R. D. I, Dillsburg, Pennsylvania 17019
Several years ago, while reading a story of the Metz Automobile in an issue of the 'Antique Car Magazine', the following story was recalled to my memory. Many details have been forgotten, but the lump on my wrist, caused by the crank of my old Metz when it kicked backward while starting, will never be forgotten.
My first encounter with a Metz came about when my family moved into York County, Pa., and, of course, yours truly had to go to a new school at the age of thirteen. All schools in the country at that time were the one-room pot bellied stove type and a school room visitor was something special. All school districts were subject to the yearly visit by some local photographer with the magic birdie box mounted on a tripod. This usually meant three visits-first, to take the posed picture; second to show samples and take orders; and third to deliver the pictures and collect the usual twenty-five cents. All three visits meant no classes for several hours while the pupils did about as they pleased.
Now at the new school the photographer was a rather small, frail looking man driving a car that fit the same description - a Metz roadster. It was soon discovered by the older boys that by holding on to the back end and maybe with several well placed bricks, the driver had some difficulty in getting the car in motion. This resulted in one of two things happening, either the engine stalled necessitating recanting or a cloud of foul smelling smoke from the friction drive.
One of the jokes back-fired as I remember it; the teacher appeared on the porch during the critical time, took one look at the photographer's predicament, then disappeared to ring the bell for classes to convene. This was a simple case of being saved by the bell.
This man was also employed as a substitute rural mail carrier and would use the Metz when weather and roads were favorable. But here again both the driver and car were the butt end of many jokes because it was said that when the car was caught in a sudden thunder shower the mail was always late as the mail then had to depend on some nearby farmer's horsepower to get it going or even pull the Metz home.
My dad was a farmer but would also contract for logging and lumber hauling for some local sawmillers during any slack period and winter months. During the week yours truly would count the days until Saturday when it was possible to visit the sawmill while dad worked in the woods, but the fun gradually turned into helping with the teams which was much better than sitting in a school house.
On Christmas Day 1919, dad had an accident, breaking his arm and could not finish his contract of logging which was to last another sixty days. Although I was not yet sixteen years old, here was my chance to get into the lumbering business and to me, it looked like the chance of a lifetime. My mother had been a school teacher, as well as seven of her brothers and sisters and, therefore, looking back now I guess I was considered a failure when I decided to finish the logging contract rather than go to school. My parents had never heard the words 'school drop-out' or I would have had to go to school.
Having driven a car when fourteen years old, legally, made me appear older. Now this is no joke, but it was very simple to convince the parents to place the family car in the boy's name and the kid was in business -with a license.
While working on the logging contract it was customary to eat lunch with the sawmill crew, either in their shanty or near the boiler on cold days. Here the fireman, who was only two years my senior, became friendly and we had many discussions concerning automobiles, etc. After the logging job was completed the mill moved on and I lost track of the young fireman, but during the summer he came to pay me a visit one Sunday.
The fireman had now turned farmer and was working on a farm about four miles from my home. In our conversation he mentioned that he had bought the little Metz roadster that had belonged to the school photographer and intended to build a cordwood saw rig using the Metz as a source of power.
One year later my dad was persuaded to help me get started in the custom farm work business on my own, which at the time looked like an opportunity because the old steam rigs were beginning to be replaced by the gasoline tractors which many farmers preferred. First a threshing outfit was bought during the early summer, followed by a sawmill and Selden motor truck with solid tires. All farmers used wood for heating and cooking at that time, thus many days were spent sawing firewood for these farmers. The cordwood saw did not require much power and no profit could be obtained by using a large gasoline tractor for this work; therefore the writer was looking for a small gasoline motor. It so happened that next spring my old friend the fireman appeared one Sunday noon for what I thought was a Sunday visit, but it soon developed that he had a disagreement with his farmer employer and had moved to a neighboring farm leaving the Metz behind.
He now offered to sell the Metz cheap, saying that nothing remained of the car except the bare necessities required for wood sawing. After quite a lot of dickering $2.25 changed hands and the writer had bought a Metz, sight unseen. It now came to light that the hired man was afraid to return for the Metz and the wood saw parts belonged to the farmer. Now the $2.25 did not look so good as it could easily go down as experience costs. The fact that a title was involved was not even mentioned because old cars and junk were in the same class in the country. After more horse-trading, it was agreed we would harness one of dad's mules and both go for the Metz, hoping the farmer was not home and if he was it became my job to persuade him to let us have the Metz.
Two young men started down the road riding one mule which was already carrying chains as well as a bag of wrenches. We were lucky because there seemed to be no one home except the watch dog who had no spite at his former pal. The wood sawing parts were quickly removed to a nice pile near the wood shed. With the mule hitched to one end of a chain, the Metz to the other end, one boy on the mule, the other on the Metz and we were on our way. When we arrived home we had a very weary mule and what dad called a piece of junk but my mother, being a Sunday school teacher, had something else in mind such as sacrilegious, etc. for being on the road on Sunday with such a rig.
Both agreed that it was a disgrace to the farmyard and would have to leave with the next junk wagon to arrive. To this, the writer had to agree with the stipulation that some parts could be salvaged first. Although the frame, springs, axles and wheels did go for junk, the salvage agreement saved the day. The following week turned out to be one of those rainy, dreary times when farm work is at a very low ebb with little to do except the barn chores. This gave me an opportunity to pull the Metz into the barn where it was dismantled and the engine mounted on two wood beams, the driving disc replaced with a flat belt pulley supported by a babbitt bearing mounted on a cross-timber, the crank and radiator were in their proper place and a Model T Ford gas tank mounted over all. After a brushed-on coat of Fordson gray paint the writer had what looked like a nice power unit, although the name had not been coined at this time.
In our little village of Dillsburg (population about 850) one of the main industries was a small stone quarry employing fifteen men at 20? per hour and located north of the boro with the pit about five hundred yards from the crushing plant. The stones were transported to the plant by carts and mules with no electricity in the pit, The quarry was owned jointly by an uncle of the writer who also had the local Overland car agency, the office of which served the garage, stone plant and headquarters for Saturday night loafers.
When yours truly arrived at the garage Saturday evening for gas and oil before going on a date, driving a 1918 Chevrolet, there seemed to be more excitement than usual with most of the quarry men standing around. It turned out that the wet weather had flooded the stone pit to such an extent that the plant had to close down with the result that the pay envelopes were almost void of any cash.
I was immediately called into the office and asked the price per hour for my tractor to drive a large water pump but when I advised the owners that such work was $1.00 per hour without fuel, they hit the ceiling. After some discussion they offered 50? per hour stating they needed only about 10 hp which was promptly refused , but I told them that a small gas motor, of sufficient hp was available at 50? per hour if they would furnish gas, oil and operator.
They now offered 25? and we finally agreed on 35? and would start Sunday noon so the men could begin work Monday morning. After a certain farmer disclosed the source of the Metz to a quarryman there developed new trouble because of the little old Metz's past history. Most of the quarrymen were sure there would be no work the next week. Many of the details have been forgotten but as recalled about $20.00 was wagered as to the length of time the Metz would last and my uncle held the money. But by this time it was getting late for my date.
Because nothing had been done to the motor this could be another joke at the expense of the motor and the new owner. Early Sunday morning a visit was made to a country auto mechanic with my story about the Metz and the bets. This man is no longer living. He was a church man all his life, who hesitated to work on the Sabbath, although he sometimes helped out on Sunday by checking mags and other small adjustments when necessary. After hearing my story he decided we would give the old motor a once-over-lightly by cleaning the plugs, checking the old BOSCH mag. and taking up the rod bearings. All this after church services by both of us, of course.
We arrived at the pit a little after noon, when a few men were already waiting but had trouble getting the pump and pipes lined up so it was 2:30 PM when all was ready for the big show. We were too busy to notice until now that quite an audience had gathered at the edge of the pit where there were over fifty men in all modes of dress from work clothes to derby hats. When the little motor was started and the three-inch pipe began to pour a steady stream, 'No bets were made giving the Metz over eight hours life because it was agreed it was an impossibility.'
several watches were consulted and it was agreed it was 2:30. After burning the paint and oil from the exhaust pipe and manifold, the Metz settled to a nice even rhythm which the mechanic judged to be the car speed of twenty-five miles per hour or slightly over. Now this was an ideal condition for a gasoline motor, namely a uniform speed with a 40% load. After one hour the bets were beginning to be paid and the crowd dispersed. The writer and the mechanic decided it was a good time to leave before anything happened.
No bets were made giving the Metz over eight hours life because it was agreed that eight hours would be the equivalent of driving to Washington, D. C, and return - an impossibility. When the writer came home from his Sunday night date it was not possible to resist visiting the Metz. No one can imagine the loneliness of a quarry pit with no electricity until he makes such a visit. When I arrived about midnight the night time operator had taken over after several changes, one of which was a long discarded, overstuffed chair on which the operator was half lying and half sitting with two pardners nearby - one with a kerosene lantern, the other a large liquor bottle half empty. When asked how things were going he answered OK, but she takes a h--------of a lot of gas and oil which he had to carry about 500 yards in cans. This was remedied the following day by hauling the gas in with a barrel and the oil in 5-gallon cans.
The Metz, however, was clicking along like an old alarm clock with a nice blue flame from the exhaust pipe which was a cherry red. These old Metz motors had an oil filler pipe with a small funnel which extended above the head. In this way the oil could be replenished without stopping or any blow-back.
All the bets were now past history but the visitors kept coming to marvel at the little old Metz. The writer also paid a visit each evening for after all 35? per hour began to add to a good deal.
On Tuesday night about 1:30 AM the old fan belt gave up, which meant a trip to town and we called the garage operator from his bed to alter a Model T Ford belt so it would fit the Metz. One hour was lost and the water rose rapidly so the motor was started again. The spark plugs were the old type that could be dismantled and cleaned so the motor was stopped a few times when a plug became fouled but otherwise the motor ran continually until Friday when the pit became dry enough to work without the pump so it was shut down at noon.
It was later discovered that it consumed 28 to 30 gallons of gasoline and 3 to 4 quarts of oil each 24 hours. This seems to prove the old rule of 1 hp 10 hrs -1 gal. of fuel in a gasoline engine in good condition. With a little arithmetic it can be seen to be a kind of a record, being equal to driving coast to coast with a good start on the way back. AH with the only reparis being one fan belt. The mag was not even opened during the run. The old Metz had redeemed itself to everyone's surprise, including the owner.
As for collecting the pay, this surprisingly was not so simple. Yours truly was told that the old motor used too much gas and oil and that I was profiteering on such a small investment. After several weeks I had to settle for $35.00 which, by the way, bought a very good suit of clothes at the time. This deal taught the owner a good lesson-that a verbal agreement was useless, even among friends.
The Metz was brought back to the barn resembling the proverbial tomcat after a week's travel, but after a good cleaning and another coat of paint was ready for another run. Later in the summer it was taken to the wood-lot and belted to a wood saw but this was not for the Metz. Having no governor, it would run wild when not sawing and after a few days work it threw a rod bearing. With no repairs to be had, this looked like the end of the Metz. However, this was not the case.
Someone at the quarry had mentioned that a certain bachelor farmer had a Metz touring car but had not used it for many years. It was learned where this car stood in an old closed shed and no one had looked at it for a long time because the owner would not admit he owned a car of any kind. One day after telling my truck driver of the Metz and the plans I had, we loaded some chains in the back of our old Ford T pick-up, covered them with some burlap bags and we set out looking for the Metz touring. We had no trouble finding the farmer and after visiting some time one of us mentioned our old Metz, whereupon he boasted that he too had a Metz and to prove it he would open the shed and show it. After some difficulty we had the door open sufficiently to squeeze in the shed. At the time it looked like junk but now in 1976 it would be like finding gold. All the tires were flat and the farmer told us he had removed the battery and placed it in his cellar six years before but assured us it was like new. This one was equipped with a starter, electric lights, a horn and single drive chain. We casually asked if he would sell us several bearings from the motor when he promptly told us no, he would consider selling the complete car, however.
After a little inspection one of us wondered just how much he thought he should have for the car which needed all new tires. After some thought he answered $10.00 cash, which surely he thought we could not afford even if we threw in our old T Ford. We tried but he would not budge from the $10.00 even when we told him he could keep the battery.
When we thought the proper time had passed, a $10.00 bill was 'The old Metz had redeemed itself to everyone's surprise, including the owner.'
produced and now it was time to surprise the farmer. The T was backed up near the shed and a chain produced from the burlap rag pile then attached to the Metz and we were ready to roll on four flat tires. Now we began to have troubles as anyone familiar with a Model T might suspect.
The Metz as I mentioned, had four flats but even then had sunk several inches into the ground floor. This was our old school trick in reverse, but after several pulls with hand pushing by yours truly, the Metz gave up and was out on the public road. We had to stop for water several times but low gear lasted all the way home, but we lost all the tires as small pieces scattered along the roads. It was late when we pulled the old car into dad's farm lot, so it was not observed until the following day when the same orders were given. The Metz had to leave at once so the following evening the truck driver looked it over and discovered we had forgotten the battery, but it too had a German Bosch mag. with a nice spark.
The driver thought if it had gas it would run so we poured a gallon of gasoline in the tank, then turned her over a few times when it ran fine. We took a little ride to a neighbor and back, which is all we cared for without tires. It was decided to take it to the mountain where the sawmill was located before removing the bearings.
The next morning the truck driver offered to drive it as far as possible before towing, which we were sure we had to do to get it over the terrible road to the mill. Now this Metz seemed to be as reliable as the first, because it went the entire three and one-half miles to the mill on its own power to a vacant spot behind the mill where it was simply rolled over on its side in order to get at the bearings and left there to rot.
The first one was now repaired by using a bearing from No. 2 when it ran as good as new again but after one week another rod went out, then later another.
About this time it was evident the Metz was not made to saw wood and an attachment was bought for a small farm tractor to take care of the wood sawing.
The following spring a steam engine and large water tank was acquired from a retired sawmill owner, also a Nash Quad truck 4-wheel drive, from World War I surplus to haul water. We now needed a water pump and the old Metz was mounted on wheels with the water pump attached in place of the pulley. This worked out fine and when the mill was moved to the next set the second Metz was robbed of the remaining bearings, the mag. and other parts we thought we might need. For many years, until the outbreak of World War II the old Metz was part of the sawmill equipment but it always had the habit of throwing rod bearings even though it had brass-backed, shell type bearings at that early date. After the bearing supply was exhausted we simply cut sole leather to fit and if the oil was carried high it ran smoother than the original.
While sawing railroad ties for the U. S. Arsenal near York, Pa., at the outbreak of World War II, we had to pump water from a spring to the tank located beside the boiler. It was customary to fill the tank in the morning and during lunch hour and one day while we were eating lunch with the pump running as usual the Metz gave out a terrible clatter with a cloud of smoke. It did not stop but continued to pump on three cylinders until the tank was filled when I decided to stop it personally to see why it was operating on three cylinders. When I arrived at the old Metz it was a sorry sight with one side of the motor open exposing the crankshaft and three remaining rods. The fourth rod and piston lay on the ground mashed and bent. Both bearing bolts had broken allowing the piston and rod to fall into the crankcase. After a little inspection it was discovered the motor would start and run on the three cylinders while the bottom of the case held sufficient oil for lubrication.
After operating this way three weeks, until the set was finished, the mag. was removed and the balance of the motor was thrown on the junk pile which always accumulated at a mill set.
As this was a time when junk was a good price, especially aluminum crankcases, it probably brought more than the original $2.25. This ended the life of a good, faithful servant that in the end had to be stopped by human hands.
Recently the writer accidentally became acquainted with an older man who told me he was the second owner of Metz No. 1, and that the bachelor farmer, owner of No. 2 was a dealer for the Metz cars.
Apparently the two in this story were the only ones he ever owned or sold. The No. 1 and possibly No. 2 were shipped in crates to a little railroad station at the end of a branch line, namely, East Berlin, Adams County, Pa. The dealer, of course, had to assemble the cars. This branch railroad was abandoned in the early 1920's, which seems to bring all the story parts into focus.
Pictured in a Housey marine engine which presently serves as the base of a floor lamp in my rec room. I would appreciate any information any reader could offer relating to this engine that was built in Toronto. It's approximate vintage would be helpful.