Getting Started With the Engine Hobby
The following comes from a recent topic on SmokStak at www.enginads.com/smokstak.cgi. Various individuals started, commented and concluded the following bulletin board thread.
I would like to get a hit-and-miss engine. I know little about them, but am pretty mechanically inclined. I would like your advice on how to get started. I do not have deep pockets, so I am looking for one on the low end, price wise, but would like it to be running. I feel like I could restore one, but would feel better if I knew it ran first. How should I go about getting started in this hobby? What models should I look for that would be less expensive, but be able to maintain? How much money should I expect to part with for a 'rough but running' hit-and-miss engine? Where can I find one?
Are you sure it HAS to be a hit-and-miss? Or, would you be happy with a throttle-governed flywheel engine? There are a lot of common throttle-governed engines out there at pretty good prices; head-type Wittes, Fairbanks-Morse Dishpans and Z Type Cs, and others. Prices are often around $350-$400 for a nice complete runner. Another affordable option is a single flywheel 'pig' engine (this refers to an earlier thread, sorry), rather an 1HC LA or LB, or perhaps a little F-M Z Type D. Depending on the local market, I've seen these at $200-$250 for a nice runner. Try to buy a complete engine if you can, as certain parts (magnetos, especially) can be worth nearly as much as a whole engine. Big auctions, national magazines, and online auctions are usually a bad idea if you're looking to pay a good price. Good places to look for 'bargain' engines are engine shows or swap meets, local classified ads, locally advertised estate sales (if you can get over feeling sort of like a vulture), and good old networking.
Like you, I'm pretty new to the hobby. A few years ago when I started, the biggest problem was getting information. Don't jump in too quick just to get any engine. Get a copy of the national show directory. The sponsors of Harry's site have them. I know Hit N Miss enterprises has them 'cause that is where I got mine this year. You will be amazed how many shows there are that you might not know about. Walk around and talk to people. I still am constantly surprised at how eager people in this hobby are to help you. Once you look at engines for a few months you will get a feel for what you like, and these folks are good for telling you about the engines that are hard to get parts for. I looked and made friends for a couple years before I got my first engine. Especially helpful were a couple guys who let me help restore engines during the winter. READ everything you can get your hands on. My last hobby lasted for 20 years, and the worst part was that you had to be constantly on guard 'cause someone was always trying to take you. It was assumed that there were hidden problems with everything you got. I'm not saying that everyone who plays with old iron is a saint, but the general attitude of folks in this hobby is to be helpful and have fun. I personally think it is the family involvement. Now, if I could only convince my wife to come to a show! Have a good time first, learn as much as you can, then buy some iron.
Where did you get your prices? Ain't none of mine for sale for that price. Expect to pay double what was said.
Double? For an over-restored, buffed and polished trailer queen, maybe. For a hit-and-miss rather than a throttler? Maybe there, too. From an engine dealer? Yeah, I'd expect to pay him for his time and trouble. On the other hand, there are still a LOT of older restorations and scruffy runners trading owners in the price ranges that I mentioned. It's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
Watch out for engines with pot metal parts. The mag/cam gear bracket on Fairbanks-Morse 'Z' engines after about 1920 are pot metal, and many are broken. Many parts on the McCormick-Deering engines are also fragile, such as the fuel pump and throttle linkage.
Prices can vary from one region to another, and good deals can sometimes be found. Join a couple of clubs that have newsletters, and maybe subscribe to a couple of magazines. Let the local collectors know that you are looking. Lots of folks need to sell an engine or two to make a purchase.
NEVER PAY THE ASKING PRICE! Most collectors build a little wiggle room into the asking price, it's just like haggling over the price of a car. If they say take it or leave it, leave it. Have fun!
There are some great folks in Georgia who can help you find an engine to get started on. Some of you Georgia boys that have come over here to Texas, pitch in and help Hal out. Don't let Sam scare you off, you can find an engine for a more than fair price, just don't JUMP. Look things over twice and ask, ask, ask questions. Some of the guys that advertise here on Harry's page have always been great to help. Good luck and take your time on the first one.
I am still amazed at the engines out there in rough but restorable shape. Be PATIENT, go to auctions and be prepared to walk home empty-handed. As you get to know more people, word sort of gets around as to who has what for sale or trade. Nuthin' wrong with a nice binder engine or FM throttle-governed. If you have a 'significant other,' collecting engines is a lot like chasing the opposite sex, EXCEPT that you will not lose your life or half your belongings if you get caught. Think about it, there is the thrill of the chase, the sweet-talking and spending money to get it into the back of your truck, the undivided attention it gets for the first two weeks until you tire of running it, AND finally your willingness to size up greener grass by the septic tank in your neighbor's yard. If you are somewhat careful, where else can you buy something, have fun with it, and usually at least break even if you tire of it and want to sell.
You have found one of the best locations on the Web for gas engine information (IF NOT THE BEST!). Much knowledge to be gained by reading from the experienced individuals on this site. Good luck and enjoy the old iron. Thanks, Harry.
Welcome to this hobby/obsession. Don't be scared to buy from a dealer that sponsors this site. They know what things are worth, they know how to buy so it can be resold. They know how to 'root' out the virgins, and they can't eat these engines, they must sell them. Don't be afraid of the good old IHC-M - many of the guys talking here cut their teeth on one of these. Parts and help are plentiful. Plus, they rattle, leak, smoke, pop, stink, shake, take up room, just like the rare ones. Have fun.
Thanks to all who responded here and the many emails I received. You have all given good suggestions. I have a catalog and show schedule ordered and have been informed of two shows quite nearby in the coming months. I look forward to getting educated on these engines and making a purchase. Thanks again.
This discussion can be found by visiting SmokStak at www.enginads.com. SmokStak is an engine conversation bulletin board, which is a part of the Old Engine series of web sites that started in 1985 as Harry's Old Engine.
Thank you all for your patience with us during our recent web server outage. We are now up and running with Dialtoneinternet on a new dedicated IBM X-series Pentium server. Hopefully it will perform well for us. Visit our web sites and take the time to 'click' around. There is much to see! Harry
Harry Matthews is a retired electronic engineer and gas engine collector from Oswego, N.Y., now residing in Sarasota, Fla. Join SmokStak at: www.enginads.com/smokstak.cgi.
'Join a couple of clubs that have newsletters, and maybe subscribe to a couple of magazines. Let the local collectors know that you are looking. Lots of folks need to sell an engine or two to make a purchase.'
'I am still amazed at the engines out there in rough but restorable shape. Be PATIENT, 30 to auctions and be prepared to walk home empty-handed.'