Factory Conversion Kits and Helgoland Island Trivia

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courtesy Dr. Paul Harvey

Factory conversion kits

I have a story and some information to share about the International/McCormick Deering model M 1-1/2hp engines. Back when I was a high school kid in the early 1980s, my dad and I collected those old flywheel engines. We had several of the IHC M 1-1/2hp engines from the first to the last that were built. We had two of the early ones with the 2-jet carburetor and over-trip igniter that would have been made from about 1917 to 1919. Unfortunately, both were missing the serial number tags located on top of the crankcase between the flywheels. One had the original plunger style fuel pump. The other had the later diaphragm style fuel pump with the glass bowl like was used on the last of these engines in the early 1930s. When I disassembled the engine for restoration, I found traces of red paint on the cast iron and other metal parts that attached and operated the fuel pump. I thought this was odd to find the red paint under the grease and dirt.

I had no idea where to find an original plunger style fuel pump for the engine so I put it back together with the diaphragm fuel pump and all was good. My dad found that a local IH dealer still had the last printing of a parts book that covered the models M, L, and LA engines and he obtained a photocopy of it. I spent many hours studying that photocopied parts book.

In the parts book, I discovered that IH offered a kit to convert the earlier 1-1/2hp M engines from the plunger style pump to the diaphragm style pump. Now I knew that early engine had a factory conversion kit on it. I don’t remember for sure, and don’t have the parts book available to verify this, but it seems to me there may have been more than one conversion kit listed depending on the serial number or year of the engine because of differences in the older engines. If that was the case, then this early engine had what may have been a very rare factory conversion kit.

As for the red paint I found, did someone paint the cast iron and steel parts red before installation or did the factory paint them red to make the conversion kit stand out on a converted engine? Or maybe the factory no longer had green paint available because they were painting tractors and everything else red when they made this conversion kit.

It’s neat to think that this pre-1920 engine was still running into the 1930s when the plunger style fuel pump finally wore out. Then, it was upgraded with the conversion kit to the diaphragm style fuel pump. If only these old engines could tell us their history …

My dad sold this engine at the Le Sueur swap meet in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Someone came along and beat my dad down on the price because it did not have the original plunger style fuel pump. Unfortunately, my dad did not know this engine had a rare factory conversion kit on it. I want everyone in engine land to know if you find any of these pre-1930s 1-1/2hp M engines with a diaphragm style fuel pump instead of the plunger style fuel pump, it could have had one of those factory conversion kits installed. If anyone has more information to share about this topic, I’d like to hear it.

Craig Fiedler, Minnesota

Thank you for sharing, Craig. Readers, do you have more details about factory conversion kits? If so, send information and photos my way. 

— Editor

More island info

Follow-up to Air Blast Injection Building Update, GEM October/November 2022

Helgoland island is famous for more than just its MAN-powered lift. The island is off the coast of Germany in the North Sea. It has no trees and no pollen. It was a favorite spot for those seeking relief from hay fever. In 1925, at the same time that lift was operational, Werner Heisenberg visited the island due to a severe attack of hay fever. Walter was 24 years old at the time and had just received his Ph.D. in physics. While on the island, Walter developed the bedrock foundation of modern atomic theory. He received the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics for this work.

You never know what you are going to see in the next issue of Gas Engine Magazine! Keep up the good work.


Phil West, Glenview, Illinois

Thank you Phil! Excellent background story on the island. I personally would love a reprieve from seasonal allergies, however, the lack of trees makes me wonder where the birds live. Are there no feathered friends to speak of on the island? Perhaps I need to take a trip there to investigate and find some answers.

— Editor

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