What is Whip It!'s Problem?
Autographed copies of Adventures with the Mojave Phone Booth are now available!

Because Whip It! has broken down so many times, mechanics across the nation have worked on Whip It!'s engine. Their diagnosis has been universal: "I've never seen this problem before. I've never even heard of this problem before!"
What happens is, the distributor shaft pin shears off. It's done it repeatedly. Replace the distributor? It's happened with three different distributors. Replace the oil pump? It's done it with two different oil pumps. Could the problem be the cam? Could be. But my regular mechanic has looked at the cam & says it's in fine shape.
It doesn't happen at any regular interval -- at least, not that I can tell. Sometimes the engine will run for a thousand miles before it happens. Sometimes only a couple hundred miles.
Recently, a friend of mine told an old hot-rodder guy about the problem. The guy says he's heard of this problem. He recommends a fluidampr (sp?).
It's all very puzzling. Unnerving. It must be fixed!

Ideas, anyone? Suggested solutions will be posted here as they come in.

Date: Wed, 11 Nov 2009
From: Neil K.
Subject: Whip It's problem

Holy shit! Hope you didn't re-get-rid-of that car yet-

I just found out that if the PCV is clogged on a motor of high mileage it can concentrate particulate debris and preSurES on the distributor bearings! Causing....failures! (happened to me on my favorite clunker)

Sorry for the timewarp, but recall reading about this many years ago on your site, and dang it it keeps me young to occasionally go to your old pages.

How will I know if I won the contest?

well, actually, seven or eight years ago i donated car to another art car guy. he took out the troublesome engine and replaced it with another one. problem solved for me, problem solved for him! but thanks for the thought.

Date: Fri, 17 Apr 2009
From: David
Subject: About Whip it!'s engine, the phone booth, and magical mystery

I'm a nut that builds/writes/creates and digs into everything I can. Can't help it - but let my curse be a blessing unto you, and hope that I can shed a light unto your particular darkness...

Whip It! was a '62 Biscayne, yes?

si si
1962 was the last year of the original Chevy inline-6 235 CID engine; it was replaced with the Chevy inline-6 230 CID partway through the year, with full production starting in '63
(it won't surprise anyone who knows me when i remark that this is news to me.)
So how can you figure which engine your Biscayne had? Simple - a '62 model year would have been built in '61. Had to have the old, original series 235 in it. Now, a 235 and a 230 are very damn close, as one would expect: the 230 is the modernized version of the engine design (which was originally designed pre-WWII), so on casual appearance they look the same.

But they've got some important differences; to get to the point, your 235 probably had the distributor pin shear originally due to an oil backflow problem, gear rattle from the cam or oil pump (thus the recommendation for a fluidamper harmonic balancer) or just plain wearing out.

Mundane, ordinary sort of breakdown - happens all the time, especially with high-flow oil pumps (high flow=high pressure and stress on the gear). But here's where the mystery comes in, brought by the magical nature of mankind's inattention to detail and parts countermen's lack of knowledge...

Replacing the lower assembly of the distributor in any way in that 235 sets you up big time for this problem. If just the pin were replaced in the existing distributor it'd be fine - but who mills out and replaces a rolled metal pin on a (then) 30-some year old Chevy when a new distributor cost (then) $10?

well, um, actually . . . we did that a couple of times.
Only somebody who knew that (A) the distributor for the 230 didn't quite fit the 235, and (B) parts specifically for the 235 were discontinued sometime around '82 or '83. The new distributor's bottom end was designed with modern materials and methods in mind, thus was slightly smaller - creating room to shear. New oil pump would compound the problem for the same reason plus a little extra: it put out more volume than the old 235's pump (modern upgrade, y'see) and thus had more back pressure.

So the extra room in the gear chamber makes thing slop and rattle, you get up to high rpms like freeway speeds and have some extra stress - oil filter needs changed, shift a little late, fan belt slips, whatever - and SHEAR! it goes.

yeah, that was the annoying thing--we could never isolate any single thing that provoked it. and it could go for quite a while with no problem, and then sometimes it would happen right away.
'Course there's no telling now what the story was - but this is the one thing that both logic and intuition agree on, considering the data behind the engine design and so forth.

Also, I think I missed a call from you at the Mojave phone booth - friends of mine and I drove up from Venice, CA, in my 71 VW Transporter sometime around... oh, 96 or 97, I think: we got there after dark - no surprise, it's hell finding the damn thing - and the phone was ringing as we pulled up.

if it was ringing already, it must have been 98 or 99
I hesitated to answer, and the call was lost. Heard not too long ago they finally took it out; that's a pity. Wonder if one could get the number reassigned?
i did try. i was refused. they sent it to the place where naughty phone numbers are punished.

many thanks for the engine info. i'd pass it along to the current owner of whip it!, but he did what i should have done--he replaced the engine.


From: Mr. Toby Cole Hooper
Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2006
Subject: Plug wire out of sync: need diagram of 230 straight six

ENGINE: Straight 6, 230, '64 Chevrolet PU.
I believe I got my spark plug wires out of synchronization when replacing them on a new distributor cap. Do you know where I can get a diagram showing which wire should connect to which hole on the cap?

try this search at google:

chevrolet "straight six" "firing order"


Date: Tue, 23 May 2006
From: M L
Subject: the whip it motor

hey, are you guys serious?? i haven't read all the reply's to your problem with the distributor but does anyone know what this motor does? or what it was used for? cuz this motor is the one i'm thinkin of, its pretty obvious what the problem is, if you wanna call it a problem...it has nothing to do with any oil pumps or anything. Yeah it will run for a thousand miles cuz until that operator decides to do somethin which causes it to break, but if the operator chooses to do something only after 200 miles then ya theres a chance it will break then too. but ya i know what wrong with it if you seriously don't know i will tell you. peace,
Marlon the magician haha

quite some time ago i donated whip it! to a car artist in sacramento, and he replaced the engine entirely. given the time and money it ended up costing me over the years, however, i would still love to know the solution to the problem she had.
well if im not mistaken, and i may be but the motor im thinkin of called a whip it was used on the rail road, it was capable of runnin forward and backwards depending on which way ya wanted to go on the tracks, when you wanna go backwards on the tracks, you slow the motor way down bascically killing and then pull the lever for the timing so it backfires and runs the other way, but if someone did it too early or to late, the backfire would probaly shear the pin, actually im tryin to think of if you were supposed to actually kill the motor and the big fly wheel lets it wind out til its goin real slow, and already have the timin lever pulled, then turn the ignition back on at the right time and have it run reverse, but im pretty sure it has something to do with that...

if this is completely off then let me know, cuz theres another motor im thinkin of, maybe i got some of them confused

well, unfortunately, you are mistaken, but only in that whip it!'s motor was in a 1962 chevy biscayne automobile, rather than in a piece of railroad equipment.

but this is now my third favorite case of mistaken identity, and it's so good that i can't remember the other two.

An update from Whip It!'s new caretaker:

From: Darrick
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 2003

I'm crossing my thumbs. My solution is the feed tube from the oil pump to the block (not the pickup tube) was wedged in there too tight. When I reinstalled the oil pump I shaved down that tube so it didn't force the oil pump toward the distributor side. I have the chilton manual for 1955-63 American cars. The straight six is the ONLY engine which has this feed tube. On the message board at inliners.org someone was breaking dist. shafts and this was his solution. If I hadn't of shortened the tube I would have had to pound it in with a hammer. My hope is the tube having been too tight threw the oil pump out of alignment just a hair. Enough so that at high RPM (aka higher oil pressure) the dist. would start working itself out. By the time it worked itself out and you noticied it it was probably too late. I've also painted the point where the dist. meets the block so I can periodically do a visual check to see if the dist. is being worked out.

Got all the lights working and just installed a new triple guage. Either the generator or regulator is screwed up. Carbs off as the automatic choke was about ready to fall off, runs to rich now so I need to adjust that. Got a new muffler on.

During the Sac ArtCar Bizarre I used some of the shaving cream on the top. That stuff is caustic as it's eaten through a whole bunch of paint. Never found a whip cream girl but Whipit! was well received anyway. Redid the stencil on the front hood. Threw in some green carpet. Haven't done the headliner yet. I really want to get er off the lot and drive er around. Should happen soon.

i'm so glad whip it!'s getting a second lease on life.

weird about the shaving cream, though. i never had a problem with it -- it would wipe right off, even after baking in the sun.

what brand of shaving cream are you using? i always used barbasol. maybe there's some sort of mystery variation in shaving cream.

Date: Wed, 28 May 2003
From: G Tantanella


You probably don't have the vehicle you were having the problem with anymore, so this is for those Web Surfers of the future. Your problem has to do with simple 'Fluid Mechanics'. You had a restriction in the 'Oil Galley' of your engine. The restriction (foreign material) is caught between the 'Oil Pump' and the 'Sending Unit', that is why the pressure gauge is not showing the problem. The pump is allowed to build up excess pressure. At this point, the 'Oil Pump' doesn't want to turn, but the Camshaft says, "I'll make you turn". Guess who wins? The inertia will break the roll pin in the bottom of the distributor shaft or strip the gear (path of least resistance).

Foreign material (usually metal shavings) in the passages can move in the 'Oil Galley' making the diagnosis difficult (replacing the roll pin may last for an hour or a month, but the problem re-occurs). Having many years of experience with Hydraulics has enabled me to think through these type of problems (I think).

Solution: It you can get all the 'Oil Galley' plugs out of the block, you might be able to used conmpressed are to clean out the passages (remove oil pan & pump and blow back through galleys towards the pump).

It's all elementary my dear Watson.

Hope this helps somebody out sometime!

Date: Sat, 08 Dec 2001
From: That Steve Guy

I believe I have an answer to the problem with the distributor pin shearing off. It can actually be something as simple as the type of oil used in the engine. A high pressure pump combined with 40 weight oil, fired up on a cold morning---->"Boom!" I hope this helps. Good luck.

Date: Sat, 08 Dec 2001
From: That Steve Guy
Subject: distributor problem (me again)


I actually failed to mention that I had this same problem with my car. Sometimes it happened at start up and sometimes it happened as I was getting on the freeway. I had changed three distributors and then removed the roll pin and put a super strong pin in it's place, so it wouldn't break. The next time this happened, the pin did not break, but the gears on both the distributor and the camshaft shattered. (I believe there is a reason for the roll pin). I wasn't thinking that the distributor gear turns both the distributor and the oil pump. When I got the engine back together again with nothing different except 10W30 oil with no additives (instead of 40W), I drove it for four years without a problem.

interesting. possible. however: my problem always happened at highway speeds, never at start-up or at low speeds.

poor car. she's probably forgotten me by now...

From: James M.
Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2001

Hi there.

I don't know if you've solved your distributor problem but i have similar story to tell which may help your problem. I used to have a '77 corvette, with a 383 small block that i built from a '75 pick up 4-bolt engine block. I drag raced it on a regular basis out at the local drag strip. And on more than one occasion my engine would suddenly die while i was racing it. The problem, you see, was my dist. gear had broken in two and did some damage to the cam shaft. Rather than use the same cam, i replaced the cam and the gear. Happened again...replace cam and gear again. Happened again...replaced cam, and entire new dist. Happened again...new cam, cam thrust button and new dist. Still happened...cried for two hours. Asked around and discovered the material of your distributor gear matters when it comes to your cam. So what I recommend is contact the manufacturer of your cam and ask them what dist gear you should be using. Hope this helps...By the way 383 ran great until i blew the head gasket and did some piston and cylinder wall damage...sold car. The End.

hmm. the solution "sold car. the end." recommends itself to me from time to time...

From: Hugh A.
Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2001

Had a similar problem on a 327. The lower sprocket is an interference fit and the hole was too small. Ordinary force FAILED TO SEAT THE LOWER SPROCKET. This brought the timing chain forward, which moved the cam forward. And the rest was history. The engine was in the car, it was sorta dark, and I ASSUMED by feel that the lower sprocket was all the way down. . .no one could figure this out,the car was given away. Realization occured after car was gone. . .a nice 67 Impala. . .

The lifters got no oil. . . I assume there was a manufacturing defect in the lower sprocket. . .

From: angus m.
Date: Mon, 21 May 2001

HI, The problem with whippet is probably torsional vibration. (The man was right about fluidampr.) Torsional vibration occurs at resonant engine speeds (particular rpm to you) The particular engine component dimensions determine the resonant frequencies. You may have some component (eg crankshaft) out of spec which causes severe resonance. Look for loose flywheel or crank pulley, evidence of bearing misalignment, worn cam drive (chain or gears) or cam chain tensioner etc. The pin fails by cyclic loading causing metal fatigue.

Run the engine up gradually to maximum rpm and carefully watch the fanbelt. Where resonance occurs the belt will probably vibrate. Make a note of the resonant speeds. Avoid driving at those rpm.

From: Rob
Date: Tue, 15 May 2001

I'd guess gear misalignment/overthrust caused by axial movement of the camshaft due to excessive wear. Too much axial movement would cause the cam distributor gear to put too much side load (thrust) on the distributor shaft gear. The camshaft endplay can be adjusted with shims without too much digging into the engine.

that's the third time that solution has been suggested -- at the end of the year, a whip it! rescue is on tap, so maybe that's the first, best thing to try (in contrast to the "last, best hope" -- another story entirely).

Date: Wed, 02 May 2001
From: Garglingo

I've seen that problem many times on GM cars, specifically Chevys. The cause is usually from crappy fuel. That engine is supposed to be using leaded fuel. It's supposed to put out actual torque & horsepower, etc. With today's crummy fuel, that engine doesn't put out diddly squat! This causes a harmonic imbalance that will eventually generate excessive vibration throughout the engine. I suggest you start revving the engine up really high. Use 2nd gear on the highway and keep the RPMs as high as possible. Also, use 10W40 oil instead of 10W30. Smoke only the finest Kronik each afternoon at 4:20 with the windows rolled up. If that doesn't help, curse at the car and threaten to scrap it if it doesn't shape up. That's what I used to do to my 77 Cutlass Supreme before I finally hauled it off to the junkyard.

Hope this advice helps. Remember to keep the RPMs at maximum! If the engine light aint on, you're driving like a damn sissy!

From: Jim M.
Date Thu, 21 Dec 2000

The shaft of the distributor isn't being lubricated. Either the body of the distributor is reversed by 180 degrees (yes the car will run with the distributor body reversed) or the remanufactured items you're installing are made from families of similar but not identical distributors used by GM over the years.

Either way, the oil hole is not lined up with where the oil is supposed to be squirted into the shaft while the engine runs.

A public library should have a guide with useful pictures showing how the body (not the cap) of the distributor should look when installed. It should look fairly distinct because the vacuum advance will be hanging out one side or the other of the distributor in the picture.

If it's installed correctly then the body of the distributor may be the wrong one.

Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2000
From: doctor cliff responds

unlikely. the shaft of the distributor, on most cars, is not lubricated by engine oil. some oil splashes over the gear, but the shaft itself usually rides in oilite bushings or similar. if things were happening as jim described, i would expect that, on removal of a failed distributor, you would be unable to turn the shaft. or, even if it loosened up after heat-siezing, it would be badly galled, so it would turn like it was full of sand. i'd have to see the distributor and the car to figure it out (never say never).

From: Kevin S.
Subject: Whip Whipit's problems
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2000

I suspect your cam shaft has a lot of end float. This is a tough thing to check, as it usually shows up when the engine is under load.

sounds plausible. the problem has occurred only at highway speeds.
You could simply take off the timing chain cover and install a few shims. How much? That's a tough one, because the end float will change as the engine heats up and gets under load.
ay! sounds difficult...

From: Fly
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2000

Have you got that motor fixed yet?

nope, not yet.
I may be off on a tangent, but I think I've gathered it's a '62 Biscayne with an inline-6... correct me if I'm wrong.
you got it right.
Just curious, as I have recently gained much knowledge while rebuilding a 250cid Chevy inline-6 motor for my boat (aka Mercruiser 165hp.) I've learned that the 230 and 250 where exactly the same except for the crankshaft (which is of course a shorter-stroke variety in the 230), and I'm not sure but the next size down (can't remember the displacement) and possibly also the 194 were the same motor too, albeit the crank difference (can't verify this immediately.) Exactly which motor do you have there?
believe it's the 230. or maybe 235. something like that.
Since I'm not sure how outdated your problem may be or if it's already fixed I'll wait to see what your reply is to this message. I'll run the problem by my friend who I've learned everything I know about cars from. He's had 20+ years experience (even though he's only 42-44, can't remember exactly), but anything he's had his whole life in general he's done himself since he never spends a dime he doesn't have to.

One final note, I converted my boat motor to HEI electronic ignition (aka Mercruiser Thunderbolt ignition), and thus have an old points-type distributor up for grabs. It may even have a Mercruiser sticker on it somewhere... if you want it it's yours. [I may even be able to "decorate" it for you to color-coordinate with Whip It!'s exterior... hehehe... have to check on that. The friend I refered to is also a fan of vinyl.]

Good Luck,
(short for "McFly", as in "Hello, McFly!!"; I used to have even less common sense before I met my current friends than I do now)

From don
Date Sun, 26 Mar 2000

I am reading of the distributor gear woes right now. I am an aircraft mechanic by trade (just in it for the money, not for the fame and chicks) and have experienced similar problems due to improper gear backlash. Backlash is increased by raising the distributor gear in relation to the cam gear. If the backlash is too tight, the resulting dist/cam gear load may exceed the shear strength of the dist gear pin - which is obviously happening. I have worked on allot of old cars too and experience (knowledge learned from mistakes) has shown when working on older cars, there were a great many variations in design that the current "no habla" component rebuilders don't know about.

You have to determine whether the cam/dist gear is running true. First you'll need some machinist layout fluid - white in color commonly called "Dykem". You paint the distributor gear with the fluid, allow it to air dry, and carefully install the distributor. It is not necessary to correctly "time" the distributor to the cam for this mock-up, but it must be secured by the hold down clamp in the normal fashion. Next rotate the crankshaft (in the normal direction of rotation) at least two times (two crankshaft revolutions is one distributor revolution in a four stroke engine). Then carefully remove the distributor from the engine, take it to the local Pep Boys and compare the gear mesh patterns to the patterns displayed in any Chilton's manual in the chapter on setting up differential ring and pinion gears. Even though this is not a ring an pinion, it is a similarly arranged helical drive/driven gear assembly and the logic is the same. If the gear "wear" pattern is too high on the distributor gear teeth, the fix is simply to shim the distributor higher in the block. If the wear pattern is to low, that's allot harder to fix, as the distributor must be lowered in the block by machining the distributor mounting boss to a thinner dimension. In either case, the distributor may be the incorrect part number to be compatible with the engine block, or the camshaft may have been incorrectly manufactured - stranger things have happened. In any event, given the logistics of it all, it may be more expedient to go for the replacement engine option in the long run.

Maybe there's really nothing wrong with Whippit after all. Really, if the crankcase is loaded up with heavy oil (eg 40 wt) and a couple cans of STP, and the engine is cold, the heavy oil/STP resists flowing inside the engine. An oil pump is simply a hydraulic pump and if the hydraulic medium's (in this case, whatever you have in Whippit's crankcase) viscosity index is higher than the weakest link, the weakest link will shear.

That's one of the reasons it is important to warm a car's engine up before driving it. As the oil warms up, it's viscosity (resistance to flow) decreases which lessen's the load on the engines lubricating system. The harder one drives a car with a cold engine, the more strain is imposed on the internal parts.

So the questions are 1) Does Whippit require heavy engine additives like STP or Motor Honey?

nope, never.
2) Did the pin failures occur shortly after starting a cold engine?
nope, never. always on the road, usually on the highway (that's why i was always in the middle of nowhere when she broke down!)
If the answer to #1 is yes, the engie is worn out anyway, but simply warming it up before driving Whippit will get you through another Moon or three. Fahren Whippit Sie vorsichtiger!

Enough of this shop talk on my day off, it's time to start the morning off right - where's my Cramps CD?

From don
Date Tue, 28 Mar 2000

Okay, now I'm really curious. I've been thinking about what I was thinking about yesterday about the gear misalignment jazz, and now think that I shouldn't have been thinking about that after all. That type of misalignment wouldn't cause the shearing, just wear on the gears.

So now I tend to believe that I am in a quandary.
Hell, It can only be a few things, though
1) oil pump binding - highly unlikely
2) Distributor binding - hmmm.

If the thrust plate (the plate that holds the cam in the block) is worn out - usually caused by improper installation at assembly it will cause the cam to "walk" forward in the block. As the cam walks forward, it pushes the distributor gear, which in turn bends the distributor shaft, which puts a tremendous side load on the bearing surfaces inside the distributor, generating heat (not the Reverend Horton) the killer of anything mechanical, and ultimately galling the distributor shaft to the point of shearing the weak link.

To be sure of this theory, the distributor must be disassembled for a detailed inspection to note any evidence of overheating. None of this is hard, just time consuming. Just do it for the children's sake.

From don
Date Tue, 28 Mar 2000

Even though I was rewiring a 737 yaw damp system at work tonight my mind was really on Whip It!

My "cam-walk-shaft-slop" (C-WiSS for short) theory would also explain the lack of engine performance due to erratic ignition timing caused by the shaft slop prior to the catastrophic failure of the gear pin. Remember we're only talking about a few thousandths of an inch of wear to cause a real shitty running engine.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it, even though this kind of stuff usually only happens to things built by the island monkey's of Her Majesty's such-and-such.

Now if I can only remember if I tightened that horizontal stabilizor jackscrew earlier this evening...

you make a good case. once i manage to get back up to san jose, i'll check out.

poor ol' whip it! -- she never meant to cause any harm ...

From: craig
Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2000

The one thing that could explain all of the problems is an often over looked part of the oil system - the oil pressure relief valve. This is a spring loaded valve that keeps the oil pressure from going to high buy dumping oil from the pressure side of the pump. If this valve sticks closed or worse gets clogged with a large piece of crude it can cause oil pressure to go to high causing the pump to require to much force causing the pin to shear (don't use a harder pin - it will only cause something else to fail).

You should be able to pull the relief valve out and clean it.

My other expert source (my Dad - an old time hot-rodder) concurs with my diagnoses.

Good luck!

PS I heard about you after hearing about the phone booth.

that's a suggestion i haven't heard before ... i'll give it a try, next time i'm in san jose. maybe it'll save me having to put in a new engine.

From: Marie M.
Date Thu, 02 Mar 2000

You know, you really should be quite excited, but of course you don't realize it yet, but Craig has correctly diagnosed WhipIt!. It just remains for you to find a competent mechanic to do the practical application to her. After he realized what WhipIt!'s problem was he ran it past his dad, the Grand Wizard of All Things Mechanical, who concurred in toto. Everyone here would be hugely surprised if his solution isn't correct; you'd also be guaranteed of his unending devotion to finding the solution--Craig's a bulldog with these sort of things.

So, when WhipIt!'s returned to her former glory, will you bring her out to Craig's, i.e., can we meet you face-to-face?

you got it!

Date Tue, 14 Dec 1999
From woodmann

I think the cheap and cheesy solution for the whip-it is definitly a hardened steel dowel pin. Put in a fresh pin with a good fit and put a couple of tack welds on each end. If the hole is sloppy take it to a machine shop and get it reamed out to the next size.(I know this sounds like a joke but I'm serious, I work in a machine shop.) The bad part about making this thing somewhat bullet proof is that if it is bad gear mesh the results of this suggestion could be fatal. But what the hey, I did say cheap and cheesy.

dr. cliff assures me that the pin in the photo above is virtually shatterproof.

of course, as you point out, the rest of the engine isn't.

From: trance_master
Subject: Whip it!'s distributor
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 19:24:42 -0800


Great site, one of the best on the web.

Now on to important matters, Whip It's distressing problem!

This was a well know problem that had multiple causes, the Chevy 6 was famous for this among automotive electricians. If the person trying to fix this has never heard of such a problem, keep looking for the right guy. They will have a name like "Gramps" or "Max" or "Cecile" and if impaled with a sharp object they will bleed 30 weight non-detergent and, last but not least, they will know about this problem.

First question is how is your cooling system?

never had any problems with overheating. she really did run like a champ.
Localized overheating causing the oilpump to overheat can cause this problem. Fortunately (or not?) the engine quits before the temporarily seized pump can destroy the engine. Might try installing a temperature gauge (capillary type) where the oil pressure sensor goes to see if the oil temp is too high, if it is try installing an oil cooler and fix the cooling system, flush block etc. Also, what is the condition of the oil pump pickup screen? installed correctly? Is there a big fat dent in the oil pan right under where the oil pickup is?

How about camshaft and crank endplay??? Cam or crank thrust bearing shot or out of spec?

my regular mechanic checked out the cam and said everything was peachy. of course, i don't know enough about it to check it myself. (plus the fact that i'm in arizona & whip it!'s in california)
You say you have performance problems shortly before the distributor does its thing... and have replaced oil pumps, distributors etc. Have you had the centrifugal advance and vacuum advance mechanisms in the distributor checked? I have seen problems in the advance plate, ( the advance plate bearing very worn ) cause this failure. I also have seen bad or incorrect springs in the centrifugal advance allow the advance weights to catch on the vacuum advance or distributor housing intermittently and cause this failure. This can happen even on "rebuilt distributors", I recommend having the distributor custom rebuilt by an expert automotive electrician even if the distributor is "new". ( I have seen countless "rebuilt" distributors with bad advance plates and other parts!!!) At least have it tested on a Sun distributor testing machine ( these are rare now days, I know they have (had??) one at Yuma Automotive Electric in Yuma, Arizona...I worked there about 25 years ago...) A stethascope applied to the distributor base and housing may be informative, any clashing sounds pointing to the cause of the problem.
wow. excellent advice. i will try this on the distributor dr. cliff got for me to install.
Another approach...you might try one of the new aftermarket distributorless ignition systems, install it and yank everything out of the distributor except the distributor drive shaft..(to drive the ever so important oil pump! ) ...this will isolate possable causes to just the cam, crank and oil pump... and see what happens! Be certain the oil pressure gauge works and you religiously keep an eye on it if you try this, the engine will keep running even if the oil pump stops! Not good!
another excellent suggestion, thanks
All the ideas I have read on your page dealing with this matter are good ones, but if finding the specific cause of this problem on this specific engine has not yet turned into a scientific crusade the replace engine option makes a lot of sense economically. In this era of distributorless ignition systems, aluminum engines, no wing vents, plastic bumpers and really inferior rearview mirror dice, finding someone with the experience to find the exact problem may be difficult, indeed, the tools to diagnosis this problem are now collectors items, and if the technician is younger than 50, he/she probably does not have the experience required. The price for the kind of expert you need ( if you can find one) and the hassle to solve this is probably more than the cost of a replacement engine. I would refer you to someone but everyone I knew is either "taking the big dirt nap" or is retired, and the retired guys won't even change the oil in their own lawnmowers.
ain't that the truth
In the meantime keeping one of those fold up bicycles in the trunk may be a good idea.
yeah. of course, this can be chancy in the desert
Geez, maybe this is Whip Its way of providing you with some cool experiences ( in retrospect anyway )
it has definitely done that.
and you shouldn't fix it at all!
well ... !
Do you have AAA??
yep. i've found it to be necessary standard equipment for *all* my clunkers
Good luck!
Tim from Washington

From: Greg D
Date: Fri, 05 Nov 1999

Put a new motor in that damn thing!

Date: Sun, 31 Oct 1999
From: Lorne C.

and my .02: I tend to concur with the folks saying the shaft is binding due to bad alignment. I don't know about that engine, but on a Volvo I overhauled it was possible to put the oil pump drive gear in upside down and the distributor shaft would then be too high and the distributor would not mount properly. Fortunately I discovered this _before_ putting it back in the car. Hmmmph, got my curiosity up now I'll have to go check it!

From: frankc
Date: Fri, 01 Oct 1999
Subject: Distributor

I have not had the exact problem, yet similar with my Chevy 350 4WD truck. It might be that the distance from the intake manifold landing for the distributor mount to the drive point at the end of the shaft engagement point is not right for some strange reason and the the distributor shaft either does not engage enough, or puts too much pressure on the oil pump as the distributer is bolted down. I would think most distributors have a close tolerance for the shaft length, but something about how the intake manifold is mounted may be wrong. Just a wild guess. The opposite end where the oil pump mounts maybe has a similar problem. I will ask a more experienced motorhead I know.

I got rid of my 4WD from hell for more reasons than the Distributor. But I fought that SOB for a long time. The worst thing is how a stock distributor is made at all. The plate that the points are mounted to is crimped onto the distributor housing and it can work loose and cause all kinds of trouble. I also had a warped shaft that prematurely wore out the bushings in a rebuilt unit. I won't even go into how my engine block cracked where the starter motor bolts on..... I love Chevys

Love the eccentricity of your topics. Sorry that the phone booth thing is getting out of hand. Too bad for anyone that would really need to use the darn thing. I feel for the ranchers. I would be one to get into this thing, but I saw your note on the problem and will not be part of the problem. A good friend works out at China Lake and I used to dirtbike out that way, but all that fun was spoiled by the same wankers that are threatening the mine. I hope it is not too late for them at this point. Such FED land grab stories PISS ME OFF !!!!!!! Thanks for trying to help them. Be back to check out more as I have time....

Date: Sun, 26 Sep 1999
From: ron

You failed to state what kind of engine that we are working with, bow tie V8 or an inline 6, a 62 bis came out with either.

right. good point! it's the straight 6
in any case your problem is not as unusal as you have been lead to believe. actually it is pretty common in older units with a questionable maintance history. the problem is in the oil pump, at least sort of. it takes only the smallest particle (usually carbon) from inside your engine to get caught inside the oil pump to cause the distributer pin to shear. after the first time you replaced the oil pump, you actually made the problem worse, because the internal parts of the new pump were of a closer tolerance, than that of the old worn pump.
interesting (though a little disheartening)
NO easy solution however, installing a hard pin is your first line of defense, after that use an engine cleaner, and change the oil and filter after about 100 mi, and then do it again, then keep the oil and filter changed every 2000 mi at least. Not an unusal problem, i've seen it several times.
it's sounding like the best thing to do is go ahead & swap a new engine into there ...
The hard part is getting the inside of the engine clean enough to prevent any futher occurances. (may not even be possible to do so without total disassembly) thats why to go ahead with the hardend pin.
the engine does get dirty, because, even though i had the gas tank professionally cleaned, they did a crappy job!
ps: found your site, by our local newspaper giving a front page article to the phone booth.

Date: Wed, 22 Sep 1999
From: Brian

Not a fix, but a question?

Does the car backfire at all?

When I was in high school, there was this guy trying to soup up his 4 cylnder Ford Mustang, 1977 or so vintage. That thing would backfire something fierce. Anyways, it turns out that a gear, I think the distributor drive gear (don't remember which one exactly, but since you generally only have 1 set of gears in the engine, it's kinda important) was made of some kind of plastic/nylon, and one time when the car backfired once too often, it stripped the teeth of the gear, and the car stopped running, because the distributor stopped turning.

If your car is backfiring, maybe that is what is shearing the pin in your distributor gear, the action a car takes when it backfires. I agree with the other e-mail that you posted, that a crank dampner won't do that much, as it's attached to the crank, not the distributor.

Anyways, good luck, and and happy Operatoring (answering phones)

no. but i do have a 65 mustang. and it backfires. perhaps whip it! suffers from sympathetic illness ..

From: logan bartley
Date: Wed, 22 Sep 1999

I thought of another cause. The crank shaft is probably twisted at some point. This could cause a piston to not be far enough up on the compression stroke when the spark plug fires (early detonation) and this causes a very hard and short backward shock on the crank shaft. This in turn causes a jerk on the timing chain which turns the cam shaft. The cam shaft then jerks the distributor and the shear pin, being the weakest link in the chain of events, splits. Your best be would be just go to a salvage yard and get an old engine and overhaul it and just toss whip-it's engine. In the mean time, if you set the timing real late you could probably keep it running at low speeds.

your replacement-engine prognosis is becoming the consensus ...

& i suppose when the money rolls in, that's what i'll have to do ...

Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999
From: Tom Fool
Subject: Whippit, et al

The roll pin suggested by Dr. Cliff should prove interesting.

It will:

last a long time and then the real culprit perhaps will be observed

here's hoping!
something bad will happen and THEN the real culprit perhaps will be observed. Roll pins are virtually unbreakable. The same can't be said for everything else involved here.

I'd carry a spare distributor if I were you.

yeah. or maybe just spare roll pins.
Let's see... if I had any inkling as to what's wrong, then you would have already fixed it. Why? Because you are intimately familiar (how intimate? heck, you probably slept in it a few times) with Whippit and the shear pin problem and have had lots of advice. And it still ain't fixed.

When you changed out the works (oil pump, dist., etc.) I hope that included a new oil pump drive shaft. Cuz if the drive shaft is screwed, then by keeping it, you would be keeping the problem. But I think the whole works gets replaced, no?

You mentioned one thing somewhere about driving along to/from Texas and warning sounds/lack of performance/noise etc. began to occur. Then you said (I think) that you "tightened the distributor hold down clamp". This makes me think that

a) something is forcing the works upwards

and b) once the oilpump drive shaft clears the oil pump, the pump stops. Then perhaps the drive shaft drops back down into engagement and bang, the pin gets sheared off due to the increased mechanical load of having to start the pump turning again.

hmmm ... i'm liking the sound of this.
Thus, in this parallel universe, simply preventing the works from being forced up will fix it all. Or not. If this is the scenario, then the dog at the bottom of the pump drive shaft might be seen to exhibit excessive wear.
it does seem to get a little chatter marking on it, but not what i might have expected
BTW, a relative of mine knows these cars inside out. He has had this happen to him on two different Chevies. He replaced the works and off he went. It only happened once per car. In any case, the problem is certainly not 'rare'. Since you have replaced the works, my guess is it is one of two things: 1) the hold down mounting clamp is defective allowing natural drive forces to push the works up as described above or 2) your block is shot.

If you are *SURE* that the works are securely held in place but the thing fails (the pin gets sheared off) then there would appear to be excessive play knocking at the shaft eventually busting the pin. Thus your answer is 2) your block is shot.

i'm getting to the latter opinion ... which is very sad
A question that comes to my mind in all this is... none of my business. But it comes to me anyway. And it is this. How much money have you spent on temporary fixes and lost road time and worry? vs. just replacing the engine? You can get junkers for somewhere around 2 or 3 hundred samolians. Or between one and two big ones to get a rebuilt and have it installed. Then you could cruise coast to coast to all the art car shows and have more fun.

That's all I'm gonna say on this subject.

true enough! once i have 2 or 3 hundred samolians ... that's probably what i'll do

From: Mark F
Date: Sat, 18 Sep 1999

Well, the response you have posted from Bartman sounds sound. In reading it, I did think of a quick fix that you could try with one of the distributors that would be worth a try before condeming the block. Have the gear welded in place instead of just pinning it. A good speed shop that has a machine shop should be able to do it. Either it will hold up, or whatever is causing the problem will break instead, showing you the true culprit.

i have a new (well, rebuilt) distributor into which dr. cliff inserted a pin that he assures me WILL not shear off or otherwise become unattached. so, i will try this next time i'm up in san jose. (which, i wish, were this weekend -- it's artcar fest weekend!)
If you need a shop, let me know as I have a number of friends in your area that are into building race cars (I used to race with them) and they will know of someone who can do it. Also, buying a fluild dampner is a waste, as it affects the crank more.
gotcha. thanks! here's hoping ...

From: logan bartley
Date: Wed, 08 Sep 1999

Actually, the cam drives the distributor shaft, and the distributor shaft turns the oil pump. If these are not lined up properly, you can have undue stress on the shaft. Often what goes un-noticed is the sockets in the engine that hold them in place. Check for miss-alignment and check if the shaft can wobble around any when it is installed.

it doesn't wobble with hand pressure, at least.
Truely I say to you, it may be necessary to replace the engine block to fix this problem.
ay de mi! this is what i've been avoiding. i guess if it came to that ... but ... ay de mi!
I doubt a fluid damper will help any since this is not a hot-rod engine. A stock engine should not require special after-market add-on's.

Logan Bartley (Bartman)
(first caller to the booth on the July '99 gathering.)

i agree. but what can i say? i'm desperate!

From: Shawn McBride
Subject: Possible Whip-it Solution
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 1999

White Slavery.

"Why, If you removed the engine, you should have enough room under the hood for two or three people!"

From: Megan from Michigan
Date: Fri, 20 Aug 1999

i called my dad re: whip it!, and this is what he had to say. bear in mind that i know nothing about auto mechanics (the field, not the people. i know plenty about them.)

he says the place to look is the oil pump...that might be bad. getting to the oil pump is not an easy job, as it involves removing the oil pan. he didn't sound like he envied the person who will be doing that.

also, this might help, but i was mystified when he told me, so it will probably come out sounding confused. i am.

the distributor shaft is driven by the oil pump, and both of those are driven by the cam. that is why your cam is fine, as your mechanic has told you, and why he believes you want to look at the oil pump for this problem. also, he said something about at the bottom of the distributor shaft there is a connector (this is down where the gear is) and if it has been replaced, it may be a plastic connector. i guess that maybe that means it could be bad, but he doubts that you have a plastic one, which again leads us to the oil pump.

dad is a traditionalist, so he said, and i quote, "tell him to join the 80's. it's a hip hop generation. president reagan says to buy a car and drive that economy."

donations of cash and/or cars are very welcome here at deuceofclubs.com!
then he laughed and we said goodbye. there is a "dream cruise" in detroit this week so they have a ton of sixties' cars at his shop right now. everyone there seemed interested in the fate of whip it!

i hope this helps. let me know!

but did you tell him that it's done the same thing with 3 different distributors and 2 different oil pumps? that has to mean that something else is causing it