My Two Cunninghams

Cunningham air cooled engine

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514 Brown St., Jackson, Minnesota 56143

I am a long time subscriber and sometime contributor to GEM. When the GEM arrives everything else is set aside. In the August issue, 1990, there was an article and picture sent in by an Iowa subscriber of his Cunningham air cooled engine. I too have two Cunningham engines. When I operated a repair service in the late 1940s, a customer brought a Cunningham engine in for a valve job and tuneup. It was a well made engine, had a Wico flywheel magneto, brass fuel line and ran smooth.

About 20 years ago a friend of mine who bought old iron came in with a Cunningham walk-behind sickle-mower with one of these engines. I traded him some work for the engine and set it aside to be restored 'tomorrow.' Three years ago the daughters of one of my customers asked me to come to their farm and appraise some old tractors left to them when he died. They also asked if I would be interested in an old mower stored in a shed. (What a silly question to ask an old iron nut.) Yes, here was another Cunningham! I bought it and removed the engine and gave the mower to a young fellow who wanted it. The engine was stored in the 'tomorrow department.'

One day this past summer my retired farmer brother was wandering around twiddling his thumbs and trying to look busy. I know that he is a good mechanic so I asked if he would disassemble and clean the engines. He pitched right in, had them down and cleaned in short order. Both engines were in real good shape and required only a valve job, new gaskets, clean carburetor, and the magnetos checked out the same as new. Everything had been sandblasted when apart so a coat of primer and one of Rustoleum black had them looking like new, except for the decals. There are no decals available and to have some made would cost several hundred dollars and I would have 998 extra decals left. A friend (another Bob Johnson) who is an art teacher and part time sign painter took over the job, and the painted emblems look better than decals. The first engine to be started caught on the second pull and the other on the third. They run real smooth and look good!

My brother is not an old iron collector so I thought it was about time for him to start. I gave him his choice of the engines for helping me. I have a lead on another Cunningham. I wonder if he will help restore it?