By Staff

Country Place Apartments, Apt. 602,3902 College Main, Bryan,
Texas 77801

Although there were times of despair, disappointments, and
bruised knuckles, Don Frei never gave up on his hobby. This native
of Westphalia, Texas, is infatuated with restoring old, single
cylinder, gasoline-powered engines.

‘I virtually fell in love,’ Frei said, recalling the
first time he saw a ‘one lunger design’ five years ago.
Frei was at a neighbor’s house when he first encountered a
‘one lunger design.’

‘Having been raised on a farm and having worked on engines,
naturally I became mechanically inclined,’ Frei said.

In May of 1977, Frei and his brother-in-law saw an engine at a
deer lease at Fredericksburg, Texas. The nameplate showed that the
engine was a Fuller and Johnson, patented in 1909.

Frei bought the engine. On inspecting it, he found the engine
was complete, but entirely rusted together. The timing gears were
chipped and had to be replaced, and a duplicate was made of the
rusted gas tank.

Using the rust solvent WD 40 to disassemble the engine, Frei
took each piece and sanded it with sandpaper or emory cloth. On
some of the larger pieces he used an electric sander.

Frei used no guidelines but his mechanical intuition to remember
how each piece was to be put back together.

Frei said the Fuller and Johnson was an air-cooled, three
horsepower engine, which weighed 480 pounds. It was used as a
substitute for wind power on windmills. Rebuilding the engine took
Frei 14 months to complete. He still remembers when the engine
first began running.

‘There were times of despair, lost knuckles and a feeling of
if it was worth it, but I’ll never forget when the engine began
running,’ Frei said. I had a baseball cap on, and when that
engine first began sputtering and then runningthat (baseball) cap
hit the ceiling.’

Frei is a senior at Texas A & M University majoring in
management. His major complaint about going to school is that he
doesn’t have time, except on weekends, to spend on his

Frei has recently completed work on another engine in his spare
time at home. It is an Ottawa brand engine. Frei estimates that it
is from the early to mid 1920s, but he has been unable to pinpoint
the exact date.

Frei found the Ottawa engine about two years ago while at a
neighbor’s house. He spied its flywheel sticking out of a pile
of rubbish.

‘This engine is special because it was used as a saw,’
Frei said. ‘This was the first attempt by man to saw other than
by means of human or steam power. It is the predecessor of the
modern chain saw.’

Although the engine is now running, the flywheel, pitman arm,
crank shaft and guide mechanism, that are all essential to the
sawing mechanism, are missing. But Frei has located the two seven
foot saw blades.

Frei’ s most recent acquisition, the Bull Pup engine, was
used as a cornmeal grinder. This was also in use in the early to
mid 1920s.

Frei said this engine will be the hardest to rebuild because the
timing device is missing. He said he can’t begin work until he
can find the part.

‘The engine is in limbo right now.’ Frei said,
‘Hopefully I can read or hear of an article that will solve my
problem and I can begin work.’

This past summer, Frei put his two restored engines on display
and the Fuller and Johnson won a second place in the engine
division at the Westphalia Centennial celebration. He put the
engine on 4′ x 4′ redwood skids for easy

‘Most people were fascinated because the Fuller and Johnson
was an upright rather than the usual flat design.’ Frei said,
‘Also a lot of people were amazed because the engine ran for
three hours on ten ounces of gas from a Coke bottle.’

Frei estimates that he has spent about $300 on his engine. They
have a net worth of more than $1,500.

‘I had a guy offer me $500 for the Fuller and Johnson
engine, but I refused.’ Frei said. He added that he’ll
probably never give his engines up because of their sentimental

‘It is a feeling of pride and accomplishment to come home
and start the Fuller and Johnson, and the Ottawa,’ Frei

Frei said his father told him when he began working on his first
engine that he would never get it to run.

‘Now he is just as proud of it as I am,’ Frei said.
‘Whenever a friend comes over he always asks if they have seen
my engine run.’

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