Thoughts On Restoring Engines or Changing History

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Rt 2, Box 118 Troy, Tennessee 38260

Last summer my friend and fellow engine restorer Tim Fox and I came into possession of a rather badly damaged Hercules engine. It was not missing too many small parts, but the water hopper had evidently frozen at some time and was almost totally gone above the cylinder. We both had examples of the Hercules line, so this was not something we really needed.

At various shows over the years we had seen these and other engines reworked into pseudo tank cooled types. This was rather simply done by welding a piece of split pipe onto the top of the remains of the water pot which gave them the appearance of early Fairbanks-Morse or International Harvester engines of the cooling tower persuasion. The addition of a couple of water connections, pump, and cooling tower or tank made a neat appearing little engine. It was something that Hercules had never made, but it attracted a lot of attention at shows.

While we were discussing the various things we would need to have to do the project, a thought occurred to me. I suddenly realized that we were going to alter history, so to speak.

At one time in my life I had been a collector of Civil War muskets. Being rather low on cash, I was obliged to purchase less than desirable pieces and undertake to restore them to original condition. In the years after the Civil War, these weapons were available on the market for a few dollars or less. A great number were converted into shotguns or carbines by simply cutting off the barrels and forestocks. These weapons served their owners well in the settling of the frontier and many were passed down through the years, finally winding up in the hands of collectors such as myself. They would not fit into any collection in their reconfigured style and, to me at least, brought an appealing low price. It was up to me to weld extensions onto the barrels and splice fore-ends. Barrel bands, both old and reproduction, were available, as were rear sights and other sundry items. Over a period of time I was able to rebuild almost every weapon, including one that was so badly pitted from storage in a salty smokehouse that it was necessary to build the pits up with weld.

All of this leads up to the main theme of this story. Sure it's neat to make a side shaft John Deere model 'E' or a hit and miss engine out of throttle governed something or other, but we are messing with history and causing trouble down the line for some poor guy who wants it 'TO BE RIGHT IN EVERY WAY.' Think about it before you start changing that antique tractor, gas engine or anything else in the way of antique or near antique. It may tickle our goodie to do it now, but someday a guy is going to fling a curse on us for messing up what to him was a nice little engine or tractor before we destroyed it.

Needless to say, after these reflections on the alteration of history, Tim and I decided that maybe the lowly Hercules deserved something better than a plastic surgery job that would make it into something its makers never intended. Think about it before you start changing things. Somebody down the line would rather have that item 'as is' either to restore properly or maybe as a parts engine. Remember all of those old muskets. There were many millions of them at one time, many more than there ever were May tags or Nelson Brothers or for that matter Fairbanks-Morse. Think about it, think about it a lot, before you change an historical item of any kind into something else.