Florida Flywheelers Antique Engine Club

Dan Donaldson
December/January 1997
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Jack Gustafson brought several tractors, including this 191? Allis Chalmers ?-?.
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P.O. Box 6407 Seffner, Florida 33583

In 1972 a small group of people came together with a vision of forming a club dedicated to the preservation and operation of antique farm machinery. They formed the Florida Flywheelers Antique Engine Club with a total membership of 14 people from all over the state. Meetings called 'Gas-ups' were planned and held at a different member's home each month. Members brought their gas engines and other farm related treasures to share with others. Everyone brought a dish-to-pass to the potluck dinner which was planned for Sunday. These gas-ups gave members the opportunity to exchange stories and restoration tips, and have some fun. A bimonthly newsletter called the Engine Exhaust kept members informed of upcoming gas-ups, past gas-up reports, recipes for the ladies, and articles on different gas engines and tractors.

With a strong base membership of people enjoying getting together at the monthly club meets, membership grew to 800 by 1990. The club then acquired two 150 HP Fairbanks diesel engines from the Sanford Water Department where they had been used to generate electricity and pump water. One of the engines was traded to Ed Winters from New York for a 40 HP Clark sideshaft engine with a mounted air compressor. The Fairbanks and the Clark engines were restored to running condition. In February 1995, the Fairbanks was started for the first time in many years. A large turnout gathered at Lew Donaldson's farm to witness the momentous occasion of bringing this majestic beast back to life, the result of many hours of work by several of the club's members, proof of what a club with a strong membership can accomplish. The Clark was approached in the same manner and was started for the first time in November 1996.

With the club's engines restored to life, a new dream emerged. The members decided that a home was needed for the club and its engines. So, in 1994, it was voted to acquire land. Locations throughout the state were examined for the best location to suit the club's needs. Two years later the club voted to acquire a 160 acre piece of land in Burea, 10 miles east of Ft. Meade and nine miles west of Frost proof. Some dedicated members immediately tackled the task of clearing the property of palmetto bushes. Within one month Billy Swindle and his crew put in a three-quarter mile road for access to the property. Among other donations received, Tony Ullrich donated the material for building a pole barn 50 x 110 feet to provide shelter for the club engines, and Ron Weagraff donated a sawmill. A Flywheeler Auxiliary was formed to start a food wagon on the property to serve food during shows and to arrange other fund-raising activities. Some members have even built buildings, like Billy Swindle's gas station museum with early gas pumps and porcelain signs, and Hubert Allen's general store which will sell things such as corn meal, peanuts, cane syrup, and other items made at the shows. Within a few short months 160 acres of palmettos was turned into a park, ready for shows open to the public. The first show was planned for the second weekend in November 1996. People were greeted at the gate by a giant 16,000 pound, single bottom plow that turns over a furrow four feet deep. Rumor has it that it was pulled by a D15 Caterpillar (D9 with a D6 leading). Spectators were treated to a wide variety of activities such as a tractor pull, operating shingle mill, cane pressing, syrup making, a pair of Holstein oxen, as well as the operation of the club's 150 HP Fairbanks Morse diesel engine and Fred Schenkel's 380 HP V-12 Climax gas engine. What a gas guzzler!

The 10th annual Florida Fly wheeler Swap Meet, formerly held at the Kissimmee Valley Show grounds, was held at the club's new home in January 1997. Dick Edwards has been the driving force behind this event from the beginning and, as usual, it proved to be very suecessful. A record number of vendors (over 600) were present from all over the country. Everything from hammer handles to hot air engines could be found at this event. By far this is the Southeast's largest swap meet of its kind. We are all looking forward to this event getting even bigger in years to come.

People from as far away as England and Holland traveled to see the 5th annual Antique Engine and Tractor Show in February 1997, also at Fort Meade, which had previously been held at a member's home. The sawmill was fully operational for the first time with Dave Sharp providing power with his portable steam engine. The plowing demonstrations drew a lot of attention, especially when Lew Donaldson pulled six 18' plows with his 1917 30-60 Aultman Taylor tractor, a sight rarely seen in Florida. A tractor pull was held on Saturday to show just how powerful some of these antique tractors could be.

Barbara Harper and Jack Gustafson were married Saturday afternoon in the presence of all the exhibitors and spectators at the show. Barbara rode in on her 1930 John Deere GP, followed by Jack, who arrived on his 1941 Allis Chalmers WD. After exchanging vows to love and cherish each other, and to take care of each other's tractors, they were presented to all as Mr. and Mrs. Jack Gustafson. This show had something for everyone and everyone had a great time.

With the Florida Flywheelers' strong roots and 25 years of steady growth (over 1,300 members in 1997), it will be interesting to see what the future holds. Someday the Florida Flywheeler show may very well be as well known as Mt. Pleasant's Midwest Old Thresher's Reunion, Portland's Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show, or Kinzers' Rough and Tumble Thresherman's Reunion. We'll just have to wait and see!

Try to come to our shows. Our Swap Meet will be held January 15-18, 1998, and our BIG SHOW will be held February 26 to March 1, 1998. Hope to see you there!


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