After a Lay-up…

Dear Dr. Mortarhead:

Yes, you heard me right, Dr. Mortarhead.

I call you this because your head must be full of cement for not speaking at the ACBS

Symposium. I have followed your column in The Boathouse for years now. I dare say, there is probably no one on the face of the planet who is more knowledgeable than you and your devoted assistant, Piston.

Southern Pacific Hockey League or not, your duty falls to all the loyal ACBS Members and this great organization. I suppose next I am going to hear you are not planning on attending this year’s Annual Meeting/4th Annual International Boat Show celebrating ACBS’s 30th Anniversary.

As I understand it, the midwest chapters are going to really show California what participation at an annual meeting is all about. Hey wait a minute! Wait a minute, buddy! I’m getting off the subject. I forgot I was supposed to really be angry with you. I am; I’m fuming, and the Symposium could have really used you. Where do you get off by going to Fiji or wherever it was you went? Hey, I think you should be punished – put in the penalty box – and not be allowed to write an article for the spring edition. That’s what I think, Mr. Jet-Setter. That’s all for now you, you poop in the pants.

Signed,Mr. Fed Uppity
Dear Fed. That’s OK by me. I won’t write a column this edition. In fact, I’m on strike!!! In double fact, so is Piston. So, I suggest that Mr. Merjanian step up to the plate and present his article on spring tune-ups for all the loyal listeners. It is that time of year, don’t ya know. Very truly yours I’m sure,Dr. Fred Motorhead & his able-bodied assistant, Piston
I want to thank the Honorable Dr. Fred Motorhead for his esteemed foresight in selecting this writer to present his treatise on outfitting your boat in the spring. While I am extremely flattered at this compliment, I hesitate to do that letter — again. After all, it’s been in The BoatHouse several times — the most recent being the April, 2003 issue on page 9. In fact, that was just another time someone had to “bail out” Dr. Motorhead — probably because he was off somewhere (warm, no doubt) slacking off on his duties. Instead, I thought I’d share an email exchange I got that cites some typical procedures you might run into that offer additional helpful information. Stephen C Merjanian, Jr.
Hi Steve, Well I just got off the phone with the machine shop and I’m taking the M engine in to have the valves taken care of. I finally got my shop done, so I was in a position to remove the engine and get it ready for transport. I have bought another boat. It’s a 1952 20’ Riviera. I am replacing the deck and possibly the topsides if the lumber is available. I have never had the engine running (MBL) and I need to start it up to make sure that I don’t have any additional problems. I was told that the engine did run before this long lay-up. The flywheel turns over easily so nothing is locked up. I was told by my machinist that if possible, I should try to prime the engine with oil so I avoid a dry start-up. He didn’t know if it was possible with the Hercules engines, but he suggested that I find out if it’s possible. Do you have any insight into this?


Gary BrennanLake of the Ozarks, MO
Hi Gary: The MBL engine sounds like a winner. Here is what I suggest you do: 1. Since the engine is not locked up (it turns over), I would do a compression check to make sure you have an even compression on all the cylinders. Make sure there isn’t any variation in compression readings from one cylinder to the next. You can remove each of the cylinders’ spark plugs and squirt a bit of oil into each cylinder prior to starting. 2. I would check to make sure your fuel pump is working correctly. Remove the connection from the output and crank the engine. A few quick squirts of gas into a hand-held cup should do it. 3. I would check to see if you have spark at all the cylinders. Remove a spark plug wire from the center of the distributor cap and place it about a quarter of an inch from any metal surface on the engine block. Crank it over and look for a spark. A white-hot spark is ideal; a red spark indicates you may have an output voltage problem. 4. Make sure the air passage to the carburetor is clear of any obstructions.

Now you have Gas, Fire and Air. Go for it!

As an additional assist, if you don’t have the April 2003 issue of The BoatHouse issue handy, I suggest you look go to the BSLOL web site  for a copy of my paper on tuning these engines up. It is straight forward and helpful. Thank you for asking the questions. Let me know how it turns out.Stephen C. Merjanian, Jr.
Hi Steve,Well, I FINALLY got the MBL started. I just used your procedures, found out that I had a bad coil. Finally got all three requirements and shazaam, it runs. Sure did blow out a lot of “stuff” when it finally started. I’m replacing some parts on the water pump that were broke and then I should be good to go. I have a question about cleaning the exterior of the engine. This was a saltwater engine and as a result, there is a small amount of corrosion on the engine. What is the best way to get it all cleaned up so I can paint and not be embarrassed when I open the engine hatch. It also looks like they used the wrong color on a previous paint. It’s a bright and bold blue, not the mellow blue that I’m used to.

Thanks,Gary Brennan

Lake of the Ozarks, MO
Hi Gary:My suggestions here are based on my experience with other boats that have spent a good part of their time in saltwater. I suggest cleaning the corrosion off of the motor with a wire brush or some stripping chemical. Check with a local supply shop to determine what they are doing, specifically the stripping chemical. The paint should be Chris Craft blue for their engines. I had a can of the stuff that was purchased from a dealer who went out of business. A reasonable substitute is the Ford Motor Company blue paint that is used on their old truck blocks. You may want to clean up all of the brass parts and leave them without paint. It makes for a classy look even though it is nonstandard.

All the best!

Stephen C. Merjanian, Jr.