A Small Sacrifice

One of the jobs which has been progressing nicely in the workshop is a small single cylinder engine manufactured by The Motor Manufacturing Company of Coventry in 1898 and which comes from a motor tricycle of that date.   This is actually a De Dion Bouton manufactured under another name and is a very significant machine, not only in that it was the most successful European motor vehicle prior to the 20th century but also that the engine itself is often regarded as the inspiration for today’s motor cycle engines.

De-Dion CrankcaseThe crank case of the engine is made from aluminium and is split in two halves which enclose the built – up crank and flywheel assembly. The crank case half on the left is fitted with a newly manufactured brass oil slinger housing which is the main subject of this post.  Engines of this age pre -date modern oil seals by some considerable margin so some other provision was made in attempt to retain the rather sparse amount of lubrication (by modern standards) which they receive.  This was usually done using a “slinger” – a piece of rotating metal which was intended to throw oil back into the bearing area and which often operated in an enclosed housing like this one.  In this case the slinger housing is internally threaded and is screwed on to the aluminium crank case.  I suspect that the original one  had been screwed to the crankcase for most of its 117 years of age because nothing would induce it to unscrew.
Old Brass HousingIt certainly bears the scars of a few attempts at removal in the past and it was this damage which made the only sensible decision into an easy one:  Sacrifice the brass fitting in order to safeguard the beautiful original aluminium crankcase.  With the front cut off the threaded section, the remainder could then be carefully split and removed from the thread on the aluminium, leaving the crankcase unscathed and the brass housing itself beyond further service.

Split Brass Housing
The Coventry engine features a seemingly arbitrary mix of metric and imperial measurements and the thread inside this fitting measures 46mm with a 1.5 mm pitch.  All my machines are imperial ones so I chose to make it on my much loved South Bend lathe which was manufactured in 1943 and comes with a set of metric “change wheels” in addition to the standard imperial ones.  The South Bend is a delightful lathe to use and was manufactured in South Bend, Indiana at a factory which had been purchased from the Studebaker car company. New HousingI recently used the South Bend to manufacture a set of kingpin bushes for a 1920’s Erskine car which was a brand name belonging to Studebaker. This rather  neatly forges a common link between that particular car and the lathe which had probably each been made in the same building well over 70 years ago and 4000 miles away. What a pleasantly small world these ancient machines seem to inhabit.

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5 Responses to A Small Sacrifice

  1. Paul Thetford says:

    Great to see you back at the keyboard. Another enjoyable insight into your work and a history lesson to boot!

  2. I’m intrigued by the idea of a motor tricycle. I’m wondering if there are any photographs of the original model – and also whether such a thing exists in a more modern form!

  3. I realised I was being lazy, and after searching online I found photographs of the de Dion Bouton, which looks remarkably similar to modern versions, but much more chunky, with rugged tyres that look even heavier than those of a modern mountain bike.

  4. I’m interested in this because my mother’s family was involved in the very early motor industry and before that bicycles – I wonder if you’ve heard of Thomas Bayliss, Pin, and Excelsior motorbikes?

    • Pin says:

      Thanks for your comments Elizabeth -I see what you mean about the tyres which certainly do seem to preempt the mountain bike by almost a century. Having had a brief foray into the world of tricycles and even tandem trikes (or long barrows as they call them in the North) I’m not sure how stable this one is going to be on the road!
      I have indeed heard of Excelsior – I used to look after a Bayliss Thomas for a gentleman in Malvern. It had a 4 cylinder engine made by Henry Meadows of Wolverhampton. He simply referred to it as “The B.T.” At times when it was misbehaving I understand that this stood instead for the “bl**din’ thing”, but for the most part it was simply “Bayliss Thomas”.

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