10 Babbitt Road Mendham, New Jersey 07945
I guess everyone who has ever bought an old iron gas engine has a story about how they found it rusting in a field, or sitting for years in an old barn, and how they got it for next to nothing just so the farmer's widow could get rid of the old thing. Well, my story is nothing like any of those, because my story starts with a love of old one-lung hit and miss engines that goes back to years of visiting the Kutztown Folk Festival in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.
Every July my wife and I would eagerly await the Kutztown Folk Festival knowing that my wife Carol (who's an avid quilter) would walk through the huge barn loaded with handmade quilts, and I would try to catch the hit and miss engine demonstrations of threshing and log sawing. Carol always saw the quilts, but somehow I always got to the engine demonstrations just as they were shutting down, or too early for the engines to be fired up. I always promised myself that, one day, I would own one of those things then I could run it whenever I pleased.
A very good friend of mine, Dennis Townsend (I call him 'The Instigator'), had been driving his 1946 restored Far-mall 'A' tractor in our local Fourth of July and Labor Day parades for years. Hitched to his tractor would be a landscape trailer hauling a 6 HP Witte belted to his corn shelter. Dennis turned up my enthusiasm for the hit and miss engines (he's done it to a lot of others, too!) and I soon found myself at The Blue Mountain Antique Gas and Steam Engine shows in Bangor, Pennsylvania. Here was a place where the engines ran all day! And, you could see a whole grove of them operating a myriad of machines and implements!
This discovery led me to purchase not only the hit and miss engine, but a 1946 partially restored Farmall 'M' tractor (it needed to be rewired and have new rubber installed and lots of loving care). The Economy that I located was a 3 horsepower 'S' model made in 1925, serial number 335877. It had been mounted on a wooden cart that had to have been designed by Rube Goldberg, as the front wheels could only turn 20 degrees in either direction before they would lock up against the sides of the cart. This made maneuvering the engine and cart a real disaster!
A happier discovery was locating a cast iron set of front and back trucks in a tractor graveyard owned by Chet and Elmer Crane in Martins Creek, Pennsylvania, to use as an engine cart for the Economy. Although the set of trucks weighed 300 pounds, I just knew at first sight that these were the ones I'd been looking for. They had so much old paint on them that they could only be salvage by media blasting them down to bare iron (just another expense in the pursuit of engine excellence).
I had all this past winter to prime and paint the cast trucks and to locate some seasoned oak from our local lumber yard, to design and build the oak cross members that would hold my Economy engine. All the while my friend Dennis kept giving me encouragement and reminding me that I was committing 'overkill' with my cast iron cart for a cast iron engine. Nevertheless, I was bound and determined to finish the task and prove him wrong.
Back to the Economy engine I had purchased. I could never get it to run successfully for more than a few minutes on its Webster magneto, so I shipped out the magneto and ignitor to Ed at Hit and Miss in Ohio. Ed and Gwen were very helpful but, upon seeing the magneto, told me that the entire mag and ignitor would have to be rebuilt (the Economy was not so economical). Upon receiving the beautifully rebuilt and restored ignitor and magneto, my Economy ran much better, but not for much longer than 15 minutes at a time. Dennis and I have determined that a new fuel check valve is needed to do the proper job.
Somewhere between buying the engine and making the cart I decided that the Farmall would look great pulling a landscape trailer with the Economy riding proudly on it. After all, how else would I get the engine to shows at Bangor and beyond if I didn't have a trailer. So a new International landscape trailer was purchased, too!
The crowning moment was securing Dennis's block and tackle chains over the header in my garage and our hoisting the Economy up and off that Rube Goldberg cart, gracefully lowering it and bolting it securely onto its shiny new varnished oak cross members on my 'overkill' cast iron set of trucks.
I think the whole setup looks GREAT and although it's been anything but economical, I wouldn't trade the dollars or the hours of work in it for anything. I hope all of you who read this article and see my setup agree. Dennis and I have set up The Mendham Antique Farmall Tractor and Gas Engine Association (we have six members and we're growing). My 1946 Farmall 'M' with its landscape trailer towed behind now hauls me and my Economy in all our local parades (right behind Dennis 'The Instigator').