By Kristine Gill
They don’t make car engines like they used to.
Tod Buttermore makes them better.
“It’s something I apparently have a natural ability at,” said the Boardman resident.
Buttermore, 51, is a pattern maker who specializes in making casts for antique engine blocks by reverse-engineering them based on the originals — now rusted, broken relics.
“If you aren’t trying to improve your own work, you either have a huge ego or you’re perfect,” he said.
The Leetonia native mainly re-creates blocks for the Ford Model A and Model T, and a 351 horsepower Cleveland block which has surprising popularity in Australia.
“The Cleveland block had flaws in the oiling system, weak casting, so I beef it all up,” he said.
Buttermore gets dozens of calls and emails a week from dealers down under and around the world requesting the parts he makes.
“They’re wildly popular online,” he said, adding that 1932 marked the end of Model A block production, 1973 for the Cleveland block in the United States and the 1920s for the Model T blocks.
Buttermore usually works by himself at his shop, Rev C in Salem. His wife, Kathy, and son-in-law George Norris help often.
For the most part, Buttermore is managing two or three machines at a time, making casts that will be sent to foundries — where metals are poured and finished engine blocks are later sold to machinists who customize the pieces to a car enthusiast’s liking.
“I’m not Burger King,” Buttermore said jokingly. “You can’t get it any way you want from me.”
Quaker City Castings on East Euclid Avenue in Salem pours his casts with iron and aluminum.
The Cleveland engine blocks can go for $2,800 to $3,000 and other blocks, such as the 427 horsepower “side oiler” can sell for $4,500-4,800 when cast in aluminum.
The blocks and Buttermore’s expertise have garnered widespread attention in online hot rod forums.
Interested dealers can contact him at RevC351@yahoo.com.
Buttermore is looking to expand his business to begin pouring his own molds because local foundries are so busy these days and demand for his parts continues to rise.
“My parts just sit around at foundries that are too busy,” he said.
Buttermore was turned onto pattern-making in high school and later made it his career. He has 34 years of experience in the business.
But he’s not a hot-rod guy himself. As a teenager, Buttermore had hoped to follow in his father’s footsteps as a pro bowler.
“I was good,” Buttermore said. But his dad begged him to pick a more practical career, urging him to go to medical school and become an anesthesiologist.
Buttermore instead went to college at a number of universities, including Youngstown State University, to major in religion and philosophy and minor in math and logic. He never graduated.
“I was busy with work,” he said. “College was a side thing.”
He worked with dealers in California who went bankrupt, then collaborated with a friend before starting his own shop in Salem, which he’s had for about three and a half years.
It takes just three months for Buttermore to look at a block, take measurements, lay it out in computer- aided-design programs and cameras, cut the casts and send them to a foundry for pouring. That’s fast compared to his competitors.
His main client is Snyder’s Antique Auto Parts Inc., 12925 Woodworth Road in New Springfield. He makes a dozen different parts for them including Model T heads and manifolds.
But he doesn’t just serve dealers selling car parts.
A friend asked for his help when the city of Harrisburg, Pa., recently needed a new water impeller for obsolete sewage equipment.
“There were no blueprints, no pattern equipment, no nothing,” he said.
Buttermore made an exact replica.
“I’ve got a reputation of being able to bail people out,” he said.