Peter John Holm and the Western King

An eventful history and a spectacular restoration


Content Tools

I have been collecting engines for many years, and in the past few, I have begun to specialize in Wisconsin-built engines. In the Fall of 2004, I was very fortunate to find and purchase 25 mostly Wisconsin-built engines. Among them was my 5 HP version of the Western King. Although this engine was mostly complete, it needed a total restoration, which was completed over a three-month period.

The first thing I did before doing any restoration work was to build a truck to move it around on. Since the only known original photos of the engine do not show a truck, I designed my own more as a means of showing the engine than to try to duplicate something that might have been contemporary to the engine.

The engine was then completely torn down and de-greased. I quit sandblasting my engines several years ago and now clean them by electrolysis, unless there is enough of the original paint to make it worth saving. The process is basically the same as used to clean gold and silver recovered from shipwrecks.

In this case, there was barely enough paint left on the engine to identify the original color. I found enough paint on the flywheel hubs and base casting to make a close match. I?made a new gas tank to fit into the base of the engine. When I got this engine, it had an external tank, but holes cast into the base made it obvious that the engine was also designed to use an internal tank. With the base mounted on the new truck, the rest of the engine was assembled and repairs were made where needed.

The most unusual features of this engine are the valve chambers, which are attached to the headless cylinder with pipe threads. The exhaust valve is operated with a long rocker arm activated by a camshaft just ahead of the crank.

A latch-and-pick finger assembly operated by the governor holds down the back of the rocker arm on the miss cycle of this hit-and-miss engine. The intake valve is automatic. The mixer is an Essex.

The spark plug is directly above the intake valve, which makes the engine very easy to start. Most of these old engines were brush-painted originally, so I brushed on two coats of color. I have been using half-and-half boiled Linseed oil and mineral spirits for a paint base, because it is so easy to use. Just brush it on the clean iron and let it sit for 12 to 24 hours. Then take a clean rag and wipe off the excess oil. The parts should sit for about a week before filling and painting. I didn't use any filler on the Western King, although I could see that it had been used on the flywheels and base.

I like the look of the cast iron myself. I very seldom spray paint my engines anymore. I find runs and flaws in my engines with the original finish and I am trying to duplicate this look.

Finally, I made the hopper cover and crankguard. I had no sample for these and am not really sure if the engine even had a hopper cover. The pinstriping is the finishing touch. The photo of the original engine shows these stripes, but I am just guessing on the color. I will be showing this engine at several Midwest shows, so you may have seen it by now.

Contact Dan Dorece at: 4814 47th Ave., Kenosha, WI 53144.