SmokStak

Original Condition: Where do We Draw the Line?

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The following comes from a recent topic on Smok Stak, which can be found on the Internet at: www.engineads.com/ smokstak.cgi. As ever, various individuals started, commented on and concluded the following bulletin board thread.

I talked to an engine buddy the other day at work about his 'original' engine. The more he talked, the more unoriginal his engine sounded. The only original parts on the engine were the block, head, flywheels and timing gears. He made a new piston, connecting rod, valves, etc. This got me to thinking, just where do we draw the line on what's considered original?

If you have to replace piston rings, for instance, or rebabbitt the main bearings, can the engine still be considered original?

I have a 4 HP Witte headless that I recently picked up. Over the winter, I have to bore out the valve guides and put in valve guides. The valves are fine, but the bores are worn. If I were to sell it in the future, will it still be considered 'all original?' - Paul

 'Original' is as-shipped from the factory and unaltered. 'Restored' means replacement of any worn parts or coatings, using closely matched parts or material similar to what the manufacturer used. 'Engine repaired and running' means available parts were used to make the flywheels move.

I agree we need a standard to identify an engine's condition. In your case, I don't think 'original' applies. - Pat

 I think it's funny, sad and dishonest when an ad for an engine says it's in 'original' condition. In reality, the engine may have a cracked head and a patched cylinder, the flywheels may wobble a little bit and it may have a different magneto.

There are very few 'original' engines out there. An 'original' engine should be intact and as it left the factory, with little or no mechanical wear and having a majority of its original paint.

I call my engines 'barn fresh' and have pondered many times if I should restore them. Sure, it's great to look at a nice, shiny engine that someone else has restored to better than original. But to me a barn-fresh original has more value than a restored engine. - Gary

 Does anybody know of any shows that award prize ribbons for engines? Around here they judge tractors and award different types of ribbons/trophies, and they do a slow running contest for engines. However, I'm not sure if the winners actually receive anything. - Sonny

 I have heard of trophies and ribbons awarded for engines, but I've never participated in a show where that happened. Twenty years ago, I was at a show that supposedly did this, but my trailer was loaded and I was gone before it started. Many shows - our show included - give a ribbon to each exhibitor or member who registers at the office. It's not given as a prize, but as a thank you from us for coming and a means to identify who is exhibiting in the crowd.

At our show - and most shows - a ribbon shows you are a participant in the show, and you get one whether you have a Maytag or a Springfield. Competing isn't part of it. Any show that wants to encourage competition amongst exhibitors is looking for trouble.

The neat and super-rare engines always attract a crowd and are a very important part of any show, but common engines have huge appeal because they're what most collectors are willing or able to own. Even the guy with the nicest stuff probably owned an Economy or an M when he was starting out. - Joe

'Original' can be used as a noun - 'this is the original.' Or it can be used as an adjective -'this is the original part.' When describing something, look at how the word is used and then ask questions. Original could mean 'as it left the factory,' or 'as it appears today,' unaltered in parts replacement and as it left the factory. 'Original' could mean restored, with all factory-original and correct parts. Again, 'restored' covers a lot of ground. Let the buyer beware - and ask questions. - Pat

  If an engine was repaired with original (NOS) factory replacement parts, then that engine has been restored to 'original' condition. No machine work or welding on cast parts or accessories. The rest seems like a bunch of knit-picking to me. The companies did make factory replacement parts. - Chuck

 Even if it has original paint, how would I know if some farmer didn't change the cylinder sleeve in my 1919 IHC M back in 1927, 1932 or 1948? If it was repaired with original replacement parts, and there's no alterations to the original design, I would say it's in original condition. Unless my dad and grandfather were the only owners, and I happened to ask them what repairs were made, how would anyone be able to tell the difference?

My dad mainly cared whether the thing worked or not as he was never a collector. - Chuck

 Remember, our engines were used by people with limited finances, and they were sold as labor-saving devices. Most of our engines are 75 years old or older. When better times came, or when people got electricity into their houses, they forgot about their old engines. Some went to the scrap drives in World War II, while others were left outside to rust away. Some people valued their old engines and preserved them for future generations.

But now many people are getting into our hobby, and I for one think that's great. The problem is that this new generation of collectors wants to find and buy only mint-condition engines. They think it's like the car hobby, and everything must be perfect.

To me, 'original' is an engine that has all the parts that came with it from the factory. Sure, it's neat to find an engine with original paint and decals on it, but sadly that's not always the case. If you find an engine with the oiler, muffler, crank guard and starting crank, consider yourself very lucky. A cart or factory cart is an added bonus. Almost all original engines had a mishap somewhere along their long history, such as a broken rocker arm brazed together or a head brazed or welded.

I don't think that takes away from the idea of originality, but then again I really don't care what the 'I-have-only-perfect-engines-in-my-collection' people think. I enjoy running, rebuilding and restoring my less-than-perfect engines. - Chuck

Wow! Did I open Pandora's box or what? Here's my simple take on matters: If it has all original parts, be it factory replacements or well-made duplicates, I would refer to the engine as 'original.' As a machinist who does a lot of repair work and small production runs, I know how substitutes and alterations can occur at a factory. So where do we draw the line?

I'm sure that when these engines were built there were a lot of alterations and modifications to the blueprint. So, if it came off the assembly line like that, fresh out of the factory, it's not original. I guarantee if you went to any factory now and randomly picked out a product, you'd find at least one difference from the 'model.'

Thanks for all the responses, it's always interesting to see all the differing views about our hobby. - Paul

Smok Stak is an engine conversation bulletin board with over 50,000 messages on file and is part of the Old Engine series of Web sites that started in 1995 as 'Harry's Old Engine.' Harry Matthews is a retired electronic engineer and gas engine collector from Oswego, N.Y., now residing in Sarasota, Fla.

I call my engines 'barn fresh' and have pondered \ many times if I should restore them. Sure, it's great I to look at a nice, shiny engine that someone else has restored to better than original. But to me a barn-fresh original has more value than a restored engine.'' Gary

''Original' can be used as a noun 'this is the original.' Or it can be used as an adjective 'this is the original part.' When describing something, look at how the word is used and then ask questions. Original could mean 'as it left the factory,' or 'as it appears today,' unaltered in parts replacement and as it left the factory. 'Original' could mean restored, with all factory-original and correct parts.' Pat