A Restoration Spanning Continents and Generations
The finished Hercules Model E. Elizabeth Kinney restored the
engine – with a little help from family and friends – as part of a
4H project. Her finished engine earned her a Grand Champion
My 16-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, is a member of our local
4-H. In our county we have a project called ‘Americana,’
designed to teach kids to appreciate things from past generations.
There are several categories kids can study within the project,
including one on farm machinery. The kids can either display
something in its original form or restored. They have to research
the item they display and write a history of the item and what they
did to it if it was restored.
Since her dad (me) and grandpa (Curtis Kinney) are collectors of
old engines and tractors, it was only natural she would chose to
exhibit an old engine. Elizabeth isn’t new to old iron, this
being her third engine restoration. Her first was a 3 HP Hercules
Model E, and her second was a 1-1/2 HP Fairbanks-Morse dishpan.
After looking around the barn at the various engines we have stored
there, she chose a Hercules 1-1/2 HP Model E for her project. Her
grandpa had purchased the engine at the 2000 Portland, Ind., swap
The first thing we did was take inventory of what was missing or
needed to be repaired. It was stuck, missing the igniter, mag,
identification tag and some other parts. We found that the water
jacket under the block was cracked from water freezing in it, and
the gas tank was there but had no bottom in it. There was not a bit
of paint to be found anywhere on the engine. Our inventory done, we
ordered the required parts and began the restoration.
Elizabeth took some ‘before’ pictures and we totally
disassembled the engine. She soaked the caked-on grease and dirt
with engine cleaner and let it soak. After about an hour of soaking
she pressure-washed the engine to clean it off. After letting it
dry, we tackled the stuck piston. We had started soaking the stuck
piston with penetrating oil shortly after purchasing the engine,
spraying it with oil every time we walked by. Using a rosebud tip
on the acetylene torch we heated the cylinder inside the water
hopper. With the aid of a block of wood and a heavy hammer the
piston, after some heavy hitting, came out. We were happy to see
that the cylinder bore looked okay, and it only took some honing to
get the cylinder looking as good as new. With the piston out and
the cylinder cleaned we decided to turn the block over and fix the
busted water jacket. When the water in the jacket froze it had
pushed out a section of iron about 1-1/4-inch wide and 7-inch long.
It was in two pieces and was still in place. Using a screwdriver we
pried the pieces out. Next, using a 4-inch angle grinder, we
beveled the edges of the block and broken out pieces, and then we
placed them back where they belonged. We used an acetylene torch
and brazed them back into the block. With some more work with the
angle grinder and some body filler, it was almost as good as
Now came the hard part, cleaning off all the rust. We put the
block and flywheels in the electrolysis bath to loosen the rust,
followed by Elizabeth using a wire cup on the angle grinder. The
small parts were cleaned with a wire brush on the bench grinder.
This all took quite a while and was spread out over several months.
Once all the parts were cleaned, a coat of Rustoleum rusty metal
primer was sprayed on. Then two coats of Rustoleum Hunter green
were applied followed by hi-temp clear coat. We then used a Beugler
paint stripping tool to paint the pin stripes on the engine.
It was about this time that Elizabeth went off to YMCA camp for
a month. She arrived home on a Friday, and her engine (and 10 other
projects) were due for judging on Sunday. That didn’t leave
very much time to get it all done.
Kerry Morris and his wife, Ruth, Stationary Engine List members
from Australia, were visiting with us as part of their
cross-country visit. Glenn Karch and his wife, Marian, also list
members, were helping to host Kerry and Ruth, as were my parents,
Curtis and Evelyn Kinney. Elizabeth, her grandpa and I worked all
day Saturday trying to finish the engine. Along about 9 p.m. the
Morris’s and Karch’s returned from an outing. Seeing the
lights on in the barn, and seeing what we were doing, they pitched
in to help. We ended up with eight or nine people in the barn, all
doing something to help out.
We worked until after midnight putting the engine together, and
it was quite an experience. We started calling Glenn the ‘FedEx
Man,’ because every time we came up with a part we needed he
said, ‘I’ll bring one by in the morning.’ These were
things like a check valve, fuel line (I broke the old one the night
before), igniter and a couple of springs. The women provided much
needed moral support.
When Elizabeth and I got back to the barn the next morning about
11 a.m., we couldn’t believe our eyes. Glenn and Kerry had
already been there and had put the missing parts on the engine. We
had been working to fix up a cart for this engine, too, and had
painted it the day before. Kerry had finished putting it back
together and had it on the ground next to the engine ready to go.
We mounted the engine to the cart, tended to a few last minute
things, and it was time to transport it to the fairground.
Elizabeth (with help from the international team) ended up
getting a Grand Champion for her engine, and I think everyone had a
great time helping her.
Restoring old iron can be more than just getting an engine to
run. This 1-1/2 HP Hercules Model E proves the point well/ its
restoration bridging the bounderies separating countries and
generations, and in the process bringing friends and family
Contact engine enthusiast Keith Kinney at: 8525 Greendale
Dr, Evansville, IN 47711, (812) 867-7235, or e-mail:
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