Readers' Engine Questions


Content Tools

A Brief Word

We always find it interesting to peruse through our old books and magazines. Of course, our major interest is in the development of the internal combustion engine, and it's amazing how quickly the engine developed subsequent to the Otto Silent of 1876. By 1900 the gas engine was being built by numerous companies in the U.S., and the numbers continued to swell up to about 1920, after which they declined steadily. Several reasons can be provided for this change.

First of all, the market was becoming saturated. Second, electric power was being widely used, especially in the cities. Third, the heavy cast iron engines of the past were being replaced with smaller, lightweight and sometimes air-cooled designs that weighed a fraction of their predecessors. They were easier to move about, they were adaptable to many portable applications and usually cost far less to buy.

With this background, it is fascinating that the internal combustion engine developed so quickly - in less than two decades from 1900, these engines had become well refinded. Several companies rose to the top of the pot. Fairbanks-Morse built more engines than anyone else, and following close behind was International Harvester. The Stover and Witte engines were among the major players, and all the others followed behind the industry leaders.

Fairbanks-Morse moved toward higher compression engines earlier than most of the industry and, in fact, using higher compression created ignition problems. It takes far more voltage (electrical pressure) to fire an arc through compressed air than at atmospheric pressure. The magnetos of the time simply weren't up to the task of higher compression, and eventually F-M designed and built their own magnetos capable of solving the problem. Meanwhile, during the 'teens and early 1920s, F-M used many different kinds of magnetos in order to find a satisfactory solution.

The famous Plugoscillator (built by Sumter) was a case in point. The company eventually retrofitted a great many engines with a new and more successful spark plug design.

Of all the gas engine builders, Fairbanks-Morse and International Harvester probably spent more on research and development than any of the others, perhaps more than all the rest of them combined. John Deere was a popular entrant in the 1920s with the introduction of their Type E engines in 1- HP, 3 HP and 6 HP sizes. This engine was immensely popular with farmers and remains as one of the most popular vintage engines today. Of course, the John Deere engines had the popular Waterloo Boy line as their immediate ancestor.

We begin this issue with:

37/6/1: Unidentified Engine See the photos of an engine that was donated to our club. It appears to be an American engine, similar to that shown at top left on page 24 of American Gas Engines. It appears to be complete, but we need further information concerning its operation, the ignition, etc. What is the function of the valve on the crankcase cover? We would also like to know the function of the three-way valve below the cylinder oiler. Any information would be appreciated. All replies will be acknowledged. Ray Loewen, 2134 - 6 Avenue NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 0W7 Canada.

37/6/2: Dynamotor See the photo of a Dynamotor from Western Electric Company. It is a Type P-1, No. 34091. Volts: Primary 20, secondary 75. It is also equipped with a Tungar rectifier from General Electric. The last patent is from 1918. This unit is 30 inches long, 13 inches wide and 15 inches high. I am told that this unit was used to produce power for the telephone system. Any information would be very helpful in order to get it running again. Douglas Poor, 12058 Adams, Yucaipa, CA 92399.

37/6/3: IHC Mogul Engine Q: Recently, I found an old engine and pump. The engine is a 1 HP IHC Mogul with s/n W22231. When was this engine built? The pump is by R. McDougall Ltd., Galt, Canada. Would the engine likely have been sold with the pump? (We think this is probable - Editor). I also note that most readers are using DuPont paint on their engines. Is there a reason for this? Any help would be appreciated (see the photos). Kevin Bergen, #246 14424-88A St. NW, Edmonton, Alberta T5E 5Y4 Canada.

A: First of all, your engine was built in 1918. DuPont, Ditzler, S-W and Martin-Senour seem to be the major choices. This is primarily because they have custom colors that will match (or nearly so) the original colors. Most of these original colors are no longer available as stock colors. Also, with a suitable primer beneath, the newer acrylic colors are very durable, and so a restoration lasts far longer than it would with enamels from the old days.

37/6/4: Cushman Model C Q: I have a Cushman 4 HP Model C engine, s/n 40148 and would like to know when it was built and the proper color. Bob Dunn, P.O. Box 376, Rushville, NE 69360-0376.

A:We don't know the production date for the engine. We have DuPont 7498 Green listed for the Cub engines, and DuPont 62713 Green listed for the verticals.

37/6/5: Wonder Engine Q: See the photos of a Wonder engine. Wendel's American Gas Engines shows a possible manufacturer at Syracuse, N.Y. I'm looking for a possible origin and the paint scheme. Also would like to hear from anyone owning a Wonder engine. Any information would be greatly appreciated. John W. Thorp, 407 Woodbine Street, LaPorte, IN 46350.

A: We'd suggest that this engine is an Associated from Waterloo, Iowa. The Wonder trade name suggests to us it was off a Wonder cement mixer from Construction Machinery Corporation (CMC) of Waterloo.