Air-Cooled Engines

Content Tools

R.R.1, Box 1306 Freedom, Indiana 47431

The story of how I acquired this engine is a case of mistaken identity. I had been searching for months for a single cylinder Maytag to add to my collection of small, air-cooled engines. Every lead I followed turned out to be a dead end. Then, during a conversation at work one day, a guy mentioned that 45 years ago his grandfather had put an old engine on a homemade lawnmower frame. Jerry said the engine had never run in his lifetime, but one thing he could remember about it was it utilized a kick pedal for starting. Since his grandfather's farm was still in the family, we agreed to go out there one night after work and search for the mower.

Jerry thought the mower was stored in a corn crib, so I thought I might get lucky and find the engine in good shape, even after all these years. The trip was a relatively short one; I soon found myself standing in front of the barn.

Jerry had told me before-hand that the farm harbored a large population of copperheads, but I did not realize the extent to which he referred, until he declined to enter the corn crib with me, and instead leaned a .22 caliber rifle just inside the door. 'Just in case,' he said. As I walked carefully toward the dark shape at the end of the crib, I wondered what I would find. Finally, I arrived at the mower, but the engine was hidden from view by several empty fertilizer sacks that had been piled on it. Very carefully, I removed one sack at a time until the engine came into view.

Upon seeing it, my heart sank, for even in the gloom inside the crib I realized the engine was much too large to be a Maytag. My curiosity got the best of me and demanded a closer look. Fortunately, the engine was just sitting on the mower, and I was able to carry it back outside into the sunlight to examine it. Upon closer examination, it turned out to be a Briggs & Stratton model 'A,' equipped with kick-start. The engine was covered in the usual dirt and grease, and years of exposure to the corrosive fertilizer had dissolved a good portion of the aluminum cylinder head.

Since I had already restored several old Briggs, I was about to pass on this one, when I happened to step down on the starter pedal, and the engine turned over and actually built a small amount of compression.

After seeing that, I decided it was worth my time to see what I could do with it, so we loaded it into Jerry's truck and he delivered it to my house for me.

Since winter was fast approaching, the engine spent the next few months sitting in my shed. Finally, it warmed up enough to start work, and upon disassembly I found the engine showed very little wear on a .010 overbore it had received sometime in its past. Since it was in such good shape mechanically, the only real work involved degreasing, sanding, and painting. I re-assembled the engine, then started searching for a good cylinder head to replace the damaged one. A new head was impossible to find due to the engine's age, but I was able to locate a used head through an ad in GEM. With that last item out of the way, I was ready to try starting the engine for the first time in almost 50 years. I closed the choke, opened the fuel shut off valve, and kicked down on the pedal.

On the third attempt the engine fired and began to run. A little carburetor fine tuning had it idling smoothly. The purist may object to my choice of colors and the polished cylinder head, but I wanted a different look to set the engine apart from all my others.

I'd like to thank to Jerry Hobbs for giving me the engine and helping me get it home.

Special thanks should go to Becky, my wife of four years, who spends many an hour alone while I'm out in the shop or off chasing down another old engine lead. She listens patiently while I regale her with stories of frozen pistons, bent valves, and leaky carburetors, but never complains about what I drag home, although I'm sure she has her doubts sometimes. (As I do also.) Her patience and understanding means more to me than she will ever know.