Need help with - 1914 Jeffery Touring car


My 88 year old father owns a 1914 Jeffery made by the Thomas B. Jeffery Company. This model was known prior to 1914 as the Rambler and when the company was bought by Nash they changed the name back to Rambler.

He has owned this car for over 2 decades and has done a lot of the maintenance and repairs either by himself or with the help of mechanic friends…just by kind of guessing and a lot of trial and error.

Now the engine has gone out and everyone is stumped as to how to fix it. I have been searching for a repair guide or manual and haven’t been able to find anything.

If anyone has worked on these cars and has any advice we would be REALLY grateful.


I likely will not be able to help - but if anyone can help then you are really going to need to say more than “Now the engine has gone out”

That doesn’t even give a starting point.

Will the engine crank? Does it get spark? Does it get fuel?


Lou (my dad) said that the engine will turn over only after several attempts and when it finally catches the exhaust makes a LOT of smoke. He says the car will run for a short while but he can’t get it to go faster than about 10 miles an hour and when he stops it usually dies and he has to start it all over again.

One mechanic that looked at it said he thought the piston rings needed to be replaced but he didn’t want to even try it because he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to find or machine any parts needed. Everyone that has looked at it has asked for an owner’s manual and no one will touch it without some sort of guide so we are just trying to find reliable mechanical information about the engine but it is proving ellusive.

I don’t know if this has anything to do with it or not, but the starting mechanism has been altered. When the car came into my father’s possession the hand crank was missing and we couldn’t find a replacement that would work. So for years we had to push start it (good thing my dad has 7 kids and various inlaws to help). One of his friends rigged up an electric starter and installed several car batteries under the front seats of the car to help things run smoothly. As far as I know that is the only major mechanical modification that has been done on the car, almost everything else is original.


What color is the smoke and what does it smell like? Pick the closest color: white, black, or blue (bluish-gray maybe).


You need a mechanic with a good basic knowledge of pre 1960 autos. For example you don’t know what the #s should be for a compression test, but do one anyway to see if the cylinders are fairly even, Then put a couple of tablespoons of heavy oil in each cylinder and test again, if the #s come up a lot ,that would indicate bad rings or cylinder walls. If you disassemble this engine everything will have to be measured with micrometers to determine what parts need to be adapted or made and all gaskets will have to be hand cut from appropriate material, you might have to pour and hand scrape babbit bearings ( my spellchecker doesn’t even know what babbit is.) This has to be a labor of love and keen interest, unfortunately as people who remember cars of this vintage die off the demand by collectors wanes.


Thanks for the advice, I will pass it along.

Luckily Lou is a member of a vintage car club where most of the owners work on their cars themselves. There is one car older than his in the club and a couple that are a few years later, several Model Ts. But this latest problem has them all scratching their heads. I’ve looked everywhere for someone with experience with Jeffery models and I’ve only found one guy in california. It is frustrating.


That club is the best place to start for ideas and mechanics. Also, don’t restrict yourself to mechanics familliar with the Jeffery models. Cars back then used many of the same basic systems, so a mechanic familliar with pre-1920 cars is what you want. There were hundreds of small brands back then, mechanics have to be able to deal with most all of them.


The smoke is black, he said he didn’t know what it smelled like.


Black typically means it’s running too rich, so it could be a carburetor problem. Perhaps the mixture adjustment (if it’s manual, as many were back then) is not operating correctly, or there is a bad gasket or seal in the carb. Has he checked the spark plugs?


The problem probably won’t turn out to be model specfic, just basic automotive knowledge applied correctly. Could you imagine a mechanic in 1914 saying he could not fix the car because he did not have a manual? first of all he probably would not have a job any more and second I think the odds were 50/50 he could not even read well enough to make a manual valuable, I know of mechanics today who can’t read well enough to make use of a manual but they stumble through somehow.

You need a man who knows how to apply what he is seeing to the proper system. My experience with car club people is they are great at keeping the carpet free of lint and a shine on the paint but little else.Gomer and Goober from Mayberry could fix this one for sure.


It’s doubtful you will find anyone here who has ever seen a Jeffery, much less worked on one. However, mechanical principles are the same no matter what and if an engine problem is suspected a compression test as mentioned is the first step.

Assuming this smoke is not a direct or indirect cause of this starter modification and if one assumed for the sake of discussion that the engine does have a serious problem which would require an overhaul, I wouldn’t have a problem ripping it apart and rebuilding it parts source or no.

Many parts from other engines can often be used as is or with a little modification and this includes rings, bearings, valves, crankshaft modification, etc. Even a badly damaged camshaft can be welded up, reground, hardened, and used again.

For many years (until the aftermarket finally caught up) I used flathead Ford piston rings in one of my antique Harley motorcycles. They fit right in with zero modifications and worked great. Other people have used Corvair pistons on those same motorcycles and for several years I ran an old VW Beetle 6 volt generator on one of them.
A competent mechanic can go a long way by using a bit of ingenuity.


I don’t know but I will ask him when I get a chance.


Yes - black is the best news you can get - it usually does mean too rich and that is generally much easier to deal with than bad rings - in which case you would tend to have blue smoke (from burning oil).


True, but basic instincts point to a needle valve and seat in the carb, or a bad float or float settings. Start with the easy stuff!


Nachista, you REALLY need to hook up with a vintage car club in your area. There WILL be one. Keeping pre-1920 cars on the road is more art than science…They were all hand-built, one at a time, and each is a little different from the next one. True, Henry Ford was cranking out his Model T’s on a mass-production assembly line, but he was one of the few who built cars that way…They required CONSTANT maintenance…Many had wood frames and body structure…

From what you describe, the engine needs it’s very simple carburetor cleaned up and properly adjusted. It’s TRYING to run now, it’s just way to “rich”… Probably, “the float is stuck” or “the needle is leaking”… This is not rocket science.

To own and enjoy one of these cars, you must have high mechanical aptitude or deep pockets or both…I suspect a car of this vintage, if it’s complete and reasonably unmodified, would be worth a considerable amount of money to a wealthy collector or automotive museum. Whatever you do, don’t let any hacks work on it.


Caddyman, you are good…the jeffery in your link is actually the one my father’s own. You can tell because in the shot showing the spare tire on the back you can see the custom cover he had done advertising our family company “Hickman Land Title Since 1904” This was after he had the paint touched up and the seats recovered. The old black leather/horsehair seats were literally crumbling away, I HATE the new cheap green material and fill the “restorer” used, it isn’t comfortable and it looks hokey.

That was at the Salt Lake Concourse, Dad actually got second place that year.


It’s a small world…There are probably very few Jeffery’s in operating condition today, making this one a high-value vehicle…Don’t let any hacks work on it…I bet it runs FINE with the carburetor cleaned up.

Yes, the green seats DO NOT BELONG THERE and probably kept the car out of 1st place…

What are your plans for the car??


Dad just wants to keep it and keep driving it in all the local parades and take his grandkids for Sunday drives. He loves all his car but this is his baby. If it ever came into my possession I would have the seats redone…as they should be, and keep it as long as it was feasible.


Jay Leno has a big shop that restores is cars. If you wrote to him, perhaps one of his mechanics might be able to answer a technical question for you.


Those are some great pictures. It reminds me of the 1911 Regal my dad restored and used while I was growing up. Old car tours are some of my best memories. As you can see on the picture of the steering wheel, it has both timing and mixture adjustment levers. Have someone with some knowledge of these old setups go over the carb, bet that’s the problem.