Printed Part Gets Classic Truck Rolling

When working on classic vehicles, and especially when modifying them outside of their stock configurations, things can get expensive. It’s a basic principle in economics: the rarer something is the more money somebody can charge you for it. But if you’ve got the skills and the necessary equipment, you can occasionally save yourself money by custom-fabricating some parts yourself.

After changing the gear ratio in his 1971 Ford F100, [smpstech] needed to adjust his speedometer to compensate. Unfortunately, a commercial speedometer reducer and the new cables to get it hooked up to his dash would have run into the hundreds of dollars, so he decided to try designing and 3D printing his own gearbox. The resulting development process and final product are a perfect example of how even a cheap desktop 3D printer, in the hands of a capable operator, can do a lot more than print out little toy boats.

The gearbox contains a large ring gear driven by a smaller, offset, spur gear. This compact inline package drops the speed of the input shaft by 25.5%, which [smpstech]  mentions is actually a bit slower than necessary, but it does give him some wiggle room if he decides to change his tire size.

Even if you’re not looking for a speedometer reducer for a nearly 50 year old truck, there are some lessons to be learned here in regards to 3D printed car parts. The first version of his gearbox, while functional initially, ended up looking like a deflated balloon after being exposed to the temperatures inside the F100’s engine bay. His cheapo PLA filament, which is probably fine for the aforementioned toy boats, simply wasn’t the right material for the job.

[smpstech] then reprinted the gadget in HTPLA, which needs to be annealed after printing to reach full strength. Usually this would involve a low-temperature bake in the oven, but he found that simmering the parts in a pot of water on the stove gave him better control over the temperature. Not only did the HTPLA version handle the under-hood conditions better, it was also strong enough that he was able to use a standard die on the connections for the speedometer cables to create the threads instead of having to model and print them. Definitely a material to keep an eye on if regular PLA isn’t cutting it for you.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen 3D printed parts used to get a vintage vehicle back on the road. Building these custom parts would have been possible without a 3D printer, of course, but it’s a good example of how the technology can make these types of repairs faster and easier.

[via /r/functionalprint]

Repairs You Can Print: A Turn Signal Switch For A Chevy Corvair

Running a classic car is often an easier prospect than a more recent model, as the mechanical parts have a tendency towards commonality between models, simplicity, and maintenance using basic tools. However assuming some level of parts availability for your model it is not usually the running gear that causes headaches. Instead, it is the smaller and less durable parts, the little plastic pieces that formed vital components but have not been manufactured for decades. These are the parts for which the advent of accessible 3D printing has been a revelation, suddenly the owner of a wreck need only to have basic CAD skills to deliver the goods.

A Chevy Corvair (not [Ken]'s one). Greg Gjerdingen [CC BY 2.0].
A Chevy Corvair like [Ken’s]. Greg Gjerdingen [CC BY 2.0].
[Ken] has a ’63 Chevy Corvair, an attractively-styled motor notable for its rear-engined layout and air-cooled engine. And it seems his car is plagued by the same issue as all other early models, a failure of its turn signal mechanism. The version fitted to later cars is a vastly superior replacement, but required some modification to fit his ’63 model. Even after modifcation, the updated part had a plastic component that was too long for his steering wheel. Would he grind down the later part to fit, or go with a later wheel? No, he turned to Google Sketchup, and 3D printed a replacement of the correct size. He does admit that it’s not perfect as the signals cancel at a slightly different point from where they should, but since he’s been using it for four years it appears to have done the job.

We wish [Ken] every success with his Corvair, and indeed can’t help envying him a little for owning it. Some of us have been known to dabble in older metal, too.


This is an entry in Hackaday’s

Repairs You Can Print contest

The twenty best projects will receive $100 in Tindie credit, and for the best projects by a Student or Organization, we’ve got two brand-new Prusa i3 MK3 printers. With a printer like that, you’ll be breaking stuff around the house just to have an excuse to make replacement parts.