Collecting Wisconsin Engines

| February/March 2002

  • Wisconsin Logo

  • Wisconsin AEN
    At left is Andrew Spinelli's restored 1954 Wisconsin AEN, found at a garage sale for $20. At right is Spinelli's 1949 Wisconsin TF 2-cylinder, which ultimately required a complete overhaul. 

  • Wisconsin Logo
  • Wisconsin AEN

The average farm show has a lot of equipment on display, the spectrum running from flywheeled engines big and small to gas tractors, steam tractors and many old farm implements. One engine manufacturer rarely represented, however, is Wisconsin engines.

Wisconsin heavy-duty air-cooled engines had a wide variety of uses, from industrial to agricultural, and most people remember these engines powering hay balers, water pumps and generators on farms. I first started collecting Wisconsin engines around 10 years ago, my first being an S7D, an engine that probably saw duty powering a garden tractor. My grandfather spotted it at a farm show and thought $20 was a good deal - he figured we would get at least $20 of fun out of it, which we did. The engine was in very good condition needing few parts to run, and we spent many years playing around and having a lot of fun with this engine.

That was only the start, and I went on to what most engine collectors look for, including hit-and-miss engines, then on to farm tractors and later buying a steam tractor. But even with all this equipment in my collection, I wanted something different to show at farm shows. That's when I remembered my old Wisconsin.

After my grandfather passed away I spent my time going to school, working and dating, while the Wisconsin spent its time in my basement collecting dust. The work we did to the Wisconsin was mechanical, not cosmetic, and even though it ran like new, it needed a coat of paint. I pulled the Wisconsin out to start working on it, and then found a second Wisconsin at a farm show, a Model TF 2-cylinder built in 1949. Not quite as old as a steam tractor, but never-the-less it seemed to need a new home. The owner told me he last ran the engine the year before, and that it ran quite well. It had spent its life in an International hay baler, and I was very excited because I had not seen many 2-cylinders for sale before. Without looking it over too well, I bought it. Let this story warn you, 'Buyer Beware!'

Upon unloading the engine at home, I noticed it was frozen pretty tight. After pulling the head off, I learned the bores were nothing but solid rust. Feeling pretty bad about what I had just purchased, I decided to take apart the lower half of the motor, and I found the crankshaft was also badly worn. Even so, I decided I had better get to work. Over the course of the winter I ended up doing a total rebuild, including new bearings, a turned crankshaft, reboring and fitting oversized rings, rebuilding the carburetor, starter and generator. After spending a small fortune on this engine, I felt pretty good when I started it for the first time. I spent the summer cosmetically restoring it and mounting it on a cart. My only problem was that if I was going to try to represent Wisconsin at a show, I was going to need more. I had decided I would start looking for a larger engine.

That was when I found a 1950 VE4 4-cylinder for sale at a reasonable price. It was not running, but I inspected it thoroughly to make sure I wouldn't run into the same problems I had with the 2-cylinder. As it turned out, it didn't take much to get this motor running. I decided I would also do a cosmetic restoration to it, which I was going to start in the spring of 2001. Just before I started, however, my parents purchased an engine at a local garage sale. They woke me up to tell me they bought me a Wisconsin and I had to take it out of the truck. Being quite skeptical, I staggered out to the truck and woke up quite quickly. They had purchased a 1954 Model AEN for $20, with all of its parts in place and with no dents in the sheet metal or fuel tank. I decided this should be the next cosmetic restoration for the Sycamore show coming up in August. Unfortunately, after getting this engine running, I found it knocked badly. I took it apart and found that I had a burned out connecting rod and scored crankshaft, so it was back to the lathe and parts store. After spending more money than I wished, it was ready to be painted, and it sounded like new once I was done.

3/25/2019 9:37:50 PM

Lucas. March 25/19 I need some help with valuing an engine I found in my grandparents barn its a 1944 VF4 Wisconsin. everything is all intact story I got was it was running when put in storage there. it has a 3 3/4'' water pump on it and was used in a felspar mine. any advice I could get would be fantastic thanks

8/9/2016 7:33:44 PM

Hi need some help on an engine I just purchased at an auction of a small engine repair store that closed up recently after 60 yrs in business. First let me say I don't know squat about engines. I purchased it for resale. It's a Wisconsin AENL-3 one cylinder gas engine with drive unit. It's brand new never used. The owner said he ordered it in for a customer a while back and he never came for it. The owner said he paid $750 for it direct from mfg when he bought it. I called the mfg before I bought it and the person there told me they haven't made that engine for a while but it was a very good desireable engine even today. When I asked him what he thought it might be worth he said $1500. As I said I'm looking to sell it but would like to have some idea as to it's value and what kind of interest there might be in it today. Also not sure best place to try and sell it. I sell on ebay but shipping would be a killer. Thanks alot for your time. Dave


Gas Engine Magazine A_M 16Gas Engine Magazine is your best source for tractor and stationary gas engine information.  Subscribe and connect with more than 23,000 other gas engine collectors and build your knowledge, share your passion and search for parts, in the publication written by and for gas engine enthusiasts! Gas Engine Magazine brings you: restoration stories, company histories, and technical advice. Plus our Flywheel Forum column helps answer your engine inquiries!

Be sure to take advantage of the Square Deal Subscription Program.

  • No Missed Issues.

  • No Renewal Notices.

  • No Additional Cost.

The Square Deal Subscription Program is designed as a paperless transaction with automatic renewals at a preferred low rate.   With advanced electronic notification, a 100% satisfaction guarantee and an easy opt-out plan, the Square Deal Subscription Program is the best value, risk free, eco-friendliest way to subscribe.

Facebook YouTube


click me