My Engine Adventure

Hit and miss engine

The engine as we found it

Content Tools

5 Merion Terrace Collingswood, New Jersey 08108

This adventure starts in August of 1995. I work at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey. In August of 1995 I attended a five-day school to familiarize all of the mechanics with a new gas turbine used in our new co-generation plant which makes steam and electricity for the university.

The gentleman who conducted this school works for the Solar Turbine Company, which is based in San Jose, California. His name is Pete. Since Pete likes engines and other mechanical things, we hit it off instantly.

Since August of 1995, Pete and I have stayed in touch. In May of 1996 I located a Maytag model 92, which I shipped to him and he has since restored.

When Pete was at my university, I showed him pictures of the hit and miss engines I have restored. Since this time, Pete has been looking for a hit and miss engine that he could restore. In his work with Solar Turbine, Pete travels all over the country. About two months ago he was in New Orleans and he finally found an engine, a Hercules in rough but restorable condition. He had this engine shipped to his home in California.

After disassembling the engine, Pete called me to ask some questions concerning the restoration of his Hercules. In the course of this conversation with me, Pete mentioned that he had been trying to locate old engines on the Internet, and he told me he had received a reply to his Internet request from a gentleman in Massachusetts.

Pete called me again in a few weeks with more questions about his Hercules, and he mentioned again the gentleman from Massachusetts. I asked Pete if he was going to pursue the engine in Massachusetts, and he told me he was not interested. I told Pete that if he was not interested, then I would like to check it out. He told me he would try to get more information on it for me. In about two weeks I received a letter from Pete, and along with his letter, there was a copy of a letter from the gentleman in Massachusetts and a couple of pictures of the engine.

Turns out the engine belonged to the brother of the gentleman who contacted Pete. The owner of the engine thought it might be a Novo, since someone had told him it was. The pictures show a vertical engine, but I knew it wasn't a Novo. The day after I received the pictures, I looked at them again and decided this was an International Harvester Famous. At this point, that's what I thought it was.

I called the owner and we agreed on a price. I had to base my offer on the pictures. I wasn't going to drive all the way to western Massachusetts unless I was sure I could get the engine.

John, the owner, told me that the property the engine was on was for sale. This changed everything! Before I had called John, I had called Buck, my friend and fellow engine nut. (You don't have to be crazy to play with these old engines, but if you are, it is helpful.) Buck told me that he had time off the week of Thanksgiving and that we could plan on getting the engine then. After finding out that the property was for sale, I called Buck again and told him we couldn't wait until Thanksgiving. I also told him that John, the owner, had told me the engine was on the far side of a field that was really torn up with ruts and holes. Buck told me that he could borrow his son's four wheel drive truck, and since we had an engine show that weekend, we would go and pick up the engine on the following weekend.

And so, on Friday, October 10, right after work, Buck and I left for western Massachusetts. We arrived about 11:00 p.m. and found a motel for the night. The next morning after breakfast, I called John and told him we would be at his place in ten minutes. When we arrived, John and his brother Bill, the gentleman on the Internet, were waiting for us. We parked in front of the house and walked around back to the field. On the far side of the field is a grove of trees. Just inside this grove sat the engine. It was in a depression about one foot deep. The brothers, John and Bill, had removed the earth and tree roots from around the engine. They did this before they took the pictures. One of the tree roots had grown completely around the fuel line going to the gas tank. I have this fuel line with the tree root around it and I plan to display it with the engine when I finish the restoration.

The first thing we did was back the truck across the field and get as close to the engine as we could. The next thing we did was to remove the drip oilers and a few gas and water lines that might get damaged while we were loading the engine. Then we attached a come-along to a nearby tree and started to pull the engine out of the hole. This did not work very well. The engine is a vertical engine and it was standing in the upright position as it would be when it was running. This tends to make the engine a little top heavy. Besides this, the engine base was still bolted to some scraps of wood. The wood did not want to move through the dirt. We removed two of the mounting bolts and we pulled the wood off the remaining two mounting bolts. The engine was now sitting on the flywheels.

We were trying to decide if we could pull the engine while it sat on the flywheels or if we were going to have to put it on a piece of wood. I tried to move the engine a little by pushing on the cylinder and much to my surprise, the cylinder moved and the flywheels didn't! The engine was not frozen.

Now, instead of pulling the engine with the come-along, I simply rolled it on the flywheels. After the engine was behind the truck, we realized we had forgotten to bring my 2 x 10 planks with us. We did bring two 4 x 4's eight feet long but these would not be wide enough. John and Bill scrounged up a couple of 1 x 8 boards that were not in the best of condition. We decided to put these two planks on top of our 4 x 4's and hope for the best. Since there was no place in the bed of the truck to mount the come-along, Buck rolled down the windows on each of the doors of the cab and ran a nylon sling through the doors and the cab. Then we looped this sling around the back of the cab and attached the come-along. Before we started pulling the engine up the planks, I suggested that we lay the cylinder down and let the muffler rest on a short 4x4 across the planks. This way the weight of the engine would be distributed over a greater area. Due to the condition of the planks, this seemed like a good idea.

Buck worked the come-along and I guided the engine up the planks. Everything went just fine until the engine was almost on the truck. At this point one of the planks broke, but it only dropped about two inches onto the bumper of the truck. Buck continued to crank on the come-along and the engine was now in the back of the truck. We made a cradle with the 4 x 4s around the engine and we pulled it all together with a nylon strap. It actually looked like we knew what we were doing.

From the time we arrived at the site of the engine until we pulled out was around two hours. Before I close this part of the story, let me say that John and his brother Bill were very helpful in loading the engine. Without their help it would have taken much longer. Also, while we were loading the engine off the truck, a lady came from the house to where we were working. I asked her if she was the 'Directions Lady' and she said she was. This lady's name is Sandy and she gave me directions to Massachusetts and directions to the house from the motel.

The trip home was uneventful except for a few stops to take pictures of the magnificent fall foliage in Massachusetts. At this point I still believed I had found an International Harvester Famous engine.

We arrived home at 5:00 p.m. and decided to wait until the next day to unload the engine. That evening, I went over the literature I had on the Famous and a couple of things seemed different on my engine: The exhaust valve pushrod didn't seem the same and my engine had drip oilers on the crankshaft bearings.

The next afternoon Buck returned to my house with the engine. Unloading the engine didn't take very long using the planks that we had forgotten to take with us on our trip. Besides Buck and me, Buck's father also helped us with the unloading of the engine. Then we moved the engine into my garage. Closer examination of it revealed several differences between my engine and the IH Famous engine.

Buck and his father departed and I looked at my literature again. The more I looked, the more differences I found. Remember, confusing me is not much of an accomplishment. Wait a minute! The early Fairbanks Morse engines were vertical and looked like this engine also. I happen to have a book on the history of the Fairbanks-Morse engines.

As I am sure many of the readers of this story already know from the pictures, and what I found out from my book, is that this engine is a Fairbanks-Morse Jack of All Trades. Based on the diameter of the flywheels, my engine is a 4 HP. Restoration will not be too difficult. The engine is free and the only part missing is the ignitor. If I can't find an ignitor I will make one.

I would be grateful to anyone who can help me in finding an ignitor or pictures of an ignitor. The serial number of this engine is #65409 and this number is on the rim of the cylinder head.

Can anyone tell me when this engine was made? Speaking of the cylinder head, the head on this engine has some type of silver-gray coating. It is not paint. It almost looks like it is galvanized. Any information on this will also be appreciated.

Remember, how you find your next engine may be a story worth sharing with your fellow collectors in GEM.