[Image: Philip Guilfoyle]

It might seem that if you’ve already managed to get over a century out of your car, that you should just be grateful and willing to move along when it has a major engine malfunction. Clearly, however, if you thought so, you haven’t met Stuart Murdoch or his 1914 Delage Type-S grand prix, the only extant model of its type in the world. The story of how the car even survived long enough to reach such a catastrophic breakdown is fascinating in and of itself. Footage of the car in action shows it at critical moments during the grand prix race, careening through the 23-mile route to take third place. The winning and second place cars in that race may have been lucky that day, but their fate would take a turn for the worse as they were melted down for use in munitions during the first World War.

The third place car, owned and driven by a Frenchman, made its way out of Europe and over to the town of Castlemaine in Australia, a town about 80 miles northeast of Melbourne. But not before spending some time at the hands of race legends such as Lex Davison. Eventually, it came into the possession of Stuart Murdoch and the car became a prized possession and was treated as racing royalty, humming right along despite its advanced age. That is, until the cylinder block cracked and dealt what could have been a death blow to the machine. But its owner decided that it wasn’t time to relegate the vehicle to a museum just yet. Instead, he “bit the bullet” and set about bringing the car to working order again.

[Image: Philip Guilfoyle]

Clearly, this was to be a bit more complex than just popping over to the local mechanic and having them round up the pieces. Instead, they turned to Grant Cowie, a pre-war motorcar engineer, and industrial designer Phil Guilfoyle, and asked them to find a way of creating the pieces that would be needed to get the car back on the road again. Cowie immediately set to work considering ways in which this could be possible. It didn’t take him long to discard the old ways that would have been used to rebuild the 16-valve engine as Cowie described:

“I knew that to use the traditional method, which involves a wooden pattern, would be prohibitively expensive and with such a complicated casting it was possible it would take several attempts to get it correct.”

[Image: voxeljet]

Instead, he turned to the latest in manufacturing technology and decided to scan the existing engine block using what looks to be a versatile 3D scanning arm from FARO. He then set out to do the repairs needed on the digital model itself before using a voxeljet VX1000 3D printer located in Melbourne to create the mold for the new engine. Once the mold was created, the engine could be cast and then finished with more traditional manual machining techniques. It was the perfect marriage between highly skilled craftsman and modern manufacturing capabilities.

The decision by the owner to allow his precious racer to be put in the hands of such untried techniques paid off and the Delage was rescued and back on the road. In the end, Murdoch was very pleased that he had taken the risk, as he told ABC News Australia:

“I had faith in them and I wasn’t disappointed. It is a considerable achievement for all those involved and, might I say, quite an achievement for Australian engineering.”

[Image: ABC Radio Melbourne/Fiona Pepper]

But this story is about even more than the giving this beautiful piece of machinery and the man who owns it a longer lease on enjoyment. The idea of using 3D printing as a way to continue to manufacture replacement parts for cars long since out of production could potentially revolutionize vintage and antique car repairs. The reduction in the hours of labor preparing the parts and the ability to manufacture on an as needed basis may combine to bring down the costs of restoration and make it possible for more of these works of art to be restored to their former glory.

In addition, the widespread availability of these technologies means that in areas not located in major metropolitan centers, there could still be access to parts for repair and restoration as they can be created on demand by technology that is widely dispersed. You no longer need a concentrated market of antique car restoration experts in order to support the production of such pieces, but instead, anywhere that a 3D printer can be found, mechanics with an interest in working on old cars can get their hands on the pieces they need.

[Still from ABC video]

But even if that weren’t the case, I’m still just happy to see this grand dame of racing back on the road, bringing history to whomever sees her, and putting a thrill in the heart of her driver. Discuss in the 100-Year-Old Car forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation]

 

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