FROM HUM­BLE MECCANO ROOTS

Cal­gar­ian has pulled, re­built and in­stalled at least eight en­gines in his dou­ble-bay

Calgary Herald - - DRIVING - GREG WILLIAMS If you have a workspace filled with tools, projects or mem­o­ries and are will­ing to share, let me know. I’d be pleased to write it up. Email me at greg­[email protected] Driv­ing.ca

From an early age, Bruce Borstmayer was fas­ci­nated by a toy that helped shape his life.

“My mom al­ways told me that from the time I was two years old I was play­ing with my older brother’s Meccano set,” the Cal­gar­ian says.

Tin­ker­ing with Meccano taught him me­chan­i­cal dex­ter­ity, and he put those skills to use when he built a soap­box-derby car in the eighth grade.

He got a real car in the 11th grade, when his brother bought a quar­ter-sec­tion of land that came with an aban­doned 1947 Stude­baker.

Borstmayer put a six-volt bat­tery in it and got it run­ning, then drove it for about a year.

When the family re­lo­cated to Saska­toon, Borstmayer ad­mired the cus­tom cars be­ing driven by the Drag­gins Car Club. He joined the club and bought a 1956 Chevro­let, which he mod­i­fied with a 383 cu­bic-inch Chrysler en­gine and TorqueFlite trans­mis­sion.

“I got that car in 1969 and kept it un­til 1975,” he says. “I drove it ev­ery­where, and through Saskatchewan win­ters at mi­nus one mil­lion de­grees.”

Borstmayer moved to Cal­gary in 1972, and in 1990, he bought the house the family lives in now. It has a three-car garage. It’s a dou­ble bay across, and the left bay is dou­ble length. It’s a space that’s 10 feet, eight inches wide by 20 feet deep. In the win­ter, to keep warm, he drops a blue tarp over the bay open­ing and runs an elec­tric heater.

It’s a hum­ble space, but it’s where Borstmayer has pulled, re­built and in­stalled at least eight en­gines, not to men­tion any other me­chan­i­cal task that needs to be done.

Borstmayer is a self-pro­claimed BMW-res­cuer and has saved many from the crusher. Most of these BMWs have had se­ri­ous me­chan­i­cal is­sues re­quir­ing Borstmayer to com­pletely dis­as­sem­ble the en­gine to di­ag­nose the problem.

“I go out and work in the garage in the evening or on week­ends,” Borstmayer says. “I don’t do what I do for any­body else; I do it for me. But I’ve got three kids, and every time I fin­ish a car I have to do some­thing with it, and have given many of them to my kids to drive.”

Here’s what we learned about Borstmayer’s tools and workspace.

Q What tools are in your col­lec­tion and where did they come from?

A I still have the first set of sock­ets and ratch­ets I bought from Simp­son- Sears in 1967 when I was work­ing on the Stude­baker. I bought a set of Crafts­man, all Im­pe­rial with quar­ter, three­eighth and half-inch drive. I still have all of the pieces, but I re­cently broke a breaker bar from the set, and I’m up­set about that. Early on, I bought a cou­ple of beam-style torque wrenches. They were rea­son­ably good qual­ity, and I still use them for all of the work I do.

Q Which tool or tools do you use most of­ten?

A I’m mostly us­ing met­ric sizes these days; my old Im­pe­rial set doesn’t see a lot of use. Work­ing on BMWs, if you had a 10-mm and a 13-mm socket wrench you could take apart 65 per cent of the car. Throw in a 15-mm and you’re up to about 80 per cent.

An­other tool I use is ac­tu­ally a log book. When work­ing on a car, I doc­u­ment ev­ery­thing. I’ll date ev­ery­thing, and when I torque some­thing I write it down. Also paint mark­ers that I use to mark wiring con­nec­tions or in­ter­nal en­gine com­po­nents. I’ll put a dot on the mat­ing parts so I know how it goes back to­gether.

Q How did you learn to use the tools? Did you go to school, did some­one teach you, or do you watch YouTube videos?

A: I never took au­to­mo­tive class in high school, I ba­si­cally taught my­self about tools and how to take stuff apart, fix it, and put it back to­gether. But now with YouTube, if I’m stuck I can look and see how some­one else does it. I will also con­sult BMW fo­rums; the in­ter­net has made wrench­ing on cars way, way eas­ier. I’ll also con­trib­ute to a fo­rum. I fig­ure if some­one is ask­ing a ques­tion and I have the knowl­edge, I’ll post a re­sponse.

Q What’s the most im­por­tant project in the garage right now?

A Well, two things. I’ve got a 1997 BMW 318i four-door sedan that I put a GM small-block LS V-8 in. That’s 418 cu­bic inches, and it makes about 600 horse­power. I did that about four years ago and have put 4,500 miles on it. I need to fix the rear sus­pen­sion by chang­ing the springs; there’s a rat­tle, and I hope that fixes it.

My next project is a 2013 Cadil­lac ATS. I need to re­place the front bumper and light, get a sal­vage in­spec­tion done, and then I want to ex­plore putting an LT4 V-8 en­gine in it.

Q Is there any­one else in the house or in your life in­ter­ested in work­ing in the garage?

A No. Like I said, I’ve got three kids, but none of my in­ter­est or skills got passed on. But I will help some of the club mem­bers (BMW Club of South­ern Al­berta) with the Vanos sys­tem (BMW’s vari­able valve tim­ing sys­tem). I’m get­ting so that I know what I’m do­ing there, and if you don’t get it right, well, it can lead to cat­a­strophic fail­ure.

PHO­TOS: STAN­LEY MUNN

It’s a hum­ble workspace, but Cal­gary’s Bruce Borstmayer has re­built sev­eral ve­hi­cles in this bay of the family garage. Borstmayer is a self-pro­claimed BMW-res­cuer.

Bruce Borstmayer’s small workspace has ev­ery­thing he needs to di­ag­nose and re­pair al­most every com­po­nent on a BMW, but lurk­ing in the en­gine com­part­ment of this 1997 318i is a GM V-8.

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