1914 5 HP Economy Engine Is a Beauty!

Fixin’ up a weary 1914 5 HP Economy engine

Roger Sorum's Engine

What the engine looked like when Roger got it.

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I have been showing tractors and equipment at tractor and engine shows for the last 10 years and have always liked listening to and watching the engines run. I have purchased three engines in the 1-1/2 HP size as well as a 5 HP throttle-governed engine. I have enjoyed making the engines run and tinkering with them.

At a show in July 2011 I spent most of the afternoon sitting under a large oak tree listening to a Neward 4 HP hit-and-miss engine run and checking it out. Another reason for staying under the oak tree was to be in the shade since it was 102 degrees with not a cloud in sight, a typical tractor and engine show in the central Texas summer sun. My mind was made up to start looking for a hit-and-miss engine in the 5 HP to 9 HP range. One of my fellow club members decided to downsize his collection and sold me a 5 HP hit-and-miss engine. How often does a person find an engine only 8 miles from home?

We made a deal and the 5 HP hit-and-miss engine was on the way to my shop. The one thing I did not know was the brand of the engine I had purchased. The serial tag on the water hopper is in very good shape and all the numbers can be read — just no brand name. It took sending a couple of emails with pictures and looking in some gas engine books to figure out that the engine is a 1914 5 HP Economy.

So I am the proud owner of a 1914 5 HP Economy; 1915 was the first year the Economy was sold by Sears, Roebuck & Co. Now the fun started: trying to figure out how to start this engine and what it would take to accomplish this feat. I removed the magneto/injector assembly, cleaned the points and saw it had some spark. I removed the gas line, made sure the check valve was working and that the gas line was clean. Then I oiled up the engine, put gas in the tank and primer valve, and started cranking. OK, which way does one turn the flywheel to make the engine start? It is hard work turning flywheels over in 95 degree heat! Did I buy a piece of gym equipment instead of an engine?

All at once the engine fired and ran for a few more hits before stopping. With more cranking and using a squirt bottle to put gas in the air pipe, the engine started again and ran for a few minutes. I was a happy engine guy with sore arms and back but a big smile on my face. Over the next week the engine would start and run, but the gas tank had a clogging issue with the check valve.

Then I had to decide what it would take to restore the 5 HP Economy engine and how to build a cart to move the engine around. I made a list of what things had to be done to restore the engine and what parts needed to be replaced. My goal was to restore the engine back to the original condition.

The first step was to clean and get all the grease and loose rust off the engine. The next step was to lift the engine off the railroad cart it was on and set it on wooden blocks. This would allow me to remove the gas tank and clean under the engine. With the help of a friend and an engine hoist, the engine was lifted off the railroad cart and placed on the wooden blocks. The engine hoist was left attached to the engine for safety reasons but was just holding the chains tight and not lifting the engine.

Removing the gas tank and looking though the filler gas pipe hole I could see the inside of the gas tank was coated with the remains of old gasoline that had evaporated. Since the gas tank is galvanized-coated, I did not want to use acid or sandblast the inside of the gas tank to clean it so I purchased one gallon of carburetor cleaner. The carburetor cleaner was poured into the gas tank and left for the next six days with a different side of the tank down each day. During this process I made sure there was always a vent hole open to let out any pressure that might build up. The gas tank turned out nice and clean inside and did not have to be lined.

While the gas tank was being cleaned the underside of the engine was degreased, sandblasted and primer-painted. Lying on my back sandblasting the engine was not one of those things I would like to do every day, but it did get the underside of the engine clean. While the engine was on the wooden blocks the entire engine was sandblasted and primer-painted. The magneto and any items that could be removed from the engine were removed except the flywheels. Items like the bearings, piston and cylinder where wrapped with shop towels and duct tape to try and stop sand from getting into these places.

Now it was time to build a cart so the engine could be moved around safely and easily. Three-inch angle iron was used to build the cart to make sure it could handle the weight of the engine. When I purchased the engine, four iron wheels were included in the deal. I drilled the wheel hubs and installed grease fittings to help the wheels turn easily. The handle on the cart was made so it could be removed at shows to eliminate any trip hazard, and in the shop to reduce the space needed to store the engine.

The engine was lifted off the wooden blocks and the cart was placed under the engine and then the engine was bolted down. Now I had the engine where I could move it around and could finish taking the engine apart safely. I removed the flywheels that were still attached to the crankshaft so the bearings could be cleaned. The piston and rod were removed so the carbon buildup could be cleaned from the rings and the connecting rod could be cleaned and painted. Only the first ring had a lot of carbon buildup so it was a quick job to clean up the piston. I finished cleaning the engine by removing any sand from the sandblasting along with any rust and grease missed earlier. I also primer-painted any areas that I could not get to before. The grease cups were cleaned out and checked to make sure they were in good working order. Now it was time to do the topcoat of paint on the parts. The main part of the engine was painted IH red and the other parts black with the outside edge of the flywheels painted black to accent them.

The engine was reassembled with the clean and painted parts, as well as the new parts that had been purchased from a couple different vendors. The items purchased were a muffler, valve springs, drip oiler and decals. At the same time the engine reassembly process was going on, a light coating of grease was applied on all parts that move. I filled the grease cups for the crankshaft and connecting rod with a waterproof mariner grease. The grease stands up excellently when the engine is washed and does not run or make a mess.

Now it was time to start the engine. I cranked and cranked and checked things out but had no luck in getting the engine started. I removed the magneto/injector assembly and tested it for spark and there was none. The Webster magneto and injector assembly were sent to Adrian’s Magneto Service in Manitoba, Canada, for a rebuild. The magneto came back looking like new. I bolted the magneto and injector on the engine with a new gasket, primed the engine with gas, and with a little tinkering the engine started. It ran great with no issues. I did make some adjustments on the governor so the engine ran nice and slow.

I’m very happy with how this project came out. A major concern of mine, since I work by myself most of the time, was to make sure this heavy engine would not fall on me. I believe in safety first. I’m looking forward to showing my newly restored 1914 5 HP Economy engine at shows around the central Texas area this year.

Contact Roger Sorum at 235 Woodlands Dr., Bastrop, TX 78602 • rsorum@austin.rr.com  

Read background information on the Economy engine in The Economy Model B Gas Engine, and explore its vintage labels in Economy Engine Decals.