A Job With Perks

Glenn Karch did a lot of traveling for his job and sometimes it paid off with engines like this 1910 3 HP Perkins


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It's a common story among engine collectors: Younger collectors approach older collectors about purchasing a particular engine and the latter can't bring themselves to part with it, perhaps hoping they'll find a way to restore it themselves.

Over time - and it could be many, many years - the older collectors realize it's time to part with the engine, and if the younger collectors have been appropriately persistent, their patience is rewarded. Glenn Karch, Haubstadt, Ind., played the role of the younger collector when it came to the acquisition of his 1910 3 HP Perkins.

The beginning of a long wait

"I worked for Pioneer Seed in southern Indiana, and I travelled all over in charge of the salesmen," says Glenn. "On one trip, I stopped to see one of my salesmen and we were just talking. A neighbor comes up and I casually ask if anyone knows of any engines in the area. He says, 'I know of one in this shop right next to where I live.' So we go over to this machine shop on the farm and I see the engine sitting on a concrete pedestal with a line shaft to the ceiling."

Glenn discovered the engine was a Perkins and that it served several purposes back in the day. In addition to running a pump jack for a cistern, the owner of the engine - the grandson of the original purchaser - explained that the engine also ran a feed grinder, metal grinder, water pump and was even hooked up with wire lines connected to a pump in the house. The bad news was that the owner wasn't ready to part with it quite yet. Fortunately, Glenn never forgot about it. "I kept inquiring about that engine for years and years," says Glenn. "I even went back to see it once and the shop was gone and the engine was off to the side."

Patience pays off

In 2000, Glenn sent the owner a letter, which sparked the correspondence that led to his purchase of the engine. "He said, 'I'm 89 years old and I don't think I'll do anything with it,'" says Glenn. "He told me to make him an offer and I asked what he had in mind. He said, 'You have a better idea about what it's worth than I do.' So I made him an offer and he said, 'That's too high - I'll take $200 less.'"

Upon picking up the engine a few days later, Glenn saw that the engine required some considerable work. "It was rusted, stuck and had been connected to a spark plug, but the spark plug was gone, and mice had been living in the valve chamber and cylinder for some time," says Glenn. "Everything was in poor shape; it took a lot of ingenuity to figure out how to use what was left of the valves."

Luck shows up

While it took Glenn years to purchase the Perkins, the restoration process went much quicker than he expected. "I started restoring it in October 2001 and had it ready for show season in June 2002. Despite some extensive repairs, luck seemed to be on Glenn's side. "On a Tuesday, without giving the guy prior notice, I took the cylinder in to be rebored and sleeved, and it was ready by that Friday," says Glenn.

Other repairs included new rings on the piston and new gears made for the drive governor. "Most of the bearings were in good shape," says Glenn. "The igniter had been removed so I made a visit to another collector with a Perkins to take some pictures of what I needed to reconstruct. Also, a friend of mine had a reproduction muffler for it, and I made an appropriate cart to mount the engine on."

And as soon as the Perkins was in running condition, Glenn made a phone call to the previous owner. "The old owner, his wife and her sister came out to see it run," says Glenn. "He was tickled to see someone finally did something with it."

A unique addition

As most collectors know, Glenn has done extensive research on Hercules gas engines and is considered the hobby's expert. He knows very little about Perkins, though. "Back in the mid-70s at Portland (Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Assn. show), I was just taking pictures of engines and I took one of a tray-cooled Perkins," says Glenn. "Other than that, I don't really know anything specific about the company. The most common Perkins is the small upright; I've seen at least a half-dozen of those around. They also made a more conventional hopper-cooled model."

Glenn's 3 HP engine has a 5-1/4-inch bore and 6-inch stroke, with flywheels 26-1/2 inches in diameter and a 2-1/2-inch face. "One interesting feature of this engine is that the valves sit in a pocket in the bottom of the head," says Glenn. "You almost don't have enough access to take care of the valves."

The engine also features a rod oiler, which Glenn says is hard to find. "Those can go for $200 or $300 on eBay."

Contact Glenn Karch at 20601 Old State Road, Haubstadt, IN 47639 • (812) 867-5266 • glenn.karch@verizon.net 

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