1908 8 HP Christensen Opens Up Rusty Dispute

To restore or not to restore?

| April 2006

1908 8 HP Christensen
Christensen Mfg. Co., Milwaukee, Wis.
Type: LC
Year: 1908
HP: 8
Serial number: 3165
RPM: 300 RPM
Bore: 7-inch
Stroke: 10-inch
Flywheel diameter: 42 inches

I have spent years looking for the "right engine" in my price range. The engine had to be as original as possible, but it also had to be relatively large with lots of visible "monkey motion." But above all, it had to be as unmolested as possible. I knew that the right engine would be expensive for a retired guy's budget and the engine would be hard to find; several years of searching proved that.

Jim Jorgensen of Hampton, Iowa, sold his wonderful engine collection in the fall of 2005. Jim had some great original engines that brought record prices. There was a 1908 8 HP Christensen engine on the auction and I bought it. Never did I pay so much money for a gas engine. My wife called five minutes after I bought the engine. Intuition? She wanted to know how things were going and I told her I had just bought an engine. She said, "Oh, how much did it cost?" Having no way to weasel out of answering and having no time to prepare a story to soften her up, I told her the price. I blurted the price to her in a voice as loud and forceful as I could muster. She chuckled and asked what I really paid for the engine. I repeated the performance and there was silence on the line for a long time. I was surprised because she didn't get angry. I think she was in shock.

Jim bought the engine off a farm near Des Moines, Iowa, from the original owners. Jim had a hard time getting the family to let the engine go. They wanted to be sure he wasn't buying the engine just to make a big profit. Even though he bought the engine several years before, Jim still paid them a premium price for the time. It turned out to be a good investment and Jim enjoyed the engine while he had it.

Christensen bought out the C.P. & J. Lauson Co. in 1908. This engine still has the Lauson features but is clearly marked as being manufactured by the Christensen Engineering Co. With serial no. 3165, it is portable and has the original factory truck with all the original wood boxes and components. The engine has the original dirt, grease, junk in the toolboxes and user modifications: just what I was looking for.

There are more rare engines in better original condition, but there are very few left that have not had the original patina at least cleaned or the finish coated with shiny foo foo. The Christensen was an agricultural archaeological site unto itself. Other than wear and repair, there was no significant damage done to the original fabric of the engine. Jim Jorgensen must have appreciated the significance of his find because he didn't molest the finish on the engine.

The Christensen retains about 40 percent of its original paint and pinstriping. It had no compression the day of the sale. The fuel tank was a recent replacement and there is a mount for a missing dyno sparker. The muffler is missing, but everything else is there. A nicely turned wooden pulley was crudely attached to the lay shaft side flywheel. The mains and rod bearings were good but the wrist pin bearing was loose. The engine had most of the factory electrical wiring, including a very thick spark plug wire. The original buzz coil was in the front coil box.


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