1889 2 HP Regan vapor engine

History restored


| April/May 2010



regan 13

Dick Hamp's 1889 2 HP Regan vapor engine, serial number 271.

Photo by Lester Bowman

1889 2 HP Regan vapor engine
Manufacturer:
 Regan Vapor Engine Co.
Year: 1889
Horsepower: 2
Serial number: 271
Bore: 6-inch
Stroke: 8-inch
Flywheel diam.: 30 inches
Flywheel width: 2-1/2 inches

If you walk through life listening for the quiet voices, sometimes something extraordinary speaks from the distant past. When this “something” appears, it is so unique, so different, that one cannot help but stop and listen, becoming part of its incredible history.

Dick Hamp’s 1889 2 HP Regan vapor marine engine is like this. Dick has always been deeply interested in early, first-generation California engines, and as far as we know, Daniel S. Regan built the first successful low-tension gasoline vapor engine marketed on the West coast.

Little known about Regan
Daniel Regan was a native Californian born in San Francisco. There isn’t much more information to be found regarding his life. The great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed almost everything in that city, and what was left of Regan’s life went up in smoke. What a shame that more has not been recorded on a man who dreamed of power in flywheels.

Serial number 271
I first saw the old Regan when Dick gave me the tour of his old iron. Dick removed a tarp and there in the grass sat the Regan, serial number 271. I was astonished. That was many years ago and as time rolled on, I often poked fun at Dick for restoring less desirable pieces while the Regan sat.

The fact is, the Regan had some major mechanical issues. The piston was frozen tight. The crankshaft babbitt was completely shot. The connecting rod big end was a cobbled up piece of junk from who knows where. The head plate had so many holes drilled and tapped in it for different spark plugs it looked like Swiss cheese. The main head was frozen so tight against the head studs that the studs had to be hand-cut through the gasket space to release the head. When the nameplates were removed most of the screws twisted off. The rocker arm was completely missing as well as its pivot shaft. Both valves were completely shot, the seats were bad and the ignition system nonexistent. It is no wonder Dick owned the Regan for more than 30 years before the task of restoration began.

Doing it right
Engines of great historical significance require careful thought behind the restoration process. Dick’s foremost desire was to bring the Regan back as close as possible mechanically but, at the same time, to preserve any trace of original finish and features original to the engine. I think the photos show how beautifully Dick has succeeded in his desire.