Question on early autos

This. Best spark timing (i.e. for best efficiency) for engines is significantly before TDC, but if you have it set for that when you’re hand cranking the engine very slowly, there’s a fair chance the combustion event will develop enough pressure before reaching TDC to spin the engine backward, providing a nice surprise for the cranker. The solution is to retard the spark until at/after TDC, assuring that when the mixture does ignite it definitely will drive the engine forward instead of backward. Late ignition means not much of the energy is converted to mechanical work by the piston, which means you get high exhaust temperatures, so you don’t want to run the engine for long like this; once it’s started, you have to advance the timing back to something before TDC.
AIUI, this (inadvertently spinning backwards on startup) is also an issue for kick-start motorcycles that have large displacement and few cylinders: it was/is important to slowly crank them to the right point in their cycle (and for some bikes, manually retard their timing) before applying a vigorous stomp on the lever, lest it suddenly spin the engine backwards, typically injuring your ankle or knee. Here’s a bunch of instances.

This kind of thing was the impetus for the invention of the electric starter. A good friend of the head of Cadillac had his jaw broken by kickback, after gallantly offering to crank a stranded motorists car. He later died of complications. So Cadillac tasked Charles Kettering to come up with a practical electric starter. He held a number of patents for automobile patents.

One of the automobile forums had a discussion on the last production vehicle to have manual start as an option or, ability to start manually. It might have been a car like that, some French job in the late 1950s.

My Honda Civic hatchback from 1985 had a manual choke. With the manual choke on full, while vigorously pumping the accelerator, you could guarantee it would start in -40 weather without a block heater… as opposed to the 1991 Honda Civic that had fuel injection and started in any weather.

Wow, man, weed really has been around a long time.

I suggest that most readers would be fascinated by looking at a detailed Model T explanation site. SO many differences from later/modern cars.

Also: When cranky old Henry was finally induced to replace the T (because they were losing sales massively to much more modern competitors), he shut down Ford. *All *of it. The whole Rouge. *All *of the support industries like their own coal mining and steel- and glass-making plants. All of it. I’ve seen estimates that it idled one-sixth of the workforce in America.

And THEN started designing the Model A, which took many months to get ramped up into production, while workers sat without work or pay. A struggling competitor named General Motors made hay the whole while, which is why Ford ended up America’s second-biggest automaker after absolutely dominating the first 25 years of the industry.

Yes, this is how your vintage Harley usually got even by kicking the pants off you when you did not get the kick pedal in just the right spot.
And sometimes when you did.

Triumph TR3 B had crank starting into the 60’s and the TR4’s, Spitfire but i dont know if US import did, VW Beetles could be started with a rope starter into the 60’s (rope like a lawn mower or outboard motor)
And i remember them on the toyota landcruisers, but i cant say how well they worked on it, never had one.
possibly others but that is a few that i remember in the USA.

I had a 1959 TR-3 and a 1961 TR-3 but I don’t remember either of them having a crank—not doubting your word; my memory is slipping as I get older. I worked as a VW mechanic for quite a few years back in the 1960s and 1970s; the old 36 HP engines were easy to start with a rope; I’ve done it myself. I never tried it with any of the larger engines.

I seem to remember my '59 AH Sprite (LHD version) had provisions for the hand crank on the crankshaft pulley but never saw the crank itself

I had a '66 Morris Minor (Not the Mini, this looked like a 48 Ford that shrunk). It had a starting crank, the front plate swung up and there was a hole in the bumper, one below the grille, and a fixture on the crankshaft nose. The crank itself was also the jack handle. The drill was much as described above, car in neutral, choke set based on temp, crank once with ignition off. Then switch on, you pushed down on the crank with the palm of your hand, with the thumb on the same side of the handle as the fingers. This way if it did backfire the handle just popped out of your hand instead of breaking your thumb. I could usually get it to start on the first or second try. Then you run back in and move the choke back about halfway before it stalled. Then you got back out, put away the handle (The fitting on the crank nose spit out the handle when the car started). re-set the front plate, and off you went.
The car also had an electric starter, but it was from Lucas Electric.

Wow. This created a nice flashback to my old VW Beetle. I remember (now) a couple times starting it up by borrowing the rope from the lawnmower.

Hadn’t thought of this in ~mumble~ years.

Pushing it down a hill and popping the clutch doesn’t count? I haven’t done it on my 2015 Honda Fit, but I’d imagine it still works for any new manual transmission, right? I distinctly remember helping my family members do it several times through the 80s and 90s. And they weren’t antique cars, either.

I used to have a 2003 Nissan Maxima with a manual transmission. I tried a hill-start once, and found that the ECM refused to run the engine (fuel, spark, all that stuff) until/unless I turned the key all the way to the start position (not just the run position). I mean the engine would spin - it had to, since the wheels were driving it - but as soon as you pushed the clutch pedal in, the engine would spin to a stop.

Among the Type 53’s innovations was the first electric starter and key, so they were not just available but common by 1927. The mass-market Austin Seven had a key-operated electric starter from 1923.

The Citroen Ami came with a hand crank in case of electric starter failure right up until its retirement in 1978. There’s a Top Gear episode where James May buys one at auction and (I think) actually has to use the crank.

Here is an animation showing a four-stroke cycle engine, but it isn’t quite correct. The spark should be a few degrees before the piston reaches top dead center to give the resulting explosion time to get rolling and exert a maximum push after TDC has passed. IIRC, in my ancient Volkswagen it was 7-degrees before TDC at idle but the distributor had centrifugal weights to adjust the advance to be optimal for a given RPM. Most auto-makers had switched to vacuum advance by that time.

Either way, like naita says, when starting you wanted to retard the time the spark happens to a lot closer to, or even on TDC, to ensure the piston carries on through the cycle instead of backing up.

That’s true. A typical old school V8 will have the ignition timing advanced as much as 50° to 52° or so BTDC under certain conditions, like when cruising on level ground at steady speeds. This is a combination of the initial or crankshaft timing, distributor and vacuum advance. All of this is done electronically today, but the advance curves are the same. An engine with a lot of initial advance, above 15° or 20° say, will “kickback” against an electric starter too. Drag racing engines used to have a switch to disable the ignition because of this. The idea was to get the engine turning over and some inertia, and then activate the ignition so it would start.

I seem to recall my buddy’s Lada had a crank start and it was an 83 I believe. Tough little bastard, too. He rear ended a Ford Galaxy and wrote the Galaxy off. His car came through with a destroyed bumper. Never plugged it in the whole time he owned it and it started even in the bitterest winter day in Winnipeg. It finally met its end when he slid it off an overpass off ramp and rolled it 7 times.

The Prince of Darkness

I started a 1600, by accident, while adjusting the valves.

You know the deal, jack up rear, pop off bail and valve cover, turn rear tire to get engine where you want it.

pop pop vroom (Vroom meaning gerbil chirping sound), oil in the face, wth?!?@#@?!?@#@!
yea key was on.

I do not imagine it would be hard to crank one, i have started aviation converted ones by flipping the prop, and they kick over pretty easy.

Heh. I own a 74 Beetle. I’ve never tried to hand crank it in any way (or tire start it :stuck_out_tongue: ), but I know how easy it is to push start it. I also imagine that it’s pretty easy to hand crank one.

“Gerbil chirping sound” is also one of the best phrases I have ever heard to describe the sound of a VW engine. I’m going to have to start using that one myself.