Gas Engine Magazine

100 years of Economy

By Staff

In the spring of 1909 the Holm Machine Mfg. Co. of Sparta, Mich., offered a new line of gas engines.

It was owned and operated by Sears, Roebuck & Co., the nation’s largest mail order merchant. During a time when many engine designs were somewhat complicated, Sears sought to build simple to maintain engines suitable for the common folk. Through mail order the engines were shipped directly to customers.

The first Economy engine built at the factory was the Model A engine. About 1,500 of these were produced and 26 of them are known to exist among collectors today.

These were followed by the Model B, which had a simplified fuel system rather than the earlier Waterloo fuel system. Probably the biggest change from the Model A to B was in regard to the water hopper. The raised lip was removed and replaced with a flat top with removable “hopper ring.” About 4,800 Model B engines were produced falling in serial numbers around 1200 to 6000.

About 2,000 Model C engines were produced in 1910 with changes to the head, igniter trip bracket and fuel tank filler.

The Model CA was introduced in the spring of 1910 and more of this model was produced than any other Sparta-built engine, with close to 20,000 being manufactured. Similar to the Model C it did not have a speed control, the trip finger and holder was redesigned, and the Lunkenheimer fuel mixer became the standard. By that time Sears had also eliminated the Holm patent, a complicated speed control, replacing it with a simple governor.

The Model CX started showing up in mid-1912 at about serial number 25000. The CX had a newly designed water-cooled head, a spring-loaded intake valve latch, a newly designed side rod and a new blade-type igniter trip. The Elkhart low-tension magneto was also offered on the larger CX engines. Many of the features of the CX would be found on the soon-to-be-built Hercules engines. With few exceptions, it should be noted that through all of the production of engines from 1909 through 1933 the changes from one model to the next were gradual and, for the most part, minor.

Beginning in early 1910, a simple, low cost, easily maintained engine for the masses was available to the public. In all, some 36,000 “Sparta Economy” engines were produced from 1909-1914. Although the factory, parts, machines and some people were moved to Evansville, Ind., in late 1913, the first engines built in Evansville were assembled from parts shipped in from Sparta.

In all, there were 15 different models produced, beginning with the Model A in 1909 until the last JK was produced in the fall of 1933. Of the approximately 400,000 engines built during this time frame, about 250,000 of these were sold as Economy engines.

For the collector, there are certainly many models to choose from, and most are fairly easy to come by and to find parts for repair. The Economy engine is usually economical to purchase and is a great choice for new collectors looking to purchase their first engine.

For the model D through S engines, the Hercules, Jaeger, and ARCO engines essentially use the same parts as the Economy.

This summer there are a couple of excellent opportunities for Economy and Hercules-built engine collectors to get together.

The Southern Indiana Antique Machinery Club (SIAM) is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Economy and 95th anniversary of Hercules-built engines at its Classic Iron Show, June 12-14, in Evansville, Ind. Then in Coolspring, Pa., June 18-20, the Coolspring Power Museum will be celebrating these milestone dates as well as hosting the “Gathering of the HVIDs.” So get those Economy and Hercules-built engines out of the shed and show them off this year!

Contact Keith Kinney with any questions regarding Hercules, Economy, Jaeger, Thermoil, etc.,

  • Published on Mar 31, 2009
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