Remember the TITAN

One man's quest for an exceptional engine


Content Tools

My first gas engine was a 1-1/2 HP McCormick-Deering that I bought in 1976 at my grandfather's sale. I just wanted one of the old engines because it was his. Now, almost 20 years and 65 or more engines later, I still look for just one more engine.

I decided I would stick with International Harvester Co. engines. As time went on, my taste for the more rare and more expensive IHCs grew. The one I thought I would try and find was a 4 HP Titan sideshaft engine. These engines were only built from 1916 to 1918, and only in 4 and 6 HP sizes. The 4 HP engines were only hopper-cooled models. The 6 HP was built in hopper- and tank-cooled models. All the engines I had seen were hopper-cooled, stationary models. Talking with other collectors I was told they had never seen a tank-cooled Titan sideshaft. It was the only sideshaft engine International built besides the Mogul line. Over time I found a few at shows or from other collectors, but none of the ones I found really appealed to me.

One day in 1999 two engine friends, Jimmy Lambert and Don Crawford, from North Carolina, stopped by my house to look at engines and visit. They knew I liked my IHCs and I had plenty to show them. Somewhere in the conversation, Jimmy mentioned he was surprised that with all the IHCs I had, that I didn't have a Titan sideshaft. I told him I had never found one I liked. He said he and Don had a 6 HP Titan to sell and wondered if I would be interested. I told him I really wanted a 4 HP, and after a few hours of all the normal engine talk, Jimmy and Don said they had to get back home.

As they were walking back to their truck, Jimmy mentioned again that if I was interested in the Titan, the engine was complete except for the cooling tank. Whoa, I thought. "Wait a minute," I said, "did you say the cooling tank? Is this engine tank-cooled?" Jimmy said it was. Now I was interested! I told him to send me some pictures when he got home. That was Saturday. Three days later, I got the pictures. Holy smokes! The engine was not only tank-cooled, it was a low-base portable. That night, I called Jimmy, bought the engine and told him I would be there Saturday to get it. This was one of those once-in-a-lifetime finds.

Saturday my son Dave, my grandson Tyler and myself headed for North Carolina. The engine was in Don's garage. When we arrived, Don had all the parts laid out on the floor. The previous owner who found the engine some 20 years before had taken the engine apart to restore it. He had all the parts labeled and bagged as to where they went. Remarkably, 99 percent of the engine was there. I don't know where I would have ever found missing parts for this engine if he hadn't been so precise in keeping everything. We loaded the engine and headed home.

After getting home, the job of restoration began. I had to get an original truck for the engine, which was probably the easiest part. I had new timing gears cut, which turned into a long project because the gears had a long helix and were an odd pitch; same problem with the bevel governor gears. I had some worn and broken parts recast, and all the pins and bushings were made over. The bore was good and so were all the main bearings. The carburetor had to be completely rebuilt and valves redone. A new muffler, fuel tank and Madison-Kipp lubricator were needed. I found an original cooling tank, and the water pump was rebuilt. Six years later the day came to start the engine. It started and ran like it did when new.

I talked with the man who originally found this engine. He lives in Burlington, N.C. He said he was at an auction about 20 years ago and saw a clutch pulley that was going to be sold. After he bought the pulley, another man came up to him and asked if he wanted to buy the engine the pulley came off. The man said he took it off of an old gas engine or steam engine in his woods. He went to look and found the Titan lying upside down. The owner told him it was used on a sawmill until it flew apart and was scrapped. Apparently the sideshaft bracket bolts came loose, dropped down, bent the sideshaft, broke the governor, and broke the magneto bracket off. At that time it wasn't worth fixing and was left to rust. Luckily the scrap man never found it.

This is the only 6 HP Titan sideshaft tank-cooled portable known. The serial number list shows only 70 of these portables were built. I think this is the only one to survive. If someone has another one I would like to here from them.

Sam Harman, 2035 Blacks Schoolhouse Road, Taneytown, MD 21787.