Olds Engine in Oz: 1908 3 HP Olds 2AA

A 1908 3 HP 2AA Olds engine makes its way to Australia for a top-notch retro restoration

Olds 2AA

Olds 2AA

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It was around April 2008, while searching the forums on SmokStak.com for gas pump info on my early Olds 5A I was restoring, that I was contacted by a fellow enthusiast from Salem, Ore., who had just found an air-cooled engine in bits at a garage sale in Portland, Ore. After roughly assembling the parts he had, he thought it could be an Olds engine. Seeing my posts, he asked me if I had any parts or if I knew where to get them. After seeing his pictures, I was amazed as a very rare air-cooled Olds appeared in my e-mail! I thought straight away that I would never own one of those, simply because there were very few made. There are none in Australia that I have ever seen or heard of and there are only two “A” series stationary engines known in the U.S. that I know of, and two pump jack versions.

Anyway, the missing parts list was quite long, including a mixer, fan cowl, fan pulley pin and greaser, crank guard, check valve, spark switch, exhaust valve lever, valve collets, etc.

After wishing him good luck on finding the parts, I told him if he ever wanted to get rid of it, to not forget to contact me please, thinking that would be the end of it. Then, one morning in early 2010 we made contact again.

After two months of e-mails a deal was struck, then the task of getting all the exporting paper work completed and an ISPM 15 treated crate for shipping took another two weeks and approximately 200 e-mails. The shipping company, I must say, was excellent. Once it was crated and the paperwork completed for U.S. customs, Gavin at Hood Logistics (Sydney) took control, and within 24 days the Olds engine was at my door.  We even had tracking on the ship (ANL Cap Bon) the whole way across the Pacific.

After removing the lid I didn’t know what to expect, but the Olds engine was bolted firmly to the base of the crate as requested and all was A-OK. On removal from the crate, I was amazed even more as the condition was 100 percent better than the pictures had shown. I grabbed a rag and degreaser and gave the flywheel a rub, revealing original paint! And on further rubbing I found this in a lot of other places. I started to rethink my plan to restore this engine or leave the original patina, which I have not seen on many other Olds engines. Later that week, Brock Summerfield (a fellow Aussie collector) called and talked me into leaving it the way it was, at least for the time being anyway.

International cooperation

I fabricated the missing fan cowl for the cylinder, and had a 2A crank guard cast of Neil Twaddle’s 2A tank-cooled Olds in western Australia. The only problem was making the fan cowl and crank guard look old like the rest of it. So using my  sign painting skills, I made up some acrylic paint to match the original patina and dabbed it on thick and thin in places with a rag and let it dry. Then I made a stencil of the original Olds logo and lightly dabbed the gold and black paint with a dry rag so it was very faint after removing the stencil.

Then I coated the whole engine with a 50/50 mix of  boiled linseed oil and turps. This technique highlights the old look, dries after a day or so and doesn’t collect dust.

I was able to make the fan cowl with no problems, as I found the owner of another Olds 2AA, Galan Hackman in Pennsylvania. Galan’s Olds has a fan cowl, but was missing the fan pulley and blades that mine had. I asked him if he could make me a paper template of his fan cowl, which he did gladly. I had a pulley cast and machined for his engine, and I fabricated the fan blades by tracing the original blades onto a piece of 1.6mm black steel sheet. Then I cut out the pattern with a jigsaw, bolted the blades to the pulley and turned each blade 20 degrees with a folk jig I made up. After sending these to Galan, he had two mufflers cast for me at the Cattail Foundry in Pennsylvania and sent them over. A great trade! Now his is complete and so is mine.

The only other hard-to-get item that was missing was the carburetor, which I had already had for a while. I once placed an ad in the wanted section of Australia’s Old Machinery Magazine for an Olds 3A carb, and ended up with a 2A one off a chap in western Australia, who had it hanging in his farm shed (he told me he found it laying in the paddock near his creek). The rest of the parts were manufactured by myself and Barry Bright (retired machinist) to complete the task.

The rings proved to be a problem (4-inches by 1-1/2 inches) but an answer on SmokStak.com supplied me with a set for just $7 each!

I fabricated an old looking wood box for the buzz coil and battery and mounted the whole lot to an old transport I had stored away.

The engine fired up well after some timing and governor adjustments.

Engine history

The only history on this engine I have is it belonged to the grandfather of the chap at the garage sale where it was found. It was used on a harvester of some kind on his acreage just outside of Portland, Ore.

The engine was taken to Clarendon Classic Rally in Sydney on September 18, 2010 for its first rally. I had a bit of trouble getting it to go, but it eventually fired up and ran for about two hours.

The next day at home after unloading from Clarendon, I had the same problems again! After checking everything I finally worked out the buzz coil had a short inside it. The coil was buzzing, indicating spark, but the spark was only reaching the plug occasionally when you moved the coil around. So a quick change of the coil fixed the problem immediately, and it now starts and runs like it should.

Contact Chris Broers, Yass, NSW, Australia, at yass.signs@ozemail.com.au.