Of What Use Is An Old Engine?

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4235 135th Ave. S.E., Bellevue, Washington 98006

We're frequently asked what's the use of an old engine? What are they good for? Besides the fun of finding a rare engine and restoring it, and the friendship of fellow collectors, an old engine has a lot of educational value.

Where else can you better show a youngster or the less mechanically inclined adult how a gasoline engine works? Everything is out in the open where it can be seen. There is nothing on an old engine that isn't necessary for operation.

Old engines and old farm machinery represent what I call visible technology. You can usually either see how it works as is, or with a little bit of disassembly. This is in contrast to invisible or concealed technology. The computer is the best example of invisible technology. There are no moving parts to see and even if you take it apart there is nothing to indicate how it works. Most engineers can't even explain how a computer works. Our world is being taken over by invisible technology, the new cars, our appliances, the VCR, and literally everything else. Concealed technology started when they first enclosed the crankcase, and it's been all downhill since then.

Accompanying the new technology is what I call service hostile equipment. The ultimate is the 'throw away' tool or appliance. It usually has a sticker on it saying 'WARNING.' no user serviceable parts inside.'' Even if you ignore the warning and are able to open up the device and by some chance find a replacement part, the part may not be available closer than some place you never heard of deep in the heart of Asia, and at a cost approaching the original cost of the complete device. It probably won't be long until some of our cars have the 'no user serviceable parts inside' sticker on the hood!

Compare this with service friendly machinery such as old engines, tractors, steam engines and the like. Our old equipment is made out of real metal, not pot metal and plastic. It can be disassembled without destruction. It can then be repaired or overhauled by removing shims, scraping bearings, reboring; or sometimes only dismantling, cleaning up, lubricating, reassembling, and adjusting; all done without a fortune in new parts or special tools. Service friendly machinery wasn't designed by engineers who hated mechanics.

The next time someone asks you what good is your old engine, take a few minutes to show him what is meant by four cycles, see the gears and cams and valves operate, feel the suction stroke, and watch the spark jump. Show him what 'serviceable' really means. Where else can you get an education like this?