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Community Shop Talk

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Online Engine Conversations from SmokStak and the Stationary
Engine List

SmokStak

Has anyone checked out magneto prices? Am I crazy? I guess with
more people entering the old-engine business, the demand for
magnetos has increased. The prices on some of these magnetos are
un-real. Anyone else have any opinions on this subject? – Pat

I paid $225 for my EK, but it was guaranteed by a noted magneto
guy. It seems like it was a decent investment, but by this time
next year they will probably be bringing $300. – Eric

Well, time is money, and if you’re looking for a deal you
probably aren’t going to get it on eBay. But, if you want a
magneto, you can definitely find one there.

Even if it’s painful, I would rather find and pay for one
rather than waste my time looking all over Hell’s half acre.
Anybody who thinks this isn’t an expensive hobby had better
give their head a shake.

There are some serious dudes involved in this hobby with some
serious green in their pockets. I guess that’s what makes it
interesting for those of us who are financially challenged.
You’ve got to keep your wits about you and try to get a lucky
break now and again, and then you can do okay against the big
boys.

More than that, it’s about meeting a lot of good people and
having some fun along the way. I’d like to say this is my 2
cents worth, but I don’t want to waste the 2 cents. I might
need it for that next magneto! – Alex

Before I got my first engine, I went to an engine swap meet just
to learn what I could. There were maybe 15 guys selling and no
vendors. There was a man selling Wico EKs for $90 a piece. Although
new to this, I knew this was a heck of a deal. Of course, I had no
engine and no need for a magneto, but it brought to my attention
there are still real good deals out there. If there’s a man out
there from Washington who was at the Volo County Fairgrounds this
past summer with three engines for sale and a few Wicos cheap,
thanks for offering a fair deal. It’s not too common. – Mac

If these magnetos were lying everywhere you looked, they’d
be less expensive. (Not cheap, there’s rarely a cheap magneto
that’ll stay cheap very long!)

If people were not willing to pay the price, they’d sell for
less. By the way, have you ever tried to repair these things? I
hope your time isn’t very valuable. A proper job on most
magnetos is at least a half-day’s work with the right tools. If
you want it to look pretty, that’ll be extra. – Craig

If you’re buying a magneto on eBay, you’d better get two
because you may need to combine them to get one that works. And
don’t break off a screw when you’re taking it apart –
things can go downhill fast! If things go okay, maybe you’ll
have a good one after a week or two of your spare time. Some eBay
magnetos are packed by kids who don’t pack very well. If it
gets broken in shipping, good luck! – Kid

I can tell you these are normal prices. You’re lucky to live
in the States where there are plenty of magnetos around. When I
need a magneto, it’ll cost me an average $35 for shipping. When
the magneto needs a 100-percent repair, I have to go to one of the
few magneto-repair places here in Holland. Parts and labor cost
around $200-$240. How much will my magneto cost? – John

Just remember, there’s no shame in running a buzz coil or a
battery/igniter system on your engine. That’s what the farmer
did when the magneto went belly up. True, it may not be original,
but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper.

Save the magneto money and buy another engine, (maybe two,
depending on the cost). If nothing else, it’ll buy you time to
look for a cheaper magneto. – Vernon

I’m not irritated by the prices, because I choose not to pay
them. What I’m irritated by are those individuals who have many
more Wico EKs than engines. I’ve heard comments like,
‘I’ve got eight or 10 on the shelf, maybe I should sell
’em,’ and they don’t part with them except at ungodly
eBay prices.

I know we’ve all seen good-running engines sold without the
Wico EK because the buyer could get more for the engine and EK sold
separately than together. This is what bothers me. The high price
of magnetos is causing engines and magnetos to be separated, and
its all about the money. – Bob

What does everyone feel is a fair price for an EK right now? I
say about $175 for a working magneto that hasn’t been rebuilt.
– Jon

I talked to Mark from Mark’s Magnetos while at the
Coolspring show, and he’s manufacturing completely new EKs. I
asked him about it, and he said he could build a new one cheaper
than he could repair some of the junk that’s sent to him for
repair. As I recall, he was asking about $300. – Keith

I sell magnetos on occasion, but I don’t do it much because
the prices for ‘barn-fresh’ magnetos of all types make it
impossible for me to purchase one and then put the time and parts
into making the magneto a piece that I’ll warranty.

Just for the sake of argument, though, let’s say I pay $150
for an eBay/swap meet EK. It’s advertised as ‘hot’ and
– sure enough -it’ll shake the devil out of me, but on further
testing I find the left coil is open and both need replacing. For
your information, this is very common because a bad lead-side coil
will not stop an EK from sparking, it’ll just keep it from
starting and running an engine.

So, I’m out $150 for the magneto, now I’m out $60 for a
set of coils and another $20 for the rest of the rebuild kit. The
tag looks like junk, and the front and rear are zinc, so there goes
another $30. Plus, the armature pin and bushing is worn, so
there’s another $15. Let’s not forget the three hours of
shop time (the U.S. small-business administration lists electrical
repair as a $25 an hour business), so that’s $75 labor. Add $10
for postage, and the $150 plus $105 for parts and $75 for labor.
Let’s see, that’s $340. How much of a loss do I need to
stand to make this a fair deal? – Ted

My original post was in amazement at the prices some magnetos
are bringing, as barn fresh. As Ted stated, you can sink good money
into making a magneto a piece you can sell with confidence – been
there, done that.

My amazement was at the price that’s paid for something that
may need much more work to make it dependable. – Pat

Well said, Pat. I have actually had people look at rebuilt (to
like-new) EKs that I had priced at $225 with a warranty, walk down
the isle and pay $175 for a barn-fresh one and then pay me $150
make it work. This is what I just can’t figure out. – Ted

I also work on early (pre-1969) Harleys. If you price a Joe Hunt
magneto for a Harley, it’s $1,100. Yes, you read that right:
one thousand, one hundred dollars. And this is a very simple
magneto that uses the Fairbanks-Morse head (common part). Check the
price on a magneto for a V8 Ford from Vortex, which is roughly
$2,000. Magnetos are expensive! $350 for a magneto that’s out
of production is cheap! – Patrick

SmokStak (www.enginads.com/ smokstak.cgi) is an engine
conversation bulletin board with over 50,000 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.

Published on May 1, 2004

Gas Engine Magazine

Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines