Of What Use Is An Old Engine?

By Staff

4235 135th Ave. S.E., Bellevue, Washington 98006

We’re frequently asked what’s the use of an old engine?
What are they good for? Besides the fun of finding a rare engine
and restoring it, and the friendship of fellow collectors, an old
engine has a lot of educational value.

Where else can you better show a youngster or the less
mechanically inclined adult how a gasoline engine works? Everything
is out in the open where it can be seen. There is nothing on an old
engine that isn’t necessary for operation.

Old engines and old farm machinery represent what I call visible
technology. You can usually either see how it works as is, or with
a little bit of disassembly. This is in contrast to invisible or
concealed technology. The computer is the best example of invisible
technology. There are no moving parts to see and even if you take
it apart there is nothing to indicate how it works. Most engineers
can’t even explain how a computer works. Our world is being
taken over by invisible technology, the new cars, our appliances,
the VCR, and literally everything else. Concealed technology
started when they first enclosed the crankcase, and it’s been
all downhill since then.

Accompanying the new technology is what I call service hostile
equipment. The ultimate is the ‘throw away’ tool or
appliance. It usually has a sticker on it saying ‘WARNING.’
no user serviceable parts inside.” Even if you ignore the
warning and are able to open up the device and by some chance find
a replacement part, the part may not be available closer than some
place you never heard of deep in the heart of Asia, and at a cost
approaching the original cost of the complete device. It probably
won’t be long until some of our cars have the ‘no user
serviceable parts inside’ sticker on the hood!

Compare this with service friendly machinery such as old
engines, tractors, steam engines and the like. Our old equipment is
made out of real metal, not pot metal and plastic. It can be
disassembled without destruction. It can then be repaired or
overhauled by removing shims, scraping bearings, reboring; or
sometimes only dismantling, cleaning up, lubricating, reassembling,
and adjusting; all done without a fortune in new parts or special
tools. Service friendly machinery wasn’t designed by engineers
who hated mechanics.

The next time someone asks you what good is your old engine,
take a few minutes to show him what is meant by four cycles, see
the gears and cams and valves operate, feel the suction stroke, and
watch the spark jump. Show him what ‘serviceable’ really
means. Where else can you get an education like this?

Gas Engine Magazine
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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines