building where various operations are performed on the block and the lower end of the engines. In the center of the photo are two crankshaft grinding machines and associated equipment. The worker in the near-left corner is in the line-boring station for re-babbitted main bearings with the boring machinery hanging in front of himself. The cabinet behind him contains re-babbitted main bearing caps.

We will return with Part III later in the week.

18 responses to “Post War Flathead V-8 Ford Engine Rebuilder Shop Tour Part II

  1. This is fascinating, David, and thank you.

    I wonder how much precision a shop like this would produce. Did they give more care to what they were doing than was given in the factory — maybe correcting out-of-tolerance machining that got missed in mass production? Or were they just cranking them out?

    I’m intrigued by those stations that used electric motors to spin the rebuilt motors to make sure all the parts played well together. I seem to remember reading (perhaps here) that Packard used to use electric motors to break in their new motors before they left the factory, spinning them fully assembled for an hour or so to wear the rings and bearings in. Could these test stations have had the same effect?

  2. The Titus family owned and still owns a Lincoln that was, in 1940, the first car across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which collapsed in high winds about six months later. (The video of the collapse is worth finding on Youtube.) I don’t know whether it was first across the replacement span, but it was the first to cross the parallel additional bridge that was completed ten years or so ago. The car is now on display at Lemay: America’s Car Museum, in Tacoma and, as I understand it, has never been licensed for street use.

  3. Seeing those pictures, lets me recall the odor of cutting oil. The smell of grease, oil and raw metal. As delivery man and later, a machine hauler, I had ducked in and out of many machine shops. My formative years were spent literally in a grease pit. Thanks for the memories.

    • Tom, I can identify with you, grew up working on old cars and around machine shops. For the last 35 years an automotive machine and restoration shop have been a big part of The Old Motor.

    • Me too !!!.My dad worked in a big workshop operating a british made “Prince” crankshaft rectifier machine , he overhauled some 4 or 5 cranks a day… .

  4. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but in the first photo, hanging on the backs of the first three benches, are circular, open-ended valve spring squeezing tools used to compress the spring and allow the keepers to be inserted into the lands cut in the valve stems. They look very similar to the one I have in my shop.

  5. “and over 20,000 V-8 and four-cylinder Ford engines had been rebuilt by Titus.” – Ford continued to build Model T 4-cylinder engines up to 1941.

  6. Don, no snideness taken. After a closer look I see that is not a horseshoe fitting on one end and a threaded adjuster attached. I also have a timing cover gasket in my shop.

  7. I’m hoping some of our flathead “experts” can shed some light on Ford’s use of dry sleeves. Seems I recall the late 30s and early 40s 221 cid engines coming from the factory with dry steel sleeves. It was explained that by replacing the sleeves, pistons and rings you had the same as new engine. I saw a couple of instances where people would replace only the rings which wouldn’t seat in the worn sleeves. Any information would be appreciated.

    • The 221 and 239 up until WW2 had tin can sleeves which could be knocked out and replaced to make for a cheap and easy overhaul. The Mercury 239 did not have sleeves, which gave it a bit more power than the Ford. Not rodders often removed the sleeves and went with bigger pistons. The later flatheads could be bored out as much as .187″ , so sleeves weren’t absolutely necessary, and for a time installed by the factory.

  8. The facts are: That Ford parts & services remain more available for Model “T” & TT engines, Up through the A, AA, B, BB, and ’32 to ’53 V-8 Flatheads , any of the other brands. to this day! A good reason to own relic Fords. This goes for many driveline components, and other parts, too. I don’t want to rule out other brands as they are also special, but the price goes up to keep them alive! Many are worth it, — for the enjoyment of owning them and using them!

  9. As a Sun Electric rep back in the early 60s I met the owner of Jasper Engine Rebuilders at the Checker Cab garage in Chicago. Jasper supplied Checker with rebuilt long block engines and Checker blamed the engines for running poorly due to their own sloppy work replacing carbs and ignitions.
    During WWII he was drafted and was put to work training other draftees to do engine repairing. The fact that hardly any of his students were experienced in the field taught him something. “You can’t teach somebody something if he thinks he already knows it”, he said. When he got home to his family’s small engine rebuilding firm in Indiana he fired all the old employees, hired new ones with no engine experience and trained them to do their jobs his way. Quality of work improved, returns were few and Jasper was on its way to becoming a big player in the engine rebuilding business.

  10. The first photo shows a good series of the famous K.R. Wilson floor mount (they also made mobile style) Ford V8 Engine service stands at work. Super versatile, they also had arbor adapters for the Ford 4 cylinder (A & B) engines, transmission holding and even rear axle assembly.

    One restortion shop in Gardena, CA I know, has several still in daily use. I believe I remember seeing him use the same type stand with a different arbor adaptor for the Lincoln Zephyr V-12 work as well. He bought them all from an old Ford dealer many years ago. Complete stands are currently bringing close to $1,000 on used market when they can be found in good condition. They seem to be almost indestructable.

    The KRW side mount arbors bolt onto the block exhaust port thread holes very securely and it doesn’t attempt to dangle the whole engine from the rear bell housing. This allows access to both the timing gear end and the flywheel end of the block simultaneously (handy for cam bearing removal and installation). The engine can be flipped over easily on good balance with the KRW stand for “top end” or “bottom end” work. The upper tool tray is just right for quick access to your tools for the particular task and the lower large catch tray is handy for oil drips and fallen small parts or hand tools that can occasionally slip out of hand if they are a bit oily.

    Thank you David for these fascinating Old Motor photos!

  11. What a truth.
    The fact that hardly any of his students were experienced in the field taught him something. “You can’t teach somebody something if he thinks he already knows it”, he said.

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