Young Iron: Jonathan Triebner

By Staff
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Photo courtesy Jonathan Triebner
Gas engine collector Jonathan Triebner, age 33, Exeter, Ontario.

Take a quick glance at the exhibitors and attendees at gas engine shows, and it’s easy to think that this is an older person’s hobby. But take a closer look and you’ll find a growing number of younger enthusiasts. You’ll meet them in Young Iron.

Q: How long have you been collecting gas engines?
A: Engines have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. I probably started buying and selling engines myself in my mid- to late-20s. I remember getting left behind (I had school) when Dad went to get his single-valve Simplex in West Virginia and thinking that wasn’t right. I was in grade 4.

Q: What attracted you to the hobby?
A: The bug bit me pretty young. Mom has pictures of me when I was 2 or 3 covered in grease from whatever new project Dad brought home. Anything I saw when I was younger was great but now my taste has narrowed down to preferring tank-cooled & original paint. Last spring we attended the Nuenen Rally in Holland for their slide-valve expo and I’m pretty sure I wandered around the whole time with my mouth open because of all the stuff I’d never even heard of before.

Q: Who else in your family  collects engines?
A: Grandpa and Dad started collecting in the 1970s. Grandpa developed quite a collection on his own, including an Abenaque, a 6-inch Rider and a 6-inch Ericsson as well as a Happy Farmer tractor. My uncle Gary collected as well before he passed away. We’ve still got his 6 HP John Deere.

Q: What engines do you have in your collection?
A: I’ve been ridiculously fortunate to have a father who shares a hobby with me, and one who had a pretty impressive collection before I knew what one was. I’ve only ever branched out a few times to purchase my own engines, which include 8-cycle Aermotors, a vertical-governed Canadian Monarch and a very early Massey-Harris Type 1. We probably have about 85 engines, about half are running or close to it and a few basket cases.

Q: What is your favorite engine in your collection?
A: The first engine ever given to me (for Christmas one year) was Grandpa’s first engine: a 1-1/2 HP Goold, Shapley & Muir vertical. It’s the one that “started it all” for our family.

Q: What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve come across in the hobby?
A: Well I think one of the biggest things is being born several decades too late. All of the “good stuff” has been snatched up and while there are still a few rare engines to be found in the wild, 99 percent of them have been discovered. Prices are always going up whether you’re young or old. Some of the really good stuff has gotten so pricey a lottery win would be required to reel it in.

Q: If money weren’t an issue, what is your dream engine to own?
A: Of all the engines that still exist today the Martini, Warchalowski and Gilles engines probably top the list. Two of them are in private hands and one belongs to Deutz Technikum, but I don’t know that any amount of money could shake any of them loose.

Young Iron is looking for gas engine collectors, age 35 and younger. If you or someone you know would like to be profiled, please contact associate editor Beth Beavers: (800) 682-4704 or

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