OUR First Project

Briggs and Stratton engines

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2224 Wyandotte Drive Oakville, Ontario, Canada L6L 2T5

The restoration of small engines started out as my idea for a future retirement activity. I had always been interested in engines when I was a teenager. Once I was offered a mini-bike with the engine in pieces in a wooden basket (my first 'basket case'). All the parts were there and after completion, when it started on the third pull, I was hooked. I collected a few Briggs and Stratton engines over the years, but recently began in earnest to accumulate more as my retirement approached. Having decided to concentrate on older B&S engines, I searched the engine shows in Ontario, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and New York. My son Eric would usually accompany my wife and me as we scoured the flea markets, and it wasn't long before he, too, got the bug. Together we now have collected 28 alpha and eight numerical B&S engines. Thus my retirement idea to collect and restore B&S engines became a father and son hobby.

The engine we chose to restore first was found at Alexander, New York. A fellow engine collector, Martin Pope, had told me of a friend selling B&S engines at the engine show in September 1994. Eric and I found Martin's friend at the show and bought three of his engines. One of them was an aluminum crankcase, 3x3 inch bore and stroke, model ZL, type 60180, serial #5239 built in April, 1936.

The ZL was not stuck, but was missing the gas tank and bracket as well as the governor controls and air cleaner. I was doubtful at first, but my son fell in love with it, when we were offered an NOS crank handle to go with it. I settled on a price and the ZL came with us to Canada, along with four other B&S engines.

When we got it home and had a close look at it, we found the carburetor was the wrong one. It belonged to a model 14. While I wondered how to modify the throttle and governor connections, Eric checked the model 14 he had bought recently, and found it, too, had the wrong carb fittings according to the manuals. It did not take long to realize, as luck would have it, we could switch the carbs and have the correct one for each restoration.

The engine disassembly began in January, 1995, with the cleaning, sandblasting and painting taking most of the summer, as time would allow. A new connecting rod solved a worn bearing problem, and the gas tank, muffler, gaskets and decals were ordered from CPC Reproductions, in Tiverton, Rhode Island. I machined the missing governor parts and the local B&S dealer still had a governor spring in stock. However, as you can see, we still have not found an air cleaner assembly.

Once the carburetor was rebuilt, the engine was ready to start, except for the missing cast iron gas tank bracket. After asking around and writing a few letters, Charles Camara of CPC Reproductions came through again with a correct bracket from his used parts stock.

Now it was just a matter of waiting for the Canadian winter to release its hold on our garage workshop to start it up. In April we could wait no longer so after bolting it to a board and clamping it on a table we gave it the first crank. After a few carburetor adjustments and a sore arm, it started up and purred away. My son and I just stood back and let it run. I grew closer to my teenage son as the work progressed but now as the engine ran on without hesitation, I felt a new bond had developed between us. Sometimes life gets so busy family relationships begin to suffer. For me, the restoration of the ZL became a fun and interesting way to enjoy some time together with my son.

I can't wait to start on the model H.