How I Acquired My 4 HP United Engine

Water-cooled cylinder

The author with his 1913-1915 United 4 HP. Engine has low tension coil (no magneto), and water-cooled cylinder head. Net dealer price was around $90.

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604 S. Buffalo, Stafford, Kansas 67578

I run a mechanic shop in the evenings and on weekends. One evening Gene Frankenberg stopped by my shop to talk to me about his son's pickup that I was putting a rebuilt motor in, and he saw some of my antique engines sitting around in the shop. We visited a little while about them, and he told me that he had an old engine but he didn't know what kind it was. We visited some more and I told him that I would really like to look at it sometime. He invited me up to his farm in rural Stafford County to see it. During our conversation, he told me that another man from Great Bend, Kansas, had come to buy it but Gene said he just didn't like his 'approach,' so he refused his offer.

A few months passed and Bob (Gene's son) called for me to come and get his Blazer to do some work on it. I went to pick up the Blazer, and as I started out the driveway I thought of the 'old motor' that Gene had told me about. I stopped and went back to the house and asked Bob if I could go see the old motor. He said, 'Sure.' By this time it was dark outside, so we got a flashlight and out to the granary we went. On the east side of the granary, a 'wart' had been added to house the motor. There was a small walk-in door that we entered through. Sure enough, there it sat. I couldn't believe my eyes; it looked as if it had just been shut down. It was still very complete. I shined the flashlight on the tag so I could see what kind it was. It was a 4? HP United. As we visited about it, Bob told me stories about how he used to play around the motor and crawl back and forth through the belt shaft opening. As we proceeded back toward the service truck, I told Bob, 'If you want to sell it, let me know. I would love to have a chance to buy it.' I promised Bob that I'd keep it in Stafford County.

Returning from Pawnee, Oklahoma, Steam and Gas Show. This was the first show at which I showed the United. The photo was taken in Wichita, Kansas.

After returning home, it seemed like I thought about the 'old United' all the time. I just couldn't stand it anymore, so I called Gene and told him that I had looked at the engine and that I would give $300 for it if he wanted to sell it. He told me that he would have to talk to his mother because it was really hers. I told him to give me a call and let me know.

Sure enough, when I was at a show in Winfield, Kansas, Gene called. He told my wife that I could come and get the old motor. When I returned home from the show I could tell that my wife had something on her mind. She reluctantly told me that Gene Krankenburg had called. That's all she needed to say with the expression that she had. I couldn't wait to go get it!

A few days later I went to get the United. Gene was planting wheat in a field nearby. I stopped and gave him a check for $300. Gene came up to the granary where I was getting the United. We visited about the old engine and he told me some more stories about it. He said that one summer a mother opossum had a litter of opossums in the water hopper. The United had been used to elevate grain into four big bins in the granary. It hadn't run in over 50 years. There was a cut out in the end of the granary so a tractor could be belted up to the belt pulley to start the United.

The United, as I show it today, has original coil, crank, paint, pin striping, and shipping skids. The things that I have done to it include: steam cleaning, pulling the ignitor and cleaning it. I also cleaned out the compression release port, added some springs that were missing, and added a gas tank. I have shown the United at shows in Pawnee, Oklahoma; Goessel, Winfield, and Haviland, Kansas; the Stafford October fest; and our 8th annual Kocher family reunion. At our family reunion I mixed ice cream with it. I plan to continue to show the United at various shows that I attend this year. The United is always on display in my mechanic shop when I'm at home, and my five year old daughter, Danielle, loves to show it. At the shows I have attended, I have yet to see a hopper cooled 4? HP United engine. The engine draws a lot of 'lookers,' and I'm proud to show it. I think this was a rare find for only 15 miles from my home.

I would like to extend my 'thanks' to Charlie Gwynn and Dow Manderscheid for their help and encouragement.