Preservation for the Future

Rare Model Z fills out Fairbanks collection

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Fezzy with his 1917 3 HP screen-cooled Fairbanks-Morse Z engine, serial no. 249897.

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Although Bob "Fezzy" Hanauer of Albany, Minn., has been a serious collector of everything from old motorcycles to antique snowmobiles, antique gas pumps and small tractors, he always comes back to gasoline engines as a favorite.

"My dad, Bob Sr., was involved with the first Stearns County Pioneer Days, so I kind of grew up around it. I started playing with gasoline engines when I was 7 years old," Fezzy says.

In fact, Fezzy got his first engine when he was 13 years old. "It was on an old farmstead south of Albany. Mom and Dad became friends with the person who lived there, and one day they mentioned they had this old gas engine," Fezzy remembers. "We went out and looked at it, brought it home, and I tinkered around with it. That was the first engine I made run. It was a 1-1/2 HP Monarch, and they were the original owners."

His tinkering probably comes down through his genes, as his dad has been involved with engines for many years, as well as his great uncle, Ben Hanauer. Ben built a model steam engine based on a Corliss twin-cylinder engine, a home-made tractor, a riding lawn mower and many other items.

Over the years, the 41-year-old collector has had a variety of engines, from a 10 HP Root & VanDervoort to a Jumbo, an Economy and others - but it was a little Briggs & Stratton that really got him hooked, and cemented his friendship with Pete Kruger. "We pulled that little Briggs &Stratton F off the shelf and worked on it until we got it running. Then we just sat in the shed and watched it run. Three hours later, after five or six phone calls from my wife wondering when I was going to come home for supper, I was hooked," Fezzy says. "Everybody has their own little thing. Some people like football, some golf, but I enjoy engines. The thing I enjoy most about collecting stuff is driving around and meeting people. You won't get a purchase every time you go somewhere, but it's always fun to sit down and spend an afternoon with an older gentleman who collected these for years and years - and learn a little bit more about the engines and the hobby."

Fezzy's fascination with Fairbanks-Morse engines hinges a great deal on their looks. "There are so many different types of FM gas engines produced through the years, so many different models and so many variations of each model," Fezzy says. For example, his 3 HP upright Model T looks totally different and is built different from one with a serial number only three apart. "That intrigued me. From what I learned, FM would pretty much build you an engine to meet your specifications," Fezzy says. "They were probably one of the largest producers of gas engines at the time, and probably one of the longest-lasting, so it's kind of neat to see them making from 1 HP to several hundred horsepower engines."

So he began collecting FM engines. One is a 1906 Canadian 5 HP N, serial no. C3159, for which he had to sacrifice a nice R&V 10 HP. "It's a hot-tube with an igniter engine, and one of the things that really gives me a kick is when my 12-year-old daughter can start it and run it," Fezzy says. Mercedes opened her 5th grade classmates' eyes when, during a field trip to the Pioneer Days grounds, she heard the boys "oohing" and "aahing" over the machine, then stepped forward and started it.

Fezzy says both of his children, Mercedes and Ben, are really into the engines. "That's one of my reasons for being down there at the grounds, to basically get the kids involved. I've been fortunate. I grew up around this stuff, even though I didn't live on a farm. I'd like to see things get passed down generation to generation.

"Kids nowadays don't realize what this stuff is unless they're taught. They don't realize what a person had to go through just a hundred years ago to live. It's fun to look at their expression when I tell them this particular engine spent its life producing light so people could see what they were doing, or pumping water so people could take a bath. Today you just turn a key or flick a switch, but years ago you had to crank the engines to get them going. In their lives, everything might have not been just right, and unreliable as everything was, it was the best they had. They had to live that way, because there was no other way to live."

Another of Fezzy's FM engines is a 1931 15 HP screen-cooled engine, serial no. 768581. "I had put word out that I was looking for a larger FM engine, and a friend called me and said he was going on a hunting trip," Fezzy says.

The upshot was that the friend found the 15 HP engine and hauled it back from Canada. Fezzy thought he would have to go get it, so he was surprised. He had also been told the machine, which was a ball of rust, as he says, did not have a magneto, so he figured he'd have to spring for that. After he'd examined the engine, the friend pulled the magneto out of his pickup and gave it to him.

Fezzy's work on the 15 HP machine reflects his personal beliefs. "There was a repair done on the side of the cylinder many years ago, and I'm a firm believer that you don't need to weld over all the cracks to make an engine look better. Somebody spent the time to make the engine a usable engine and to make it work, so we didn't take off the patch bolted to the cylinder," he says. "It shows that in the old days they repaired things, and didn't just throw them away and get a new one. Besides, it gives it a little bit of character."

The screen had to be completely rebuilt, and Pete Kruger did yeoman work in helping Fezzy get the machine into tiptop shape.

After rebuilding the engine, they found an original drawing of the cart, and built that. "It's as close to original as we could make it, except for the front wheels, which aren't the same size as the back ones," Fezzy says. "Doing this engine was a real big learning experience, because it was the first one we did total restoration on. It's a nice big gas engine."

He also has a 6 HP FM H with a red stripe on the flywheel. "It's a real slow-running engine with a clutch pulley on the side," Fezzy says. The hit-and-miss engine fires only three or four times a minute, and coasts the rest of the time, so when kids see it, they often jump back when it fires. "The younger generation that comes through the buildings during the show are interested in the engines, and ask a lot of questions," Fezzy says. "They want to know how this old stuff works. Farm life years ago depended on these things. Without them, there was no electricity, no water, nothing else."

Fairbanks-Morse king

Fezzy's favorite engine is his 1917 Fairbanks-Morse screen-cooled 3 HP Z, serial no. 249897, a model that was only manufactured from 1917-1918. "I've seen a picture of one on the Internet, but that's the only other one I've ever seen. So I think it's pretty rare," Fezzy says. "I looked at this engine for quite a few years, and wanted it, but it was never for sale. When it did come up, I had to part with three other engines so I could get this one." Those were a pair of Jumbos and an Economy.

This 3 HP is the smallest screen-cooled engine the company made, and was made in two styles. The farm engine had a clutch pulley on the side, while the generator engine, like the one Fezzy has, had a wider flywheel on the opposite side as the magneto.

Though this engine and several other of Fezzy's FM engines are fairly easy to date through serial numbers, some are not. "All the engines ran in succession, so if a 600 HP 4-cylinder upright came off the line in Wisconsin, the next serial numbers might be a 2 HP D salt-block engine," Fezzy says. Canadian serial numbers did not, however, follow this pattern.

As a sidelight to his collection, Fezzy has several 100-year-old engines, the 5 HP Canadian N already mentioned, a 4 HP H and 3 HP T. "It's kind of neat to see the progress we've made from what was back then a hundred years ago, to now - how much things have changed, and how much they haven't changed, how things are built, how they run and what makes them tick," he says.

Today, in addition to his collection of FM engines, Fezzy has a 1 HP Gray, a 6 HP Eaton that came out of Canada, and his wife has a 5 HP Galloway that's been in the family since it was new. "Her great-uncle purchased it brand new as a saw rig, and when her uncle passed away we had just started dating, so we went to the auction. The saw rig cart was sold for $5 for scrap, but it didn't interest me at that time," Fezzy recalls. "The engine was stuck outside for 30 years, and as her father developed Alzheimer's we tried to get the engine redone before he passed away, but we didn't quite make it. We have the original bill of sale and the company certificate that came with it. We just about have it back to life now."

Fezzy says he wishes more people knew about the actual and sentimental value of many of the old engines. "The price of scrap iron is up, so you still hear stories about how people scrapped these old engines, and how someone will be driving by a scrap yard, see an old engine and save it," he says. "I want the hobby to keep growing, and fortunately our Stearns County show (Albany, Minn., Pioneer Days Threshing Show, held the third weekend in September) has continued to grow from year to year. Our gas engine display is really growing. In the last five years, we've had several different people bring gas engines, and we're working to make this one of the largest gas engine shows in the state of Minnesota. Every year it gets a little better. But on the other hand, every time one of the older people in the club passes on, that's knowledge that is gone forever, not only on the old gas engines, but the great old prairie tractors, like the Aultman & Taylor and Rumely. Those big machines had about 36 HP, while today's tractors of the same size and weight have several hundred horse.

"A lot of my friends couldn't understand, and people still can't today, why I play with this old stuff," Fezzy says. One of the reasons is that it's a family affair for the Hanauers. His wife, Patty, helps with the sandblasting, they get involved and they go to different shows together. "One of the big things in my life is to preserve stuff so kids can remember how things were done," Fezzy says. "If we don't do it now, nobody else will."

Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and author of several books on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact Bill at: Box 372, 400 Caroline Lane, Rockville, MN 56369; bvossler@juno.com