Owen Williams, age 8, is off to a great start collecting old gas engines
Q. How long have you been collecting gas engines?
A. I’ve been collecting gas engines for a few years now. I got my first yard blower when I was 4 years old.
Q. What attracted you to the hobby?
A. My family always goes to the Corralitos Padres Pancake Breakfast every Memorial Day weekend. My favorite part is that they have a bunch of old gas engines out front. They have old washer engines, hit-and-miss engines, all kinds of different ones, depending on who is showing. Last time, I met this great guy named Gil Smith. He told me that I should join the Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Association, so I did and I am their youngest member. My dad wanted to learn about old gas engines, too, so we started working together. After that, I went to my first show with “Motilla,” a custom setup me and my dad made. It’s a mower with a rototiller engine mounted on it. At that show, I met a few guys and they brought me some old engines that they did not want anymore, so me and my dad fixed them up and got them running. Sometimes, when we don’t know how to fix them, I go on YouTube and figure out what to do. I figured out how to fix my uncle’s generator that way.
Q. Who else in your family collects engines?
A. Nobody else, just me.
Q. What engines do you have in your collection?
A. I have 19 so far. They were all given to me by men I met at engines shows, except for two.
Q. What is your favorite engine in your collection?
A. My favorite is the Briggs & Stratton 18 HP crank-start with a straight pipe that my friend Gil made for me. It’s really loud. Gil told me that I could really rev it, so I did and it sounds like a race car. I also love my 1940s kick-start Briggs & Stratton.
Q. What projects are you currently working on?
A. Just about every engine I get needs some work. A friend gave me an old 1918 Fairbanks-Morse hit-and-miss engine. It doesn’t run and the guy told us it was hard to find parts for it – but he went into his workshop and found a magneto that we needed! We’re still working on it. I saved up my money and bought a 1912 Fairbanks-Morse 1-1/2 HP hit-and-miss. I can get it to pop, but it hasn’t started up yet.
Q. What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve come across in the hobby?
A. For me, it’s the best. I’ve met all these great old guys who love to talk about engines. Sometimes they need help starting them, so I help them out. Sometimes they give me their old stuff that they don’t want anymore – and now I have a great collection. I get a lot of help from Gil Smith, and Mike and Phil Jacques. They know a lot about gas engines and they help me figure out what to do and where to get parts. I watch a lot of YouTube to figure stuff out. I have about 20 YouTube videos of my own under the name Recoil Kid.
Q. What are your favorite engines and why?
A. I would have to say that my favorite is the Briggs & Stratton 18hp that Gil made for me. That thing ROARS. I also love Kohler Killer engines. They start up first pull, have a really low idle and they sound really powerful with their custom muffler.
Q. If money weren’t an issue, what is your dream engine to own?
A. Probably a 3hp Hit & Miss Economy.
See some of Owen’s Recoil-Kid YouTube videos.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.