People have labeled me eccentric for as long as I can remember. It’s not usually derogatory (I don’t think), but I sometimes do things that seem perfectly rational to me, but in retrospect are just weird. For example, about five years ago I made an appointment at my local Secretary of State branch so I could take the state test to become a certified mechanic of 1973 and older motor vehicles. Yes, there is such a thing, and it costs six dollars. I passed the test easily, and my license still hangs on the wall of my garage, although I never renewed it. It would be a stretch to say that I couldn’t have done it without my MOTOR manuals, but a man has to start a story out somehow.
Anyway, my day job is in public education, but as some of you know, I have what seems like a side job maintaining and driving my fleet of nine vehicles. As any veteran member of any automotive forum will tell you, the first thing you need when you buy a vehicle and plan to repair it yourself is a factory service manual, or FSM. I got my first one for Christmas when I was 14 years old. It was (and is) a reprint manual for 1965 Mustangs, Falcons, Comets, and Fairlanes, and I duly read it all the way through, which is something I haven’t done since, since my social life has picked up a little (but just a little) since then. I have, however, collected the FSMs for every old car I currently have, and a couple I don’t. Along the way, I also started collecting MOTOR manuals. Lots of them. More than any non-eccentric car man would need.
According to their website, MOTOR started out as a “monthly newsletter,” which was the brainchild of William Randolph Hearst of all people, old Charles Foster Kane himself. Over the years, MOTOR branched out into monthly periodicals, flat rate guides, and, in 1937, a shop manual. Since independent shops were unlikely to purchase a separate factory shop manual for every model every year, one MOTOR manual was good enough to get the job done. Today, I will act as a representative for MOTOR itself, and try to sell you on the fine attributes of their myriad publications.
First is the standard repair manual, published yearly. Each manual goes back at least six or seven model years; therefore, the 1971 manual offers repair instructions for models back to 1965, and the 1962 manual reaches back to 1955. My 1954 manual actually lists models as far back as 1940.
Do you need to do a quick model year check before you start working on one of those pesky Corvairs? The manual can help.
Have you forgotten how to attach the secondary vacuum diaphragm to a Holley 4160? The manual can help.
Do you need to recurve the distributor in a customer’s 1965 Chevy II? The manual can help.
Do you need to know the difference between Buick straight-eight rocker arms based on the car’s transmission? The manual can help. When my late local machinist (RIP Ted) was working on my Buick 263, what tome did he often reference? Yes sir, the MOTOR manual.
Do you need to disable, I mean repair, the emission control nightmare on a customer’s Vega? The manual can help.
If you need to rebuild an automatic transmission, MOTOR has a manual for you, and it’s well detailed with good pictures and text.
Obviously, you can learn how to adjust the linkages in your Torqueflite-equipped Chrysler.
Here’s a job I’ll probably have to do eventually, considering that my Skylark has a Super Turbine 300. I’m glad I have a MOTOR manual.
Does one of your customers have a Beetle with an automatic? After asking the customer why s/he would do that, you can reference the MOTOR manual. There’s a fluid schematic you can study, in color!
Do you work in a shop that specializes in heavy-duty trucks? Yes, MOTOR has a manual for you, too.
I love the sound of Detroit Diesels. Maybe I should buy one to work on since I have the MOTOR manual to help me.
Do you need to do a clutch repair on a big Mack? No problem – grab the MOTOR manual.
You can fix everything from Autocar to Willys, automatic transmissions from Allison to Warner.
Are you just starting out and need to learn the basics? MOTOR has a manual for you, too.
There are even review questions so you can test yourself on what you’ve learned.
MOTOR published a yearly handbook with all the basics for the new models; given my screen name, you may not be surprised to learn that this one is from 1965.
Like all MOTOR manuals, it shows you timing specs, firing orders, idle speeds, and even how to set the timing on every model.
I love this part. Like all men whom women find impossibly attractive and desirable, I find myself studying the different oiling systems for all 1965 model engines, straight from MOTOR’s Handbook.
MOTOR also published a monthly periodical aimed at the service industry.
My favorite section is “How Would You Fix It?”; it presents a real world problem and how the mechanic repaired it. Some of them are real stumpers; it’s kind of like Gus Wilson without much of a storyline. Today, I also enjoy the ads for various service parts.
The magazine also announces industry news, including updates on recalls, common problems with current models, and new models.
MOTOR is still around today. The screenshot above is straight from their website, and as you can see, they still offer manuals for current models, although those current models have gotten infinitely more complicated.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, if I can’t have a factory shop manual (which has happened exactly never), I’ll open up a MOTOR manual every time. William Randolph Hearst is perhaps best known today as a man who practiced yellow journalism and whose cinematic alter-ego uttered the enigmatic word “rosebud” in Citizen Kane, but he also introduced a line of literature that has brought me plenty of information and enjoyment, and for that I thank him.