Just Another Engine Tale

Old engine

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3201 Burnett Road Suwanee, Georgia 30174

My son Jeremy and I had spent an enjoyable day at the Sand Mountain Pioneer Power Association Engine and Tractor show in Rainsville, Alabama. We were on our way back home when the driver of this pickup truck pulled alongside us, honked his horn and motioned us to stop and talk. Following his request the driver told us, 'I see you have these old hit and miss engines on your trailer, and I have one that belonged to my wife's grandfather. Would you be interested in buying it?' Needless to say we followed him back a couple of miles.

There it sat, in the edge of a patch of trees next to an old barbed wire fence, with trees growing all around it. We made our bargain and left, later going back to retrieve this sad-looking old pile of junk. I call it junk because for the next few days I asked myself why I ever thought I wanted this hopeless hunk of iron.

I had such little hope for this old engine that I sat it in the backyard rather than in my shop. No brass tag, no part numbers, no written information, no one who knew of such an engine. I could find nothing in Gas Engines Since 1872. Everywhere I looked, everyone I asked nothing! The only clue I had was cast in raised letters on top of the water hopper DETROIT ENGINE WORKS, DETROIT, MICHIGAN.

One morning, with not much to do, I began dismantling the engine. The more I dismantled, the more hope I had that it was worth the effort.

After the usual cleaning, repairing, sandblasting, painting, fabricating a gas tank, carburetor repair, machining some new valve stems, cylinder pits repaired and honed, selecting suitable valve springs, fuel line, building battery ignition, hand making all gaskets, new rings and reassembly, this old unknown engine ran great!

I have carried it to a couple of shows and still do not know anything about this engine, or who, or when it was built.

First, I would like to thank Mr. Banks McGown and his wife who live in Rome, Georgia, for the opportunity to purchase and restore the old engine. Second, I would ask any of the readers of GEM who have information on this engine to please share it with me. I do know that the piston size is 5' with a 10' stroke; 36' flywheels; gas burner; capacity of the water hopper is 10 gallons. It is hit and miss design with speed changes similar to a Hercules. Governors, push rod, valves and rocker arm are all similar to a Nelson Brothers engine. Also note from my photo how the crankshaft is mounted to the bearings and caps. Others who look this engine over have commented, 'different odd rare unusual!'

Readers, please share your knowledge and information with me, such as: Who built the Detroit Engine Works of Detroit, Michigan? Approximately what year? What horsepower is this engine? What type magneto? Proper color? If you have pictures, copies of written material, ANYTHING would be gratefully accepted. Thanks.