I am building a speedster that I bought as a speedster, but it needs some TLC and a complete facelift. With the speedster when I bought it were some strange wire wheels that I soon learned were "Buffalo" Wire Wheels (Value ~ $1000! ea.). I almost traded them to John McLaren for a set of his excellent stainless wire wheels. He offered to trade me FIVE of his for my four Buffalos. After much thought and vacillation, I decided to keep my Buffalos. Not that they were so much better than McLaren wheels but for their historic value.
I have also been in touch with Kevin Pharis who makes beautiful Buffalo and knock-off hubcaps. I thought I would relate a little bit of what I have learned here since I do not know how much of this stuff is widely known.
First, here is a picture of the speedster after it arrived from Louisiana and was nicknamed "Jambalya":
and of the wheels:
I did not initially realize what these wheels were.
Jon - That picture pretty much proves to me that you don't really need to go to any great trouble and expense to lower a speedster. Yours looks to me to merely have a very late ('26 - '27) front spring with maybe a leaf removed to allow the front end to be plenty low enough for my taste,....harold
Yea, I like the height of it pretty much as it is. We will see how it rides once I get the engine back in it.
How to get the Buffalo wheels off was a question that I had. I have never had a set before. I found that depressing the little ratchet pawl makes it possible to turn the hubcap. I found that depressing the ratchet release with a small screwdriver while turning the hubcap would work. A large adjustable end wrench worked pretty well, so that the screwdriver could access the pawl. I was also told that some people drill and tap a small hole in the hex wrench over the ratchet pawl so a set screw can be used to depress the pawl.
Has anyone done that, and if so, how did it work out?
Here is a picture of the hubcap hex wrench that came with the car:
and the Buffalo hubcap with the ratchet pawl:
The question is: should I drill and tap a hole in the wrench for a setscrew to depress the pawl for taking off the wheel?
The wrench should depress the pawl when you slip it on the nut. Your pawl looks low, may be worn or need a new spring.
Test new Computer !!
I have two complete sets of buffalo wheels, and I also have a buffalo wrench with a screw in tab that I adjust to the wheel cap.
The parts are available to fix the pawl, I repaired mine. As you need to check your nuts before each use, I wouldn't want a wrench that only works in one position.
Jon Andy is correct, fix the hub cap not the wrench.
Ok, here is what I have discovered for the wrench and hubcaps that I have. The discovery was entirely an accident. Here are two pictures of the wrench on the hubcap:
and a second picture with the wrench TURNED OVER...
Notice that the clearance with the top of the hubcap is DIFFERENT in the two pictures! The hex opening in the wrench is TAPERED. When it is put on one way (to put the hubcap on), it is loose at the bottom and the ratchet clicks as it turns. When it is put on the other way (to take the hubcap off) it is tight at the bottom and it depresses the ratchet pawl and releases it and the hubcap comes off very nicely!
I have asked some very knowledgeable Model T people about the problem of getting my hubcaps off and the only suggestions that I got were to use a screwdriver (awkward) and/or to drill and tap the wrench for a setscrew (not necessary). Since these people apparently did not know about the tapered hex wrench, I though it was worth putting it on here.
Having said this, it may very well be the case that some wheels (and wrenches) were like this and some were not...
I believe(?) that my "Buffalo" wheels are the ones made by Tom Minocchi (father or son), and are not original Buffalos. The tapered wrench that came with them was a good idea.
Anyway, before any of you start drilling and tapping a "Buffalo" wrench for a setscrew just try turning the wrench over!
I hope this is helpful to some people.
Correct Buffalo wrench with the screw in brass pin depressor.
Very interesting. Thanks for posting that. As I suspected, my wheels are reproduction (probably Minocchis) and have a tapered wrench instead of the setscrew.
Could you please post a picture of your hubcaps for comparison with mine? I would like to see a set of original Buffalos.
Thanks & Regards,
I also have a full set of repo caps and the hex is smaller and does not fit the wrench.
These wheels were called House Wire Wheels by The Wire Wheel Corp. of America, Buffalo New York because that was the name of the company that was making them before the WWC was formed and purchased House Wire Wheel Co. WWC made new designs that they called Buffalos and continued older designs under the names that had been used by parent companies or produced under license, eg: Houk, House, Rudge-Whitworth and Ash. Today many people call everything produced by WWC a Buffalo, not just a bit encouraged by WWC putting a Buffalo outline in the center of some hubcaps! This is an original wrench made by WWC for House hex hubcaps.
I do not recommend putting any kind of hole in the wrench as they are barely strong enough and can break at the new weak point. The wrench pictured by ED is a modern reproduction that was made by Tom Manocchi but I do not believe still in production. It is made of stainless and quite strong.
Years ago many parts were made by Bill Rader and they varied a lot in size. Caps pictured by Jon and Ed appear to be such.
Suggestion: If your wrench does not fit tightly on the cap try putting a cloth over the cap before the wrench. A T shirt will take up a small amount, red shop rag more and denim Levis pants leg a lot!
Here is a cap that matches the ad.
I will continue this just a bit more because there is still something missing here. The missing part is the INSIDE of the hubcaps. That is important because that is where the return spring for the ratchet pawl is located. NONE of the old pictures show that. The spring is important because it is a bit of a safety issue.
Anyway, here is a picture of the inside of my hubcaps (after a bit of cleaning):
and here is a new spring made by Kevin Pharis:
The advantage in the new spring is that it is locked in place by the "wiggle". The trouble is that the wiggle will not fit through the spring hole in the old pawl, and the pawl is VERY hard steel. The pawl needs to be removed and drilled out from 1/16 to 1/8 inch. In addition the hubcap needs to have a new anchor hole drilled opposite the pawl to anchor the spring.
This is one of those typical Model T decisions where the question is: Is the gain worth the effort?