About the same year Gas Engine Magazine began (1966), my dad Rod Epping and granddad Ben Epping were just becoming interested in the hobby. As they attended shows and began noticing all the different makes and unique features of engines, one especially stood out to my dad. While not an extremely rare or exotic engine, something about all the working parts and the smooth, finely tuned revolutions of the sideshaft IHC Mogul engines intrigued him. It seemed one could imagine an electric motor inside running just right. Sitting there watching different examples of these machines perform, a sincere interest formed that would stick with him, and eventually be passed to me.
The problem was that there were very few of these engines in our area of south central Nebraska, so the thought of bringing one home seemed unlikely to a young enthusiast. But, eventually, Dad did manage to journey around and bring home a few hopper-cooled Moguls. He was thrilled to finally have some and really enjoyed these engines, but always thought about someday having a big screen-cooled model.
More than 35 years after his first encounter with Moguls, my dad was talking to a collector in Wisconsin who was telling him about a big Mogul he had just acquired. It was a 15 HP tank-cooled portable engine that had just been brought back from spending its working life in Uruguay, South America, where it was supposedly used in a shoe factory. Through the years, the engine had been used-up mechanically, and was going to be a major project to put back in order. But, amazingly, it still had a fair bit of original paint and looked like a really neat project in the photos he shared with us.
A couple years later, we were speaking to the owner again and he mentioned he was moving onto other interests and was going to sell the engine. During that time, he'd done some work on the Mogul, but it still needed a major overhaul. At that moment, we really didn't think seriously about buying it. We'd just bought a 20 HP Mogul engine and weren't ready for another one.
A few weeks later we got a call from Steve Maxwell in Indiana who'd learned that our 20 HP was actually a Mogul tractor engine. He was very interested in putting a tractor together and had some of the other parts to do so. Though we really liked the 20 HP engine, we knew we would never put it back in a tractor where it belonged. After some consideration, we decided the engine should really go to the tractor project, as there are none of this model left. And so a deal was made, Steve went to Wisconsin, purchased the 15 HP engine and in June of 2004 delivered it to our farm in Nebraska in exchange for the larger engine.
So it begins ...
We started on the project that summer and we could see we had a big job on our hands. There were many parts that were very worn and all of the original cooling system, tank supports, woodwork and even a few small engine parts were gone. We found the inside of the engine completely coated with a thick tar-like oil residue. They must have some odd grades of oil in South America, as I'd never seen anything like it! We had to steam clean the crankcase, but were careful on the outside due to the nice original finish that we wanted to preserve as much as possible. We got the engine torn down that summer, but didn't get much further.
After harvest we got back to work. We could deal with rebuilding the parts we had, but the missing parts, mainly on the frame, were a problem. We wanted to reproduce them exactly like the original, but there were no other 15 HP portables within several hundred miles to even look at. That's where our friend Ray Nicola in Minnesota, helped us. He had worked on an engine local to him, and he did a fabulous job drawing diagrams and taking measurements for us. We studied his photos and measurements throughout the rest of the project and are very grateful for his efforts. We did our best to make everything on the cooling system and frame exactly as it should be, and in the end it didn't turn out too bad.
After fabricating the frame and cooling support structure we turned to rebuilding worn engine parts. The previous owner had done a few repairs before we got it. The valves were new and seated, and the fuel pump and drive were nicely rebuilt. Also, all the wearable items connected to the sideshaft had been sleeved with bronze bushings. But, as we would find, there was tons left to do.
The mechanical oiler had several broken pieces inside, so we had to make a few new parts for it. The tar in the piston had stopped the wristpin from getting proper lubrication. The pin on this engine is clamped tight in the rod and wears in bronze bushings on either side of the piston. All of this was completely worn out. We made a new pin, bushings and got everything back to specifications on that end. The main and rod bearings appear to have been re-poured at some time and were in surprisingly good condition, so nothing but cleaning was required. And thankfully, the crank journals were nice and true.
The timing gears on the engine were badly worn. For some reason the sideshaft gear (which was meant to be bronze) had been replaced with a steel gear and the result was not good. So, we began looking for someone to make these. The sideshaft gear wasn't a problem, but the one on the crankshaft was a little more difficult due to the much longer tooth length. Eventually, we did find a machine shop that could make them - the sideshaft gear out of bronze and the crankshaft gear out of hardened steel, the way they were meant to be.
By the end of winter, we had quite a few hours in the project without actually putting anything back together. But we did have a lot of rebuilt parts ready to go. The summer was another hot and dry one, which kept us busy irrigating, so we didn't get after the engine again until November 2005. By that time we had new custom piston rings ordered and our friend in Colorado, Dave Brown, helped us with a piece in the governor that was a little tricky. As we began to reassemble, we discovered there was still a lot to do.
One item of business was new sideshaft bearings. On the Moguls, there are a lot of mechanisms that drive off of and have to line-up with the sideshaft. We have done some babbitt work, but never in a situation where the gear lash had no adjustment. We spent most of a day setting a jig to hold everything in place and preparing the shaft and housings for the pour. We poured the bearings the next day and, to our surprise, they both came out on the first attempt. The gear lash seemed good and after that it seemed like the project was going to come together.
Still, with everything rebuilt, there was a lot of gunsmithing, which was very time consuming. Many of the keys that hold the cams and gears in place are tapered and those took some time to make. Hours were spent making pins, keys and other small missing parts that were forgotten about or not discovered the previous winter. Once again, we got Ray's diagrams and began the woodworking needed for the tank stand, seat and footrest, unique to the portable engines.
In early December, our custom rings came in and we turned the grooves in the piston and fit the rings snug to them. The cylinder wasn't pitted or grooved, but did have a few thousandths of wear. We considered boring and sleeving, but several experienced engine men told us earlier that summer that a lot of engines are unnecessarily bored. More compression is lost through sloppy grooves than through slightly worn cylinders. We found this to be good advice as the engine ended up with great compression, and in this case boring probably would have been a waste.
By the second week of December our task was almost complete. One of the last projects was to bore what was left of the old pipe threads in the exhaust manifold. We turned down a pipefitting and inserted it into the manifold. After a little welding and grinding, the threads were good as new and ready to hold the muffler in place.
Up and running
Finally, the day came to see if what we had done would work. It took a few hours to adjust the timing, valve clearances and the lengths of the linkages. After everything seemed to be in order, we spun it over a few times, and we had results! We spent the afternoon on adjustments and by evening had a nice-running engine.
It's always a thrill to see a fine old engine come back to life, and I wish I knew how long it had been idle. This engine is serial no. 591, which makes it the first of four 15 HP portables made in 1915. One unique feature of this engine is the thermo-siphon cooling system where the cooling tank waterline is slightly above the cylinder. After an hour or so of running, the water begins to boil in the cylinder and you have quite a display of steam and water flow over the screen. It is also equipped with a large 30-inch clutch pulley and an original toolbox with a nice IHC logo.
When we first became interested in this engine, most reports stated there were about seven 15 HP portables left. Since then, we've heard of at least five more. It would be interesting to hear from any other owners of large, screen-cooled Moguls.
Rod and Chris Epping always enjoy having people stop and see them, just off Interstate 80 in Nebraska. Contact them at: 12015 734 Road, Funk, NE 68940; (308) 263-4371; firstname.lastname@example.org • www.oilpull.com