By Michael Calistrat
Originally published in the March/April 2002 issue of Continental Comments (Issue # 245).
My 1947 Lincoln sedan was ready to show, or this is what I thought. The paint was beautiful, the interior was immaculate, the engine was running smoothly, so I decided to take it on the road.
The first trip, evidently, was to the gas station, only four miles from my home. I did not quite make it: the engine died one mile from the station. I cranked it, and it started, and made it to the station. I bought just ten gallons, and started for home. The engine died every mile, but I was able to restart it every time. When I got home I checked the level in the carburetor bowl, and it was okay. I let the engine run on the driveway for half an hour … no problems!
So I decided to just go around the block a few times … the engine stalled every mile or so. When I got home I installed a sight glass on the carburetor bowl, of my design. I took the car around the block, and every time it stalled. I opened the hood and checked the level; the bowl was empty! So I took apart the fuel pump, which I rebuilt during the restoration, and did not find anything wrong. However, I did find a restriction in the fuel line from the tank, which allowed enough fuel to flow at idle, but not at running conditions. It was easy to fix, so I tried again.
The car ran beautifully, except that the engine died at every red light! Back home, I checked everything, and found nothing wrong. So, if nothing works, read the manual. Aha! The idle should be 500 rpm, not 350 as I set it. You see, I was so fascinated by how smooth the 12-cylinder engine was running, that I loved to watch it running sooo slow! I readjusted the idle and tried again; no problems whatsoever. I was going farther and farther from home, showing my beautiful car to friends in the neighborhood, and enjoying every minute. Boy, will I get first place at the Mid-America Meet!
But after 88 miles, the engine died again, about six miles from home. This time it would no longer start. I checked the level in the bowl and it was okay; I checked the sparks, and there were none! So I called my son, and he came with a towing chain. I hooked the chain to one of the bars that holds the front bumper, and the other end to my son’s rear bumper. We made it half way home, and the bar that holds my bumper broke! I hooked the chain to another bar (there are four), and made it home. The first thing I did was to take off the front bumper, and had the bar that broke welded back together. I reinstalled the bumper, and started checking for electrical problems. I was getting panicky, as I had only five days left to drive to the meet, only 35 miles from my home.
Tests indicated that the points were no longer opening! Sounds crazy, I know. I removed the distributor, which is not an easy chore, and upon opening it I saw that one of the springs of the hammer points (I call them hammer and anvil) was broken, and shorted out everything. Well, very simple … or is it? I called my friend, and parts supplier, Earle Brown, and his lovely wife told me that he was in Hershey, and wouldn’t be back for a week. Now I panicked! I called my good friend Jake Fleming, and he happened to have a used one on hand. I asked him to mail it to me express mail, but it was Columbus Day, and the post offices were closed. More panic; this was Monday before the Friday meet! Jake showed me what a good friend he is, and went to the main post office, the only one open, and mailed the part to me. I got it Tuesday afternoon, and by the evening I had the system tuned and ready to install.
Here comes the last blow: I was tired, nervous, and concerned about the time left. So when I put the distributor back I did not properly align the tongue in the groove (the driving system of the distributor), and when I tightened the bolts all three ears of the aluminum housing broke off. End of distributor, and goodbye Mid-America National Meet. I called another friend, Merv Adkins, and he would send me a housing, which I got one week after the meet.
All along it seemed that the harder I worked the farther I got behind. The only good news I have is that we still attended the meet as we brought our 1975 Mark IV! And, of course, as anyone who attended this meet knows, it rained the day of the show and they had to do the judging in the parking garage!