By Staff
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Recently, I had an interesting conversation with a reader who
called about the cover of the April 2004 issue of Gas Engine
Magazine. You might remember that cover, which featured a beautiful
shot of Jesse Cook’s twin-flywheel Briggs & Stratton Model
5S. A product of Jesse’s fertile imagination and mechanical
skill, the little Briggs was beautifully done.

The caller questioned the appropriateness of a non-stock,
heavily modified engine appearing on the cover of GEM, wondering if
engines like Jesse’s are beyond the scope of what we should be
collecting or displaying. I obviously disagree, as I believe
engines such as Jesse’s represent a unique and critical
ingredient of the old-iron collective – imagination.

What qualifies an engine for the cover? Moreover, what qualifies
an engine as important or ‘fit’ for the hobby? I’d
wager there are as many opinions on that subject as there are
engine owners. And what about engines restored with a mix of
non-stock elements such as extra chrome, brass or fancy paint jobs?
Personally, I like engines that are still in their ‘work
clothes,’ original down to the faded paint and soaked-in grease
and oil.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate engines that
are restored with a bit of personal flair. Wild paint jobs may not
be my cup of tea, but they work for some people. Extra chrome?
Sounds like more polishing time to me. But if you like it, whose to
say you shouldn’t apply it?

I also like restored engines, resplendent with new paint and
crisp decals. It takes time and dedication – and no small amount of
money – to properly restore almost any engine.

However, strict originality can be hard to achieve. Sourcing
original parts can be tough, and financial considerations can force
us to find substitutes. I’ve been called on failing to identify
non-original engines, and I have to agree with that particular
complaint. We’re trying to preserve, both in our collections
and in the pages of GEM, a significant element of American
mechanical and cultural history. That makes it important we note,
when we know otherwise, that an engine is not as it left the

And yet, I also believe we do a disservice to the hobby if we
fail to acknowledge and appreciate the unique imagination that
pervades our ranks. While home-built engines will probably always
spark debate, they’re an important part of the hobby and worthy
of note.

Editor rbackus@ogdenpubs.com

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines