About five years ago, my wife and I moved out to the country. Because we had two whole acres of land, I felt we needed a tractor, so I purchased a well used 1948 Case VAC. I made some minor repairs, gave it a coat of paint and some decals, and before I knew it I had been infected with the old iron virus for which there is no known cure. Living in Minnesota gave me many opportunities to go to threshing shows, which introduced me to gas engines. I was immediately fascinated with these relics and how they operated and thought it would be neat to someday have one.
In the spring of 1997, I attended an auction in which there were several very nice Maytag engines, a couple of marine engines, and a Fairmont railcar engine. I planned my strategy carefully, thinking at the very least I should be able to get one, if not two Maytag's. Well, when the dust settled, all I had were two boxes of rusty, stuck, Maytag parts. It actually worked out better, because when I got home and sorted through my 'loot,' I realized I had all of the parts to make a complete model 92. I finally had an engine, or at least an engine kit, and could not wait to get started restoring it.
Now that I had been bitten by the engine bug, I was always keeping my eyes open for more. About a week after the auction, while driving through northern Wisconsin for my job, I passed a junk store that caught my eye. In front of the store were old wheels, pumps, tractor seats, etc. Basically good quality 'rusty stuff.' Anyway, I had to get to my job site, so my visit would have to wait. On my way back later that day, I again passed the 'rusty stuff place, but as I was tired and still had sixty miles to drive, I drove on by. As I was about halfway through town, I kept thinking about all that rusty stuff and what might be there. I finally wheeled the truck around and headed back.
The place held the usual array of antiques: dishes, books, furniture, milk cans, traps, etc. A sign hanging in the rear of the store said, 'More stuff in Back,' so I peaked through the door to take a look. Since it seemed to be mostly furniture, I really wasn't going to go back and look, except I saw a bunch of really huge whitetail deer antlers. They were all the way in the back of the room, which wasn't very well lit. As I approached them, something in the corner caught my eye. It looked like a flywheel. 'Could it be?' I thought, as I stumbled over to it. By golly it was an engine. An old engine with a water hopper and big flywheels, just like the ones I had seen at the threshing shows. The brass tag on the front said it was a Stover CT 1. I'd never heard of a Stover CT 1, but come to think of it, I really didn't know much about engines anyway. Then I saw a price tag, which was flipped over so that I couldn't see how much it would set me back. With a sinking feeling I flipped over the tag. The moment I saw the price, I knew the engine was going to be mine. I was pretty excited as I drove home with it in the back of my truck. I must have looked at it in my rearview mirror a hundred times.
When I got it home, I looked it up in C.H. Wendel's American Gasoline Engines Since 1878. The engine was a 1936 throttle governed version of the CT 1 which is 1.5 HP. Then I made an inventory of what needed to be fixed and what was missing. The magneto, bracket and trip parts ('I'm sure those don't cost much!' I thought) were all missing, as was the intake valve spring and keeper. Aside from being stuck, it seemed to be in good shape and just needed a good steam cleaning. After I got it free, I honed out the cylinder and reground the valves. The kerosene needle valve was in very poor shape, but I managed to regrind and seat it. The gas tank was cleaned, patched and sealed with sloshing compound. A new set of rings, gaskets, and the magneto bracket and trip parts were purchased from Hit and Miss Enterprises. I got it primed and painted and put on a new set of decals. I also built a new set of oak skids from the wood of a very nice looking pallet. Now all I needed was a magneto.
A fellow near where I worked had placed an ad in the back of GEM, selling a bunch of engines. After talking with him on the phone, he told me he had a Wico EK for sale as well. My brother decided to go along with me to get the mag, and by the time we left the fellow's home, I not only purchased the mag, but a 1927 Witte model B and my brother a 2 HP Fuller and Johnson. I guess you can never have too many engines!
After the mag was installed, the big moment finally arrived. After a little adjusting and a lot of spinning, she finally sputtered to life. It truly was a big thrill to hear that engine run. The Maytag is also restored and running, so I guess my next project will be the Witte or a Fairbanks-Morse Z D I also acquired. Either way, I can't wait to get started!