Monday, August 20, 2018

The Heinkel Engine "Hall of Shame"

Over 13 years of Heinkel ownership I've accumulated a number of engines; people have given then to me, I've found them in various places, or people have told me about them and I purchased them.  There are a surprising number of engines out there in the USA, especially considering that maybe only a few hundred total vehicles (almost all scooters) were “officially” sold here by dealers.

One thing almost every engine has had in common was some type of major mechanical fault or abuse. Scooter engines tend the have the least damage; with car engines, each one has a hard luck story.

I present to you a “Heinkel Engine Hall of Shame”.  These are some of the best surprises I’ve come across working on engines, what I suspect happened to them, and what I’ve done (or will do) to fix them.

We'll start off slow and work our way up:

Example #1

Engine type: 175cc Scooter
Diagnosis: This is your basic "hole in the piston". The scooter still ran with an obliterated top ring, and no barrel scarring. I guess that’s why they have multiple rings!

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Heinkel Piston Hole
Fix: Simple (but not cheap): buy a new oversize cylinder, rings, and barrel. 
It was from my first Heinkel scooter:

Heinkel 103-A2, originally sold in Chicopee Falls, MA

Example #2:

Engine Type: 200cc car engine:
Diagnosis: Everybody like corn flakes, and in addition to being a breakfast staple the box can be used as a gasket:
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Brought to you by Kelloggs

Fix: This was easy. Use a proper gasket! That weird yellow green mold was a new one on me but came off easily.

Example #3:

Engine Type: 200cc car engine:
Diagnosis: Someone overheated this head, probably with a torch, until it started to melt. Aluminum starts losing it’s strength at 600 degrees and distorts at around 800 degrees so my guess is someone went at this with a torch for some reason (maybe to anneal it and soften the head for profiling? Who knows) 
This engine also came with two heads:
Fix: If this was the only cylinder head left in the world you could machine it flat and remove the low spots. I left it as is and put it away.

Example #4:

Engine Type: 200cc car engine:
Diagnosis: Ether someone tried to run a bigger plug or this is the result of a botched helicoil insert.
that hole is way too big for a regular plug
Fix: For as bad as this head looked the fix was pretty easy; I used one of these, and a regular length spark plug:
The adaptor cost less than the postage to the USA!. Here's a link to the product:

Example #5:

Engine Type: 175cc Car Engine
Diagnosis: Mice!
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Fix: This really could be any old engine case. If it’s outside in a New England winter something will try to nest in it. But this engine case was harboring something else even more surprising that we’ll see in a minute.

Example #6:

Engine Type: 175 or 200cc car engine
Diagnosis: An engine builder’s bodge. I could see how this happened, but before doing this kind of work you think they would have asked “maybe I’m doing something wrong?” But no, they went at these pushrods with a grinder.  The problem here was that they probably trying to use 175cc engine rocker arms on a 200cc engine, or vice versa. They  look the same but are different.  his person though they would make it “work” by grinding away at the pushrods. 
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
What beautiful grinding
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
I'm not sure I can fix them
Fix: I'd probably try a metal epoxy and reshape them. I'm filing them away for now.

Example #7:

Engine Type: 200cc car engine:
Diagnosis: Snowflake shards of metal and oil that looks like silver nail polish are sure signs of a blown bottom end crankshaft bearing.
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
those snowflakes are busted metal!

Fix: Send the crankshaft to the Heinkel Club of Germany ( and get them to rebuild it. The cost is around 300 Euros. I tried to have this fixed in the USA but could not find anyone willing to undertake the task.

The same engine had a different (but related) issue. Take a look at this clutch bell. Notice anything missing? If you guessed a whole section of the clutch side itself, violently separated from the main clutch bell, then you are correct:

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
There's something missing...

Example #8:

Engine Type: 200cc car engine:
Diagnosis: Attempting to push start a car that couldn’t possibly go anywhere because the crankshaft was locked up.  When you push start a car you are basically attempting to start the car by spinning the tire, which is not how the car was designed.  Depending on the gear you use and the age/ mileage of the engine you are putting tremendous strain on internal components. In this case the clutch plates took the first hit, in declining order from the main clutch spring. You can see how the tabs are more progressively worn the closer you get to the outside of the clutch (where the diaphragm spring is located).

When I took it apart I found the missing piece at the bottom of the crankcase. 
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Clutch bell with missing part

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
The busted piece

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters

Fix:  It was serendipity that this piece broke away - I was going to weld it back on, but when I saw the stress cracks throughout the clutch I abandoned that idea. I’ll store this with the abused cylinder head and fix it only if I’m desperate.

Example #9:

Engine Type: 200cc car engine:
Diagnosis: Stupidity on my part! I can give you the diagnosis because I’m the one that caused the problem by overreving an engine into a freewheeling state on my test rig. According to my machinist, in an overrev situation the valves usually collide with the piston and trash the top end. In my case the rod bent. I also toasted the bottom bearing. At first glance nothing looks amiss, until you realize that the connecting rod is supposed to be straight! This connecting rod bent in two dimensions.
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
It doesn't look so bad...

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
A bend to the back (or front)

A bend to the left
This is an example of a bottom end when the bearing has been destroyed:

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Fried bottom end bearing
Fix: There’s no economically viable fix. Thank goodness for parts engines! I’m going to use a spare crank. 

Example #10:

Remember that mousy engine from example 5? It had a mystery that I could only solve after having my bent connecting rod:
Engine Type: 175cc car engine:
Diagnosis: Broken connecting rod smashing through an engine case.  I never understood the hole in this engine case:
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Mystery Heinkel Engine Hole
 Take a closer look- the force came from within and made the hole:
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
It came from the inside!
 Which was also a convenient second entrance for the mice.
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Heinkel Engine Hole
Fix: None. just a mystery solved. I've been using the engine to mock up the alignment of the new floor I put in my second car. 

Well that's enough problems for a lifetime? Do you have any Hall of Shame Candidates? If you do please send them over and I'll post them. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

I’ve been busy!

I haven’t posted for some time but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing Heinkel things. Far from it! I restored a Heinkel 103 A1 scooter and I made this:

I fabricated the entire side of this Kabine

Installed new roof parts too!

I never welded or did metal fab before this

Over 50% of the metal is new

From this:
One word to describe it- SAD!

The wood is a structural element

A lemon from which to make lemonade

At least the colors are bright

It’s taken me over three years, during which time I learned to weld, take a coach building / metal fabrication class, made my own bodywork tools, and hammered a lot of metal! Over half of the car is new metal that I either fabricated or got from Jim’s Microcars Parts.

The car is off to the body shop for plastic fill and paint! I’ll be posting some snippets along the way so stay tuned.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Tax Evader

Tax Evader

I purchased a collection of Heinkel parts recently and found this gear selector indicator:
Heinkel Cars and Kabines
Heinkel Car Gear Shift Selector

Notice anything missing?

It turns out that in the UK you could register a three wheeled vehicle as a motorcycle and pay less road tax. It must have been significant (or the purchasers of the vehicles were stingy) because there was a catch- the vehicle could not have a reverse gear.

Microcar manufacturers appear to have removed the reverse option in several ways:
  1. Don’t install a reverse gear;
  2. Make the cable or shift linkage in a way that it was impossible to access reverse (or fourth gear, take your pick);
  3. Make a shift selector that precludes shifting into reverse.
I’ve experienced the latter two. My first car had either 4th or reverse (not both) until I installed a longer cable from the UK club. And now here’s an example of a no-reverse shifter gate.
Heinkel Cars and Kabines
Heinkel Gear Selectors

Does anyone need one for an “authentic” restoration?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Midwest Microcar Museum

There’s a number of microcar collections in the United States, which is surprising if you stop and think that many of the cars you see there were never officially imported into the country. Anytime I’m anywhere close to one I always try to visit. The hosts are invariably fascinating and welcoming. Over the weekend I visited the Midwest MicroCar Museum in Mazomanie, Wisconsin. Mazomanie is about 20 miles northwest of Madison, the state capitol, and about a three hour drive from Chicago.  

Heinkel Cars, Kabines, and Trojans
The museum opened in August 2015
The museum is in a former blacksmith shop in the historic center of town. The owners of the collection, Ingrid and Carlo, have built up quite a collection of small cars and motorized bicycles over the years. Their son Sven found the building for sale on Craigslist, and as the say the rest is history. 
Heinkel Kabines and Cabin Scooters
The museum is in a historic blacksmith shop
I wanted to go to the museum because they had a Heinkel 153 in an original dark red color. This car is exactly the same color and model as a Heinkel I am currently restoring. It seems to be a mostly original car and has some special features including amber turn signals mounted below the headlights.
Heinkels, Trojans and Cabin Scooters
A Heinkel Kabine 153

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Heinkel Car Interior

That’s not the only Heinkel that they have. They also have a Perle, a two stroke moped that is rarely seen in the USA ("rare" is relative; there are only about 25 Kabines in the USA and maybe 5 Perles). 
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
The Heinkel Perle. Paint is hammered silver color

The Perle had a number of contemporaries from other German manufacturers such as NSU. They have a few of these as well, which are really quite beautiful.

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Other 1950's German Mopeds

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Another beautiful moped at the museum
Most of the cars are accompanied by informative signs that explain the history of the vehicles and provide some historical context. 
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Informative signage at the Microcar Musuem
They have a few American microcars, including a Bantam and a Croseley. 
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
American Bantam at the museum
I’m partial to the European cars because they tend to be the most unusual. One of my favorites was the  Biscuter from Spain, which is basically a micro version of a woody wagon.  
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
A Biscuter from France
 Some of the French cars tend to have the most unusual styling. Here’s an example of a 1951 Mochet.
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
1951 Mochet three wheeler

What English cars lack in styling they more than make up for in unusual engineering. A case in point is the Bond. This car is front wheel drive, but there’s only one wheel and it is attached the Villers engine which also turns. 

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Bond with moving engine

They have a variety of two wheeled vehicles, only a few of which are currently on display. They have acquired another building nearby in which they will display the two wheeled collection starting later this summer.

Here’s an example of a Valmobile foldable scooter. This was originally kept by a pilot in his plane for use as ground transportation. 
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters

There are a number of other cars to see as well. I’ve included some photos below:
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
A Goggomobil
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
I'm not sure what this is but I like the paint scheme
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
A Vespa 400

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
BMW Isetta

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Velorex- a fabric covered three wheeler from Czechoslovakia

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Messerschmitt 200

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooter
Vespa Ape- a 500 cc 3 wheeled industrial vehicle

Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
Another vehicle I can't identify!
Heinkel Cars and Cabin Scooters
A  Reliant Robin
You should definitely visit if you are any where nearby. They ask for donations, which they give to the town for charitable causes and local events.

Their address is 103 Crescent Street, Mazomanie, WI. You can find them on Facebook at, or thier website at,  Check with Facebook for open days.