Old Timers Want To Push It!

By Norris Chambers

             When Clifton and I were very young our favorite place to just “hang out” was the farm work shop. Originally it was used for sharpening plows, shoeing horses, fixing buggies or wagons and other things that required mending from time to time. Horse collars and other miscellaneous harness things hung on the wall and covered the corners of the building. The original equipment was a forge, anvil, hand-cranked drill press and a wide selection of hammers, chisels, punches, rasps, files, tongs and miscellaneous tools and accessories.

            I still remember my first shop project. I placed a long, round bolt in the forge and watched it until it was a shade past “red hot”. Then I carefully picked it up with a pair of tongs, held it on the anvil and beat it into a square rod. Clifton liked it and announced that he was going to make one. I told him I would show him how but he said he could do it by himself. He hammered out a nice square rod and continued to work on it. He filed the edges and rubbed sandpaper over the surface leaving a bright shiny finish on his masterpiece. I did the same thing to mine and we were both well pleased with our first shop projects!

            We worked on many projects in the shop. Some turned out well and some didn’t but we had fun every time we attempted to build, alter or fix something.

            Probably the most difficult job we ever decided to do was to put a propeller behind an old Model T to push it instead of depending on the traction of the rear wheels. Getting stuck in the mud and spinning the wheels when attempting to move pointed out the advantages of such a system. If a propeller could push airplanes why couldn’t it push a car? We were determined to find out!

            We had several Model T’s in our junk yard. Our junk yard was nothing more than a plot of cleared pasture a few hundred feet east of the barn.. The old Model Ts had little or no trade-in value and the owners, after getting a better car, often left the old cars in the pasture where they camped or lived in a shack. The treasure was there for Clifton and me to drag to our junk yard.

            Our trusty mule, Old Jack, was anxious to drag a likely looking roadster to the shop where we began our project immediately. With the addition of a battery and a radiator refill the engine “purred like a kitten” and we considered the guinea pig ready for the conversion.

            We thought that shaping the propeller from a well seasoned oak log would be the slowest and hardest operation and our belief was correct. But many sessions of carving, sanding and varnishing produced a nice looking prop about four feet long. We extended the drive shaft after disconnecting it and secured our prop on the end. These operations took several days but eventually we had it ready to try.

            After carefully positioning our machine in the road we climbed aboard and prepared for a trial run. We believed that all we had to do to start was rev up the engine. Clifton was in the driver’s position and I sat calmly on the passenger’s side.

            “Are you ready?” the pilot inquired. I told him I was ready and to get going! The old engine made more and more noise as the speed was increased. In the rework we had left the muffler off and I could see that it would have to be replaced. With all of the noise and vibration the car was not moving. After speeding the engine to maximum a few times and getting no motion we decided that we didn’t have enough speed.

            I suggested that we install an old Chevrolet transmission in reverse and connect the engine with the shift in “low” position. This would increase the speed many times on the input end of the transmission and might provide enough speed to work. Clifton agreed and said if it didn’t work we could install another and use two old transmissions. We spent several more days in the work shop and rolled our toy out for another try. The noisy engine turned the prop much faster in this test and the car actually began to roll. But it was rolling backwards and Clifton barely had time to stop it before it rolled into a small stock trailer that was parked in the path.

            It was obvious that we had carved the propeller slopes on the wrong side of the log. We hadn’t considered which way the prop would turn when we created it. Clifton was quick to offer a cure. “All we have to do is turn it around on the shaft. That should change the direction.” That sounded reasonable to me so we reversed the prop on the shaft and prepared for another test.

            We had the same problem. Our auto started moving in reverse! A closer examination showed us that a prop does not reverse the direction of air movement regardless of which side faces the power! We intended to make another prop but we had to do some work on the farm and we never got back to that project!