Velie

 Velie M5

Recently, several well-worn cardboard boxes arrived at the Museum containing a collection of metal parts in relatively good condition – oily and dusty, but not corroded. On unpacking the boxes, it became clear that these were parts from some old aircraft engine. But which engine? Further probing of the parts showed a manufacturer’s data plate – Velie. A what? Velie – never heard of it. An internet search showed the Velie Motor Car plant to be in Moline, Illinois. Gradually the history was revealed – a motor car manufacturer that became involved in the production of engines for an aircraft known as the Monocoupe. For its time (mid 1920s), this was a forward-thinking aircraft design. The aircraft was a monoplane and had two side-by-side seats and an enclosed cockpit in a time when biplanes had two separate open cockpits. The company name coming from the ‘mono’ (single) wing and the concept of a ‘coupe’ automobile popularized by Velie (and Henry Ford).
 
Velie Monocoupe. Aero Digest Vol.12 No.6, June 1928 (Wikipedia)
 
After inspection it was obvious that all the major components of the engine were in the boxes. Each item was photographed and the parts were laid out as per a drawing of the engine. Now what to do? Another decision point arises. Is the Museum going to send the parts to the metal recyclers, return the parts to storage, display the engine in ‘as received’ condition, restore it to its former glory – or even prepare it for further flight? With its rare status the decision was made to prepare it for display within the Museum in a cleaned-up condition.
Most of the parts were hand washed in a solvent to remove the grime of the ages. The cylinders, with their deeply indented cooling fins went to a parts washer that gave them a bath in hot, soapy water. Then they were treated to time in a glass-bead booth to remove loose paint and congealed grime.
Now for the ‘look-good-as-new’ treatment of a surface finish. As the engine was being prepared for display in the hangar the treatment could be somewhat less demanding than an operating engine exposed to the elements with a large range of temperatures and operating conditions.
 
The Velie cylinders in 'as-received' condition.
 
The threads on bolts are often a component that receive damage in an engine that has been stored in a dismantled state like this one. Damage to the threads is often not noticeable until final assembly when precious time is lost trying to fasten together two components – with damage to the surrounding surfaces a possibility. Each thread was cleaned with a wire brush and checked with a die nut of the correct specification. Sometimes damage had to be repaired with a very small file and the aid of a bright light. Light oil was added to the threads to prevent corrosion.
 
Each of the five cylinders was thoroughly cleaned and prepared for painting.
 
The other major components received a similar treatment - the crankcase, front and rear covers and access panels.
The crankcase is the most significant structural part of the engine. Here it is prepared for painting.
 
Other components that attach to the crankcase are prepared for display.
 
Finally, some of the components could be trial-assembled to see if the project was coming along without undue difficulty.
 
The project is progressing well!
 
The mating surfaces of matching components were studied to ensure they would not be covered with paint. Then these surfaces were covered with masking tape – sometimes a tedious job. Finally, the component could be taken to a suitable place for painting – in this case outdoors, as it was summer. A coat of primer was applied followed by the appropriate colour. Once dry, the masking tape was removed and steel parts coated with light oil.
The ferrous metal components suffer in storage from corrosion – common rust.  This is a difficult thing to treat as some rust removal techniques, such as sand blasting, remove the base metal along with the corrosion. So, it was off to the tried-and-true remedy used by car restorers – a bath in a solution containing molasses and water. Yes, plain old cattle-feed molasses in about a 1:10 ration with water will slowly remove the corrosion but leave the base metal unaffected. Depending on the size and shape of the object, a plastic bucket or jar will do the job. A child’s wading pool can be used for large flat objects. The objects need to be clean of all oily layers with loose rust removed with a light abrasive pad. Leave them in the bath for a few days, remove, examine, scour and replace for a few more days. A final scour and a thorough drying and oiling will make them good for our purposes. This technique is good for complex shapes with internal passages that are difficult to access for cleaning.
 
Type: Reciprocating, 5 cylinders, radial, air cooled
Power rating: 41 kW (55 hp) at 1,750 rpm
Displacement: 4.1 L (250 cu in.) Bore and Stroke: 105 mm (4.125 in.) x 95.3 mm (3.75 in.)
Weight: 108.9 kg (240 lb)

Standby for a future progress report...