A HUMMER of an Engine

In 1937 Montgomery, Ward & Co. introduced the air-cooled Hummer engine; by 1938 it was already history.

1937 Spring-Summer catalog

The 1937 Spring-Summer catalog.

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I couldn't help but notice the small Montgomery,  Ward & Co. engine featured in query 38/12/5 on page 6 of the December 2003 issue of Gas Engine Magazine. We know that during the 1930s Montgomery, Ward & Co. marketed air-cooled engines manufactured by Nelson Bros. But questions have remained regarding just when Ward dropped the Nelson line of engines and whose engines were used after that time. Judging by Ward catalogs, it appears the Nelson line was replaced in 1937 by a line of air-cooled engines manufactured by Wisconsin Motor Co., Milwaukee, Wis. At the same time, however, Ward introduced a smaller engine: the one featured in the December 2003 issue of GEM.

Catalog Cuts

This engine was listed in Montgomery, Ward & Co.'s spring/summer and fall/winter general catalogs for 1937, and it might have been sold in the firm's 'Power Plant' catalog or a sale catalog at a later time.

The engine put out 5/8 HP at 1,750 rpm, which was Ward's standard rating. The bore and stroke was 2-1/8-inch by 1-3/4-inch, giving a capacity of 6.2 cubic inches. A power-to-speed chart in the catalog showed the engine put out almost 1 HP at 2,300 rpm. This engine had the same kick-start and base as James Haugen's engine shown in the December 2003 issue of GEM. All of these engines had a separate magneto mounted on the end of the crankshaft.

The shipping weight was listed at a rather hefty 90 pounds, indicating the actual weight to have been about 80 pounds. The catalog price was $27.95, or they would ship 100 from the factory (listed as Springfield, Ill., but no company name given) for $23.50 each.

Ward also sold this engine with three different electric generators, the most popular of which was equipped with a belt-driven 6-volt automobile generator. It was equipped with a guard covering the drive, and it sat on an almost identical base to the standard engine. Shipping weight was 110 pounds, but the actual weight was listed as 91 pounds. The price was $42.95. I have one of these units (but missing the generator), and cast into the cast iron base it says: 'Battery Charging Set Designed By James L. Varian -Patents Pending.' The output was 16 amps.

Another 6-volt generating set was listed with an output of 14 amps, but the generator was coupled directly to the engine's crankshaft. The magneto was eliminated, replaced with a small coil and points taking current directly from the battery. A V-belt pulley was attached to the crankshaft in place of the magneto, and the cast iron base was totally different from the other variants. Shipping weight was listed as 97 pounds, and the price was $33.95. The obvious disadvantage of this unit was that the ignition would not fire if the battery was discharged. These generators were used primarily for charging radio batteries. At the time, most radios used in rural settings ran on 6-volt batteries, so these units were very popular.

This same engine was also used with a 32-volt generator, which was listed as having a 100-pound shipping weight and sold for $49.95. Output for all three generators was listed at 3/4 HP.

Ward's smallest two-wheel garden tractor used this same engine, but without the cast iron base or the kick-starter. It was rated at 5/8 HP, had a rectangular gas tank on top of the engine and used a standard carburetor. A nice color picture of this garden tractor appeared on page 26 of the August 1991 issue of Gas Engine Magazine. Literature with that engine showed it to have been manufactured by Hummer Manufacturing Co., Springfield, Ill.

The 1937 Spring-Summer catalog also listed a bare-bones Hummer for $27.95. Note the hopper-cooled stationary engine (perhaps a Nelson Bros. ?) and the air-cooled Wisconsin inline four-cylinder engine. The engines at the top of the page are all air-cooled Wisconsin engines, which replaced the Nelson Bros.-built line of air-cooled engines sold through 1936. The photo-illustration is deceptive, as it shows the engines in varying physical sizes, when in fact there was little difference between many of them.

This engine disappeared from the Ward catalog after 1937, replaced in 1938 by an air-cooled engine of similar output manufactured by John Lauson Manufacturing Co., New Holstein, Wis. The Lauson engine weighed 33 pounds, much lighter than the engine it replaced, which meant it was much cheaper to ship to customers. Could this be why the Hummer engine was dropped? Little is known about the Hummer Manufacturing Co., and if anyone knows more I'd appreciate hearing from them.

Contact Kenneth Scales at: 2601 Shadynook Way, Oklahoma City, OK 73141; (405) 769-4171.