From Rust-Bucket to Treasure

McCormick-Deering Engine

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1425 Kristle Lane Lake Charles, Louisiana 70611

It had been over a year since I bought my last engine, so I was keeping my eyes open for another one to buy. I had been looking for a 5 HP Economy/Hercules for some time, and though I had found several for sale, they were out of my league price wise. My wife and I were visiting a local flea market when I ran into a friend who is also a collector of old iron. I told him what I was looking for. He told me about a collector who had recently bought an entire collection and most of it was for sale. He only lived about an hour away, so I took an afternoon off from work and went over to visit him. Sure enough, he had about thirty engines for sale. Though he did not have that particular engine I was looking for, there in the back of one of his sheds was a 1 HP McCormick-Deering M. It was basically a bucket of rust. In fact, what he had was two engines with enough parts to make one, excluding the magneto. Now, I've always been kind of partial to the McCormick-Deering M. It's a fine engine and has lots of eye appeal. So, I asked him if it was for sale. He said it was. We agreed on a price and loaded it into the back of my pickup. As we were loading it, his wife came out and said, 'You bought that?' I said, 'Sure, this is my kind of engine.'

The deal consisted of a partial engine and some parts. The water hopper was cracked and the piston was stuck. One flywheel was broken with not much more than the hub left. But, included was an extra crankcase and flywheel. Most of the other parts were there, but no magneto. The head had already been removed and was partially disassembled. I knew I had my work cut out for me. So began about four months of tender loving care.

I began by disassembling the partial engine down to the crankcase and piston. On closer examination I discovered that the sleeve was cracked as well as the top of the piston. But I needed the connecting rod, so I had to get the piston out. Since the piston wasn't any good and since I had already located a replacement, I spared nothing getting it out. I finally broke it and the sleeve into pieces. Many of the other original parts were in such bad condition they couldn't be reused. The water hopper had a large crack in it, so the original crankcase was retired as a flower planter.

So began the quest for the many parts I needed to get the engine back together. There are many people who deserve thanks for helping me with parts and, in fact, there are numerous stories that could be told about how each part was obtained. Most of the parts were located through the Internet, especially the Stationary Engine List.

The engine was cleaned, sandblasted and painted. As parts came in, they were prepared and assembled. I bought a rebuilt WICO magneto for it. After about three months, it began to look like an engine again. The day finally came when I was ready to try to start it. I discovered very quickly how critical the timing and needle valve setting are for this engine. With a little persistence, I was able to get it to run through a full mixer bowl of gasoline. I was satisfied, but even at this point I still had replacement parts coming in, so I partially disassembled the engine to install them. I also took this opportunity to touch up some of the scratches made during assembly. At this point I also built the skid for it.

Finishing the engine required a new gas tank and plumbing. Now the McCormick-Deering M has a fairly complex plumbing system. That's one of the things that gives it appeal. It took quite a bit of bending and re-bending of copper tubing to get the fuel lines just right. Needless to say, some of the tubing crimped and I had to start over, but I was finally able to get it right.

The engine now starts easily with just a couple flips of the flywheel, and runs really fine. I'm looking forward to showing it at our spring show. By the way, about three months later I found that 5 HP Economy I had been looking for. This time the price was right and I bought it. So, I have another restoration project waiting in the wings.