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
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
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
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
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.
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.’