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West Coast Fairbanks Morse

Author Photo
By Bob Mellin | Dec 1, 1995

Branch 3l EDGE&TA 11 Library Place San Anselmo, California
94960

I first saw this 1 HP Fairbanks-Morse Z-Type engine at one of
our Branch 31 Gas-ups in California. I fell in love with its slow
hit-and-miss chugging sound. Years later I managed to talk its
owner, Joe Olsen of Ukiah, California, into a trade my money for
his engine.

I wanted to do something special in restoring this engine, but
since the engine was already in good shape, I decided to focus on
building a special truck to put it on. I began by looking at the
hundreds of truck examples in Wendel’s American Gas Engines
book. I noticed that most trucks were very plain, but a few had
some unusual design features that I liked. I especially liked
Jacobson Machine Manufacturing’s ‘Mascot’ (pg. 254),
which featured ‘fancy striping and the unique undercut.’
This became a guide for my truck.

I decided to put the name and type of engine on the truck so
people at shows would know what it was without asking. I used vinyl
press-on lettering. A survey of Wendel’s book also shows that
very few companies put their names on the trucks, but Fairbanks was
one of the few that did on its Type H (pg. 163) which was later
replaced by the Z Type engine.

I found some old 8′ wheels and axles in a junkyard at Ken
Holloman’s (Branch 13) house. The rails are solid oak, 6′ x
3′, with about a dozen coats of marine varnish over the
striping and lettering. The rails are mortised to accept the cross
beams. The metal guard above the undercut is polished copper set
with brass screws. The engine also has an in-line spark indicator
light (from a motorcycle) that is very handy to show when a spark
is being sent to the plug. The battery box has a solar recharger on
its lid.

Even though most of the hard work had already been done when I
got this engine, I enjoyed making it ‘special’ by designing
and building an unusual truck to mount it on. I am especially happy
with the undercut feature of the truck which allows turning the
engine around within a radius equal to the length of the truck. I
will be happy to provide rough plans and dimensions to GEM
readers.

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