Back in the mid-1990s I found and bought a T Speedster in Ohio that was built by Jess Blaker from Turlock.I contacted Jess, and he advised me that mine was one of approx. thirty that he had built, and that he built a pair in 1975 for either a Raffle or Auction in Reno. He was able to provide me with much information, and that his motors were built for him by Joe's Bearing Co. in Modesto CA.
All were apparently to the same pattern, using Model B intake/exhausts, al. pistons a cheXXie distributors.I've tried to find "Joes" to get more details, but no luck- anyone alive now who might know? I will be offering the Speedster for sale on this site shortly for $17000 but would appreciate additional info on the motor details first. There is much correspondence and extra parts with the car. I'm in SE TN, just 5 miles off I-75. One photo on my profile now, and more available on request.
Joe's bearing is long gone. The owner was Joe Costa. Someone from the Turlock area might know what happened to all the equipment. Is this a T crank or A crank engine? I built several A crank engines for Jess back in the mid 70s, thats why I'm asking,
Jess Blaker taught me most of what I know about Model Ts. He helped me with my first speedster some 45 yrs. ago. He taught me how to drive one. There was a drive in theater next to his concrete plant and that's where I learned. He would not let me use one of his cars with a starter, only the earlier cars without. He said I would learn faster, if I had to get out and crank it, if I killed it. He was right. Joes Bearing was the go to guy. They built wonderful engines and did many for me. Joe and his right hand man Grant have been gone for quite some time. Those Chevy distributors mounted sideways using dodge power takeoff pulleys driven off the end of the camshaft by a gillmer belt worked flawlessly. I had one on my first speedster. As I recall Joe had a somewhat standard short block he did. He used Chevy exhaust valves with adjustable lifters. A cam following the grind of the early Ford camshaft. Bored to what ever to clean it up with alum. pistons. One of the first ones I had done, I disassembled after I picked it up from Joe and sent the internals to be balanced. Turned out they were only off a few grams, so I never bothered doing that again. In closing I will say that I never had one blow up or come unwound. Joe built a good motor.
Dad & I bought some T stuff from Jess when he would show up at the Pate Swap Meet. He would bring 2 or 3 speedsters to sell and usually had them sold when he went home. We bought camshafts from him. He had a mild and a wild grind. I used the mild and was happy but I wish I had bought more of the wild grind! It is currently in my daughter's '14 Touring. Jess said he started with a Model C Ford grind and modified it from that. I'm not sure what kind of grind it is but my guess is that it has some overlap as well a higher lift but I don't know about the profile. I know the car sounds "mean" and runs very well!!! I haven't heard Jess' name mentioned for a long time!
Never met mr. Blaker but his estate auction is one I won't soon forget. I think about it every time I use his lathe I bought there. Almost every day.
Toward the end Blaker was using Vega distributors on the left side of the engine driven off the cam shaft by a toothed belt.
The distributor laid with the shaft horizontal, cap toward the starter.
Ford friend of mine bought a '22 fordor from Jess Blaker.
The second time I drove it the crankshaft broke.
We put in a '26 engine with an A crank and got rid of the distributor.
He later took the engine out for his '13 and sold the fordor to someone in Kansas or Nebraska. It had a cast iron Warlord.
I met Jess in Montgomery AL back in the Seventies. He let me drive a speedster that he was selling to John Cook(John built a lot of speedster bodies). It would burn rubber and sling gravel. Fun drive and fast. He sent me a diagram of his belt driven distributor set up. If I can find It I will post. It is fun to remember some of the great people I've enjoyed meeting in this hobby.
I ran a Blaker Vega distributor on my speedster for years. It ran great and was trouble free. I still have both, but the Speedster was converted back to mag and coils and the distributor is on a shelf in the attic.
Here's a version of the dizzy setup. My brother made this one.
It indeed works flawlessly.
I won't claim to have known Jess B well, but I met and talked with him many times. He was a regular on the SCVMTFC Endurance Runs during most of the years I was there often. He was a great guy, liked by almost everyone.
I don't know how many cars he ever had in his collection. But he had a lot of model Ts, horseless carriages, and some classics. Many years ago, there was a 1913 Paige speedster (a factory offering by Paige) that I wanted to buy from the son of the fellow that had restored it, but I just didn't quite have the money for it at the time. Jess Blaker bought it and I was pleased by that. I had a second chance to buy it at his estate sale, but had recently bought something else at that time and again couldn't afford it. He also had a ('27?) Marmon I really wanted but didn't get. I still have pictures of both those cars on my computer.
He had many unusual cars. I remember a stagecoach body mounted on a car chassis (model A I think). It had been done many years earlier and many people loved that thing. Jess loved to show off his collection.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Great to know Jess isn't forgotten! I believe that there were around 100 cars in the Auction, including three of his +/- thirty Speedsters! I was hoping that one of the owners of his Speedsters (all named- mine is White Lightnin')might surface.
I've never had reason to do any more to the motor than clean the plugs, and don't want to open it up.
One of my regrets is that I was never able to find the time to accept Jess' invitation to visit his Collection. Any info surfaces, pls either E or call me at 423 472 1972
Hey Wayne- remember Jess and a few of his buddies would show up for the Endurance run in their speedsters by driving in them from Turlock to Santa Clara over Corral Hollow Road thru the Livermore hills and then drive home the same way the day after and think nothing of it? Jess was truly a gentleman and a great ambassador to the hobby.
Dan McE, I do remember hearing about that. I wish I had known Jess B better. The Endurance Runs were always such busy full days, that there usually wasn't much time for visiting and getting to know people.
There are so many wonderful people in this hobby, I feel fortunate to have known as many as I have. Jess was definitely a great one.
See you again soon I hope.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
As a little side note, some of you may remember Jess had a small aluminum airplane suspended from the ceiling in one of his buildings. I don't recall if it was "Thee" plane or one just like it, that he flew, after he got his pilots license. One day we were talking about the freeway being rerouted around town and all the change it would bring and he commented to me about change he had seen. When he was small his parents lived in Ceres and they would go by horse and buggy to Santa Cruz every summer. It's a distance of around 120mi. and it took 4 days to get there going over the coast range via Pacheco Pass. After he began flying he noted that the time to go from Ceres to Santa Cruz he been reduced from 4 days to 40min. He was amazed by that.
This is a couple pictures of Barry's Speedster. Hope this helps Barry....
I found the Blaker Model T Distributor instruction sheet: Full size template and list of needed parts for set up using Chev distributor # 1110323-4 cyl. Contact me offline and I will make you a full size copy.
How was the Chevy distributor modified to work? Vacuum advance removed, springs, weights changed on mechanical advance? Thanks
Joe, I wish I could answer your question but maybe Aaron Rogahn above could answer this. If he can please post.