Fairbanks morse engine

Content Tools

Mt. Gambler, South Australia

Restorers have a kinship the world around. This article is reprinted from New Zealand Vintage Farming, with permission of Michael Hanrahan, editor. The editor's office is at Ashburton, R.D. 2, New Zealand.

It was a fine Saturday afternoon while out collecting old bottles that my first was found. Standing in an old shed, near where once stood a house, was a strange, rusty looking beast with two spoked flywheels and a little purple glassed oiler. Scraping away several layers of dried grease and rust revealed the heavy cast letters: FAIRBANKS MORSE, 1A, Eclipse, Pat. Mar. 17.14.

The motor had me intrigued, so I went to see the owner who didn't want to part with it, so I let it stay and went on bottle collecting and forgot about the rusty engine in the shed.

It was almost a year later that the owner rang me and jogged my memory of it. He was cleaning up and was going to throw the motor in the rubbish. Luckily he had remembered that I had wanted it, and said I had better remove it if I still wanted it. My father and I went out next day, loaded the engine, and took it home.

The clean up operation soon unveiled some interesting facts; a large crack in the water jacket (this obviously is why its use was discontinued), the crankcase, idler gear, and plate, and conrod had been welded up, due I think, to the motor having thrown a rod some time ago.

The magneto, a Bosch DA2 was easily repaired but being manufactured in 1911 is not original. A magneto was an option for field use if battery ignition was not required. The valves had all but completely rusted away so two new valves were purchased and machined to suit as they were oversized. Seats were cut and valves lapped into them. Other parts renewed were gudgeon pin and bush, idler gear pin, fuel non return valve, fuel tank, choke butterfly, crankshaft gear teeth and crankshaft keys.

The crack in the water jacket had me worried for a while until I discovered the Repco Tapered Plug idea and after about six hours work, I had sealed up the crack which was approximately 10' long. The tapered plug idea is very good, starting at one end of the crack, drill and tap a hole, then screw in a special tapered plug till it is tight. The excess plug can be chiselled or sawn off. The next plug is then placed in so it interlocks with the last and so on till the crack is repaired. Once finished, the area can be ground off smooth.

The piston oiler proved to be the next trouble, in getting the needle to seat, and also to get the drops to go down straight, and not down the glass as it did most of the time. The painting and assembly was then done with little trouble apart from a few paint runs that required rubbing down.

The first attempt to start it proved to be rather messy as I had overfilled the sump, and when it fired up oil sprayed everywhere. Consulting the manual I saw what was wrong and emptied the excess oil out. I soon had it running again, and then came the problems with the governor, which required new springs. Final adjustments to the hit and miss governor got the motor running at approximately its correct running speed of 700 r.p.m.

The motor took two years to complete, and is not what I would call completely restored; it has a large lack of compression; due to the condition of the rings, the white metal bearings are in poor condition, and the gear train is also very noisy. Maybe sometime soon, funds permitting, these parts can be renewed.

The only information I have is: Agent, James Wardle & Co Adelaide, operative 1915-1920. Patent application filed by J. A. Vail and E. O. Powers, March 17, 1911. Patent granted March 17, 1914. Originally fitted to pump jack. Same type of motor made up until 1940s, but with different pump units.