21 June, 2013

For the first time in over 50 years, the Maxwell had shifted gears

I was planning on writing a post about the verdict that came from the FIA's international tribunal today, but I spent so much time up in The Garage and made enough progress on the Maxwell that I thought I should document it.

I started the week sicker than a dog and spent the next few days bedridden.  When my strength finally returned, I received a wonderful jolt by the arrival of a well-taped box from a gentleman in California.  A native of my home state, he had moved to the the coast after World War II to work as a civil engineer, prepped by his years of working on tractors at a supply store.

When his brother propositioned him to take a rotting car off his property, he was well-prepared to tackle the project that faced him.  And so began Merle's passion for restoring two-cylinder Maxwells.  He has since resurrected a few of these wonderful little cars, so he had no need for a hefty Splitdorf Model F magneto, which was made for a 1910 four-cylinder Q3.

. . .

So when the box arrived, I unwrapped it with a restored vigor and plucked the gorgeous magneto from the cardboard.  In exquisite shape, the Model F honestly took my breath away.  There are only a handful of these contraptions left in the world, and few of them are as complete and spotless as this one.  The terminals on the front are a bit dusty, but the magnets and the brass on every inch of the thing are reflective, smooth and rust-free.

The Splitdorf company had already been in existence for decades when Jonathon Maxwell began using them to power his cars.  The Model F in particular was a strong mag.  Used (in adapted form) in the next few years on Indian and Harley Davidson motorcycles, the Splitdorfs for the Maxwells utilized a special base that hooked them to the top front crankcase cover.  A gear situated between the intake and exhaust gears allowed the engine's motions to turn the magneto's stator (for lack of a better term), and this, in concert with the coil, helped distribute the spark to the correct plugs.  I'll get to the wiring description later, though.

The gearbox, as I found it (mercifully in neutral).
With the mag now proudly displayed on the mantle back at home (until my mother gets fed up and puts it away), I instead focused on working my way through the Maxwell now that the rear end restoration is at an acceptable point.

With the brakes reassembled and the wheels remounted, I started cleaning the gearbox, which (as you know) was pretty gunky.  My grandfather, the first Woodsie, had the foresight to leave plenty of lubricant inside, and thankfully this staved off the rust over the last half century.

Using a screwdriver, I picked most of the gunk off and threw it in an oil pan, but after a while I knew I would need to go deeper.  Whether this meant total disassembly or a powerful liquid cleaner, I didn't know, but either way it would be a learning process.

I sought help with the Maxwell group online, which, by now, must think I'm a buffoonish amateur who is in way over his head.  The responses were very few, but all recommended against my father's insistence on using gasoline.  ("My dad cleaned parts with gasoline all the time," he said, "on everything.  It shouldn't hurt.")

So armed with a giant jug of mineral spirits, I poured some in.  Scrubbing with a little brush, I turned the thin, clear liquid into a dirty-oil-colored mush.  Naturally I added more.

As I scrubbed and removed more material, the shifting gears spun easier and easier, and more and more of the other gears slowly appeared from the murk.  Over time and after much staring, I ascertained how this wonderfully simple machine worked.

The center shaft you see is the transmission shaft.  It spins on its own, not powered directly by the engine, and turns the driveshaft/propshaft to the rear axle.  The gears that float on the transmission shaft slide forward and backward (in the picture above, which is positioned with the front of the car to the bottom of the picture) and engage the gears on the shaft to the left (right, in the picture), which is the countershaft.

The gears on the countershaft are fixed and are directly coupled at all times to the turning of the crankshaft (powered by that small gear you see on the transmission shaft at the bottom of the picture).  The single shifting fork pivots on a shaft that sits just laterally to the hole in the picture, and it slides the transmission gears back and forth on the shaft.  This is what engages slow, low, high and reverse (which is the little gear in the upper right corner that sits below the little gear on the countershaft).

I'm pretty sure this is how the Maxwell Q3 transmission works, but I'm not positive on ever aspect of it.  The countershaft can be adjusted with a bolt head on the outside of the gearbox casing that is on the anterior end of that countershaft, and on the posterior end it sits nestled inside a roller bearing.  The reverse gear can be removed with a large bolt head that sits just below the plate that covers the aforementioned roller bearing on the posterior end of the outside of the transmission case.

Cleaned somewhat, the gears now shift.
But okay, enough technical stuff.

Eventually I got curious with my cleaning efforts, so I took a wrench and gripped the post that pivots the shifting fork.  With a relatively easy pull, the transmission gears slid backward on the transmission shaft and settled nicely against the reverse gear on the back end of the gearbox.  For the first time in over 50 years, the Maxwell had shifted gears.

Now I can slide the gears all the way through their ranges of motion, accessing all the speeds the Maxwell can provide.  Moreover, this morning I removed the drain plug (which is at the front end of the transmission case) and drained the old mineral spirits before replacing it with new.  This, too, turned a dark brown after some scrubbing, but everything is much cleaner than it was before.

For the 'afternoon session' of Garage work I dug the old, once-used sandblaster out of a pile of junk by the '50s refrigerator with the intention of cleaning the bottom of the crankcase.  As you can tell by the photo, it's a bit greasy.  I took the coarse wire brush attachment on the ancient Montgomery Ward drill and tried to clean earlier, but it didn't do a great job punching through the caked-on grease.  The big gun would be brought in, but the sandblaster was a tad incomplete.

After finding a hose to come from the sandblaster, a hose to go to the gun, the gun itself and a connector to hook it to the compressor, I began patching up the holes in the hoses with duct tape.  Once this was complete, my dad found an old sandblasting hood for me while I hung tarps from the Maxwell to catch the flying silica sand.

With some adjustment of the pressures (starting at 60, moving up to 100), I eventually settled into a rhythm and got to work on the blasting.  Some parts of the case cleaned up well, but others proved trickier.  In the end, the old compressor was working pretty hard to keep up with the 80+ pounds of pressure I used with each blast, and with the duct tape patches in the hose leaking, I thought it best to power everything down and head home for the night.

There's much more I can say about the last couple of  days, but this post is long enough, and I still have silica sand lodged in my skin that I probably need to remove.  That's another good tip if you ever want to do some sandblasting---it definitely doesn't hurt to wear long sleeves.  Do it on a cool day, too.

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