Tips on Collecting Gas Engines

W.H. Dittemore provides tips on collecting gas engines, including how to restore them and materials to use to restore old gas engines.

Fairbanks Morse

Photo courtesy of W.H. Dittemore, Pecos, Texas.


Content Tools

W.H. Dittemore shares his tips on collecting gas engines. 

I found this 6 hp Fairbanks Morse (Serial No. 642031) in a junkyard in Monahans, Texas. The upper one-half of the water hopper was removed and a cast iron top put in its place. This had a radiator and fan which ran off of a V belt pulled by the flywheel. This looked like a factory conversion kit. I removed this and put on an original open water hopper. The main bearings and piston were oiled with a Madison Kipp force feed lubricator. I replaced this with grease cups and a sight gravity oiler as seen in the picture.

I enjoy collecting and restoring old one-cylinder, water cooled, stationary gasoline engines. Here are some tips on collecting gas engines.

I have five engines. They are a 6 hp Fairbanks Morse Type Z that left the factory on Dec. 1, 1925, a 2 hp Type Z style D self-oiling Fairbanks Morse, a 3 to 5 hp Model LA I.H.C., a 1.5 and a 3 hp Model E John Deere engines. All the engines have high tension magnetos and spark plugs except the two John Deere's which have low tension magnetos with an ignitor.

It takes patience and an understanding wife to restore these engines. My wife Jane helps me and listens to my sad tale of woe when I can't make an engine run or cannot find a part. One also must either be or know an excellent machinist, a welder, and a mechanic who are sympathetic to the cause.

The first rule in collecting engines is never, never turn over the flywheel on these engines until you are sure that every part is free. If you do you will break the exhaust valve rocker arm, the casting that holds the governor (Fairbanks Morse), the magneto armature shaft may be broken (John Deere), or bend or twist some vital part that cannot be replaced.

I have found that the best way to free an engine is to use lots of penetrating oil, kerosene, cylinder oil and lots of patience. I have had good luck freeing a stuck piston by taking the head off and soaking the piston with penetrating oil and later with just plain oil mixed with kerosene. This may take from a few hours to three weeks. I usually start the piston moving by tapping it with a piece of wood the same size as the bore. I disconnect the connecting rod before removing the piston. This prevents damage to the connecting rod bearing.

Rust can best be removed by soaking the parts in kerosene and then using a wire scratch wheel on a grinder or an electric drill.

The most vulnerable part of an engine is the magneto. This is the hardest part to restore and the most expensive to replace if missing . The magneto as a source of electric current is fast going out of style. Parts are hard to find especially for magnetos 30 to 40 years old. Burned points and rotten insulation are the most frequent ailments of magnetos.

Valve Springs are usually rusted and broken. Valve Springs of the correct tension are hard to find.

I got this 1.5 hp Model E John Deere engine in Hillsboro, Texas, about four years ago and after lots of work it runs like a top. Mr. J. D. Russell of Lancaster, Texas saw it and reserved it for me.

A valve with the correct stem and head diameter can be ground at the same angle as the seat and successfully used.

Paint must be mixed to match the original color. Of course, John Deere and late model I.H.C. engines are no problem. It seems that Oliver paint is a real close match to the Fairbanks Morse color. Does any one know the color of the old Type Model M I.H.C. engines? Were Fairbanks Morse engines always dark green?

Gasket can be made with little trouble. Piston rings can be ordered from the major piston ring companies. I like to hear these engines run, although I do not have any kind of work for them to do.

I know of only three other people in Texas who are interested in old engines. Mr. J. D. Russell of Lancaster, Texas, a mechanic has given me a great deal of good advice and owns about 30 or 35 engines. Mr. T.H. Krueger of San Antonio has a large collection of engines also. I have not met him but have corresponded with him.

Mr. Johnnie Joe Hajek of Paducah, Texas has a few engines.

I work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service as a Soil Scientist. I see these engines during the course of my work and go back later to try to find the owner and try to buy them. Most people are very friendly and very helpful.

Here in this part of Texas most of the country is made up of large ranches, most of the water is and has been pumped by windmills. However there are still a few engines available if you can find them, their owners, and if their owners are willing to sell them. I hope to collect and restore many more engines before the junk man gets around. I would also like to find an old gas tractor to restore. I would like an Avery which I threshed with as a boy, an Advance Rumely or another old Model D John Deere.

A picture of myself with my Fuller & Johnson, 2.5 hp upright. This gasoline engine, S.N. 3659 was shipped from the factory in Madison, Wisconsin, November 13, 1908.

The speed is 400 with a bore of 4.5 and a stroke of 6 feet. It has a hit and miss governor. For ignition it uses battery and ignitor.

Fuller and Johnson made uprights in two sizes, 1 and 2.5 hp, but they never made very many of them. More of the 1 hp were made than the 2.5 hp size.

The cart under the engine. is not original - I built it to move it around, as the engine weighs about 500 lbs.

Recordings of Gas Engines and Gas Tractors

Twelve inch record of a variety of old-time gas tractors Rumely Oil-Pull climbing difficult hill, huge Wallis-Bear Gas Tractor, Minneapolis, Baker, Case Gas Tractors on belt and plowing. Let me make you up a variety of these fine old historic gas tractors on a record, $6.50 postpaid. Also a record of old-time gas engines popping a variety of exhausts all different on a 12 inch record, $6.50 postpaid. Recorded in separate groove sections on record for easy location by playing needle.

Diesel Railroad Record, Record of PRR Diesel Freights, growling their heavy, long trains through zero winter weather. Hear train after train whistling for the town crossings. Also the plaintive, melodious whistle of the evening local freight diesel as it Switches and pulls through the distant countryside. 12 inch record, 33 rpm $6.50 postpaid.

Fahnestock Studio, Union City, Indiana

This photo is of the 15-30 McCormick-Deering tractor which we restored in 1964.

5 hp Stickney at the 1965 Boonville Steam Engine Show. Left to right: Owner, Russell Moss, Reuben Hartley, Clarence McCutchan, George Hawley, and Hugh Johnston, all from Hamilton, Missouri.

This is an "Old Minnie" Minneapolis 25-50 hp 4 cylinder, 6.125 inch bore with serial number 109. It is a most faithful and ideal engine for threshing and hulling seed peas. I run both ends alone and it ran from daylight until dark. I had just pulled into the shop storage. at Manhattan, Montana in December 1925. Note the snow on the ground.

The Georgian Bay Pioneer Steam, Gas, Automative and Antique Association is having its first show, on July Ist and 2nd. The show will be held at our local fair grounds. There will be all makes and sizes of Steam Engines, traction, stationary, and marine, also many types of gasoline engines, and quite a few old cars. Most of the engines will be working. Motels are plentiful in the area. Located north of Barrie, Ontario, Canada. For information, write Robert C. Ernst, Barrie, Ontario, Canada.

Tri-State Gasoline Engine and Tractor Association

First Annual Meet. July 9-10, 1966 at the Ft. Recovery Fair Grounds at Ft. Recovery, Ohio. For more Information write Wood Turner, President at R.R. 6, Portland, Indiana or Morris Titus, See. at R.R. 2, Pendleton, Indiana.

The Pioneer Gas Engine Association, Inc. will hold their 1966 Reunion on July 29, 30 and 31, 1966 at Fairville, New York on Route 88 between Sodus on Route 104 and Newark on Route 31. Dorothy Smith, Secretary., Ontario, New York.

Threshing oats on our farm in 1965 with our Oil Pull 30-50-Y and McCormick Separator.

Our 7 hp Stickney Engine Hit and Miss.

8 hp Otto Engine bought two years ago. The man we bought it from was a contractor. He put in piling at the coast of New Jersey. He used this Otto to saw up timbers used at that time. He told me he purchased it from a Thread Mill in Mount Holly, New Jersey. We restored it and have it running. It has not been painted as yet.

We bought this 6 hp Witte engine from the original owner's son. He had all bills and price of engine, books and price list, also the bill stating cost and freight charge. The engine number is 61482 and was used as a rig saw. The purchase price was $243.50 and was bought on December 9, 1932.

We also have a catalog, (How to Judge Engines), No. 49, By Ed. H. Witte, Master Engine Builder.

Letter From Gas Engine Magazine Readers

By Mr. Morris
Blomgren, Siren, Wisconsin

I am sending a picture of the other side of my Avery tractor as there was a little difference of opinion as to the size.

I want to thank those who wrote me in regard to the tractor. I sure enjoyed them. Those who wrote me were as follows: Mr. John Hinkle, East Berlin, Pennsylvania, saying it to be 25-50 hp He thinks it was made in the 1920's.

Mr. C. M. Benjaminson, Edinburg, North Dakota, thinks it is 12-25 hp., 6-1/2 piston and 7 inch stroke.

Mr. T. H. Krueger, 1615 San Francisco Street, San Antonio, Texas, thinks it is 20-35 hp and came out in probably 1911, built for 5 to 7 years.

Ted Worrall, Lorna, Montana, said if it was a two cylinder, it would be a 20-35 hp and looks like the one in his 1914 catalog as close as to the canopy over the governor.

Mr. E. R. Potter, 1205 — 8th Avenue, Saskstoon, thinks it is 20-35 H. P. taken off the market about 1915-16 and replaced with 4 cylinder opposed 18-36.

Mr. Clifford A. Caron, R. R. 1, Fairbault, Minnesota, said it looked to him to be a 20-35 hp which was built from 1911 to 1916. He is interested in anyone having any Red Coop tractor catalogs or tractor field books for years 1916—1917—1918—1920—and—1923 through 1926 and tractor review magazines for sale. He said he would pay a good price for these.

Mr. Ovid I. Stevens of Barnard, South Dakota, writes that he has a brass carburetor and a small flywheel and the valves in the head. studied the picture and says it looks to him to be a 20-35 H. P. put out in 1913 and a year or two later. Mr. Steven's letter heading reads — Oak's Repair Shop

"Anything repaired but a broken heart."