Building a Portable Generator from an IHC LB

Collector finds a great use for under-appreciated gas engine

ihc lb 1

Richard Cunnings made a portable generator with his 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 HP International Harvester LB.   

Photo by Richard Cunnings

Content Tools

Here are a couple of engines that don’t get a lot of attention – the International Harvester LA and LB. Collectors either love them or hate them, but they make a great motor for the beginning engine collector. And they're still useful today as I found out from building a generator from an IHC LB.

The small 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 HP IHC LB was my first motor and I kept working on it until it looked like new. Then one time at the Buckley, Mich., gas engine show, someone said there was a bigger one on display, but it wasn’t for sale, of course. So I set out to find my engine’s daddy – the 3 to 5 HP IHC LB engine. Hit & Miss Enterprises had a real jewel for sale and I ran all the way to Orwell, Ohio, to pick it up.

Putting the LB to good use
After restoration, I decided to make a generator out of the 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 HP IHC LB and it works like a charm.

I built the alternator from old scraps of 1-1/2-inch angle and flat stock and a heavy coil spring that I used for the belt tension. I put a handle on the top to push the alternator forward for easy belt removal. The alternator spins five times faster than the engine pulley, which is perfect. The LB spins the alternator like a champ when under a full load – about 1,200 to 1,400 RPM when the engine is at idle.

The alternator is 110 amp and came from a 1983 Cadillac, and was donated by another engine collector who also owns an auto salvage yard in Howell, Mich. Fortunately, the wiring diagram for a General Motors 3-wire system alternator is available on the Internet. No voltage regulator is needed as the alternator is new enough to have it built in.

I built the cart from an old skid, and the deep cycle marine batteries were purchased at Tractor Supply Co.

The power inverter is a 5,000 watt, 120-volt unit that was purchased online. It provides plenty of power to run important things like lights, refrigerator and freezer during a power outage, or your camp site at your favorite hit-and-miss engine show. The LB helps keep these batteries at full charge. The unit has also proven handy at tractor and car shows. I just wheel it up, hook the red cable to the positive and the black cable to negative, start up the LB and it starts your tractor or car in a few minutes.

This unit is a lot more efficient than a store bought unit as the engine does not need to run all the time. The batteries will stay charged for several hours depending on use before you need to start the engine.

Some collectors do not like LB motors and say they are good for nothing but boat anchors. Guess again, guys. Shortly after I finished building the unit, we had a severe storm that knocked out the power for almost three days. The unit ended up running my freezer, refrigerator, TV, lights, fan and whatever else I needed. I’ve seen these LB engines do all kinds of things from pumping water, grinding corn, sawing wood, etc. I’m sure what I’m doing with it isn’t a first.

I’d like to give a special thanks to the following companies for their help in restoring these two engines:

• Miechiels Auto Salvage, Howell, Mich. (1-1/2 to 2-1/2 HP LB)
• Hit & Miss Enterprises, Orwell, Ohio (3 to 5 HP LB)
• Wayne Walker Jr., Onaga, Kan. (engine parts)
• Plastic Gage & Tooling, Inc., Brighton, Mich. (Gas tank repair and paint)

Contact Richard Cunnings at 6480 Cedar Lake Road, Pinckney, MI 48169.