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Semi OT: Gearheads - A Good Small Car Engine for Repurposing?

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  • Semi OT: Gearheads - A Good Small Car Engine for Repurposing?

    This isn't on the immediate horizon by any means, but I was thinking about my forklift with a bad battery and how I could convert it to be a gas/diesel unit. New hydraulic pump, hydraulic motor to replace the DC drive motor, then all the hydraulic controls, etc. but the real sticking point is the engine to drive the pump.

    Based on some back-of-the-envelope calculations, it looks like I need something around 75-100 HP to run the pump I've "chosen" (which is, truth be told, over-spec'd) and it got me thinking about where I could find such an engine on the cheap. I've got a perfectly good 350 small block from the 1980s with only about 30k miles on it but it makes 210 HP. Seems a bit silly to have a 210 HP small block on a forklift I was wondering if there were any common small 4-cylinder gassers out there that have a reputation for being easy to work on and easy to repurpose the way Ford's in-line 6 and Chevy's 350 small blocks have. I suppose if I were looking for old-school engines, maybe something out of a VW bug? I seem to recall those being in the 75-100 HP and air cooled to boot. My dad used to tell me stories of a friend who had one engine in the engine compartment and one in front. Whenever the engine crapped out, he'd swap engines practically on the side of the road and take the bad one back to rebuild it.

    Edit to add: maybe I should consider motorcycle engines? Air cooled, relatively compact... I bet some of the bigger ones are in the 75-100 HP range, no?

    Is any of this practical? Nah. Just having fun thinking through an amusing project and maybe learning some things along the way.
    Last edited by Fasttrack; 03-01-2021, 05:39 PM.

  • #2
    The first one that comes to my mind is the Iron Duke 4 cylinder. It was used in everything so is plentiful. I know I've even seen forklifts with these motors (or at least very close cousins) in them.
    But I like the small block option...hahaha. I once built an air compressor out of a 350 small block. Never did finish it though.

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    • #3
      Our fork has a straight six in it, and I doubt whether it ever puts out more than 30 horse. There's nothing we can do with it that would tax it that much anyway. Yours is electric- chances are it's not much of a powerhouse and could easily be replaced by a four banger and you'd have lots of power. I think the biggest thing is having it set up with an appropriate 'cruise control'. You could probably run a gas generator motor in there, providing it's say a 6500 watt unit or better.

      Do you have any specs on the electric motor in your fork? I have a motor here that supposedly came from a fork truck, and it's 5 horse.

      Thinking more on the standby generator idea, you might even be able to rewire one to put out around 40 volts dc, and with suitable rectifiers you could run your machine directly. Drop the generator into the battery bay. Just an idea.
      I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

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      • #4
        For years, forklifts had Continental F-162 engines, a flathead 4-cyl capable of about 40 HP. I can recommend the older AMC jeep 4-cylinders fro 1988 to 1995, and also the Iron Duke Pontiac motor. The AMC motor is particularly robust and compact, fits the same bellhousings as all the modern metric v6 motors.
        25 miles north of Buffalo NY, USA

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        • #5
          I've heard of an old forklift that was gas over electric, designed before automatic transmissions came into being. The mast from that lift is on my forklift now, in fact. That machine had the hydraulic pump powered by a motor, not directly from the engine.

          The thought crossed my mind to use a gas-powered DC welder to run that thing. If you have a DC welder, it'd be easy enough to lash it up for a quickie try.

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          • #6
            There are a host of possibilities here. First things first. Are you sure you want a gasoline engine? Would you consider a diesel? As you narrow the search remember that horsepower is a calculated number. It's based on torque output at a specific RPM. As you set things up be mindful that hydraulic pumps have RPM limitations on them. Their rated output will be at a specific RPM that's often close to their never exceed speed. That small block could be making its 210hp at a speed way over what a pump can run at.

            You may simplify the whole search by looking for something like an old skid steer loader. Most are diesel, but there are older gas models out there. Skid steers run off hydraulics. You'd be getting an engine coupled to a pump, drive motors, plus an assortment of valves and cylinders to play with, all pre-designed to play well together.
            Last edited by tom_d; 03-01-2021, 08:21 PM.

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            • #7
              The problem with an aircooled engine is it needs air flow. I doubt your forklift will ever reach 20 mph so you'd need a good-sized fan. Aircooled VW engines (stock) ranged from 36 hp to around 50, most of them the well-known 40hp. There are dozens of motorcycle engines to consider, most of them in the 60-140 hp range, but the aircooled ones really do need brisk airflow.

              OTOH, a watercooled m/c engine wouldn't be difficult to plumb and would be trouble free. Only problem is engine speed - modern m/c engines develop power in the 6K to 16K RPM range. Doubt your pump would be happy at those revs.

              Do you really think you need 75-100 HP?

              -js
              There are no stupid questions. But there are lots of stupid answers. This is the internet.

              Location: SF Bay Area

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              • #8
                On an electric forklift, isn't the heavy battery serving two purposes? Power and counterweight?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by reggie_obe View Post
                  On an electric forklift, isn't the heavy battery serving two purposes? Power and counterweight?
                  Yes, and they are quite heavy. I know the batteries in the forklifts at work are over 3000 pounds. These are 5000 pound rated lifts.


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                  • #10
                    From what I've been able to find, electric motors for fork lifts can be 10 hp or so- that translates to 7500 watts. From 36 volts, that means 200 amps or more from the pack. All things considered, I'm starting to wonder whether it's more cost effective to just replace the battery pack. Build your own- you could get away with 6 deep cycle batteries wired in series/parallel. Your charger would be fine with it I'm sure. If you're looking for longer times of use on average, then you're not likely to be too concerned about the cost of a replacement pack. But for occasional use, you could have an entirely satisfactory pack in there for less than a grand.

                    What could you get for your old battery pack? It must be worth something to somebody, just for recycling. Might help offset the cost of the new one.

                    I'm thinking too that you will want to have the weight still there-
                    I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

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                    • #11
                      I've done many conversion projects of one form or another. Can I assume this fork lift will be occasional use?
                      Not to dampen your fabricobbling but if it was me I'd look for a used propane powered machine which can be had pretty cheap in the 4-6000 pound range. They may be a bit clapped but it might be easier reparing a factory built one than creating a new machine. Exhausting that then I'd explore converting your electric machine.

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                      • #12
                        If you wanted to go diesel I have repurposed semi truck refer engines. They are usually Kubota or Yanmar, and they run forever.

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                        • #13
                          Speaking of needing a forklift engine here is my winter project I have going. Was going to try to stuff an Allis engine in it but nothing is right about it .going to pull it out and see about rebuilding it. Click image for larger version

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Jim Stewart View Post
                            The problem with an aircooled engine is it needs air flow. I doubt your forklift will ever reach 20 mph so you'd need a good-sized fan. Aircooled VW engines (stock) ranged from 36 hp to around 50, most of them the well-known 40hp. There are dozens of motorcycle engines to consider, most of them in the 60-140 hp range, but the aircooled ones really do need brisk airflow.

                            OTOH, a watercooled m/c engine wouldn't be difficult to plumb and would be trouble free. Only problem is engine speed - modern m/c engines develop power in the 6K to 16K RPM range. Doubt your pump would be happy at those revs.

                            Do you really think you need 75-100 HP?

                            -js

                            Good point regarding air cooling! And no, I don't think I really need 75-100 hp. I could probably get away with a lot less but it also has to run the hydraulics for the lift and based on what I'm seeing for hydraulic pumps, they want a pretty healthy buffer when run from an IC engine as compared to electric. For example, one manufacturer recommends a 58 hp electric motor or a 77 hp IC engine.

                            And yes, the battery is a big part of the counter weight on a conventional forklift. My forklift is a bit unusual. It weighs 10,500 lbs. without the battery and 12,800 lbs. with a battery but the lift capacity is only 3k lbs. For comparison, a conventional counterweight forklift with 3k capacity usually weighs 6,000 to 8,000 lbs. with the battery. Mine has a swing mast so it carries a lot of extra mass for added stability when the load is picked up perpendicular to the direction of travel. Consequently, I'm betting I could lift and maneuver a 3k load in the normal orientation without a battery and not have any problems.

                            But like I said, this isn't really a serious exercise at this point. I'm more just interested in what might be available in terms of small sized engines that are relatively cheap to buy and easy to work on. I'm definitely not against a diesel - that would be my preference but I assumed finding a small gasser at a junkyard would be easier. And yes, most of the pumps I'm seeing have a top speed of 2000 rpm, so I'd likely want some kind of speed reduction between the gasser and the pump.

                            Here's a video of a late model version of my forklift: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhSKFG57104

                            Here's a refurbished one identical to mine: https://youtu.be/sah0qi5SJ0o?t=73
                            Last edited by Fasttrack; 03-01-2021, 10:36 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by I make chips View Post
                              I've done many conversion projects of one form or another. Can I assume this fork lift will be occasional use?
                              Not to dampen your fabricobbling but if it was me I'd look for a used propane powered machine which can be had pretty cheap in the 4-6000 pound range. They may be a bit clapped but it might be easier reparing a factory built one than creating a new machine. Exhausting that then I'd explore converting your electric machine.
                              That's definitely the practical route. I paid about $300 for mine, the scrap value on the battery is a little over $400 and the scrap value on the rest of the machine is about $625 and I could probably get another $200 for the charger, which is a pretty decent Exide unit. So I'd be about $925 in the positive, which I could put towards a propane powered forklift.


                              Originally posted by true temper View Post
                              If you wanted to go diesel I have repurposed semi truck refer engines. They are usually Kubota or Yanmar, and they run forever.
                              That's a great idea! Where do you find those? Semitruck junkyard?

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