In about 2003, my dad took me to pick up an old Bobcat he had lent a friend. While we were there, Dad obtained a 1964 Arctic Cat and I was given three old Briggs & Strattons, a Model H, WI and 6S. Those three engines got me hooked on old engines, particularly Briggs. Since then my collection has grown rapidly, and I hope to collect all the models and as many variations as possible. While many specific models and variations elude me, I have collected one or more of all the different series except W or WA, FHI, FE, FJ-1, T and Motor Wheel.
A brief history of Briggs & Stratton engines
In 1919 Briggs & Stratton, then an automotive parts company, bought the rights to produce the Motor Wheel from A.O. Smith. From there, Briggs introduced the Model S “stationary” engine (not to be confused with the S and SC engines made in the early ‘30s) and then the Model P “portable” engine. While the S never reached much more than a prototype (about 40 were produced) production of the Model P soared to about 5,000 units.
Then in 1921 a completely new model was introduced, the Model F. It was overhead valve, used a drip oiler and splash system for lubrication, and had a suction carb with the gas tank in the base. For the first year of production, both magneto and buzz coil ignition were offered, but the latter was discontinued for the second and final year of production. An updated engine, the Model FB, which dispensed of the oiler and used a constant level system, was introduced somewhere between 1922 and 1923. Partway through FB production, the Model FC was introduced. Early FCs were basically FBs with shrouds, a different carb and a splash oiling system. During FC production the base was changed from two mounting ears to four and a two-bolt head to a four-bolt head. In 1925 the FE and, later in the year, the FH were introduced. The Models F, FB, FC and FE all ran in the same serial number list, with the lowest numbers being Model Fs and the highest being Model FEs. The rest of the F series lineup includes the Models FG, FHI, FI, FJ-1 and FJ-2. All but the FJs were overhead valve.
The Antique Truck Show in Ballston Spa, N.Y., is the closest antique truck, tractor and engine show to me. It is mostly trucks, but there are several engines and tractors too. While there in 2010, I displayed several Briggs & Stratton Engines and a Sandwich engine I have. Right after I set up, I noticed the man displaying next to me had what appeared to be a Briggs M. When I walked around the front of his display, I noticed two things that excited me. First was a for sale sign. Second was the gas tank; it was the same tank that was used exclusively on some F series. It turned out to be an FJ-2. I asked the price, and it was good enough that I just took out my wallet.
Quite the collection
About an hour later a man approached saying that he had more than 200 old Briggs & Strattons he’d like to sell, and he gave me his phone number. After negotiating a time to meet, I went to his place to have a look.
All of the engines were in a small building, and as I walked toward it I thought there was no way he could fit 200 Briggs & Strattons in there. In the front of the building I saw about 20 Briggs & Strattons and wondered if he had added a zero to the number of engines he had, but he just walked past them and turned on his flashlight.
As I entered the next room, I was stunned. There were engines on shelves, four high and three deep. After breaking the bank, I left with Briggs models FG, LI, WI, FC, BM, IBHP, two Us and Q. I knew that I would have to make several more trips because there were still many good engines in that shed.
Pick of the litter
Of all the engines I got, I chose to start work on the FC first. The one I found was a later engine with the four bolt head and base. However, it had the very rare short breather. Before I got it I had only heard of one with the short breather, but research brought to light several others. One theory I have for the breather is that there was a batch of bad breather castings, and to save them Briggs cut them down.
After I bought the engine, a friend of mine sent me a letter with a copy of Briggs & Stratton’s shipping records. A quick look shows my engine, serial number 7547, was shipped to D.W. Onan and Sons on May 8, 1925. This caught my interest, letting me believe that my engine may have powered a generator. My engine has a special flywheel nut which allowed a pulley to be bolted to the front of the engine, and it’s possible that that pulley ran the generator.
Fix ‘er up
Then teardown of the engine began. While most of the original paint remained intact, the engine had no compression. Inspection revealed a good bottom end and an excellent ignition system. However, the rings and exhaust valve were shot and the piston was cracked. My dad brazed the piston, and since only the top of the piston was cracked I knew it would be fine. New rings were sourced from a box of Briggs parts, as well as a valve from a blown up 5 HP Briggs I had for parts. The valve was machined for keepers and shortened, but other than that it was the same as the original.
The original exhaust valve was bent, and had worn the valve guide excessively. I pondered replacing the guide, but decided not to as I knew I would rarely run it. Then the engine was reassembled and mounted to an H-shaped set of skids. An FH flywheel and starter cup were used, as the FC-style flywheel is very fragile. It had a homemade intake tube when I got it, but to my surprise a reproduction showed up at my door (thanks Randy).
It was late at night when I finished, so the next morning I filled the oil reservoir and gas tank and oiled the valves. On the first pull it fired several times and then stalled. After some fine-tuning, it ran great and compression had gone up significantly.
Since I got the FC running, I have gotten all the other engines I bought from the huge collection running except the LI, which is a parts engine.
Greg Ackerly • (518) 695-3604 • firstname.lastname@example.org
See (and hear!) Greg’s restored Briggs & Stratton FC in Greg Ackerly’s Briggs & Stratton FC.