Young Iron: Jacob Smith

Jacob Smith shares about his lifelong interest in gas engines, and old iron in general.

Jacob Smith

Jacob Smith is a gas engine collector through and through. He's been collecting since he was seven years old.

Photo courtesy Jacob Smith

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Take a quick glance at the exhibitors and attendees at gas engine shows, and it’s easy to think that this is an older person’s hobby. But take a closer look and you’ll find a growing number of younger enthusiasts. You’ll meet them in Young Iron.

Q: How long have you been collecting gas engines?

A. I got my first engine 6 years ago. I started to really get serious about it 4 years ago and my collection has been growing since then.

Q: What attracted you to the hobby?

A. Engines always interested me. My mom would take me to local festivals and fairs where the local engine clubs had their displays. It was during that time that I met Ben & David Sonnon, brothers who are local engine and tractor collectors. They have taken me under their wing and really taught me a lot about engines and how to fix and restore them.

Q: Who else in your family collects engines?

A. No one. I hope to be able to share my knowledge with the next generation one day to keep the hobby alive. Like Ben and David are doing with me.

Q: How many engines do you have in your collection? Any rare or unusual ones?

A. I have 6 engines and tractors: a 1936 John Deere Model B unstyled tractor, a 1941 Briggs & Stratton WI, two Briggs and Stratton Model 5s, a 1969 Sears Suburban 12 garden tractor and a 1968 Sears Super 12 garden tractor.

Q: What is your favorite in your collection?

A. My 1936 John Deere B. It’s my favorite since it’s my first big restoration project. I’ve rebuilt the brakes, clutch, adjusted valves and so much more during this project. I’ve taken it to a local festival and drove it in the Fourth of July parade and used it for a threshing demonstration. It was so much fun! I really enjoyed talking to the festival visitors and telling them about my tractor.

Q: What projects are you currently working on?

A. I recently finished the restoration of my 1969 Sears Surburban 12. I had to clean it up and the electrical and fuel systems needed a lot of attention. At times, I got frustrated trying to figure out the electrical problems! But it’s all fun.

Q: Which shows do you normally attend each year? What show haven’t you been to yet that you’d like to see one day?

A. I normally attend the Kutztown Folk Festival, Jacktown Engine Show and various local fairs. I would like to go to the Shenandoah Valley Steam & Gas Engine Show one day in Virginia.

Q: What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve come across in the hobby?

A.  The biggest obstacle I run into is having the time to work on the engines, especially when I’m in school. I like summer because it gives me more time to work on my engines.

Q: What are your favorite engines and why?

A. I like the old Briggs & Strattons because they are very simple and neat to work on.

Q: If money weren’t an issue, what is your dream engine to own?

A. A 1936 Fairbanks-Morse Model 32D because it’s massive and a really cool engine.


Young Iron is looking for gas engine collectors, age 35 and younger. If you or someone you know would like to be profiled, please contact us at (800) 682-4704 or editor@gasenginemagazine.com.