A Restoration Spanning Continents and Generations

Hercules Model E

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The finished Hercules Model E. Elizabeth Kinney restored the engine - with a little help from family and friends - as part of a 4H project. Her finished engine earned her a Grand Champion award.

My 16-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, is a member of our local 4-H. In our county we have a project called 'Americana,' designed to teach kids to appreciate things from past generations. There are several categories kids can study within the project, including one on farm machinery. The kids can either display something in its original form or restored. They have to research the item they display and write a history of the item and what they did to it if it was restored.

Since her dad (me) and grandpa (Curtis Kinney) are collectors of old engines and tractors, it was only natural she would chose to exhibit an old engine. Elizabeth isn't new to old iron, this being her third engine restoration. Her first was a 3 HP Hercules Model E, and her second was a 1-1/2 HP Fairbanks-Morse dishpan. After looking around the barn at the various engines we have stored there, she chose a Hercules 1-1/2 HP Model E for her project. Her grandpa had purchased the engine at the 2000 Portland, Ind., swap meet.

The first thing we did was take inventory of what was missing or needed to be repaired. It was stuck, missing the igniter, mag, identification tag and some other parts. We found that the water jacket under the block was cracked from water freezing in it, and the gas tank was there but had no bottom in it. There was not a bit of paint to be found anywhere on the engine. Our inventory done, we ordered the required parts and began the restoration.

Elizabeth took some 'before' pictures and we totally disassembled the engine. She soaked the caked-on grease and dirt with engine cleaner and let it soak. After about an hour of soaking she pressure-washed the engine to clean it off. After letting it dry, we tackled the stuck piston. We had started soaking the stuck piston with penetrating oil shortly after purchasing the engine, spraying it with oil every time we walked by. Using a rosebud tip on the acetylene torch we heated the cylinder inside the water hopper. With the aid of a block of wood and a heavy hammer the piston, after some heavy hitting, came out. We were happy to see that the cylinder bore looked okay, and it only took some honing to get the cylinder looking as good as new. With the piston out and the cylinder cleaned we decided to turn the block over and fix the busted water jacket. When the water in the jacket froze it had pushed out a section of iron about 1-1/4-inch wide and 7-inch long. It was in two pieces and was still in place. Using a screwdriver we pried the pieces out. Next, using a 4-inch angle grinder, we beveled the edges of the block and broken out pieces, and then we placed them back where they belonged. We used an acetylene torch and brazed them back into the block. With some more work with the angle grinder and some body filler, it was almost as good as new.

Now came the hard part, cleaning off all the rust. We put the block and flywheels in the electrolysis bath to loosen the rust, followed by Elizabeth using a wire cup on the angle grinder. The small parts were cleaned with a wire brush on the bench grinder. This all took quite a while and was spread out over several months. Once all the parts were cleaned, a coat of Rustoleum rusty metal primer was sprayed on. Then two coats of Rustoleum Hunter green were applied followed by hi-temp clear coat. We then used a Beugler paint stripping tool to paint the pin stripes on the engine.

It was about this time that Elizabeth went off to YMCA camp for a month. She arrived home on a Friday, and her engine (and 10 other projects) were due for judging on Sunday. That didn't leave very much time to get it all done.

Kerry Morris and his wife, Ruth, Stationary Engine List members from Australia, were visiting with us as part of their cross-country visit. Glenn Karch and his wife, Marian, also list members, were helping to host Kerry and Ruth, as were my parents, Curtis and Evelyn Kinney. Elizabeth, her grandpa and I worked all day Saturday trying to finish the engine. Along about 9 p.m. the Morris's and Karch's returned from an outing. Seeing the lights on in the barn, and seeing what we were doing, they pitched in to help. We ended up with eight or nine people in the barn, all doing something to help out.

We worked until after midnight putting the engine together, and it was quite an experience. We started calling Glenn the 'FedEx Man,' because every time we came up with a part we needed he said, 'I'll bring one by in the morning.' These were things like a check valve, fuel line (I broke the old one the night before), igniter and a couple of springs. The women provided much needed moral support.

When Elizabeth and I got back to the barn the next morning about 11 a.m., we couldn't believe our eyes. Glenn and Kerry had already been there and had put the missing parts on the engine. We had been working to fix up a cart for this engine, too, and had painted it the day before. Kerry had finished putting it back together and had it on the ground next to the engine ready to go. We mounted the engine to the cart, tended to a few last minute things, and it was time to transport it to the fairground.

Elizabeth (with help from the international team) ended up getting a Grand Champion for her engine, and I think everyone had a great time helping her.

Restoring old iron can be more than just getting an engine to run. This 1-1/2 HP Hercules Model E proves the point well/ its restoration bridging the bounderies separating countries and generations, and in the process bringing friends and family together.

Contact engine enthusiast Keith Kinney at: 8525 Greendale Dr, Evansville, IN 47711, (812) 867-7235, or e-mail: keith@HerculesEngines.com