A Brief Word

| May/June 1996

Recently we came across this interesting advertisement from the May 1923 issue of Tractor & Gas Engine Review. It shows the Collis motor; its unique feature was the radiator built into the flywheel. For those who have never seen one of these beauties, the hollow flywheel carried water, and it circulated in and out through a pair of hoses and a floating coupling arrangement.

Originally, this engine was built and sold as the Piersen, or as this advertisement says, 'The Superior Piersen.' Harry E. Schanck secured Patent 1,391,697 on September 7, 1921, and No. 1,410,725 on March 8, 1922. Apparently this firm, located at Topeka, Kansas, intended these engines primarily for use on grain binders. For reasons unknown, the company didn't last at its Topeka location for any length of time, and then reappeared as The Collis Company at Clinton, Iowa.

As noted on page 394 of American Gas Engines, there are strong indications that E. B. Cushman, formerly of the Cushman Motor Works at Lincoln, Nebraska, had a hand in the design of the Piersen, and ultimately, the Collis. It appears that Cushman was somehow involved with Collis, but the nature of the relationship remains unclear. Now, some seventy years later, it's unlikely that the whole story will ever be told.

As an interesting footnote, the Collis operation lasted for only a few years. The engine shown here was soon replaced with a new design. It used a honeycomb cellular radiator within the flywheel, with the latter being so designed as to pull air through the radiator. This ended the floating coupling, and that was an improvement. In another interesting footnote, Collis apparently built a few of these engines to operate the Roots blower used on the Tangley Calliophone, built by Norman Baker at Muscatine, Iowa. After a few years, virtually the same engine as the Collis appeared with the Bean Spray Pump Company, and again, there are indications that E. B. Cushman was involved.

As noted in earlier columns, ye olde Reflector and his wife are hosting a tour of England, Scotland, and Wales this summer. (The tour is now sold out). Recently we heard from some of the folks from the Ayrshire Vintage Engine Club in Scotland. They'll be hosting us during the tour, and we certainly look forward to seeing these folks, their engines, and their tractors. Also, we'll be spending a day at the Tatton Park 1000 Engine Rally and that'll be a true pleasure. Within the next month we should be finalizing plans for a grand tour of Australia, coming up in February and March of 1997. The truth is, that it's coming up fast, so we'll be getting some information out to you very soon. At this point, we're trying to finalize all those last-minute details. However, it appears now that we'll be leaving Los Angeles about February 20 and return about three weeks later. There'll also be a New Zealand option at the end of the Australia Tour. Brian Blum, coordinator of their National Rally '97, has extended a special invitation, noting that we'll be on hand for this event, probably for a couple of days at least. The National Rally is held every other year, and each state in Australia holds it in turn. This time it will be in Busselton, West Australia, and Brian tells us it will be right on the shore of the Indian Ocean, and as this will be their late summer season, we should have ideal weather.

Speaking of ideal weather, by the time this copy is in your hands, we should be getting some of it here in the mid west. Ye olde Reflector for one, has never been a big fan of cold weather, snow, and related wintertime dreck. But, like most of us in the heartland, we really have no desire to move elsewhere, lest it be for a winter vacation to warmer climes. However, by April there should be some warm days, and of course, warm weather is conducive to cranking up some of the old engines and actively getting back into our favorite summer sport.


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