It’s the Oxygen Content, Stupid!

By Staff

There exists in the old engine hobby a certain phenomi …
pheenome … fenomin … problem that is very often encountered,
but seldom understood, by even the most ardent enthusiasts. It is a
serious condition that 91 percent of us will contract during the
upcoming show season. Tell me if the following scenario seems
familiar to you:

The restoration of your 1910 Runz Canardly is finally complete.
Everything is factory correct and in perfect order. The paint is
the correct shade of ‘champagne gold.’ The brass oilers are
shined to perfection. And it starts effortlessly on the first pull,
every time.

Now, it is a known fact that there are four seasons to the year.
The usual spring, summer, autumn and winter are the ones everyone
knows. But to the engine crowd there is another season. It falls
squarely between the date your engine is finished, and the date of
the first engine show of the year. This season is called
‘Forever.’ Some years it seems to last around 27 months. It
is November as I write this, and based on current progress, Forever
starts in about three weeks. Mark your calendar.

But back to the engine, which has been sitting in germ-free,
environmentally stable storage since completion. Show day has
finally arrived, and it is time to load it on the trailer. Being
the sharp fellow that you are, you decide to run the engine a while
before heading out. Nothing like discovering those minor little
problems AFTER you get to the show, right?

A twist of the grease cups, a flip of the oiler and a prime of
the carb later, you flick the flywheels and the Runz Canardly
springs to life. You can set your watch to the rhythmic tunes
emitted from the factory correct 22 percent gloss painted muffler.
Nothing left to do but load.

Remembering to wear your sterile gloves for the loading process,
you proceed about the task of situating the masterpiece onto the
trailer. Being careful not to stain the carpet of the trailer is
the hard part. All your fears are for naught, however, as the
engine settles into place and is cinched down for the trip to the

By now the sun has come up, and you are ready for the 15 minute
trip to the show that doesn’t start until 10:30 a.m. A perfect
time to polish the engine again, of course. You find it hard to
make the wax stick to the other layers of wax, but somehow you
manage. Ain’t it a pretty sight?

You arrive at the show. It is a perfect morning -lots of sun,
perfect temperature, plenty of friends you haven’t seen since
last season. You are directed to your assigned spot. You maneuver
the trailer into position. You unload the engine (with your sterile
gloves, of course).

By now quite a crowd has assembled. Their eyes are burning from
the reflection of the sun’s rays off the glistening water
hopper of the Runz Canardly. Selling sunglasses to the observers of
your Mona Lisa of the engine world might be a good idea for the
next show. Retinitis Engintosa is a very real probability.

You now set about assembling the chain link barricade that will
keep the ever-curious spectators from breathing in the same general
vicinity of your prized possession. You can’t be too careful in
this day and age. Forty-five minutes later the fence is up and the
alarm system is engaged. It’s Show Time!

In an effort to build some anticipation for the massive crowd,
you painstakingly check each and every oil hole. Every grease
fitting. The fuel level. The windspeed. The barometric pressure.
The Julian calendar. Everything checks out.

You meander to the rear of the engine. You place one hand on the
flywheel. You wave and pose for pictures with the other hand.
Smiling, of course. You then drop your waving hand onto the
opposite flywheel. The crowd holds their breath in unfathomable

With a confident pull, you yank the flywheels backward, and then
raise your arms over your head in victory. The moment you have been
waiting for has arrived, and you want all the pictures to come out
perfect! A smile envelopes your face as your eyes scan the crowd,
drawing in the praise of the throngs of spectators who now think
you are … well … an idiot.

You see, the engine is not running. Must be a slight
miscalculation. Nope. Everything checks out. You pull again.
Nothing. Pull harder. Nothing. Check gas. Check oil. Check grease.
Check the electrical system. Check the calendar.

You are now a victim of your environment. You see, while you
were busy setting up your stanchions and security system, everyone
else on the show field was starting their engines. As they pop and
wheeze the day away, you are left to struggle with a condition that
you cannot beat. Namely, all of the other engines on the show field
are consuming the available oxygen content in the vicinity. This is
also why you are short of breath right now. There is not a chance
in heck that your engine will start. You might just as well go
home, now. Hence the name of your engine, the Runz Canardly. It
Runz in the driveway, but Canardly start on the show field.

Contact engine enthusiast Tim Claremont via e-mail at:
mclarem1 @

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines