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Ford Flathead V-8 Engine Rebuilder Shop Tour Part III

We return to the Ford Flathead V-8 Engine Rebuilder photos today with Part III and look at some of the machinery used to recondition various areas of the cylinder block and the crankshaft.

The lead photo was taken in the Titus Manufacturing Company’s first building in Tacoma, Washington. On the left side of the picture, are a pair of workers regrinding Ford “flathead” V-8 valve seats, located on the top of each bank of cylinders with pneumatic grinders. Visible under the conveyor line, are a set of sharpening fixtures used for truing up the grinding stone cutting surface. This is a dirty and noisy job, and cast iron and grinding stone dust fills the air.

Next up on the line in the old building is a semi-production cylinder block boring fixture with what appear to be four Kwik-Way brand cylinder boring bars on it. Four of the cylinders are bored at a time, and then the block is repositioned, and the remaining four bores are machined. This is another dirty job with cast iron dust filling the air.

On the far-right of the photo is a fixture used for testing rebuilt oil pumps, it is not in a good location due to the cast iron dust from the boring operation getting into the oil used for the testing. This abrasive dust will contaminate the engine oil later and was located in a stand-alone spot in the new building. The pumps are visible in the metal box on the base of the machine.

This image contains a small-sized Van Norman crankshaft grinding machine set up in the new building. Near it in stacks are Model “B” and “C” four-cylinder and V-8 cranks that are usually re-ground in batches to save on the set-up time necessary between the four and eight-cylinder shafts.

And to wrap up today’s post, this worker is using a press and an arbor to insert all three of the precision camshaft bearings into the block. This modern type of babbitt-lined bearing is pre-finished on the inside and outside and does not need a second operation to be performed before the camshaft is set in place during assembly.

Share with us what you find of interest in the photographs courtesy of the Tacoma Public Library.

16 responses to “Ford Flathead V-8 Engine Rebuilder Shop Tour Part III

  1. David, referencing your comments about the dust from the boring machine…did it not use oil or some other liquid to assist in the operation, thus keeping the dust contained ? All new to me, but very neat photos !

  2. Great photos! The Kwik Way boring bars are pretty interesting.

    I especially like the Van Norman crank grinder. I run one of those machines today. Back in those days you didn’t see too many machines that ground with chucks–most of the common machines back then ground on “centers” which was less accurate.

    Again, very neat post! I’d love to see more old machine shop posts like this!


    • Also, notice the 6 cylinder block behind the man at the boring station.. Guess they were rebuild those as well.

  3. Man you hit this one out the ballpark.
    And there had to be someone named Gus or Mac there.
    I wonder if it was a union shop.Is that a union button on the cap of the bruiser to the very left in pic 1/

    • Is there a name for that type of cap without a brim? I have one just like that with the Pennzoil logo on it like he is wearing. I figure it’s a mechanic’s hat. No brim on it ’cause the brim is always hitting on something when you’re working under a car.

  4. This is a great story about production engine rebuilding in the day. Looking over the photo’s there are a lot of loose parts showing up in various places. See the cylinder head on the floor by the oil pump test area in the second picture with the cylinder boring operation. How the condition of these castings or the progress on re-machining these was taken care of may have been through the memory of the machinists? I don’t see many racks or fixtures being used to organize and handle the parts. There had to be a lot of handling damage to the machined surfaces, or so it would seem.

  5. How cavalier we were with the health of workers with no ear, eye or breathing protection.
    This is a really interesting series.
    I wonder when the old system of overhead belts was replaced by individual machines.

  6. I don’t know when electric motor machines replaced belt machines-it was a gradual thing.not all at once.
    I have heard of shops up until about the 70s that were belted.Some machines were belted,the other half electric in a lot of these shops.
    The only modernization being the belts all being driven by a big electric motor instead of a steam plant.

  7. My Uncle John Strasen (R.I.P.) was stationed in England during World War II as a U.S. Army-Air Force consultant at a Rolls-Royce engine building plant. After the war, he told me about brand new Bridgeport mills and Cincinnati lathes still in their original crates, shipped to the Brits from America, sitting against the walls while workers used “ancient” belt-driven machinery with plenty of built-in slop. Perhaps this is why Packard-built Merlins had a much better reputation for staying together while in use.

  8. Maybe it is my eyes but looks like the boring machine has bored through the cylinder wall on the second cylinder. They must have sleeved the cylinders. My dad wore those Pennzoil style hats, they were given away at the local parts house, kept under the counter and only given away to a select few. Great series of pictures, thanks for showing them.

    • I think what you’re seeing is the 2nd & 4th cylinders have not been bored yet and that is the ring’s shadow. The engine will be turned 180º and re-inserted under the boring bars to do those cylinders.

  9. I ‘m not familiar with a machine shop, modern or vintage , except that they’re fascinating to me.
    I was @ the 1996 Alex Miller auction in Vermont, and was impressed that the old fella had what looked like a complete pre WW2 machine shop set up in his barn… seemed like about the coolest “guy” hang-out place I could imagine as it could well have been its own museum…

  10. The Tailstock on the Van Norman Grinder is A 666 , as for the front gearboxes , the 666 had 3 wheels in the front , the next machine after it was the 400 , it had electric in and out fast retract on the wheel head and was stopped by limit switches , this looks like a 400 , there is one in Maine and one here in Michigan that I know of …

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