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By Harry Matthews | Jun 1, 2002

The following comes from a recent topic on SmokStak, which can
be found on the Internet at: www.engineads.com / smokstak.cgi. As
ever, various individual started, commented on and concluded the
following bulletin board thread.

Ok, how many of you have had this experience? You find an engine
or tractor or some old piece of iron that you want and the old man
who owns it won’t give or sell it to you for a million bucks,
even though it is sitting out in the junk pile. He says he’ll
get it running or restore it someday, but you go by the place five,
10, 15 years later and it is still in the same place, five inches
deeper in the mud. The old man passed away and the estate is split
up between the 10 kids, making it impossible to get. I understand
that the guy wants to keep it because it is his dad’s or
something, but why let good iron go to waste if you’re never
going to touch it and someone else wants it? I guess I’ll
probably be the same way when I am 80. – Tanner

I have had my experiences, too. A guy with an F-M 6 HP
tank-cooled and a few others that he just will not sell. I’ve
tried to trade him some things, and I have become a good friend
with him (I think it is because of my age and interest in the
hobby), but still he won’t sell.

One item in particular that is sitting outside is a Jaeger 2 HP
engine and mixer that I want. This Jaeger is sunk in five inches of
mud. GRRRR! Maybe some day I’ll get them, but I look at it this
way, I have enough time ahead of me to find more treasures, about
65 years or so. – Chase

I have a few engines that I do not show and are not on my web
site. One is a scale salesman’s model of a 1 HP that runs.
Others are some scarce or rare engines that sit on my shelf in my
garage covered up with an old T-shirt. I also have a 1929
Harley-Davison that I got running after 12 years. This was
converted to a stationary engine.

Some guys want to buy these engines, but I keep saying no, I do
not want to sell – but they keep on bugging me. One even had his
wife ask me to sell it. I’m getting peeved and I don’t even
want to go to the same shows these guys go to. When I see them, I
walk the other way. I had one guy offer me a Maytag for my ’29
Harley-Davidson. Get a life. I do not want to sell them. –

Tanner, I have acquired engines, tractors and cars from people
like you described. Most of these people have had that piece of
iron for a long time, are used to seeing it and they don’t like
change. Visit them a few times over the course of a year, talk to
them. If after this they seem friendly, visit with them more often.
Take pictures of your other engines to show them what you intend to
do if you were to acquire their engine. Be honest. I have acquired
many items this way -and a few lasting friendships with some very
interesting ‘Grumpy Old Men.’ – Pat

There’s a guy in my area who has gas engines, steam engines
and lots of other old stuff just rusting away in his yard.
There’s even a Russell steamer with a tree growing through the

I’ve known his family since I was a kid and he won’t
even let me look at the stuff. He explained his personal reasons to
me. He also has been bothered by people who think money talks and
will buy anything, and that REALLY makes him mad! I hate to see the
stuff rot away, too, but I respect his reasons. Maybe some day the
‘Grumpy Old Men’ will give in. Just be patient and
remember: there’re ‘Good ol’ boys’ out there, too.
– Randy

If you want to see iron rusting away you should see the 52 steam
traction engines in a field by Montgomery, Minn. The father of the
fellow who owns them drove them in there many years ago and there
they sit. The owner will not sell them or sell parts off them.
Every year I go to the swap meet at LeSueur I go by them. –

How about this? Pick out one that can be easily restored, and
offer to restore it for him. If it’s all there, unstuck, and
the magneto still works, your costs would be minimal – sweat
equity, if you will. This should get him interested. Who knows? He
might feel obligated and sell you one. – Hal

I, too, have run onto an engine this way. A really nice and
complete Elmira Force Field pump engine in a cement mixer. The
fellow at least let me look at it, but it was in the back hedgerow
completely enshrouded by sumac and brush. I advised him to pour
some oil into the oiler and let it drip into the cylinder, but
I’m sure this went in one ear and out the other. What people do
with their ‘junk’ is their business, and you just have to
forget about it. When it’s an old engine, it’s hard to
forget. – Harry

I got both of my engines from older men who had them for a long
time. I got to know them better through church, and while at first
the answer to, ‘May I buy the engine?’ or whatever words I
used, was, ‘no.’ It’s amazing what time can do, and the
end result was a ‘Yes.’ The engine had sat out in front of
a barn of his for a very long time.

Eventually, we got to know each other. He sold it to me because
I showed a genuine, not only financial, interest in it. I would fix
it up and give it a good home where it would be used for its
original purpose, it would be near him, he could watch our progress
on it and we’d even bring it up to him to show him the end
product and operate it with him there. And also because I am young
and show a great interest in this old iron. In the end, I made a
neat friend and acquired an engine that will forever belong to me.
– Colt

Patrick, your advice is very good. I acquired an old Moline
tractor by stopping and talking with an old man for nearly four
years. At first I asked him if it was for sale. The answer? ‘Do
you see a for sale sign on it?’ I left that alone for a while,
but it kept bugging me to see it just sit there. So, from time to
time I would just stop in when he was out and chat.

One day he asked me for my phone number in case he changed his
mind. About a year later he called, and it took a chainsaw and a
friend with a winch to get it out of the tree. He will be the first
one to try and start it when it’s restored. – Sandy

Listen up whippersnapper: You dang kids is becomin a bunch of
whiners. I’m gonna become a grumpy old fart because of all yer
cryin, and here I was just startin to enjoy my third childhood.

Did any one of you ever think there might be something more
important than the almighty dollar? Ya spend all day bitchin
’cause I won’t sell you my hunk of rusty old iron, but does
one of you, who’s so damn concerned about that hunk of iron
sinking into the mud, offer to come around and jack it up outta the
mud and put some timber under it?

Did you ever think an old fart just might still hear that iron
run in his mind, and remember when it made an all day job into an
hour’s work? It’s nice you want to take that hunk of junk
and get it back to running, paint it up and haul it all over hells
half acre showing it off, but don’t one of you want to do a
damn thing to preserve it till I decide to let you have it. Ya
gotta prime the pump before you can fill the bucket. I ain’t
sellin’ so you can go fix it up and sell it to somebody who
wants it for a lawn ornament. – Franz

True, this world has many colors and shades of gray. I started
in this hobby when I was 12 by restoring a Farmall F-12. Young and
eager, light on patience and brains. That was then, now what I
would like to share with you is how I got my steam engine:

When I was in grade school I took a picture of several engines
including a steam engine at a local museum outdoor exhibition. I
remember showing these pictures and telling everyone I was going to
own one someday. Years later I began the restoration of my deceased
grandfather’s F-12 out of tribute to him. A local retired man
who owned a repair shop helped my out by getting the head rebuilt.
He invited me to go with him to a show with his steam engine and we
became friends. He had LOTS of good stuff but would never sell or
give it up. I bugged him often.

Years passed, some were spent together, others apart, as I went
to college, began a family, etc. Once the kids get old enough, you
can free up some time to do the things you want. I started to see
him more often.

One year we went to a show and the steamer was in need of some
maintenance. I volunteered to go over it and paint it. I bugged him
a couple times and then left it, out of respect. One day he called
and asked if I would still work on it, and would I come over and
get it to work on it at my house. Why my house I wasn’t sure,
but why not? He followed me home, as to help me unload it and put
it safely into my shop.

After all was put into place, he asked me if I had a checkbook.
Yes, but why, I asked? He told me he knew I would take care of it
and show it, as he did. Now write me a check, he said. I bought it
under one condition; he would visit and help me with it, and go to
the shows with me.

Every Sunday afternoon he would stop by for a cup of tea, check
on the engine and be on his way. After Christmas that year my
mother asked me to remove a trunk of my stuff I had left behind.
Going through it, I found plenty of old memories. As the kids
watched with excitement, I showed them my box camera and started to
go through the pictures. Then I found them, those pictures I took
in grade school. Looking carefully at them, I noticed one in
particular. It was a picture of my steam engine.

The moral of this story is it is not the destination or
ownership, but rather the journey and fellowship we experience.
This is what our hobby is truly about. – Ron

SmokStak is an engine conversation bulletin board with over
15,000 messages on file and is part of the Old Engine series of web
sites that started in 1995 as ‘Harry’s Old Engine.’
Harry Matthews is a retired electronic engineer and gas engine
collector from Oswego, N.Y., now residing in Sarasota, Fla.

‘I bought it under one condition; he would visit and help me
with it, and go to the shows with me.’

Gas Engine Magazine

Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines