Two for the Price of One

Two IHC LAs Provide One Finished and Running Engine

IHC LA engine

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A before and after shot in the same photo? Not hard when you have two of the same engine. The engine to the left is a 1936 IHC LA, serial number LA29036. The unit at right, serial number LA11469, is a 1935 LA. With major parts missing, George says he won't restore this engine.

At 175 pounds these were light engines - they were also inexpensive, priced at $71.75 in 1936. LAs saw duty in a wide variety of settings, from running mud pumps and cement mixers to water pumps and generators. While not all engine collectors are drawn to LAs, the buying public of the 1930s obviously was. This basic engine stayed in production until 1938, and during that time an estimated 42,000 were built.

In November of 2000 I went to the Bob Oreck auction and was the successful bidder on a lot of two engines: One complete International Harvester LA and one parts LA.

Now, I looked at these engine several times during the day, but somehow it wasn't until I began loading them up that I saw their faults that I wondered what I had done. I paid how much for this junk?

The next day I unloaded the engines into the barn and got ready to go deer hunting, and it wasn't until mid-December that I had time to look them over. The complete engine appeared stuck, and upset with myself for buying it in the first place I gave it a swift kick. Good heavens, it moved! A little oil and some playing had it moving well.

Although the LA turned over, George pulled the head and cleaned out the water jacket before priming and painting the engine.

This is what the engines looked like when George bought them. The LA that George eventually restored is the unit in the foreground. The LA behind it has been relegated to parts status.

Okay, it rotated, and with the plug in it also had compression. Next I look for spark. None. I pulled the cap, cleaned the magneto terminal and, by golly, spark. Then the big question: Would it fire? A little gas in the cylinder, plug wire connected, spin the flywheel. It ran! Well, maybe it wasn't such a bad deal after all.

George Lane's 1936 IHC LA, serial number LA29036. Introduced in 1934, these engines carried a 1-1/2/2-1/2 HP rating. A larger engine rated at 3/5 HP was introduced the next year.

The underside of the gas tank taken off LA29036. George removed the rusted bottom, fashioned and soldered on a new one, and then lined the tank with tank sealant before returning it to duty on the restored LA. Compare this with the photo at left showing the finished tank.

There was no gas line to the mixer, so I jerry-rigged a line and connected it to a gas tank from a lawnmower. I ran it for about two minutes and then shut it down. I removed the rotted 4 x 4 skids, and then pulled the flywheel and pulley, which both came off easily. As I was cleaning up the hopper and body I noticed a large blob of lead where the freeze plug should have been. There was no freeze plug, only a makeshift repair, and that's when I noticed the pulley side of the hopper had a 1/2-inch by 3-inch score in it made by the belt rubbing against the hopper. I decided to fill the score with JB Weld, and I think that was a good decision since it's a non-structural repair. I removed the lead and installed a proper plug.

I removed the head, only to discover it had been cracked and re-welded, but whoever did the welding did a very good job. I spent some time cleaning debris out of the water jacket and passages in the head while I tried to decide what to do about the weld on the crack. Ultimately, I opted not to grind down the weld, since I might sell the LA someday and I wouldn't want to cover it up. I reground the valves and painted the head.

The skids were originally red, so after cleaning them up I repainted them the original color. After priming and repainting, the engine was reassembled, the valves were adjusted, the mixer cleaned and the skids put back on.

Flywheel side of George's LA. Light weight and metal skids with supplied handholds made these easy engines to move around.

The gas tank on the LA looked good from the top, but there wasn't any bottom left. Some grinding, cutting and soldering saw a new bottom on the tank, and as added insurance I coated the inside of the tank with a gas tank sealant.

When I finally finished it up it ran like a top. Unfortunately, it wasn't until after I was done that my son informed me I had put the IHC double globe decal on upside down. I guess I should have put my glasses on when I was applying the decal. Oh well, it adds character.

Here's one thing about having two engine the same - it allows for a before and after picture in the same shot. I'm going to sell or trade the second engine, as it's missing the magneto and mixer and will be too costly to rebuild.

Many thanks to Hit & Miss Enterprises for parts and information.

Contact engine enthusiast George Lane at: P.O. Box 285, New Boston, Ml 48164.