You have to be a little eccentric to be an antique engine collector. Let’s face it – explaining your hobby to the saleswoman at the local J.C. Penney store can be an exercise in futility. Or at the family reunion, cousin Wilber asks, “You collect what?”
At the ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) breakfast I attend every Tuesday morning, the guys say, “He’s losing it! He just keeps buying these big ole dumb engines.” (The “he” is me, by the way.)
Now, I’ve collected engines off and on since I was a kid, but even the following story would make a person who didn’t have a complete, blind addiction to the hobby stop and wonder.
The first Stover
Our story starts on Dec. 11, 1905, when Stover engine no. 4518 left the factory. It was shipped to Bennett Brothers in Lowell, Mass., and was a 5 HP upright Type C engine, marked 5-1/2 HP. Many Stover engines were custom marked for the buyer.
The engine was well maintained through the years with plenty of oil and grease to keep it lubricated and protected from rust. In fact, when collector Paul Maples of Searcy, Ark., got the engine, it still showed a lot of original paint under the grease. We’ll call this the first Stover.
The second Stover
Paul loved the engine and wanted to make it the best show piece possible. He was diligent in his engine education, learning as much about it as he could. Paul talked to collectors, read books and generally studied the situation so he could do a top-notch restoration.
Eventually the engine was completely restored and sat ready for the final paint job. The work was beautiful. Then misfortune struck and Paul was forced to sell his pride and joy. We’ll call this the second Stover, all restored and ready for a bright, shiny new paint job.
The third Stover
Steve Royster, from North Carolina, is a friend of Paul’s and had been trying to buy the engine from him for years. Then he finally got his chance.
Now, we all know there are different types of engine fellows in the hobby. Steve and Paul are both great guys and I consider them good friends. But Steve and Paul don’t look at engines in the same way. Steve wanted the Stover left in its original “working clothes” and Paul wanted it to look like new again. This is a common problem among engine nuts, and there has been much discussion on the pros and cons of the subject in the past.
So, Steve had tried to buy the engine from Paul before restoration with no luck. Well, now that he had it, what was he going to do with the Stover? You guessed it – he cosmetically “un-restored” the engine.
Steve saw an original color poster of an identical engine in an issue of Gas Engine Magazine. He also had some photos of the engine before Paul’s restoration, so he got busy making it look like the original engine. The Stover’s debut was at the 2009 Portland, Ind., show and the engine looked so historically correct that I thought it was an untouched original.
Hopefully, the Stover engine didn’t get a complex with all the switching back and forth. I personally like original paint but bare no malice toward new paint either. We’ll let the readers reach their own conclusion. In Steve’s defense, I will point out that he’s not the first collector to “un-restore” an engine.
The Stover Registry
I just reached the milestone of putting over 750 Stover engines in the registry. This would not have been possible without the cooperation of you collectors.
Reaching this many engines in a little over a year would indicate that there’s still a bunch of them out there.
By the time you read this, associate editor Christian Williams will be bringing the PDF file up to date on the Gas Engine Magazine website by the time you read this so visit the Stover Registry if you want to see the complete list.
This project has allowed me to communicate with Stover collectors from all over the globe, and you can use snail-mail, e-mail or a phone call to send information on your engines. If you don’t hear back from me in two weeks, please call because e-mail is not totally reliable.
Until next time, keep your plugs dry and your igniters oiled.
Contact Joe Maurer at 797 S. Silberman Rd., Pearl City, IL 61062 • (815) 443-2223 •email@example.com.