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.
Names: Kevin Lightcap and Joe Alizieri
Age: both 21
Location: Allentown, PA
Q: How long have you been collecting gas engines?
A: Kevin: About 10 years. I started out with the small Briggs & Stratton and Maytag engines, and about age 15 is when the hit-and-miss engine bug hit me!
Joe: About 5 years. Kevin, my best friend, got me interested in engines. The first one I bought was a Briggs & Stratton, and he helped me completely tear it apart and restore it to mint condition as a “learning project.” Now I have a 2 HP Jaeger hit-and-miss.
Q: What’s your favorite engine in your collection?
A: Kevin: My favorite engine in our collection would be the 7 HP Witte. Dad and I completely tore it down from the way we bought it, looking like it was in a field fire, to the beautiful slow running piece it is now! Of course, a big engine needs to make a little noise so I installed a 4-inch by 4-foot chrome stack for a muffler. Now it has a beautiful tone and really gathers attention at shows.
Joe: My favorite is my Jaeger, because it is my first engine. It is currently the only hit-and-miss engine I own, but there will be several more over time!
Q: Are you working on any projects?
A: Kevin: Yes! Last year at the Coolspring, Pa., show I bought a 5 HP Witte with a “rare” base, in pieces. It needed a lot of help and, being a machinist myself, I said, “I need a summer/winter project.” I have a journal of how the person I bought it from found it in a river bed buried half way in the ground to the completely overhauled engine it is today. Restoration involved reboring the head, machining the custom-sized valve stems, turning down the outer edges of the flywheels, and machining brass grease cups, oil tube and all fuel/water fittings. All the missing pieces I made out of stainless steel to really make the show piece shine!
Joe: I helped paint and assemble the same engine.
Q: As a young collector, what are some of the obstacles you’ve come across in the hobby?
A: Kevin: As a young child I could only buy the small engines that I could afford. After I started working as a machinist I was able to “expand” my budget! If it wasn’t for my grandfather being by my side growing up, I probably wouldn’t know so much about the hobby. He still goes to shows with us and I always see him smile at me when we’re out enjoying time at shows.
Joe: Kevin helped me from the start, and I never gave up because I really wanted to learn about our history and how to continue preserving our heritage. Kevin’s grandfather loves “talking engine” with me at shows. I learn a lot from them both and others, and I’m always eager to learn more!