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What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

Posted November 10, 2020 12:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: hand cranks nissan

When Henry Leland declared in 1908, following the death of his friend Byron Carter of complications related to a crank-starting injury, that no more men would die of such injuries if he could help it, Charles Kettering got right on it and by 1911 patented the electric self-starter for automobile engines. Job done, right? Except the ability to crank a car's engine over by hand remained an option for many decades after.

So when did they stop putting hand-cranks on cars?

By the Fifties most Americans thought it funny that British sports cars still had crankholes in their grilles because American sedans had largely abandoned the feature a decade or so before, to the point where pretty much everybody had forgotten how to even hand-crank a car. This was the rocket age, after all, and something as primitive as a crankhole would mortify a mid-century stylist.

But truck designers, on the other hand, had to consider the utility of their products, and a manual engine engagement feature was still rather useful to, say, a logger with a balky starter far from civilization or an adamantly self-reliant farmer.

So while we're not apt to find this feature on a car beyond - I'm guessing - the MGA or some Citroens in the Sixties, trucks and SUVs carried that option far longer. Some light googling revealed a number of candidates for the four-wheel-drive vehicle that last featured hand-crankability. The dawn of the Eighties seemed the cutoff for a few of them, with the Nissan Patrol and the Land Rover Series III supposedly featuring crankholes until 1980. Toyota reportedly made its Land Cruisers able to accept armstrong starting through 1988, which we've yet to confirm.

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#1

Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/10/2020 2:13 AM

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#2

Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/10/2020 6:47 AM

A 1995-built dump truck with hand-crank start springs immediately to mind, as did pulling away from it by the back of the coat someone who had let go of the handle when the thing fired-up.

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#3

Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/10/2020 9:18 AM

As a teenager, my first car was a 1959 Renault Dauphine, which had the engine in the back with a crank. I remember cranking it on cold winter mornings, which was somewhat like churning butter.

One day, after "tuning it" and probably getting the timing a bit too far advanced, I cranked it and it fired before top dead center, slinging the crank across the yard.

My dad walked over, handed me his credit card, and told me to go buy a new battery before I broke my arm.

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#4
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/10/2020 10:20 PM

It's not the arm which breaks most often, it is the thumb.

You could always tell the novices or those which hadn't been properly instructed by the position of their thumb on the crank, it should lay beside the fingers, not opposed to them.

It's like kicking a bike over, don't use a straight leg or you may travel down the road without going with the bike.

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#9
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/11/2020 6:03 AM

That's a very good point, keep the thumb out of the way. As I recall well over 50 years ago, my dad said about the same thing.

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#24
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/16/2020 3:05 PM

My dad told me the same thing, but I never manually cranked a motor.

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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/11/2020 8:26 AM

I had a 1974 Kawasaki KX450 two stroke dirt bike,with compression release lever.

If you did not time your kick right,it would kick back very hard.

Being a large man,it often broke the idler gear between the kick gear and the crankshaft instead of hurting me.

I used to carry a box full of idler gears and red loctite,because these beasts had a lot of vibration issues.

Lots of torque,but limited RPM range.It would simply reach a peak rpm and not go any faster.

Looking at today's motocross bikes,the Kawa seems very primitive,and it was.

Monoshock?What was that?Race sag?

Four Strokes are now the dominant engine in motocross.

I don't ride anymore but my sons and grandsons were into it,now my sons are too old to ride,and two of my grandsons ride in the seniors class;time flies.

"Time flies like an arrow.Fruit flies like a banana" Groucho Marks

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#16
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/11/2020 4:27 PM

My experience with the Suzuki TS400 was the kick back was a lot "fresher" than that of a four stroke, probably because the inertia of the rotating mass is lower.

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#19
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/16/2020 12:01 AM

Suzuki TS 400, was my first starter bike. (Because it was my brothers)

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#23
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/16/2020 3:04 PM

It had an electric starter and manual crank?

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#5

Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/10/2020 10:29 PM

I kinda wish Alfa put them on their 1970's cars. Trying to find a place to bump start the car is hard when you're in a flat area!

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#6

Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/11/2020 12:20 AM

Hi, Wasn't this guy the inventor of the electric cash register?

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#7

Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/11/2020 12:52 AM

The Citroen GS/GAS had starting handles while they used the flat4 air cooled engine.

Once they moved to water cooled, the transverse mounting made it a difficult feature to retain.

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#10
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/11/2020 6:46 AM

Citroen GSA. I loved it. The family hated it.

Amazing hand brake system as well.

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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/11/2020 10:33 AM

The front brakes were bolted to the gearbox, with separate handbrake pads. So the front service pads could be changed in a few minutes without jacking the car.

I had a GS X2 for nearly 5 years, till the tin worm took it. Got it at 10yo, added 50+k miles.

Only 1222cc car I knew of that could easily run at 100mph.

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#14
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/11/2020 2:09 PM

They sure managed to give Fiat a run for their money in the rusty car competition, having had both Fiats and Citroen GS's its hard to say there was a clear winner.

Bambina, 127, 128, 132, Strada, 850 sport. The Bambina and the 850 were the least rusty

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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/11/2020 3:10 PM

I moved to the GS from a VW Polo. 850c c wouldn't pull you out of bed.

Before that was a Hillman Avenger GT. Built before Chrysler took over and ripped its heart out.

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#8

Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/11/2020 12:58 AM

Citroen Dyane 1980. I cranked a few earlier ones, seemed like every cold day. Bought one for $150, thought the engine was on its last legs but knew that two of us could literally lift it and swap it out if required. Nothing wrong with the engine. It was the 410cc version instead of the 602cc version. Best sunroof, peeled back to open like a can of sardines.

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#22
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/16/2020 3:02 PM

410cc? Was it a two stroke?

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#13

Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/11/2020 10:35 AM

I know you're thinking of ground vehicles, but hand-cranked vehicles are still being built. Many 'low&slow' aircraft that are hand-propped (no starter or electrical system) are still being built by craftsmen and certified in the homebuilt experimental category.

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#17

Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/11/2020 6:38 PM

No Thanks.... I'd rather Uber first...Why don't they have a pull start like a lawnmower?

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#18
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/11/2020 10:36 PM

I must confess to crash starting my car a few times as a poor student, feel those legs burn.

Even crash starting a motorbike can sap your strength on a cold morning, that damned wet clutch.

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#21
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/16/2020 11:39 AM

Renault 4CV: CV stands for chevaux, French for horses. We're not talking about a lot of power here...

The Dauphine could go from 0 to 60 in 5.3

minutes, (downhill).

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#26
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/16/2020 3:12 PM

I remember the 2CV. I don't know anyone who owned one, but I've seen them on the road and at shows/museums. Also on American Graffiti. I always thought the peel back roof was a cool feature.

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#29
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/16/2020 4:16 PM

I tried to find a funny advertisement for the 2CV I had seen, this wasn't the one but it had the same spirit.

https://winthropdc.wordpress.com/2018/02/23/friday-funny-awesome-citroen-2cv-advert/

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#33
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/17/2020 12:32 PM

Hope this link shows Citroen Dyanes racing. They were fun to drive:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziyzsN8-6C4&feature=youtu.be

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#40
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

12/04/2020 2:29 AM

That's awesome!

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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/16/2020 4:04 PM

You need at least 611cc to make it worthwhile.I https://www.google.com/url?q=https://m.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3D2kC20sw6ChE&sa=U&ved=2ahUKEwjgwdug9YftAhUHYsAKHWazCdAQtwIwAXoECAoQAQ&usg=AOvVaw0_KYJsSmL_iWY3vfAy0KC_

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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/16/2020 3:09 PM

That was a lot of work starting the Datsun!

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#20

Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/16/2020 12:09 AM

It interesting, that in WWII a lot of airplanes as well as tanks, had the hand crank inertia starters.

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#27
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/16/2020 3:16 PM

I never heard of inertia starters, but after watching your videos, I think it's an excellent idea. I'm guessing there's a large flywheel in the system.

Thanks for sharing!

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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/16/2020 4:24 PM

For the tanks, they used it in the winter time cold starting.... on the eastern front in WWII, must have been brutal.

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#31
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/17/2020 3:05 AM

I can only imagine trying to crank a motor that's around 0 degrees F. No multiweight oil, just some thick, frozen oil. Though cranking would do a lot to warm somebody up!

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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/17/2020 11:17 AM

I worked in the cheese industry, I don’t know if this is true, but I have heard it before.

One of the master cheese makers that was Italian was telling me, his dad loved the American trucks from WWII, they were tough trucks, in the winter time when nothing started, all they had to do, was start a small fire under the engine to heat up the oil, and it’ll started right up.

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#34
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/17/2020 8:11 PM

A burning tag under the fuel lines was quite common in the 1970s. A couple of winters with minus 10C gelled the diesel.

I recall my mum chasing a truck down the street as the driver had left the burning rag hanging under the truck.

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#35
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/17/2020 10:25 PM

Yep, In the early years on the farm with diesels started to take prominence, diesel gelling was a big issue that lead to doing things not recommended.

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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/20/2020 3:35 AM
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#38
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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/20/2020 10:19 AM

Some people should not be allowed to even have a tool in their hands.

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Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/20/2020 2:59 AM

I was told that diesel trucks were left idling all night long during the cold winter nights in Chicago. If they didn't, the trucks wouldn't start the next morning.

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#39

Re: What was the Last Vehicle that Could be Cranked by Hand?

11/29/2020 8:24 PM

Not to forget the Lada:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qmy56nGS_KE

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