The First One's The Best One

2 HP engine

The restored 2 HP engine now belongs to Phyllis Brantingham.

Herb Mann

Content Tools

10634 Oakford Union Lake, Michigan 48085

If you remember me from my last story, you will recall that I and my family got indoctrinated into the wonderful world of gasoline engines and everything that goes with them. Of course seeing someone else restore one or watching someone else run one isn't the same thing as finding, restoring, running, and showing your own. This is definitely not something that falls into the category of a spectator sport. So the first decision was easy-we're going to get an engine!

Great, says the wife-what kind, how big, where are you going to put it, and (this is the big one!) how much will it cost?

No problem here-any kind, any size, anywhere I want, and however much it takes!! Bet you can't guess who doesn't do the checkbook around here.

And so our quest for an engine began-Mason, Michigan; Kalama-zoo, Michigan; Findlay, Ohio; Buckley, Michigan-Gee Hon' we still don't have an engine we can call our own yet. Of course by now we have been exposed to big ones and little ones, green ones and red ones, pop-pop-pop ones and hit-n-miss ones, and expensive ones and no cheap ones. This is really starting to get discouraging. But by now we are starting to weed out a few-sideshafts are too expensive-Maytags are noisy and smelly-anything over 5 HP requires a commercial trailer with electric brakes and a garage equipped with a crane.

Of course we did find some we could afford-this one is only $250 and only needs a mag, head, mixer, and one flywheel-here is one for only $1000 and all it needs is a mag whose name I have never heard of and a bracket that even Rube Goldberg couldn't improvise. Besides, if we spent $ 1000 on something that didn't run instead of replacing the refrigerator that died-oh well, you know.  

After leaving Portland, Indiana (with the back of the van empty, again), dear Phyllis suggested that we are going about this all wrong. She suggested that we take the advice of our dentist, Ben Ridings, who, next to Dad, has been our biggest influence in getting into this rewarding hobby. His advice to us was that the fun is in the hunt. About this time it was late evening and we had just turned down our street, and Phyllis calmly asked, 'I wonder what is in that old cement mixer there at the back of old Joe's orchard? You know Ben and your dad both said that those old mixers sometimes have an old engine in them.'

Now people, I have been driving down this dirt street for fifteen years and I never saw the item she described; yet sure enough, sitting under an old apple tree, was indeed an old cement mixer. Of course, by this time we were tired, and the kids were hungry (they started getting hungry five miles out of Portland!!), and we knew the poor dog was probably by the door with all four legs crossed- sooo-if it has been there this long it will be there in the morning. Besides, someone has probably already rescued the engine-heck it was probably that one at Portland that was stuck, missing an oiler and crankshaft and only cost $600.

So the next morning, I walked down to Joe's and asked if he minded if I looked at the old cement mixer in the orchard. Guess what? He had forgotten all about it. As we approached the object of our year long search, Joe explained how he and his neighbor had built the basements for their houses using this very mixer and he showed me the scar on his chin where he got his education on starting one of these engines with a crank.

He opened the doors on the back of the mixer-a Hercules!!!- Remember how you responded when you saw your first newborn; five fingers here, five toes there, two eyes, you get the picture. Well, same thing here; two flywheels, mag, oiler, mixer, even extra spark plugs still in their boxes!!! Without hesitation, I grabbed the flywheel nearest me and moved it-it's not stuck! I held the plug wire and turned it again- *&%?*&!!-well, the mag's hot! Why did I do that? I don't know. Why do people stick their hands in snow blower chutes? Why do kids always close their first pocket knife by holding the blade in one hand? Must be God's way of keeping us humble or something.

At any rate, I tried to act calm and asked him if he might be interested in selling it. Joe laughed the kind of laugh that makes you check to see if you got everything buttoned and zipped before you left home. 'Heck, I figured I would have to pay you to haul it out!!!' was his reply.

I can live with that- After using a chainsaw to make the apple tree give up her rusting sibling, Joe hooked up his old 9N and dragged our new found pride and joy home. He was still laughing as he unhooked and started pulling away, 'Good luck!'

As the old Ford's exhaust got further away, Phyllis and I sat in the garage and stared into the back of this thing. Now what do we do? We jumped up at the same time, ran in the house, she beat me to the phone, and dialed-Hi Dad!!-Guess what?!!!

As you can see in the picture, after a lot of elbow grease, paint, changing every nut, bolt, and screw to brass, and a whole lot of technical advice from our friends, we have come up with a sweet running engine that will always be our favorite. Favorite? You mean there is more than one. Show me someone in this hobby with just one engine and I'll show you an engine junky that is in desperate need of a fix!! 'Til next time.