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Dan's T15 Restoration


M29
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My name is Dan Walsh and I am starting the restoration of a Studebaker T15 weasel. I will post pictures of my restoration as it progresses here on the site. 
A brief history about my T15 and how I acquired it. I first discovered the T15 in the early 1970's in Nome Alaska at an old remote mining site. While at the old mine I saw several weasels in different states of repair. there was an M29 and also a T24. Several M7 snow tractors were there as well. As I looked around at all the old equipment I noticed a strange looking track vehicle one like no other I had ever seen before. It was parked in a row of old broken down dodge trucks. It appeared to be in good shape other than some of the bogie wheels had been removed and were laying on the ground next to it. The body was in reasonably nice condition. I remember thinking how odd it looked with the strange looking V shaped bogey wheels. 
As I continued looking at it I thought about how nice it would be to get it running again. I wondered if the owner would sell it? Later when talking to the owner I asked him what kind of vehicle it was? He informed me it was a T15 Studebaker weasel and that it was his favorite of all the weasels he owned. He said it would pull a sled with cargo in the winter better than his other weasels. He said it was in need of suspension parts and that he hoped to get it going again "one of these days". I thought to myself about how long it had been sitting there broken down and imagined at least 10 to 15 years.
In the summer of 2015 I had gone to Nome Alaska as I usually do each year to visit and do upkeep on my property there. While there I decided to take a trip out to revisit the old mine site to have a look around and see what was left of all the old military trucks and weasels I knew were still there. I also had heard that the new owner wanted to clean up the site and get rid of the old vehicles. When I got to the old mine site  It was eye opening to see how much damage the years of sitting out in the open air had done to the old vehicles. The T15 now had huge holes rusted through the body around the engine and radiator area. The engine being exposed after many years of sitting outside was a mass of rust. The windshield had been shot at and now had two large bullet holes through it. Miraculously the large headlight had been spared. I decided then that I would try and make a deal with the new owner of the site to purchase the T15 and the other weasels an M29 and a T24. I was glad that the new owner was willing to sell them. 
The M29 and T24 were so badly rusted they were beyond repair and that stripping them of any salvageable parts was all I could do. The M7 snow tractors were long gone.
Since the site was remote and across a river that could only be crossed by vehicles at certain times of the year while the water was low enough and was not frozen, time was of the essence to get the items removed before the river froze up as it was now late September.
 After a couple weeks of work all the items I had purchased including the T15 were removed. 
In 2020 I shipped the T15 out of Alaska to Washington.
My plan to rebuild the T15 will be to start with rebuilding the engine and suspension parts first. Then move to wiring harness gauges, windshield etc.All peripheral items will be repaired, repainted before the body work will begin.


 

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My T15 arrived from Alaska in July of this year. The first project in the restoration was the tracks.   I cleaned up the old rubber original bands and added new conveyor belting to the outer edges of the track pads. This added much stability to the track. 

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The next project was restoration of the bogey assemblies. This part of the project involved dismantling the springs sandblasting and painting. The carriers were badly worn and sloppy and required boring and new bushings. The Bogie wheels were replaced with NOS wheels. 

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Between suspension repairs I removed the engine and transmission. I dismantled the engine. It looked really bad when first opened. Number one piston cylinder had the most damage to the cylinder wall. I took the engine to a local machine shop and had the block bored. Crankshaft was ok as well as connecting rod bearings which turned out to be babbit type. Engine was bored to 0.60 over. Valve seats were reground and valve guides replaced. Miraculously the engine block had no cracks from ice forming internally over the years from all the water collecting in the block. 

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6 hours ago, M29 said:

Miraculously the engine block had no cracks from ice forming internally over the years from all the water collecting in the block. 

 

Dan - fantastic!  Love to see the project and am looking forward to seeing you get this T15 restored and running.  I am always amazed at how much abuse these old engines can take and still function.  I would have never imagined, though, that one could stand up to years of Alaska without a crack.  Congrats!

Patrick

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Hello Everyone

The last week has been an adventure into rubber replacement on the T15 guide rollers, front sprockets and rear idler wheels. Here is a description of the process I used to accomplish this

After learning that having my wheels vulcanized was going to cost around 1400.00 and I not wanting to spend that amount of money my only other options were to recast with urethane which I am sure is a good way of doing it or make up continuous rubber bands and apply them over  my rollers sprockets and idlers. Due to the high cost of vulcanizing and time consumption of making molds etc for urethane I decided to try the reband route. For anyone wishing to try this I have outlined my way of doing it. 

The process began with finding an adhesive that would do the job. My local rubber supplier uses Rema Tip Top for their rubber bonding applications. Also the rubber vulcanizer here I had talked to on vulcanizing told me that Rema SC 4000 is the gold standard of adhesives for bonding rubber to metal Rema SC4000 was recommended. I also looked into Lord adhesives as well and was advised by Lord to consider Chemlok CB 203A/B available from McMaster Carr.

Although Rema SC4000 is used for rubber to rubber bonding in addition to rubber to metal bonding. I did not use it for bonding the bands together at the ends for that part of the process instead I chose Q Bond a powerful grab super glue. I watched videos of its uses on Youtube and was impressed and did some tests and found it to work incredibly well.

My wheels had already been previously sandblasted to near white and painted snow white. ( I recommend doing your painting first before gluing) The area that the rubber was to go was masked off leaving only the clean sandblasted portion. Rema makes a special primer for the bare metal that they want used for the rubber to metal bonding process so I purchased it as well as a quart of the cement with hardener. Cost for the Rema products was 130.00 plus the Q bond (I bought the large kit  which was way more than needed)40.00. 80 durometer rubber in 1/4" thickness for sprockets Idlers and guide rollers was 60.00 so I was into all of it for around 230.00.

A very important part of bonding the ends together is that the joints are cut very square and are very clean Toluene was advised as a cleaner solvent. 

Cutting the rubber and getting very nice square end joints is key to a good result.  For this process I decided to use my chop saw  to make the cuts. This required sandwiching the rubber between wood strips that were brad nailed tightly together. I not only had to cut the rubber pieces to length I had to cut various widths lengthwise as well. In addition to that the T15 idlers/sprockets have a radius on their metal outside edge and to abut a square cut strip against it would cause to much of a gap between the edge and the rubber strip for my liking.  To deal with the radius meant the rubber would have to have a radius cut it into it the full length.This required the use of a wood router with radius bit to closely match the metal radius. Sandwiching the rubber between wood strips allowed for all cuts on the rubber to be done precisely both with the router, table saw and chop saw . Once you try cutting rubber with wood tools you will understand the purpose of the wood/rubber sandwich.

 In previous trial runs planning this reband project i experimented with different ways of wrapping the rubber around the wheels and ending up with a tight almost hidden joint. I tried wrapping the rubber around the wheels but found pulling the rubber tight with adhesive already in place was impossible and made you have to leave the rubber long and then cut the joint with a razor knife with crud results. Further the T15 rear idler wheel also has rivet heads from the spokes that even though they are low profile still stick up above the surface so that further complicated things. Therefore I decided the best way to get the best result was to stretch the continuous rubber band tightly around the wheel. Since the weasel sprockets with the raised outer lip are a larger OD than the flat portion that the rubber wraps around I made the rubber bands about 3/4 of an inch shorter than the measured circumference of the wheels.

Stretching the rubber around the guide wheels was not easy to do once glue was applied to the rubber bands and the metal wheels. The first attempt was a disaster. The rubber has a very quick grab to it so if any of the rubber touched the metal it was not going to let go. The trick I found to resolve this problem was to first stretch the rubber band fully around the wheel dry with before applying adhesive, then roll the edge of the rubber down around the radius of the wheel so half the metal of the wheel was exposed then apply the glue to the metal and the rubber at the same time and immediately roll the lip back into place with the tip of a small screwdriver without touching the adhesive. This was then repeated on the other half of the wheel. Another thing to do is make sure before you do this that your bonded joint is very good because if it breaks while the glue is on the wheel and the rubber it could cause quite a mess to clean up

The larger bands were easier to install. I found it best to fully cover both the wheel metal and rubber with the adhesive first then quickly place the rubber band with the joint portion first onto the wheel and let the glue immediately grab and hold the joint while stretching the rubber with two large screwdrivers around the ring of the wheel just like stretching a tire onto a rim. n conclusion only time will tell how good this method works. After a day or two allowing adhesives to fully cure the rubber feels very sold. The joint a tight so all should be well.

Below are a series of pictures that show the process. I could not take pictures at the time of applying the glue since I work by myself so sorry about that.

Dan 

 

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Here is a picture of the rubber strips sandwiched in wood In my previous post I did not mention the rubber thickness of the return rollers which is 1/8th inch with 1/4" being the thickness of the idler sprocket rubber.

Dan

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  • 2 weeks later...

I used E6000 and then took a flap disc and sanded smooth. It seemed to work good as a filler basically though it is cosmetic the outside belting is what keeps it all together. I had to section the tracks in 4 spots. I put E6000 in the joint. I do have several wheels that still have rubber on them that I don't want to get rid of I would trade though for parts I need like a diluter tank or other T15 parts. The wheel rubber on the T15 is exactly the same as m29c same size and shape.

Dan

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Thanks for the E6000 tip.  I understand the strength is from the outside bands, but still need a relatively smooth surface for the bogies to roll on. 

I wonder if the rubber could be removed from M29 bogies and re-glued on the T15 bogies as an option.   My plan was to get a mold made at some point.

Finding another diluter tank would be difficult.  Like most unique T15 parts- hens teeth.

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You are aware that Mike Howard is making or planning on making new bands for the T15. Rob Walsh has been working on the design. If your tracks are really rough that is probably your best option. I was fortunate enough to have bands that were somewhat salvageable. As i worked on the T15 track I came to realize it is a very weak track with only the two bands. I could see why the machine had problems keeping them on. Even if you go with new inner bands I wold also add an outer band to stabilize the track. Just my opinion

Dan

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I am aware of the Rob Walsh/Mike Howard band project.   I plan to use those for my T15.  My T15 grousers and bands are really rough.  I bought 3 nice M7 snow tractor tracks that have super nice grousers to use for the restoration.  I will either need Mike Howards bands or need to use conveyor belting.  My T15 bands are not work working with and the M7 bands are shorter.  

I have some M29C tracks that have the metal reinforced links on the outside, but the inner bands are missing chunks.  I think they could be usable with some minor repair.  So- the E6000 is more for that project.  (I have several M29C hulls & projects- one restored M29C swimmer)

Beautiful work BTW and what an amazing find.  My T15 is very complete for a T15, but will need a ton of work.  Your tub seems to be in better condition than my starting point.  I have rust in a few spots and a little Bubba work to fix.

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you can cut out sections of your t15 tracks and splice in to the m7 tracks. I think the m7 had 36 and t15 41 pads. This is only feasible if your inner bands can be repaired basically smoothed out. My inner bands were broken and checked and even had chunks out of them. I spliced them together in the middle of a pad. 4 sections per side then tied them together with 1/2" belt . The hard part was drilling all the holes. I used flexco 140E conveyor clips. Gave it a nicer look than using those washers. Lets face it though the T15 is never going to be what the M29 is as running gear parts are to hard to come by or non existent so basically it is a show machine or museum piece. Bands in my view are only part of the problem...cool looking machine though and only a few will ever run kinda sad but true.

Dan

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  • 2 months later...

Latest Update

T15 engine slowly coming together. I have to get the starter armature back from rewinding and the T84 transmission finished what I am working on now. Some misc lines yet to go. Radiator has been rebuilt which I have to get from the radiator shop. Anyway seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on the engine

Dan

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Thanks for the kind words. Appreciate it. I will post more pictures when I get the starter on. The armature was bad so had to send it out for repair $$$$$. Oh well.

T84 transmission being worked on now. For those that don't know some parts of the weasel T84 are different than the jeep T84. I found out the rear bearing is larger diameter for the jeep than the weasel.  

As far as clean shop I try to sweep and clean every day. 

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Dan,

You are doing some nice looking work here...Way to go!

Nice to see another T-15 coming back from the brink of extinction and with a great caretaker.

These were the truly expendable weasels with a 1000 mile service life and no zerk fittings for bearings in the suspension 😬

Great job and keep it up we are all looking forward to the results!

Rgds,

Rob

P.S. and yes, your new shop is really tidy!

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just got the radiator back from being rebuilt. I had a modern straight core put in that will cool much better than the old style with a wavy core. Since the engine is in the rear on the T15 anything one can do to improve cooling seems like the way to go

Dan

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