How I Acquired My 4 HP United Engine

By Staff
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The author with his 1913-1915 United 4 HP. Engine has low tension coil (no magneto), and water-cooled cylinder head. Net dealer price was around $90.
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Gene and Bob Krankenburg of Hudson, Ks., former owners of the United, standing on the ground . Charlie Gwynn starting to tear off the roof to get to the engine.
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604 S. Buffalo, Stafford, Kansas 67578

I run a mechanic shop in the evenings and on weekends. One
evening Gene Frankenberg stopped by my shop to talk to me about his
son’s pickup that I was putting a rebuilt motor in, and he saw
some of my antique engines sitting around in the shop. We visited a
little while about them, and he told me that he had an old engine
but he didn’t know what kind it was. We visited some more and I
told him that I would really like to look at it sometime. He
invited me up to his farm in rural Stafford County to see it.
During our conversation, he told me that another man from Great
Bend, Kansas, had come to buy it but Gene said he just didn’t
like his ‘approach,’ so he refused his offer.

A few months passed and Bob (Gene’s son) called for me to
come and get his Blazer to do some work on it. I went to pick up
the Blazer, and as I started out the driveway I thought of the
‘old motor’ that Gene had told me about. I stopped and went
back to the house and asked Bob if I could go see the old motor. He
said, ‘Sure.’ By this time it was dark outside, so we got a
flashlight and out to the granary we went. On the east side of the
granary, a ‘wart’ had been added to house the motor. There
was a small walk-in door that we entered through. Sure enough,
there it sat. I couldn’t believe my eyes; it looked as if it
had just been shut down. It was still very complete. I shined the
flashlight on the tag so I could see what kind it was. It was a 4?
HP United. As we visited about it, Bob told me stories about how he
used to play around the motor and crawl back and forth through the
belt shaft opening. As we proceeded back toward the service truck,
I told Bob, ‘If you want to sell it, let me know. I would love
to have a chance to buy it.’ I promised Bob that I’d keep
it in Stafford County.

Returning from Pawnee, Oklahoma, Steam and Gas Show. This was
the first show at which I showed the United. The photo was taken in
Wichita, Kansas.

After returning home, it seemed like I thought about the
‘old United’ all the time. I just couldn’t stand it
anymore, so I called Gene and told him that I had looked at the
engine and that I would give $300 for it if he wanted to sell it.
He told me that he would have to talk to his mother because it was
really hers. I told him to give me a call and let me know.

Sure enough, when I was at a show in Winfield, Kansas, Gene
called. He told my wife that I could come and get the old motor.
When I returned home from the show I could tell that my wife had
something on her mind. She reluctantly told me that Gene
Krankenburg had called. That’s all she needed to say with the
expression that she had. I couldn’t wait to go get it!

A few days later I went to get the United. Gene was planting
wheat in a field nearby. I stopped and gave him a check for $300.
Gene came up to the granary where I was getting the United. We
visited about the old engine and he told me some more stories about
it. He said that one summer a mother opossum had a litter of
opossums in the water hopper. The United had been used to elevate
grain into four big bins in the granary. It hadn’t run in over
50 years. There was a cut out in the end of the granary so a
tractor could be belted up to the belt pulley to start the

The United, as I show it today, has original coil, crank, paint,
pin striping, and shipping skids. The things that I have done to it
include: steam cleaning, pulling the ignitor and cleaning it. I
also cleaned out the compression release port, added some springs
that were missing, and added a gas tank. I have shown the United at
shows in Pawnee, Oklahoma; Goessel, Winfield, and Haviland, Kansas;
the Stafford October fest; and our 8th annual Kocher family
reunion. At our family reunion I mixed ice cream with it. I plan to
continue to show the United at various shows that I attend this
year. The United is always on display in my mechanic shop when
I’m at home, and my five year old daughter, Danielle, loves to
show it. At the shows I have attended, I have yet to see a hopper
cooled 4? HP United engine. The engine draws a lot of
‘lookers,’ and I’m proud to show it. I think this was a
rare find for only 15 miles from my home.

I would like to extend my ‘thanks’ to Charlie Gwynn and
Dow Manderscheid for their help and encouragement.

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