P.O. Box 261 Peterstown, West Virginia 24963
Never pass up an opportunity to discuss your hobby with friends and co-workers. The more eyes and ears you have, the better.
In the fall of 1998, a friend told me he had seen an old engine for sale near a four-lane highway, about fifteen miles from my home. I was more than a little embarrassed at not finding it myself. This soon passed, for I didn't want the embarrassment to include missing a chance to purchase the engine.
First, a trip was in order to see exactly what it was. 'Be sure to take the camera,' I reminded myself. Several 'before' shots have been lost forever in the excitement of a total restoration.
I've been collecting engines for about ten years. Many of my engines have been acquired from other collectors. Some were already 'runners,' but a few were in 'as found' condition. The most fun are the stationary engines, meaning just that; nothing will move. Such was the case with this find. Boy, what a chunk of rust! A quick look at the tag confirmed it was a 7 HP Fuller-Johnson, Type 'N.' A later serial number check revealed A 1918 birthdate. The engine was on a buzz-saw rig, but the cart appeared to be an old narrowed car or truck frame. The wheels and axles, however, looked original. A stretch of the tape measure told me I couldn't haul it. At the time, I had a twelve-foot trailer and the saw rig was the same length. With the engine on one end, the weight distribution just didn't seem proper.
Armed with my first gathering of information, and having shot half a roll of film, it was time to locate the owner.
After hearing the asking price, I decided not to haggle if I could have one concession: Could it be delivered for this price? A hesitant 'Yes,' was the answer, and delivery was to be in a couple of days.
The weather was getting a bit chilly the October evening my engine arrived. A friend of the former owner brought it on a twenty-foot 'goose-necked' trailer. After we chatted a few minutes, I learned I had bought two of my first engines from his dad. My son, Brian, helped us unload the saw rig and we scooted it into the garage. (The wheels wouldn't roll very well-RUST, you know!)
I briefly pondered my next move. All the nuts and bolts, and the moveable parts that wouldn't were sprayed with 'GIBBS,' my penetrant of choice.
The following day, I removed the head, mixer, and ignitor flange. The ignitor had been drilled and threaded for a spark plug. Penetrant was sprayed liberally into the cylinder, front and back.
A few days passed until the 'Great Piston Removal' attempt. My friend and mentor, Peter Stauffer, was present for the ceremony.
We loosened the rod and main bearing caps and sprayed penetrant on the journals. Using the flywheels, we gently bumped the rod with the crankshaft until the piston moved ever so slightly. 'More Gibbs!' came the call. After mounting excitement and increasingly successful results, the piston went through a complete stroke. The piston and rod were then removed. The rings looked good. After removal to clean the ring grooves, they were re-installed, each in its original groove.
The axles and wheels were removed and the frame lowered to the floor. (If it's already on the floor, you can't drop it.) The hopper was removed from the bed, then the flywheel and crankshaft assembly. I like to stack 2x6 boards in decreasing lengths under the flywheels to raise the crankshaft out of the main bearings, then carefully roll the flywheels down the 'stairsteps; created by the different length boards.
The engine bed was then removed from the frame and the fuel tank was removed. The garage floor was visible through the pinholes in the tank top. The bottom was completely gone.
After many hours of wire-bushing, all engine parts, nuts and bolts, and cart wheels were relatively rust-free.
I prefer wire-brushing over sandblasting, but I don't recommend it. Although I use a dust mask and safety glasses, those itty-bitty wires can penetrate your coveralls when traveling at a high rate of speed. 'Nough said.
A rust treatment available commercially was brushed on all cleaned parts.This liquid is white when applied then chemically reacts with a rusty surface to form a hard black coating which can serve as a primer. It is sold under several brand names.
A new fuel tank was custom-built by Mike Green, and a new ignitor was supplied by Bill Starkey. Pete Stauffer machined a new push-rod and cam-follower assembly, as the original was terminally stuck and couldn't be adjusted. (I broke it!) All other original parts were used. The axles were reconditioned. New channel iron replaced the old car frame and a cart was built to resemble the Fuller-Johnson horse-drawn cart. I didn't replace the saw and table because I don't like to run a saw at shows.
The engine was assembled on the cart and brush painted with a thin wash of Rustoleum and mineral spirits. I stole the idea from my friend Pete, and he expressed his appreciation. The ignitor trip was adjusted to release after a thirty-degree point dwell, and the original starting instructions worked perfectly.
I received information on the original buyer (jobber) and shipping date, along with very nice decals, from Mr. Verne Kindschi. Lee Pedersen supplied a manual for the engine.
By this time, I was fighting a deadline to take my new toy to the Antique Engine Association show at Reidsville, North Carolina. I hadn't built a battery box and didn't have time to do so. An antique wooden beer case was a temporary solution, and after that first show I decided to make it permanent.
The engine made a successful first showing, and was also shown at the West Virginia Oil and Gas Festival at Sistersville, West Virginia. There, we made the front page of 'The Parkersburg News.'
After enjoying, and learning from the many restoration stories I've read in GEM, I felt it was my turn to share one, also.
To all the engine folks who've shared stories, ideas, support, parts, and help, THANKS!!!