RESTORING THE INDEPENDENT

The engine

The engine as it looked when I bought it, except I had removed the mixing valve.

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23170 McCollister Road Defiance, Ohio 43512

I was showing my engines at the Maumee Valley Antique Steam & Gas Association Show at New Haven, Indiana, in August of 1995, when a fellow named Arnie Hartman set up next to me with a big trailer-load of engines for sale. I wasn't particularly in the market for another engine, but I went over to see the different engines that he had for sale. He had one that caught my eyeit was different than any I had ever seen. Arnie told me it was an Independent Harvester and I would look a long time before I would see another like it as he had only seen one other. I asked him if it was for sale and he said it was, so after a little dickering, we settled on a price and loaded it on my trailer.

The engine was in pretty rough shape. The rocker arm was broken, the piston was stuck, and it was missing a lot of parts, as the before picture shows. Arnie told me that there was a fellow out in Kansas who advertised in GEM who had decals for sale; he thought I could get a rocker arm from him, also.

Well, after getting home I proceeded to get the piston free what a job! I set the engine on end after removing the head, and poured brake fluid in the cylinder and set it on fire. I let this get the engine quite warm and tried to beat the piston out of the bottom, but it didn't move, so I thought maybe it would move the other way. So, I disconnected the rod from the crank and put the rod cap back on the rod and proceeded to pound on it with a block of wood and a hammer. After a couple of licks with the hammer, the rod and cap both broke right through the babbitt bearing. I just stood there and said, 'I can't believe you did that, Vic.' Upon closer inspection, it was plain that this had been broken before and welded back together. I would take care of that problem later, but still had a stuck piston, so after more burning and heating with an acetylene torch and beating with a block of wood and sledge hammer, the piston was finally out.

As soon as I had removed the head it was evident that the bore would have to be bored and sleeved, as it was pitted something terrible. Another engine collector, Tom Laffey, told me about a man who would bore and sleeve an engine for $100.00. So I got directions to the man's place from Tom and headed over there with the block in my truck. When the man took a look at it, he said it was too big for his machine, so he wouldn't be able to handle it. He said I might check with a nearby automotive machine shop, so on my way home I stopped there. They came out and looked at it, and after measuring it, they decided they could handle it on their machine. I asked them what it would cost and they said at least $300.00, maybe $400.00. Well, my dad raised me to hold onto my money rather tightly, so I told them that it was kind of a rare engine, but I didn't know if it was that rare and I would have to think about it. It didn't take me long to decide I didn't want to spend that much to have it sleeved.

I suppose I should mention here that I am a retired machinist and I have my own shop at home. After getting home, I looked at the Bridgeport mill, but there was just no way I could do it in there. I then looked at my old 16' lathe and thought, you know, if I had a fixture built to hold the engine on its side and fastened the fixture to the lathe carriage, I could bore it right there. I believe it was before I started the fixture that I checked with the local automotive store to see what I could buy in the line of a sleeve. They had what I needed, but it was about 1' shorter than the bore, but it would be alright, as the rings wouldn't come back far enough to come off the sleeve, so I ordered it. I built the fixture mostly with scraps, but had to buy some new material, and also made a boring bar and a couple of pieces that were a slip fit over the boring bar and into the bore. The head had a register that fit into the bore for about 1/8', so the bore was not rusted in this area. The rear of the bore is where the piston sat, so it wasn't pitted either. This setup got me lined up pretty close and with a little shimming soon had it indicated in. By running the boring bar from the chuck to the tailstock, it made a rigid setup, but sure was a pain when I wanted to check the bore size. I had to pull the boring bar out, check the bore, then put the bar back in and indicate it back true, as I only have a 4-jaw chuck for this lathe. Got it bored to accept the sleeve, threw the sleeve in the freezer, and laid a trouble light in the bore. After about an hour, I got the sleeve out of the freezer and it slid right into the bore. As the sleeve warmed and the bore cooled, they became as one and I was able to bore the sleeve to size as it came 1/32' undersize. The block is now sleeved and bored to original dimensions. The sleeve cost me $36.00 plus a few more dollars for steel for the fixture a long way from $400.00, but a lot of time involved. Being retired, I have more time than money, so I spent my time and kept my money.

Remember the broken rod and cap? Time to fix that. I made a fixture to hold the parts in place and grooved them out so the weld would go deeper. When my youngest boy, Mike (who is a good welder), came home, I asked him to weld everything back together. I still needed the babbitt bearing. After talking to a fellow who could do this and doing some reading on the subject, I decided to try to pour one myself. It didn't go too badly, although my mold leaked and it came up a little short on the one flange, but it was serviceable. Brought back memories of pouring lead soldiers as a boy. I also replaced the bushing for the wrist pin.

I looked in the GEM magazine for the ad Arnie had told me about and sure enough, there it was. Dale Russell of Independence, Kansas, had the decals so I wrote him and inquired about the rocker arm. Dale called me and said he had the rocker arm and told me the price, so I ordered the decals and rocker arm. Dale asked me about the condition of my engine and I told him I was missing some parts and he offered to send me his parts so I could get some cast off of them. I machined the governor shaft, gear, and flyballs out of cast iron, the other parts I had cast. I also made a gear for the crankshaft at this time, as it was also missing.

As can be seen from the before picture, the mag and ignitor bracket had been replaced with a plate for a spark plug. I started looking for the bracket and finally located one, but the fellow wanted more than I wanted to give.

Back to the GEM magazine. After looking through quite a few back issues, I found where David Babcock of Michigan had advertised for one, so I called him to see if he had ever located one and he said he never had. He said he had part of a bracket on his engine. I asked him how much of it was there, and all there was missing was the shelf that the mag sat on. I told him that if he would ship it to me I would repair it and have one cast off of it for myself, which he agreed to do. After receiving the bracket, I rough-machined a shelf for it and had Mike weld it on using a nickel rod, then I finished machining it. I then gave it to John Barlage, a pattern maker friend of mine, and he made a follow board for it so I could have a couple cast from it, in case I messed up in machining it, which happily I didn't. When I returned Dave's bracket to him, he was pleased with it and wanted to know what he owed me for fixing it. I told him nothing, as I had gotten my bracket in the effort, but he insisted, so I told him the next time he sent something off to be cast, to just cast me the gas filler cup, which he agreed to do. I machined the wedge and journal myself from a chunk of cast iron. While at Dave's house, I took measurements of the gas tank and made one of these when I got home.

The head was in bad shape, too, and I had to put guides and seats in it. You can see how badly things were pitted by the picture. Of course, the valves also needed to be replaced. When the boys left home, they left a lot of car parts, among which were some Chevy valves, so I reworked a couple of these to fit the head.

The valve push rod guides were worn quite a bit, so I cleaned them up on the mill and made a new push rod a little wider to fit the new dimensions.

The needle valve was rusted fast in the mixer and twisted off for me, so I had to drill it out and make a new one. The choke plate was missing, so I made one of these, also.

I now needed to remove the flywheel so I could install the pinion gear. Of course the gib key was broken off, so I had to try to drill it out. With the key broken at an angle, it made it difficult to drill straight, so I ended up putting it in the mill to get as much of the key out as I could. Then by putting it on some blocking, I was able to drive the crank out of the flywheel. I installed the gear, replaced the flywheel, and made a new gib key.

I ran into Dave Babcock at the Jones, Michigan, Spring Swap Meet and he said the gas filler cup was at the foundry. It arrived in the mail about a week or so later. I machined it and it was ready to install.

This left me with the castings I had made off of Dale's parts, to machine, which consisted mostly of drilling holes. Dale also sent me some literature on the Independent Harvester Company and sketches of the skid the engine was mounted on, so I built the skid and put the engine on it.

After putting it all together it started without much trouble, so I tore it apart to paint it. Dale also sent the correct paint number, which is a dark blue, but I had this blue paint at home which is a pretty blue so I used it rather than to buy new. Dad's raising again.

As you can see by the after picture, I ended up with a nice looking engine. It took a lot of work. My wife complained that was all I did last winter but it was worth it. I am proud of this engine, but I would not have not been able to have this engine if it were not for a few nice people like Dale, Dave, and John who helped so much. But then most people in this hobby are nice people who are willing to lend a hand.

Arnie, whom I got the engine from, when he heard I had it restored was anxious to see it, but our paths didn't cross until the Findlay, Ohio, Show at which time he took a photo of it. Before he had seen the engine, but after he knew I had it done, he asked if I wanted to sell it back to him,, but I graciously declined. I think this one will be with me quite a while.

Again, I can't thank enough those who helped me with restoring this fine engine. Thanks Dale, Dave, John and all the others who helped.