Goes Like Sixty

A 6 HP Gilson restoration comes down to the wire before the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion


This is how the engine looked when Steve and George Alt bought the engine in October 2005.

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Our Gilson story starts just after the 2005 Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, when they chose the next year’s featured engine. For 2006, it would be the Gilson Mfg. Co.

After the show I sat down at my computer and started surfing the World Wide Web for information on the Gilson company. The first item to pop up was a fellow gas engine collector in Ohio who was selling a 6 HP Gilson. At this time I wasn’t really in the market for another engine, but clicked on the link for informational purposes. (Sure.) I viewed a couple other sites, but later came back to the one for sale. I sent the link to my dad to look at, along with some Gilson information I learned. The next day my dad and I talked about the engine, and the following weekend we headed to Ohio with the trailer. When this all started I just wanted to learn about the Gilson company, and now a year later I can say my dad and I have learned a ton!

The engine was very complete. After a short time, we had it running and were enjoying the sound of it. As it ran, it would jump off the blocks a good 1-inch or more each time it fired. The compression on this engine is very high, making for a good, hard fire each time.

We talked over what type of cart we were going to need to move this new beast around. We drew up a draft on paper, took some photos with wheels sitting around it and then did some final measurements. We also talked over what type of restoration we were going to do. After closer review of the paint, we found dried grease in many of the corners with paint over it. Some flaking of the paint was already happening. We decided a new paint job was necessary, which meant a complete teardown and restoration.

Each and every piece was sandblasted, then reviewed to see if it needed repaired or machined for better fit. Some of the larger pieces got a thin coat of plastic body filler and sanded down, while the smaller were just lightly ground to reduce some of the casting texture. Once smooth, a coat of epoxy primer was applied to each piece; later the pieces would get a coat of polyester primer. The polyester primer helps fill in small imperfections and grinder marks. The primer was then sanded and a coat of epoxy sealer was applied. Within a couple hours, a coat of Gilson green base coat was applied, followed soon after by clear coat.

As normal, we gas engine guys seem to always wait until the last minute before a show to finish anything. Work on this engine didn’t happen until spring, and then between all our other shows, family events and vacation time, the restoration started to slip away. The night before the engine was to head to Midwest Old Threshers only the cart and engine block were bolted together. Everything else was sitting on three tables all painted up. The flywheels, painted just two nights earlier, were sitting on sawhorses. After four hours, my dad, cousin and myself put the engine together and blessed it to be complete. The next morning it was loaded on the trailer and heading to the show.

During this restoration I turned to the Internet for advice and help. My best source was found with Denis Rouleau and his website dedicated to the Gilson Mfg. Co. He has collected old and new photos of Gilson engines with most being displayed on his site. It is very informational and easy to get around in. See the sidebar with information from his website.

Contact Steve Alt at: 614 N. Calhoun St., West Liberty, IA 52776; (319) 627-2210 (evenings); salt@Lcom.net or galt@Lcom.net for George Alt.