So we just bought a car... something something 90s


Not those 90s! As in, the car is in it’s 90s! :wink:


Do tell more! Like … why? And … how?

1930 Willys 8-80D, so an 8 cylinder inline poppet valve engine (not the Knight motor, but… should still be nice and smooth in operation).

Why? Because my wife’s family has been part of the WOKR club for many decades, and we’re at a point where we can get our own. This came up for sale, it’s well known within the local club, and fits what we’re looking for. There’s also a pile of Whippet parts nearby I intend to turn into a car, but this is a bit more ready to drive, which means we could take it to the meets this year, and it’s likely far better suited to some of the stuff we’d like to do, such as “taking an old car across the country.” Wire wheels instead of wooden, and a bigger motor. It’s claimed to be a 70mph car, but… I seriously doubt I’d run it up there. Mechanical brakes are not amazing.

How? eBay. We’ll go pick it up soon.


Electric conversion time! To piss both everyone who likes classic cars and everyone who likes EVs off. :grin:

No. :stuck_out_tongue:

I get the “… you’re, uh, kind of a heretic, you know…” looks when I mention things like single point fuel injection. A boost pump in the rear tank to deal with the vacuum fuel system when hot and high might be doable, but that’s probably it.

Ethanol polluted gasoline doesn’t “suck” well - it tends to turn into vapor when you try to suck it uphill, which is how the fuel system works here.

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A few more photos from the sales page…










Beautiful how uncluttered it is under the hood compared with a modern vehicle!

Only thing, where’s the battery? I found a forum post with a little googling - I think it’s for the same car - which suggested there’s a 6v battery in it somewhere…

Under the driver’s feet. Lift the floor mat, remove a plywood cover, and you’ve got the battery compartment!

I mean, where else would it be? :smiley:

Trip went well, car is back, will write more on it a bit later!

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Excellent. Drove it around today, got it up to some speed, took it to lifegroup.

Battery compartment:

The battery it came with, which is very much undersized for this compartment, but will do the job if it’s warm out. Yes, it’s a 6V battery. At least it’s negative ground, unlike my tractor… which is 6V but positive ground.

… you know, my office is on 6V batteries too. It’s a 48V pack made up of 6V batteries. So I’ve got… 12 6V batteries in active use now, and a 7th spare one I have laying around for the tractor (or the car, same thing…) when one of them acts up.

This is the battery compartment cover.

I’ve been waiting on an air filter for a while. The car came without one, and while a lot of people run older engines without air filters, we live on a gravel driveway, and I’m not OK with running around on that sort of thing without air filters. The intake is low, and behind the front wheel in such a way that I’m certain it would suck an awful lot of grit through the engine. Not good for any part of the system.

But the air filter I’d ordered wasn’t showing up, I can’t find them locally, etc. The stuff in parts stores is too big (apparently the number of people who put a high performance filter on a 2 1/8" carburetor are few and far between, and… then I looked over at the motorcycle. With a nice K&N filter hanging down that I’d cleaned recently. Turns out, it’s close enough to cinch down on the intake!

The next question was brakes. They’re purely mechanical, have a ton of pedal travel, and I wasn’t sure if they were any good or not. They also had some weird metallic chirps. However, see gravel driveway, it’s hard to really get a feel for the brakes. So I went out on the usual maintenance loop (a couple miles, with the convenient attribute of being not-that-far-a-walk home from any point), got some speed up, got on the brakes, and… hey, they work! They still need adjustment, and I still need to pull a wheel to find out how much brake material there is, but they work tolerably enough for road use right now. Not like there’s a lot of rubber on the car anyway.

In any case, I got some speed into the car, and it drives about as expected. Steering is loose in the expected way (think 1st gen RX-7, if you’ve driven one - there’s just a dead spot of half an inch or an inch of steering wheel movement before anything starts happening at the front end), brakes, if not amazing, work well enough for road use, and the car will purr along at 45-50mph if you let it. It should, on paper, go far faster, but I don’t exactly have any interest in trying out the reported 70+mph top speed of this car. I’ll just let it cruise along at my normal 50mph, slower as needed.

I still have plenty of work to do. The cables are tight and need lubrication (choke, spark, etc), the brakes could stand to be adjusted properly, the electrics are a bit sketchy (lights have a bypass switch, but I’d prefer the proper switch working, and I’ve no idea what’s going on with the original horn), etc.

But, if the weather is decent this weekend, I’ll make the drive out to get it registered. Or at least attempt to!


Are you interested in keeping it “show-stock-restored” or more looking at it as a platform to experiment with? Older vehicles (especially this old) are quite open to customizations that are relatively easy.

The particular club we’re part of is very much against much beyond “Maintain and repair it, keep running it.” It’s not going to be experimented on. We’ll repair what needs repair, fix what wears out, and just keep it on rolling!

I would be very interested in bootstrapping the tech to make efficiently-movable vehicular chassis again - 50kph cars or so. Simple, lighter weight, fewer safety features, but comfortable enough for a multi-day journey and rugged enough to be a working vehicle. They should be made out of materials and techniques that could be field repairable and restorable (and even fully copied and cloned) by a competent machine shop without the aid of CNC (not that I say you can’t use it, but that the tech should be all doable with lost wax casting or other techniques and not REQUIRE CNC or laser sintering or other forms of advanced precision fabrication).

Interesting. I wonder if you’d need to build it from an existing body to make it street legal or of there is some allowance for experimental vehicles like experimental aircraft. I’m assuming such a vehicle would be difficult to get registered for street use, but I’ve not looked at what that really requires.

There are some open source cargo bike sort of projects I’ve seen. Toss an aero shell and you’ve got an efficient velomobile sort of thing. I imagine a small internal combustion engine would power one along nicely.


Took the car down to the local town tonight, and came back on up. A few random points I’ve worked out:

  • It does leak coolant somewhere. Still working out details, but it’s gone through a few quarts since we got it, in maybe 15 miles. I’m finding them and fixing them as I find them, but there’s a possibility the actual radiator is leaking. It’s a honeycomb type, and if it is leaking, I’ll probably just deal with it until winter, and take it in to be repaired then.
  • The throttle linkage just isn’t quite right. It’s not the stock carburetor, which is fine, but the linkage for the throttle doesn’t pull it all the way open - so as far as I can tell, I don’t have wide open throttle. Probably OK on a 90 year old engine, but I don’t think I have anything remotely resembling even mostly open throttle. It’ll do 45-50, which is fine, climbing hills is a bit sketchy, so I’ll work on that.
  • I think we figured out battery drain. There’s a switch for interior lights that appears to not work (overhead is burned out). However, the dash lights do work. And were on. That would be the random battery drain…

I’m going to attempt a run to go register it tomorrow, about 40 miles round trip, with some hills. We’ll see how it goes! I may have to stop, cool, and refill with water once or twice, but I’ll make part of the run, see where I am, and go from there.

It’s very doable. Cars have existed a lot longer than CNC, even NC manufacturing. The frame/chassis at least would be more of a fabrication/welding project than a machining one. Engine blocks of today are still sand-cast; with a great deal of automation, but sand-cast all the same.

The Morgan Motor Company builds it’s frames with Ash wood even!

Well, that was an interesting morning and early afternoon! Substantially pointless, but still a nice drive.


Goal for the day: Drive the car out to Murphy to register it. It’s got an out of state title, so needs a VIN inspection, etc. And get fuel. And take it 40 miles or so, because it’s a new-to-me car, needs some miles to just get stuff loose, figure out what works, repair what doesn’t work, etc. And it’s a nice scenic drive out towards Murphy, past a gas station that sells gasoline. Not the modern option that ruins perfectly good gasoline by adding perfectly good alcohol to it.

My daughter came with, because, hey, old car trip. And she gets to sit up front there, not like there are any seat belts to worry about.

Start the car (the starter is a bit cranky when cold, I need to clean the Bendix on it - it’ll not push the gear out to engage the flywheel, and the tractor’s starter could use the same bit of love), back out, let it warm up, all is fine.

Head up the driveway, and there’s… an alarming amount of popping, farting, and generally “not going up the driveway.” Fine, lean mixture, must be nearly out of gas. Roll back down, add more fuel to the tank, try again, and… same results. Well, vacuum fuel system, maybe it’s having trouble pulling fuel uphill… so I’ll roll down the hill along the road and see how it does. It proceeds to do roughly the same thing. Hrm. A mile or two of experimenting along the road indicated that I was not going to be rolling to Murphy like this, and that something was interfering with the float bowl filling. It would idle fine, if it idled for a while it would run down the road fine, but once I got more than a few hundred yards, it would start popping and backfiring. Choke helped for a bit, but it would then bog out a bit later. M’kay.

Turn around, roll slowly in 2nd gear down the road, and try to climb the hill by our house, which it did manage. Slowly, at the limit of the fuel flow, but we got it back down the driveway. Some consulting with the local expert up the hill about the location of possible fuel filters (it sure behaved like a clogged filter), and I dug in.

Since it’s a reasonable bet that not too many readers are familiar with the old vacuum tank fuel systems:

On the firewall is the vacuum tank. This sucks fuel from the tank in the back of the vehicle, filling when partly empty on engine vacuum, and when properly adjusted, works fine until you try to climb a hill on a hot day with ethanol in the tank or something, then it struggles. You’ll notice the exhaust manifold, which dumps plenty of heat into the engine bay, right there to heat the vacuum tank during a hard climb. The copper line extending from the top right of the tank down to the post-carburetor intake manifold is the big vacuum line for sucking fuel forward. At the bottom is the fuel drain line, with a valve (carburetors tend to leak when they’re this old, though this isn’t the original carburetor either). Predates fuel pumps, and works well enough. Usually.

There are really two possibilities: The vacuum tank is empty and not sucking properly, or there’s a clog between the vacuum tank and the carburetor. Easy enough to test, just pull the fuel line, see what happens. Pulled the fuel line (and cleaned it off, it was quite gunked up), open the valve on the bottom of the vacuum tank, and there’s a strong stream of clear gasoline. No problems there.

A bit of carb cleaner through the fuel line, and… ew. The stuff coming out is brown. Well. So I cleared that out, and then set about looking for a clogged fuel filter at the carb inlet. My tractor actually has a fuel filter in the elbow for the carburetor, so I went hunting for something similar.

Didn’t find it. I did find the needle valve. Blowing some cleaner through that, I ended up with a hand covered in random of some sort. So, that’s likely the issue. Clean it out, reassemble, and test drive. Success!


Off to Murphy, about an hour and a half late.

The run out is fine, I shoved 10 gallons of Dan’s Finest Low Test Gasoline in the tank (I’m not sure how large the tank is beyond "A lot bigger than I’d realized), and discovered that I can’t register the car without an appointment. Which are currently into late June out there. Also, the restaurant I was planning to eat lunch at is closed, and has turned into a Trail Ruining Facility. They’re a side-by-side rental place that leads to a lot of people just blasting down what were formerly good Jeep trails, rutting them up, and generally making a mess of the mountain trails out there. Ugh.

The run back, into the wind, is also fine. We cruised about 45mph going out, about 40mph coming back. There’s more in the car, but not with the current throttle linkage, and even if I had more, I probably wouldn’t use it much. Doing 45mph is perfectly reasonable, 50mph is also fine, and I’m just not sure I care to go an awful lot faster. The car is happy there, the Urals are happy there, my truck is happy there, and people behind can get over themselves.

I’m still fighting a bit of coolant leakage. It likes to come out the water pump shaft. I can tighten the nut on the seal, and it solves it for a bit, but seems to start leaking again fairly soon, so I may just have to repack the water pump one of these days.

However, I did get a chance to get some more pictures out in the mountains.

Good fun. :slight_smile:


And a slightly more interesting version of that picture…


Took it out this morning and got some photos by the river. The Bendix on the starter is a bit stiff in the cold - I’ll have to go clean that out at some point, because the starter likes to turn but not engage the flywheel. Known problem with older starters, you just clean it out and oil it up.

And I got this interesting one, which is a magnet of a painting my wife did many, many years ago - of this exact car (with the previous owners) along this river, with Guffey Bridge in the background.


I decided to start messing with the electrics this afternoon. The fuse block is now tightened and cleaned up (it was really loose and intermittent), and I have, from a box up the hill, a spare rotary switch for the lighting system to mess with (that does not appear to work either). The “one touch switch” (at least it’s a physical control, not a gigantic touch screen that changes annually) controls starting, horn, and lighting. The starting and horn bits work fine, the lighting bit, not at all. Partly, this is because it’s disconnected (somewhere along the line, it got bypassed for some of the lighting), partly it’s because it just doesn’t work as far as I can tell. So, I’ve got an “unrepairable” switch, riveted together, that’s going to get some love at some point. If it’s wear in the spider that pushes contacts out, I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do, but I’ve got some spare parts for them now.

I determined that the headlight on one side doesn’t work because the bulb is entirely burned out (both filaments). So I’ve got some of those on order. I’d like the entire lighting system working as it did originally.

I also intend to find some 6V LED strips and add them to the rear, or at least put a rear window brake light sort of gizmo in.

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Looks like a fun project, lots of little bits to go with ahead of ya.

Well, bumping this, because… I didn’t get much done with the car last year. Which is to say, “It literally didn’t leave its trailer in 2022.”

But it’s been out and about this year! Lit right up (<3 ethanol free and Stabil) with a new battery, and I’ve gotten it registered finally (along with the trailer).

I now have a “working copy” of the owner’s manual, and will be doing a full lubrication change/maintenance on it in the next week or two, along with resetting the mechanical brakes in a full calibration.

Yeah. Still a hoot to drive around! :smiley: I have been out Motoring!