Restoring a Lauson Engine

An unlikely Lauson engine is brought back to life.

| May/June 2004

While rummaging around an engine friend's property, I happened to spot a broken flywheel among the weeds. I had already purchased a pair of complete and running Lauson-built antique gas engines from him - a 1-1/2 HP Alpha 'W' and an early-style 3-1/2 HP 'WB' - but wouldn't it be great if this Lauson parts engine came along with me, as well?

As soon as I grabbed the straight pipe that once was the exhaust, a swarm of bees made their displeasure evident to me. Seems they thought that straight pipe belonged to them! Miraculously, no one was stung, and a shot of carburetor cleaner removed the nest in short order.

After getting the engine home and removing the rodent nests that also came with it, I discovered more problems than just a broken flywheel. The engine was missing its magneto and bracket, it had a rusted-out gas tank, stuck valves, a stuck piston and a cracked and broken sub-base. It needed work.

Truth or Consequence
I knew the engine was a Lauson (casting numbers on the engine exactly matched a Lauson/Alpha engine I own that powered a De Laval vacuum pump) and a chain sprocket fixed to the crank led me to believe it once powered a cement mixer. The only clue to its identity was the 'Lansing Co.' tag on its hopper. An investigation through the SmokStak Internet bulletin board revealed that John Lauson Co., New Holstein, Wis., made engines for Lansing Co., Lansing, Mich., to power Lansing's line of cement mixers.

Although the engine's problems certainly relegated this common engine to 'parts engine' status, I did find a few nice surprises. The engine had the correct stamped-brass oiler, an undamaged original crank guard, an original and complete mixer, and the engine had no freeze cracks anywhere on the hopper or block despite sitting uncovered outside for many years. Even the original grease cups were still there.

The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that if the stuck piston could be removed without damage - and if the bore was okay - the only real challenge to restoring the engine would be finding a useable flywheel. The other broken or missing pieces are relatively easy to get, so why not tear it down and see what happens?