Early Mechanical, Compressed Air and Acetylene Starting Systems

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Model T Ford Forum: Forum 2014: Early Mechanical, Compressed Air and Acetylene Starting Systems
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By David Greenlees on Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 07:03 am:



If you would like to learn more about the starting systems used by some of Henry Ford's competitors and the aftermarket, here is a comprehensive article on T.O.M.
covering the subject. The Volkmar unit seen above was available for the Model "T" as were the acetylene systems.

Covered in detail are several mechanical, compressed air and acetylene starting systems - See more at: http://theoldmotor.com/?p=112558


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Royce in Dallas TX on Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 07:55 am:

I used to maintain a large collection of Pierce Arrows. One of the cars was a 1910 26th Model which is a big six rated at 38 - 40 HP. It had an engine mounted air compressor which charged a tank mounted to the frame as in the illustration above. The compressed air starter could provide perhaps 5 seconds of engine rotation with a full tank of air.

To start the car when cold you would hand crank with the ignition off through all six cylinders to pull mixture into all the manifold pipes. Then you open each primer petcock on the cylinders and dribble a few drops of gasoline in each one.

If the air tank was empty you could charge it using a tire pump. Obviously we used the air compressor in the shop! If you did everything just exactly right, you would be rewarded with the car starting when the valve on the dash was opened. More often it required several tries to get the car started when cold.

Once the Pierce was warm it would start easily with the air starter.

I can't imagine having to start a big six like a Pierce or a Model K Ford using the hand crank on a cold day. It would have been near impossible for any normal person.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By David Greenlees on Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 08:50 am:



Many makers like Simplex, Thomas and others used a compression release much like Kettering used on his first patent for his electric
starter and shown here on a patent drawing. A second cam lobe keeps the exhaust valve open on the compression stroke.
More info here @ http://theoldmotor.com/?p=111314

The manual devices are usually activated by pulling out on a handle located near the starting crank. After the engine starts some systems
automatically move the exhaust cam back into position. On others the handle has to be pushed back in manually. They work like a charm
with when used correctly and I have been able to start engines as large as 825 c.i. this way


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kenneth W DeLong on Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 09:47 am:

David,Thank you!! Bud.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Grady L Puryear on Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 09:58 am:

Air starters are used extensively on offshore equipment in the oil field, trying to keep down any ignition sources. I guarantee you that the sound of an engine being cranked with an air starter will wake you up from a sound sleep, been there, done that many times.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Royce in Dallas TX on Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 10:02 am:

The air starter on the big Pierce (well actually it was the smallest six offered by Pierce that year but big compared to anything else) is utterly silent. It made no noise whatsoever. All you hear is the engine turning over.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Fred Schrope - Upland, IN on Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 01:16 pm:

Mr. Puryear
You are definitely right on the air starters.

I learned quickly not to park for the night next to a CF truck in a truck stop. They were required to shut off the truck when stopped. They usually started them in the middle of the night or very early morning. You'd have to be awfully tired to not be awakened by their air starters.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Les Schubert on Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 07:17 pm:

You can divide air starters into 2 main types
1."Air to head" as the name implies had the air injected directly into which ever cylinder was on the power stroke. The air injection would begin just after when the spark occured and stop just before or as the exhaust valve began to open. It was very popular on LARGE 2 cycle industrial engines and is used to this day
2."ring gear" 2 popular types of these. Ingersol Rand (IR) uses a vane type air motor. They compact,powerful, definitely loud!! Turbine type (axial flow usually)(TDI) A bit quiter and will work with bit less supply pressure.
In the gas fields it is common to use raw natural gas in either of these and vent it straight to atmosphere to start gas compressor engines which are typically large engines that were sometimes designed as diesels but with a reduction in CR and spark plugs instead of diesel injectors


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Charlie B actually in Toms River N.J. on Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 08:11 pm:

Can you hijack an OT thread and bring it back to T's? Top of page & lower lft. corner. From Clymer's book. While the only power is by hand it goes to show how far the accessory business went with the Ford car as far as add-on starters went.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Val Soupios on Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 08:28 pm:

My 40 hp Locomobile had a compression release that made it easy to start even in cold weather. My buddy had a Pierce that was a bear to start unless you primed each cylinder and left the priming cups open a bit to act as a compression release. I always wondered why more early big cars did not have compression releases before starters became standard. It would seem that having them would have been a lot simpler than all of the early self starting gimmicks.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kenneth W DeLong on Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 08:34 pm:

I guess if you can crank your T from inside it might save you getting out if you stall it?? I wonder if any of the pictured gadgets worked of if anyone has one on a T they use?Bud.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By David Greenlees on Monday, January 27, 2014 - 08:45 am:



Here is another one to add to the list. The Ever-Ready mounted on a Packard Four.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Terry Woods, Katy, Texas on Monday, January 27, 2014 - 10:29 am:

My Dad had a D7 Cat dozer with a 'pony' motor and had air starters on all his natural gas irrigation well engines. The pressure in the natural gas line was more than enough to get even a big six cylinder Cat natural gas motor started.


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