He’s A ‘One-Lunger Fanatic

By Staff
article image

(This article which was brought to us by Bert Dado of Beecher,
Illinois on a trip to our area, originally appeared in The Daily
Journal, Kankakee, Illinois on November 3, 1985. The article is
reprinted here with permission.)

Bert Dado is an enthusiast for the mechanically antique and

On a fine fall afternoon something that seems to be gone for the
year you might find him riding what looks like a homemade motorbike
around the streets of Beecher.

But the bike only looks home-made. It is actually a 1943 French
Solex bike. Its engine rests atop the front wheel, powering the
bike by rotors that rub directly on the tire, rather than by chain

The engine can be tilted back easily, converting the vehicle
into a regular bicycle.

Dado is more than willing to stop and talk about his rare Solex.
When he does, he’s likely to hand his visitor a business card
that reads ‘Bert Dado Gasoline Engine Hobbyist.’

Dado is a tin kererone of many gas engine hobbyists who collect,
fix, sell and swap old ‘one lunger’ engines so called
because they have only one cylinder.

These engines were once common through the countryside, where
they were used for everything from pumping water, generating
electricity, separating cream from fresh milk, and even powering
the first ‘horseless carriages.’

Retired after being a district sales manager for Gould
electrical products, Dado has been tinkering with these old one
lungers for about 10 years. ‘It gets in your blood,’ he
said. ‘You get to where you can’t stay away from auctions,
or annual shows.

‘I like to rebuild them the way they were years ago,’ he
said. He’s got some experience at that sort of work, being a
former tool maker. But, he likes more than the work. ‘I like to
hear them run.’

In his collection is a 1921 three-quarter horsepower
‘Ideal’ that came off a country club lawnmower. He has to
spin the flywheel a couple of times to get this baby ignited then
there’s no further need for explanation. Its power cracks in
the air Pow! Pow! Pow! pow-pow-powpowpowpowpowpow. Dado has to hold
onto its stand with both hands to keep it from jumping off its

The ‘Ideal’ is one of many in Dado’s collection.
There’s and old-as-the-hills Fairbanks and Morse Co. modela
common name; a 1934 Stover 1 horsepower that once belonged to Gen.
Douglas Mac Arthur’s cousin (Dado acquired it in Algonquin,
Illinois.). There’s an old Maytag but it’s a twin cylinder.
There’s a World War II Signal Corps generator he bought at an
auction. It’s still in its original Army green crate.

Dado belongs to the Will County Threshermen’s Steam and Gas
Engine Club, which holds big annual shows at Burns Woods near
Deselm. He, other members of the club, and enthusiasts from other
groups meet regularly to inspect each other’s work and to swap
parts, ideas and stories.

The palaver often has a purpose. These hobbyists have to be
creative and inventive. Parts for these old machines aren’t
made anymore. If something breaks, you have to swap for a part or
make it yourself. So the swapped stories and ideas can be
invaluable, especially in winter, to a guy like Dado. You won’t
see him riding his Solex around Beecher until next Spring sometime.
‘I’m putting it away in mothballs for the winter,’ he
said. But, you might find him at the Beecher High School shop,
where he is allowed to fabricate parts for his one lungers.

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