A Novo Named Hedda

Novo 1 HP Engine

Content Tools

67 Skymeadow Drive, Stamford, Connecticut 06903

In the spring of 1963 while driving along Railroad Avenue in Greenwich, Connecticut, I noticed an interesting piece of machinery in the front yard of a lawn mower repair shop. A Novo 1? HP s/n 20812 had reposed in the dirt with a wooden pail inverted over the hopper. I inquired about the engine with the owner of the shop; he called her 'Hedda Hopper' and she was for sale. After a short discussion and an exchange of forty dollars, I was driving away with Hedda to my auto repair shop nearby.

The piston was free, so after a good cleaning I removed the valve cages, ground and lapped them in. I hastily devised an ignition system with a Model T Ford coil and 7-volt burglar alarm battery. The fuel pump would not hold a prime, so I filled the carburetor and spun the flywheel until my hands were raw. With much tinkering several evenings later, Hedda would fire three times in succession and no more.

Since I had proved to myself that I got her to fire, I was satisfied to spend my spare time on other interests. I decided to give her a snazzy red paint job and polish all the brass. A trip home to rest in my den was next. My wife decided to put a flower pot in Hedda's hopper. Hedda then sat behind a small woodstove for 26 years, getting only a dusting and a gentle turn of her flywheels.

In the spring of 1989 I came across an issue of Gas Engine Magazine and was astounded by the interest in antique engines from people across the country. I immediately subscribed to GEM, which kindled my interest in waking up Hedda after all those years. So out of the den and into the garage, Hedda got her fuel pump check valves reseated and a new packing of butcher's twine and Kirkman laundry soap. I made a nifty battery box from an Italian wine crate. I used the same Model T coil and a 7-volt battery. This time Hedda would run for one minute and quit. I tinkered with ignition timing and exhaust valve timing to no avail. Night after night I cranked her until I pulled my right shoulder so badly I could not lift a fork!

Some time later I built a truck for Hedda utilizing some oak plow handles to wheel her around. I took her to a nearby gas engine show in the fall of 1989. Hedda looked pretty sitting on her spiffy truck but she would not perform for the folks. Feeling very frustrated, I struck up a conversation with another exhibitor from Worcester, Massachusetts. He revealed an interesting solution. 

My new friend told me he has a Novo 1? HP and uses a 12-volt motorcycle battery for power. He assured me that the coil saturation time is so short that 12 volts would not burn the windings. That evening after the show, I located a 12 volt cycle battery; since that day, Hedda has started with one spin of her flywheels, and gets up to governor speed instantly.

The next show two weeks later, Hedda ran for three hours while crowds of folks watched and asked questions. I was a happy man!

At her next show sometime in 1990, she will drive a 250 watt D.C. generator via a new leather belt from her flywheel and will light up a collection of antique Edison bulbs.

I estimate Hedda is 77 years old and still willing to work for her keep. That is saying a lot in the scheme of things today.