Popular Mechanics articles Engines


Gene Brady

Content Tools

Here we are into 1988 already. This column is being written in early December, 1987. The Reflector is quite comfortable in his office at Amana, Iowa despite the fact that today we are seeing our first dose of freezing rain-the fine, misty stuff that sticks to everything, including the roads! When this issue reaches you in early 1988, we will be well into the winter season again-far enough in fact, to start thinking about spring! During the winter months we hope that a lot of new model projects are underway. We hope to see and hear about them in '88.

The Reflector's continuing perusal of old trade journals and books as part of continuing research projects constantly reminds us of the talent displayed by our ancestors. Many of the gasoline engines now in the hands of collectors are approaching the century mark, and looking back 100 years we see not even a fraction of the machine tool development that we have today. Even with these obstacles however, many of the early engines and other mechanical appliances displayed a quality of workmanship that is seldom equaled today. Were it not for our alloy steels, carbide tool bits, flame-hardened lathe beds, and a multitude of easy methods for difficult jobs, the Reflector wonders how some of our contemporary work would compare. The bottom line is that for this writer, one of the greatest fascinations we have with early engines and other machines is looking at the quality of workmanship and ingenuity of design. While long ago departed, we suspect that most of them would be very happy that our hobby is preserving at least a portion of their work for the future!

23/2/1 Gene Brady, 1460 Colchester Drive East, Port Orchard, WA 98366 sends some photocopies of early Popular Mechanics articles with many of showing engines previously unheard of-engines like the ? horsepower model from Junior Engine Works of Chicago and offered in 1905. Unfortunately, photocopies do not reproduce very well, so we can't reprint them. Gene also sends along a photo showing part of his immense brass collection that includes many different lubricators, steam whistles, and other bronze items. Thanks Gene!

23/2/2 Q. Can anyone supply any information on building a brass casting furnace capable of a 25 pound melt, and burning fuel oil? I need a design of a burner I can build in a standard machine shop, or a source where I can get a burner at a reasonable price. It could use an electric blower or compressed air to atomize the fuel. I'm not interested in using gas or coal. Thomas Schoderbek, 1208 Arbor Ct., Mountain View, CA 94040.

A. We believe it is entirely possible to build such a furnace, but suspect it will be necessary to have a substantial volume of air, and probably some method of preheating the air before it enters the combustion chamber. Achieving the proper air/fuel balance will probably be the biggest challenge. The Reflector has no specific data on an oil-fired foundry furnace, although we have seen a catalog advertisement of such a unit, circa 1920.

23/2/3Q. I need information on a Fairmont engine, s/n 54521 (see photo). Any help will be appreciated. Russell Lamp, 5231 Wasena Ave., Brooklyn Park, MD 21225.

A. Probably the best way would be to write directly to Fairmont Motor Car Company, Fairmont, Minnesota 56031.

23/2/4 Q. Can you supply information on the following engine: Serial No. 75801, 550 rpm; H.P. 1?E. Ed Fiedler, RR 4, Box 224, Sauk Center, MN 56378.

A. The 'E' suffix on the horsepower rating determines that it is an Economy built by Hercules Engine Company and marketed by Sears, Roebuck &. Company. Beyond this very general information we can offer little help, primarily because little specific data still exists.

23/2/5 Richard Reese, RR 2, Box 15, Macy, IN 46951 has a Model A Avery tractor for which he needs the proper color scheme and similar information.

23/2/6 Bradley Martin, 2212 South T, Fort Smith, AR 72901 kindly forwards a drawing of the original fuel tank for a fluted hopper Aermotor engine. This information was sent with the thought that others might be needing this data. Our thanks!

23/2/7 Q. Can you identify this engine? It has 22 inch flywheels and a 4x6 inch bore and stroke. Cleve T. Gardner, Rt. 2, Box 592, Floyd, VA 24091.

A. Your engine is a Hercules, probably 3 horsepower, and its missing the igniter mechanism-someone has converted it to a spark plug design.

23/2/8 Q. What is the best way to protect an old paint finish after cleaning off the old dirt and grease? Harley L. Collins, 2540 Fox Road, Bath, PA 18014.

A. We're sure there are other methods, but we prefer using a high-quality outdoor-type varnish. Most of these are quite clear and will not change the original color, but will bring it out again. We will be happy to hear from other readers concerning their methods.

23/2/9 Walter McKeon, 10 Van Wert Lane, Walden, NY 12586 would like to purchase photocopies of the service manual for a David Bradley garden tractor, and would like to correspond with owners of Saxton four-cylinder engines.

23/2/10 Can anyone supply the date built, and the type and source of a magneto for a four-cycle Lauson Type ZU 1-7 marine engine, serial no. 84021. It's rated at 3? to 4 hp at 1750 rpm and has a 27/8 x 3? bore and stroke. Also would like to correspond with anyone having a manual or technical information on this or similar Lauson engines. Ron Bauman, 1028 S. Brown St., Jackson, MI 49203.

23/2/11 LeRoy Wonder, Danbury, Iowa 51010 encloses a picture of the Model R Case tractor, s/n 4325867R of 1939 vintage. He also needs information on restoring an Earthmaster tractor, Model C, s/n 172.

23/2/12 Morris Wilsey, 4397 Switzkell Road, Berne, NY 12023 would like some service information on the type and amount of lubricant for the clutch transmission of a four-wheel drive Massey-Harris tractor.

23/2/13 Q. See photo of an Air compressor with 'THE AUTO' cast into the flywheel spokes. Can anyone tell me where and when this was built? Elvin Eyler, 5490 Ft. Amanda Road, Lima, OH 45805.

A. We believe this unit to be of the 1920's, but have no listing showing a manufacturer.

23/2/14 Noah M. Brubaker, RR 2, Box 283, Lewisburg, PA 17837 needs information on a Friend engine, s/n DXA10031. It uses a Wico EK magneto.

23/2/15 Dick Hamp, 1772 Conrad Avenue, San Jose, CA 95124 sends along a couple of interesting and useful diagrams-one on a very simple coil tester, and another on recharging the famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) Wico EK magneto. Dick is always digging for information and seems to be uncanny in finding it! Thanks Dick, and we refer our readers to the two diagrams with this caption number.


1. When laminated steel armature is in contact with ends of the stationary cores, a complete magnetic circuit is formed which is energized by a set of bar magnets at opposite end of stationary cores.

2. When armature is pulled away from the ends of the stationary cores, the magnetic circuit is broken, and the magnetic field generated by the bar magnet collapses, cutting across the two primary windings, causing a current to flow in these two windings. This current builds up the primary magnetic field.

3. As the primary current reaches maximum value, which will be when the armature clears the ends of the stationary cores 3/32 of an inch, the breaker points, one of which is actuated by the moving armature, break the primary circuit, causing the primary magnetic field to collapse and cut across and generate a high voltage in the two secondary windings to which the spark plug is connected. A condenser connected across the breaker points speeds up the collapse of the primary magnetic field and at the same time reduces arcing across the breaker points.


1. Remove outer sheet brass housing.

2. Wedge armature open with wooden wedges 1/16 of an inch thick.

3. Determine N and S end of bar magnets.

4. Set entire magneto across magnet charger as shown in diagram with N end of bar magnets on South pole of magnet charger.

5. Turn on charger current and charge for 20 to 30 seconds. Strike magnets lightly while charging.

6. Remove wooden wedges.

7. Remove magneto from charger, and re-install outer sheet brass housing.


I made this tester many years ago, using the vibrating points on a Ford 'T'' coil to produce the make and break spark which is fed into the primary leads of the outboard coil to be tested. Mount the Ford coil and battery in a plywood box for easy carrying and mount the pushbutton on one end of the box. With the leads coming out of the box, make a connection to the primary terminals of the coil to be tested. Attach the high tension lead of the coil in such a fashion that any high tension current passing thru will have to jump a gap to ground. A good coil will cause a ?' spark to jump the gap. The pushbutton allows current to flow from the battery through the vibrating Ford coil points and then, still vibrating, through the outboard coil on test.

23/2/16 We have an engine with the following data: 16-inch solid flywheels; 3? inch bore; Wico EK ignition; 2 horsepower; dull green or grey color. Nameplate reads: Trench & Marine Pump Company, New York, NY. Type TML, HP 2, Size 3, Shop #E11978. Pumps for every service- Contractors, marine & farm equipment. Any help in identifying this engine will be appreciated. Kent M. Savis, 117 Kingston Road, Parsippany, NY 07054.

A. The Reflector can't help on this one-perhaps we could with a photograph. Anybody out there that can help?

23/2/17 Q. John Zychski, 7660 Marsh Road, Marine City, MI 48039 sends a photo of a Buffalo marine engine, 4-cylinder, open valves, 4? x5 inch bore and stroke. This engine was under water since 1922 so the ignition system is badly deteriorated. A tag says: Delco Ignition System Pat. Oct. 3, 1905. The engine uses a twin ignition system with a commutator and vibrating coils. Need information or a good picture of the commutator and magneto system, plus any other data on the Buffalo engines.

In its day, the Buffalo was probably one of the finest multi-cylinder marine engines built-not in terms of lightness or fast running, but in terms of ultimate reliability and power. We've never run across any great amount of literature on them, but hopefully someone can assist you so that it can be restored.

23/2/18 Howard S. Borden Jr., 142 Gary Road, Toms River, NJ 08758 has just acquired a 20 hp Reid gas engine and needs any available information regarding the restoration of same.

23/2/19 Q. I just acquired a fan cooled gas engine made by Chas. G. Blatchley, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It has a 4? inch bore, spark plug ignition, and a Lunkenheimer carburetor. Would like to hear from and correspond with any other Blatchley engine owners. Stan Matlowski, RD 1, Box 199, Hunlock Creek, PA 18621.

A. American Gas Engines list the Blatchley firm as being active in 1904, but offers no further data, nor has anything surfaced since publication of that volume.

23/2/20 Q. I need information on a Sta-Rite 4 hp engine, especially regarding the ignition mechanism. This engine appears to run counterclockwise? Is this possible? Any information will be appreciated. Edwin Sager, PO Box 446, Corvallis, MT 59828.

A. While we can't tell you specifically about the Sta-Rite, we can tell you that if the cam is symmetrical, that is, having an identical rise and fall on each side of center, then it would be entirely possible to reverse the engine, simply by meshing the cam and crank gears for the altered direction. This is all fine, providing other portions of the operating mechanism, including the ignitor, don't object. As we said, we can't be sure whether this was possible with the Sta-Rite- perhaps the valve timing was messed up a long time ago, for all we know. We've never seen an instruction book for the Sta-Rite, but perhaps one of our readers might have some information.