A couple weeks ago we made a trip up to New Jersey to pick up Jimmy’s K engine and had a chance to visit with Dave VanNess at his company. VanNess Engineering.
It was a very short visit, about an hr, and within that hr, Dave spoke with about 5 people on the phone with various questions. Not to mention took time out to show me how to adjust a 3 brush generator, and a short tour and chat.
We talked about the community and what its like to be at the center of everyone’s engine hurricane. When you are having an engine rebuilt, it can be a very emotional time. You are literally dead in the water and depending on others to deliver. Stuff goes right and wrong, bad previous rebuilds are exposed and drama ensues. By the way, as of June, VanNess Engineering has rebuilt over 50 engines. That’s right, all sorts of custom deals, normal rebuilds, all of it. VanNess on top of all that works with many other rebuilders and does work for them.
So, you’re getting an engine done by someone in another place? It may have some VanNess parts or rebuilt parts on it. A huge portion of VanNess work goes over to Europe. He has mastered the shipping system, so in some cases an engine can be in England in a little over a week!
The one of two shops we visited was packed with rare stuff, not so rare stuff, and clearly anything you may need to keep your engine running. Books, old tools, and definitely a fun crowd of cool young guns who know there stuff.
In our normal world we understand how things are done. We are plumbers, ad guys, Dr’s and so on and on, but very few of us really are all that confident about our boats. Especialy rebuilding engines. Not a small or cheap job. To be transparent, I am terrified sometimes about simple stuff, that I blow up in my mind. Sometimes stuff, like needle and seat, condenser, leak issues happen, and its part of our crazy world. Rebuilding an engine or restoring a boat can be very scary, and thus, patience and trust go a long way in getting anything done in our community.
Thinking of having your engine rebuilt. Here are some tips.
- Plan ahead. You should expect the job to take months, and schedule the rebuild before you take it up there
- These are rare engines, and parts, good parts are hard to find, so custom pistons and gaskets will need to be made.
- Manafold’s are always problematic, so expect some work there.
- Rebuild the transmission at the same time.
- Do not nickle and dime the job. No old parts, do it all right the first time. One huge issue is Dave will try and help, and inevitably the old part to save money fails, and its Dave’s fault. Do it right.
- Dave doesn’t know how to say no. So ask him to SAY NO IF HE THINKS SO…. and have an open conversation.
- Get to know Sue, Dave’s queen of the realm and the real brains of the operation. She is amazing and knows how to help and get stuff done.
- Go visit, deliver the engine yourself if you can. You will understand more that goes into it.
- Remember, it’s as much art as science rebuilding and saving a vintage engine. There is a difference in a rebuild, parts are not parts, and knowledge is literally horsepower.
- Follow break in rules religiously. The factory owners manual for your boats rules still apply. These are rebuilt, not new engineering.