Reader Follow-Up—

August 1, 2010 | By John Gunnell

More About That TBI Swap On the Willys-Knight

I enjoyed the June article by John Gunnell on Lloyd Gauerke's 1931 Willys Knight. In the Q&A portion, Lloyd states that he was using a 1955 Chevy six and a T-5 transmission. Later, he slips into the conversation that he uses a throttle body injection on the old 235-cid Chevy six.

I am using a 235 and T-5 in my 1946 Chevy pickup. MaybeAutoRestorer could make the TBI swap into a how-to tech article with some photos of the engine.

Richard Sohn

As it turned out, the car’s owner wasn’t satisfied with the operation of the TBI system. John Gunnell got in touch with Lloyd Gauerke and filed this report:

We contacted Lloyd Gauerke, a former engineer with Miller Electric in Appleton, Wisconsin, to see if photos of the engine were available and to find out how things were going with the TBI conversion on the older Chevy six. Instead of a how-to, however, he gave us some information about the outcome of his “attempted” fuel injection upgrade.

“The fuel injection system I had installed in the 1931 Willys-Knight worked OK, but I always had to crank the engine for about two or three seconds before it would start,” Lloyd explained. “And this was about normal for the 1990-vintage TBI system that it was based on. The check engine light came on at times and the idle was not as steady as it had previously been with a carburetor.

“I only got about one mile per gallon better fuel mileage on the highway (17-18 mpg versus 15-16 mpg),” Lloyd noted. “However, on long tours it did much better, registering about 17 mpg compared to 13 mpg with the carb.”

Like a good engineer, Lloyd “did the math” and figured out that since he only traveled about 3000 miles per year in the Willys-Knight, it would take forever to pay back the $1500 cost of the system.

“Lesson learned,” he admitted. “The problems I had may have been due to the fact that the spark coil was under the dashboard, as was the TBI computer and I had a one-wire alternator running through the old wiring.”

According to Gauerke, the man he bought the system from was very helpful and worked with him to get it working right, but they finally gave up and took it back out again.

“I just never could get the Chevy six engine to idle and start as well as it had with the original carburetor,” he said.

It doesn’t seem to make sense for Auto Restorer to get into the details of the swap, if it didn’t work out to be advantageous. With his engineering background, Lloyd is a talented mechanic and our guess is if he was dissatisfied, other readers would be, too.

Although his TBI swap didn’t work out, Lloyd kept the Chevy six in the car.
Although his TBI swap didn’t work out, Lloyd kept the Chevy six in the car. He then sliced up the non-rebuildable Willys engine to make three of these units to demonstrate the workings of the Willys Sleeve-Valve, where moving sleeves take the place of valves for inlet and exhaust functions.

After Lloyd took all the TBI components off the 1931 sedan he recently sold that car to buy a rarer Willys-Knight coupe of the same vintage. He’s now busy restoring his 1931 Willys-Knight coupe and planning to restore a late-1930s Fiat Topolino That he picked up recently.

“It will be at least a year before I get to the Topolino,” he said. As you can tell, Lloyd is always busy with one car project or another. When we contacted him he had just gotten back from a trip from central Wisconsin to Clear Lake, Iowa, in his bright red Citroen 2CV. “The Willys club had the spring meet there and I didn't have a Willys to drive,” he said. “So, I Took the Citroen and drove it 750 miles with zero problems.”

—John Gunnell