The Rest of the Story

Spring steel contacts

Inside combustion chamber showing spring steel contacts actuated by bolt on top of piston. Points release after piston starts down after T.C.D.

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1155 Carpenter Cyn., Arroyo Grande, California 93420.

This engine story is a follow up to the one on page 17 of the August 1985 issue of GEM. The labor-of-love engine's cylinder was buried three feet deep in a ranch dump for fifty years and the engine body, with its large flywheel, was being used as a fence post several hundred yards away for at least that long.

After nearly four years of dead end leads and wild goose chases, trying to find information on this engine, my good friend, Anton Aftentranger, of Bakersfield, California, was able to supply me with an early advertisement picture.

The engine turned out to be a 2 HP Pacific gas engine, serial no. 6, manufactured in San Francisco, California, approximately 1892. Of the very few remaining engines of this type, it is interesting to note that each is unique, having been hand fitted together. In other words, parts do not appear to be interchangeable without slight modifications. Design changes were evident in almost every engine.

This engine company was the forerunner of the Union Gas Engine Company and was in competition on the west coast with the Reagan Gas Engine Company of San Francisco. An interesting history of all three companies and their relationships with one another can be found in C.H. Wendel's engine book.

At last I had a drawing to work from and a direction to proceed in. Many hours with a magnifying glass and lots of three dimensional sketches later, I was ready to construct the missing gearless mechanism and related parts. Most of the problems centered around how to make the parts look and function as original.

When all was done and assembled, the system worked amazingly well. The vapor fuel system proved to be a challenge, as I wanted to construct and operate the system as original. After a few trials and errors, it worked fine. However, it is understandable that these early systems were changed to carburetors as soon as possible. These systems are dangerous unless a few safeguards are used and the operator fully understands the principles involved. If anyone is interested in this type of system, I will be glad to share my experiences.

The night before our local show, the Pacific engine was ready to start. I decided to wait until the next day at the show to actually start it so that my engine friends could share in the resurrection. After some tinkering, it finally began to come alive. At first it was rough and erratic, but not bad for being scattered all over the ranch with a cylinder buried for 50 years. Then, as it got warmer it began to heal itself, as old iron has a tendency to do when it's run. Soon, it was clicking along nicely, and the crowd that had been observing gave a cheer. Needless to say the rest of the day revolved around the theories and principles of a gearless vapor engine.

This engine starts readily on gasoline vapor and is governed solely by the manually operated vapor control valve. An interesting feature of this engine is that because of the type of ignition system, combustion actually occurs after top dead center.

A closing word for engine restorers needing a cast iron muffler for your old iron: Save the cast iron wagon wheel hub insert that you always used to throw away. Cut off the ugly end and with a little lathe work, you've got an original looking megaphone type muffler.