A look at two of David Miller’s favorite Root & Vandervoort engines
David Miller, Waverly, Neb., has a place in his heart for Root & Vandervoort engines. One of the centerpieces in his collection is a 1913 12 HP engine.
There are a lot of reasons antique engine collectors choose specific engines to collect. Some are sentimental, like David Miller of Waverly, Neb., who collects Root & Vandervoort engines. “My first good engine was a 2 HP Root & Vandervoort and I really liked it,” David says. “I’ve always been looking for them. At one time, I had 10 of them and every one was different.”
One of the rarer Root & Vandervoort engines in David’s current collection is a 1908 4 HP example. “They called it a short sideshaft and they’re kind of an odd thing,” David says. “They only made them for a very, very short time.”
Thanks to an article in Farm Collector magazine about his John Deere GP wide-tread tractors, David made contact with a collector in Wisconsin that gave him a lead on the engine. “He said, ‘There’s a guy up here with a Root & Vandervoort engine for sale,’ so I went up there and this is what he had.”
David could tell that it wouldn’t take too much work to get the engine in tip-top condition. “This was an old restoration,” David says. “It wasn’t missing much and was a fairly complete and runnable engine. I made a pattern for a splash guard and redid the fuel pump system and carburetor. The carburetor was wrong so I had to make a new one.”
In addition to the short sideshaft, David mentions the bevel gear and horizontal cam as interesting features, as well as the valve configuration. “It’s got a caged intake valve and ported exhaust,” David says. “The front port isn’t in the head with the valve – it’s actually ported into the cylinder. That made it a very complicated engine to make, which would have made it more expensive and out of most people’s price range back then.”
David has also been told that the water hopper makes this particular engine more rare than other 4 HP examples. “You see tank-cooled engines like this one, but according to a guy in Australia, this is one of the only hopper-cooled examples they’ve come up with,” David says.
From what David could gather from the previous owner, the engine spent its working life in the woods in Rochester, Minn., where David assumes it worked on a sawmill.
Another rare R&V in David’s collection is his big 1913 12 HP engine, which likely worked along the railroad tracks in an elevator. “I got it up in South Dakota and bought it thinking that it was a 10 HP, while they sold it thinking it was an 8 HP,” David says. “When I got it home and started measuring, I found out it was a 12 HP.”
Some research revealed that the known Root & Vandervoorts in that horsepower can be counted on one hand. “There’s supposedly one in Wisconsin, one in Australia and one being put together in Washington state,” David says. “But beyond that, there just aren’t many of these around.”
While the engine was complete and missing just the splash guard and part of the magneto, it took a lot of work getting the engine to run again. “It was the tightest stuck engine I’ve ever had in my life,” David says. “We used a 25 pound sledgehammer and 4-by-4 pieces of oak. We spent a couple weeks and did everything we could to get (the piston) hammered out of there. It took a very, very long time.”
While his experience as a tool and die maker for 27 years surely provides the skills necessary to work on his Root & Vandervoorts, David is quick to give credit to the members of the Camp Creek Threshers and the help they provide one another. “No one can do it by themselves,” David says. “There’s a pretty good group of us here. Everyone has their own talent to offer and everyone has something to give.”
Contact David Miller 14605 N. 134th St., Waverly, NE 68462-9651.