Plucked from the Woods, a 1 HP IHC Famous Transforms from a Junker to a Jewel
Back in the summer of 2001 an old friend phoned to chat, and in the course of conversation he told me about a neighbor with an Allis-Chalmers G tractor rotting away in the woods behind his home. A couple of months later he phoned again and told me the neighbor had passed away and the neighbor's son wanted to sell off everything on the property. My friend bought the tractor for $50, but we decided to wait for the first killing frost to cut back the overgrowth so we could see what else was there.
After some time passed my friend phoned to see if I'd like to help find any implements that might be scattered back through the woods. Searching back about 1,000 feet in the woods, I spotted a pair of flywheels. There were roots growing over and through an engine, and it was partially covered with leaves and debris. I offered $50 for an arc welder the son was selling, and I asked him to throw in the engine. He insisted on $60 for the welder and wanted $5 for the engine. I agreed, and my friend and I took a front-end loader back into the woods, cutting a trail as we went, and picked up the engine. We drove it out and loaded it on my pickup truck, but I had no idea what kind of engine I had.
Jim's 1 HP Famous after restoration. Based on casting numbers (the numbers stamped into the end of the crankshaft are not legible), Jim thinks the engine dates from about 1911-1912. The 1 HP Famous was built from 1911 to 1917.
After getting it home I went on several bulletin boards on the Internet and made some inquiries, giving casting numbers and a general description of the engine. Several people replied, but one reply was a very specific, informing me that what I had was a 1 HP Famous built by International Harvester Company. Several guys told me it was a collectible engine and worth restoring, so I started looking into putting it together.
Before mounting his 1 HP Famous on a cart Jim set it on a piece of Yellow Pine, a copy of the board it was on when he first found it in the woods.
The cylinder head was missing, along with all of the parts mounted to it, but the fact the head was missing saved the cylinder from filling with water and freezing. I walked all around the area where I found the engine looking for missing parts, but I came up empty. After several inquiries I found a used head and some reproduction parts and decided to start the restoration process.
I soaked the piston in solvent for several weeks, and with the help of a 12 ton press I finally got the piston to break loose. I had the cylinder bored and sleeved by a local machine shop, and I installed new rings on the original piston. After removing a couple of shims the bearing and crank were okay, needing nothing more than a thorough cleaning. I experimented with electrolysis to remove rust on the castings, as well as good old wire brushing. I installed a used head, putting in new valves and reproduction valve springs. I fitted a replacement igniter and mixer, and after some more Internet research I wound my own low-tension coil. Once I had everything cleaned up I primed all the parts with iron oxide primer, followed by a coat of International Harvester Red.
When I found the engine it was still mounted to the remains of its original bed board, which was partially preserved by all the oil that had soaked into it. Working with what was left I took measurements and cut a new yellow pine bed board.
Finally, after mounting the engine, coil and a reproduction fuel tank, it was time to try to start it. I couldn't. It wouldn't. I had only recently subscribed to GEM, and about that time my second issue arrived, which contained an article on using a tram to set the timing (see GEM, April 2002, page 13). I followed the directions in the article, and after tramming in the engine it started, and with some adjustment to the governor springs it idled well. Things were looking good.
By this time the 2002 summer show season had arrived. I attended my first local show as a spectator and learned more about old iron, and following that I decided to go to Portland, Ind., and buy some wheels to make a reproduction of the original cart and, of course, see some more engines. I completed the cart and built a battery box, and by the fall of 2002 the IHC was finally done.
Since this was my first engine find I didn't think to take pictures of the engine when I first found it. From what I've been able to find out, it appears this engine powered a cement mixer that was used to supply concrete for a house built near where I found the engine. The house burned down about 50 years ago, and the engine must have been abandoned some time before then. The water hopper had at least 3 inches of rotted leaves in the bottom and a homemade crank in it when found.
By the way, the Allis-Chalmers G has been fully restored, as well, and currently resides in a collection in northern Indiana. Many thanks to all the folks - from The Netherlands and England to California - who helped me with my first project. I couldn't have done it alone.
Contact engine enthusiast Jim Stallter at: 30614 Marydon Lane, Elkhart, IN 46517, or via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org