Why Won't He Sell?


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The following comes from a recent topic on SmokStak, which can be found on the Internet at: smokstak.cgi. As ever, various Individuals started, commented on and concluded the following bulletin board thread.

I first saw this Sandwich engine in 1976 when it was hauled to its present home. It hasn't been moved since, and it's sinking further down in the dirt. The owner won't part with it: he says he plans to run it someday. You've got to admire him for not giving up hope, but it's too bad he won't cover it up. - Dusty

Buy a tarp, some rope, go over there and offer to cover it for him. I understand this would be out of your pocket, but it'd be worth it, in my opinion. - Joe

He'll sell or trade it. You just haven't offered him something he wants. Visit with him regularly, talk to him, find out what he would like to have. Once this is known, then you can get the right trading material. This may take months or years, but it does work. I've traded dog food and chicken feed for engines, I've traded rifles for engines, I've traded a septic system for an engine. I've baled hay for a tractor, I've traded liquor for a threshing machine, and I've chopped tobacco for a tractor. People are funny, not everyone wants the cash. - Patrick

I have a nearly identical situation with a 6 HP IHC M I found by accident. It sits outside, which worries me. The last time I was over to 'talk engines' with the owner, I offered to buy a tarp and rope to cover it, and he said 'no.' Last week, I stopped by again with my brother - and by golly - the old timer had at least covered the low-tension magneto and run it in the last couple of weeks.

Dusty, that's a sweet-looking engine, and I would like to get my hands on it, too. As much as we all dislike it, we have to accept the fact that it's his engine to do with as he pleases. It's a pity: the odds are he will never do anything with it. If you want the darn thing, odds are you'll get it, but it takes persistence and patience.

For the sake of the engine, try getting permission to cover it, and that'll buy some time and you'll be less worried about it. It'll also help hide it, increasing your chances of being it's next caretaker. - Marty

Dusty, you might consider trading him a nice-running, painted-up Fairbanks-Morse Z or a similar, more common engine that's already restored and running. Maybe he just wants a running engine and doesn't care if it's a Sandwich or FM engine. Good luck. - Mike

Nice old engine, but I'm not sure if I'd trade a good FM for it. It looks to me it might be exposed to the snow in the winter. If I weren't so busy with my latest project, I'd slip up there and have a peek for myself. - Kid

Dusty, try taking an inexpensive squirt oil can filled with a 50/50 mix of motor oil and kerosene with you next time you go over there. Tell the gentleman the engine should be protected from the elements and ask if it's all right to lube it for whomever the future owner may be (hopefully, you). If he says no, then just leave the can with him, and pray he'll do it himself. Can't hurt! - Chan

The owner knows as long as he owns the engine you will visit him. After you get the engine, will you still visit him? One collector told me about an engine he acquired under similar circumstances. After the restoration was complete, he took the previous owner along to local shows to exhibit the engine. The previous owner was very happy. I don't know your situation, but don't we all own items we won't part with, that we have no interest in now except for the fact that they're ours? Been there, done that. - George

It seems the older we get, the less inclined we are to part with our 'things.' I've been trying to buy a small Worthington engine from a gentleman who also owns a Hercules that belonged to his father, and he remembers going to the railway station with his dad to pick it up. During my last visit, I offered to completely restore his Hercules free of charge, put it on a small cart, etc., if he would sell me his Worthington. I had no luck, and won't try that again. His comment to me was, 'What do you know about the worth of a Worthington that I don't?' I explained that I wasn't out to cheat him, I just hated to see both engines go to ruin, and I would like to have the Worthington in my collection. I have items I don't want to part with, too. I've already reached my three score and 10 limit. Holding onto them recalls the past when I'm not sure of the future. - Cal

For the engine's sake, cover it up. If he doesn't cover it up and does try to restore it some day, it'll be even harder. Trust me, I know. - Tim

The man has hundreds of pieces of old iron just rusting away on his property. A few inherent problems exist with 'saving' this old stuff. A younger man has eagerly taken after him for the past five years, while I live in another state hundreds of miles away. The younger guy has one thing in the back of his mind, and that's making money, with no interest in the preservation of this old stuff at all.

The engine was stuck when it was acquired in 1976, and it has only received a few squirts of oil over the years - not enough to help out. It's hard to care for a piece when you live this far away.

The owner is a prince of a man, but he just has no interest in parting with his goods. That's all right if the engine is properly looked after. The trouble is, there's just tons of old iron around. It's going to be one heck of an auction someday. Most of the good stuff is located in barns or old outbuildings. - Dusty

I have seen numerous similar situations and have been sorry to see stuff rust away or eventually sold for scrap. But after all, it's their stuff, and it's theirs to do with as they see fit. Put yourself in the older person's shoes: they may have collected it with the intention of restoring it and never had the time or funds to do it. It can be hard to admit you'll never be able to work on something due to age or health issues, or to face the fact you're older and facing death.

I had an uncle who fit this description. When he was in his mid-to-late 80s, he still wouldn't set foot in the local senior center. He always said he wasn't old, and he had a tremendous amount of stuff he was going to restore 'when he had the time.' Time passed, as it always does, and he eventually suffered a stroke and lived out his last years in a rest home, finally passing away at age 93.

I had the task of selling off his stuff to pay the rest home bills. Because of huge medical bills I owed for my kids, I couldn't buy any of it and had to watch as it was hauled away. I think there are a few lessons to be learned here. First, if you're getting old, have a plan to dispose of your stuff or get legal advice about how to protect it for a family member who's interested in keeping it in the family. Second, if you see a site with someone else's old stuff on it, accept that it's not for you to decide what happens to it. Put yourself in the owner's shoes, realizing there are probably some issues in his or her life that led to the situation as it is. There's surely no harm in nicely approaching the owner about selling it, but be considerate, and if they're unwilling to sell, don't bug them. - Bob

Bob, what you wrote was very good advice. When I retired, I thought that I'd finally have the time to do all those things that I couldn't do when I was working. Eight years after retiring, I find my mind is willing to sign contracts, but my body isn't capable of fulfilling them - a sure sign of approaching old age. I have a small garage full of little engine projects that I'll probably never finish. Unfortunately, there's no line of people outside the garage wanting to pay me a little face-saving money for this stuff so they can haul it away.

I suspect that there are many others out there in the same boat. The stuff in my garage, such as it is, will just sit there until one of my kids has to dispose of it because they're not interested in it and they don't want it themselves. - Russ

In my travels, I see this scene over and over again. For the most part, I simply enjoy the visit, marvel at the view and then go on about my way. It did kind of hurt seeing a complete Mogul tractor rotting away in Colorado this way, but I got over it. Besides, I have my own unfinished projects to work on. In a way, we all have the same problem: too much iron, too little time. - Harry

SmokStak is an engine conversation bulletin board with over 50,000 messages on file and is part of the Old Engine series of Web sites that started in 1995 as 'Harry's Old Engine.' Harry Matthews is a retired electronic engineer and gas engine collector from Oswego, N.Y., now residing in Sarasota, Fla.

'For the engine's sake, cover it up. If he doesn't cover it up and does try to restore it, some day it'll be even harder. Trust me, I know.'