Some readers will recall my tale of pounding out the #4 rod babbitt on my '24 Speedster last September on a run from Oregon to Edmonton. We did a roadside repair with leather scraps just south of the border and babied the car 581 miles home. Story and photos of our journey are at this longish link, bearing stuff is towards the end:
My intention was to run the car on the leather until it gave out, or until I replaced the rod prior to out next run to the the Pacific Northwest for the NWVS Labour Day Classic this September. Since our return I ran the car at normal speeds (up to 50 mph) and acceleration. There were about 900 knock-free miles on the leather bearing as of yesterday when I put the car up on stands to reluctantly change out the rod.
First photo below shows my mockup of the actual leather and approximately how it was installed on the roadside. Subsequent photos are my findings today. I'm going to get a spare rod babbitted to suit this crank (IIRC this is something Les Schubert advocates) and carry it plus more leather when we travel.
Leather mockup. Most of the babbitt loss was from the rod, not the cap:
There was a small gap between rod and cap after installing the leather. The gap was larger on the other side and had filled up with leather:
The rod as removed from the engine. Leather had piled up toward one side and the babbitt had broken away even further (a number of bits were in the inspection cover). The crank was still basically fine with some minor circumferential scoring:
Same view with the leather insert removed:
The cap leather was still pretty much as installed in September:
I checked the other rod clearances this afternoon — all were good, and basically unchanged from when they were taken up three years and about 6,000 miles ago.
Its been a most interesting experience and has given me a fun story I can milk for years. If/when I have to do it again, a stiffer leather would probably give superior service.
I had engine that I've taken down have rawhide in the rods
I saw the thread title and said "I KNOW who that is!" And I was right. Thank you for the very informative update. I have seen several cases of leather bearings in model Ts. But usually not in such a format to follow the whole story so well. And also not usually for so many miles successfully driven!
Fantastic Thank you Chris B!
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Thank you so much for the update! I knew that the leather would work for a little while, but I never new it could last that long.
And yes -- great story that you will be able to have lots of fun with.
Hap l9l5 cut off
They take a licking and keep on ticking! Great story.
When I was about 10 I went with my dad from the Detroit area to Standish Michigan area to pick up a model t. He got it running and we took off. It started knocking and he cut his belt and had me soak it oil. He installed the belt and we drove it home. If told that story many times to mechanics I've worked with and they just roll their eyes. I know what I know. Hope I never have to do it. Now in my shop in Montana once I had a man bring in a clincher tire and a wheel with an old tire on it. There was hay sticking out the bead. I broke it down and it was stuffed with hay and an old towel. An old timer said it was so cold all winter and if you wetted the towel and hay the tire would stay up. These boys forgot more than I'll ever know
Thanks for the follow-up!
I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say that using leather for a bearing is BS or an old wives tale. Nothing like first hand experience to prove them wrong!
My dad says his dad put shoe leather in the rod bearing cap on a 28 A coupe he drove to work about every 6_8 months. This was just after ww2 when money was still tight for most in a poor farming community in south Florida. When south Fla was nothing as my dad describes it! Tim
Hal, I agree with you completely! When I was a kid in the early/mid Fifties, I heard many "old timers" talk about doing that. It was a pretty common practice around here, and not just on T's either. Dave
Maybe I'll get a rod knock and then I can cut this model t collar from around my neck my wife installed to stop me from my spending. Not.
My uncle Otto Jelf (1899-1994) told me he did this with bacon rind after a breakdown in western Kansas, and drove on to his destination in Colorado for proper repairs.
I like the bacon rind idea - it comes pre-lubricated!
My grandpa used to tell me about pulling over on the side of the road and cutting his belt to make a bearing. He told me one time his cousin Leon was in Van Tx about 25 miles away and needed oil and the best he could do was pour buttermilk in the T and drove it on home.
I guess the old timers just knew how to get by in a pinch... Tim
I'm nearly 65 years young.
In the shop I heard these kinds of stories a whole bunch of times from people I knew.
They did what they had to do without throwing non-existent money at things.
We have a local story about using bacon rind too. If I do this, I think I would use a single strip of leather or rind rather than two parts, this could help with the movement of the leather on the rod end.
I read Steve's post about oil before reading this and am wondering if the oil you use with leather bearings makes a difference.
I can imagine that the additives in modern oils are not compatible with the old fashion leather bearings and will cause premature failure.
I am also wondering if it would be a good idea to clean the leather with saddle soap and treat it with neatsfoot oil before reassembling the motor.
In fact I am wondering if you added a teaspoon or neatsfoot oil at each oils change.
Gustaf - I will not comment on the value of using bacon rind to stop certain people from stealing a Model T!
Premature failure ??? There's already a failure. I'm sure the leather was temp. Only.
Fred -You're talking like leather was installed as a permanent repair. Even back in the day, I really don't think leather was ever used with the intention of anything else but just trying to limp home or to the nearest repair garage or blacksmith.
Thanks all for your comments.
Fred, had we not been planning another major road trip, I would likely have left the leather in until it finally failed (all in the interests of scientific inquiry, of course).
Having said that, given the way it had piled up along the one side of the rod, that failure would very likely have been sooner than later. Especially so with the way the babbitt had continued to break up and away.
I should have posted that comment with smiley faces.
I was amazed that the leather worked so well and was making fun of yet another oil post.
Unless you have a high performance - modified T, any oil that dosen't have metal in it is just fine. Steve's blend will work OK.
In the olden days when I worked in a garage I used the dribblings from oil cans in my 41 ford coupe.
Chris, Any idea of exactly what type of leather was used by Bill the "Leatherman"? I mean the animal and tanning process. If so, where can you buy this?
Hi Constantine -- sorry, I have no information about the type of leather or tanning process. I can tell you it felt fairly soft. We put the smooth side to the crank.
I believe a harder leather would have had less tendency to pile up and have given better service. I planned to use the tongue from Jerry's boot until the Bill guy showed up.
My dad give$2.25 cent worth of corn for a car that did not run right come to find out it had a hedge piston in it( hedge as in tree) We went to visit 20 miles from home and 18 miles from home that rod went out, went to a farm house and got a bacon rind, wrapped it around the crank and drove home and another two weeks until he got a new rod.
Eugene, the piston was wooden??
This little two stroke with a temporary bamboo piston is making its rounds at the net again these days - so it can be done, though it won't last long
I would think that " retanned " leather used in leather clutches would hold up well. I don't remember what the tanning process is but the leather has a bit of a greenish tinge to it