| July/August 2000

Gas Engine

P O Box 358, Clifton, Colorado 81520

After reading GEM for the past few years, I realized it is my obligation to submit something as my share of the load to keep things going. I enjoy reading about others' experiences, so I need to add my own. I was raised on a ranch where the small gasoline engine was a common and necessary piece of the scene. I have always had an interest in the old, slow speed, one-lungers and felt I was probably the only one on the planet who appreciated their contribution to history. I salvaged what I could when my dad retired and sold the homestead, thinking I would restore my 'treasures' just to satisfy my own interest. A few years back, I got on the Internet, just poking around, and started looking for antique iron-tractors, equipment, etc. What I found amazed me! There were actually people out there who had the same interest in the old 'snort and wheezers' that I did. Fortunately, about this time, I was able to retire and devote the time and energy to rebuilding the rusty iron I had packed back and forth every time we moved.

My first project was an old and dear friend who was not actually a member of the family until fairly late. I bought an International Harvester LA out of the junk pile in the late '50s or early '60s, probably ten bucks, to use to water the yard instead of having to run power for an electric pump. This engine was belted to an old Fairbanks-Morse centrifugal pump from a dairy can washer and first pumped out of a shallow well and then out of an open ditch, until the ditch was put into buried pipe with enough head to gravity water the lawn and garden. Needless to say, my wife was not sad to see the old engine retired, as the two of them didn't speak the same language, but I enjoyed hearing the 'putt-putt' when it was running. Retirement came in the late 70s and the old LA waited until 1998-1999 to get a place in the sun again.

I thought restoring this engine would be fairly easy, as it was fully enclosed and had always been under cover, at least as long as I had it. No frozen pistons, broken parts. Most of what was not on the engine was in the box of 'small engine parts.' I had taken the mixing valve off and added a float style carburetor and air cleaner. The gas tank had been discarded and replaced with an elevated gas tank. I had also added a crankshaft power shaft to get around the 2:1 reduction in the output shaft. This gave me speed enough to drive a centrifugal pump.

First thing was to clean up and check everything over and find out what didn't work. Years of use with no cleanup had added their layers of dirt and grime. After a scraping and washing, installing the original mixing valve, making a temporary gas tank, an oil change, and we could give it a try. Somewhat reluctant, but it started-kind of. The spark was weak when cranking and didn't appear to improve after starting. Compression was so-so, but no major problems mechanically.

The magneto appeared to be the major problem. The impulse worked, but the mag didn't fire every time and had a weak spark. The coil checked okay, but no way to test the magnets. I decided we needed a magnet recharge. There used to be at least one good magneto shop here locally, but they shut down several years ago, sold off what they could and stored the rest-no help there. Calls to the local old iron people offered suggestions, which I tried, but no one wanted to work on a Wico H, no parts available. What it boiled down to was, fix it myself.