Bluebirds vs Chickadees…is it a Revolution?

As Gene promised, he came over on Saturday and we, well he, got back to work on the Pony.  Prior to his arrival, however, I had been doing some research on proper piston ring placement and orientation on the piston.  I had for the last month stewed over whether the top piston ring, which has a bevel on the inside edge, should be placed with the bevel up or down.  After really scrutinizing the ring I finally did notice a small dot on one surface of the ring.  Brother Jim confirmed what several sources I had seen had said, that regardless of my recollection about the bevel having been up on the old rings, when a ring has a dot, that dot always goes up.  Fine, the ring goes in dot up, bevel down and now when the engine won’t run, I have someone else I can blame.

In my reading I also noticed that there is a preferred orientation of the rings on the piston with respect to each other.  The idea is essentially to make sure that the ring gaps are separated (not directly above or below each other), so that excess oil will not escape.  Here’s a picture of the diagram I found to which the IB gave his blessing.

Alright, to be honest, this is not the exact diagram I sent to Jim, but the orientation it shows is the same.  This one, interestingly, came off a Pontiac web site and comes out clearer when reproduced here.  So, if you’ll recall, the last time Gene and I got together we had started slamming the rings onto the pistons, stopping at the point where I had the indecision about the top ring.  Before Gene arrived on Saturday I reoriented all of the rings we’d already installed to match the diagram.

The first thing Gene did on Saturday (bear in mind, I’m not allowed to lift anything so was useless) was to install the top ring on all four pistons.

We then worked a good amount of oil around all the rings and the pistons in preparation to insert the pistons into the cylinders.  In order to compress all of the those rings around the piston, a piston ring compressor is used.  Here’s a shot of Gene with the compressor attached to a piston, tightening it to compress the rings.

Once tightly fastened to a piston, Gene taps the piston into the cylinder as shown below.

This process actually went fairly smoothly, and it didn’t take more than half an hour to install all four pistons.  So, maybe it would be nice to do another “before and after,” this time of the “fire deck” with the valves and pistons reinstalled.

I checked the date on the “before” picture, and it was August 25th of last year.  So, it’s taken us just shy of six months to get to this point.  I do expect the pace of things to pick up, but I have to admit that learning “on-the-job,” although the best way to get a true sense of what is involved, does slow down the process.  Then too, it seems at every step there is something unforeseen that causes more delay.

For example, on Saturday, after fastening the piston rods to the crankshaft, we started to reinstall parts to the portion of the camshaft that is outside the crankcase.  First, we installed the camshaft gear, and oops, found that by doing so we had blocked our access to the portion of the crankshaft where we needed to install the thrust plate.  We were stymied then, because we now needed a tool known as a gear puller to get that gear back off, and the gear puller is out at Gene’s.  By the way, don’t forget that all of these parts are pictured on the Pony Tech tab on the home page, so if you are reading this in an email post, just click on the highlighted words in the previous sentence.  Well, actually it’s not true that all of the parts are displayed, and that’s what led to the next delay.  The engine diagram shows that after the camshaft gear is installed, the governor is attached.  When we went looking around my garage for the governor pictured in the diagram, we couldn’t find it.  Faced with these obstacles Gene left for the day promising to look for the governor back in his garage and to find his gear puller.

I got an email from Gene saying that he could not find the governor.  Uh oh, not another one of those “button, button, who’s got the button” things.  He suggested searching my garage again.  I couldn’t find the pictured part, but interestingly I found some other parts that although looking vastly different looked like they would be capable of fitting on the camshaft at the same spot.  I grabbed em, threw em in the degreaser can and decided to do some research.  I’ll make this short.  It appears that on some earlier engine rebuild a later model of the governor was installed which does look and function a lot differently than the one featured in Pony Tech.  Another mystery solved.

I spent a couple of hours yesterday cleaning the pieces of the governor and then also degreasing and cleaning the “fan drive pully” which will soon be going on the crankshaft.  It’s the only other interior part I had not already cleaned.  Today hopefully I’ll get around to putting primer on that pully, because on cleaning it, it had obvious traces of red paint.

An interesting thing The Princess and I observed recently was that a pair of Carolina Chickadees began rather brazenly hauling nest material into our “bluebird house.”  We debated about whether, you know like in Egypt, or more recently Libya, to get involved in the “bluebird-chickadee” stand-off, or to take a “hands-off,” approach.  We decided on the latter, but since then I happened to see one of the blue birds popping out of the house too.  Man, I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t want to be around when little tanks manned by birds start rolling into view.
Thanks for reading.


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