The Uncle Earl Engine

A 1-3/4 HP Economy Model S Finally Gets its Second Chance Almost 50 Years After Being Put to Pasture

| February/March 2003

  • Economy Model S

  • Economy Model S

The Uncle Earl Engine, as Dean Hayden affectionately calls it, is actually a 1925 Hercules-built 1-3/4 HP Economy Model S, serial number 331389, showing a casting date of 10/29/25.

Back in the mid 1970s, I remembered that when I was a boy, my great uncle Earl had two flywheel engines. A big engine ran a sorghum cane mill, and a smaller one pumped water for the house.

I paid uncle Earl a visit and asked him about the engines, and he told me the big engine had gone to Indiana, along with the sorghum mill, when he sold out several years earlier. But he thought the little engine was still in the fencerow, where he had left it 17-1/2 years before.

We took a tractor and trailer and went down the lane looking for the engine. What we found was a 1 -3/4 HP Economy - buried almost halfway in the dirt. After digging and cutting some tree roots, we extracted the engine and loaded it onto the trailer. Uncle Earl said I could have the engine, and he said he 'just knew' I could get it running again. I can still hear him say, 'You can get her runnin' again, boy. I know she'll run.'

Never having restored an engine before, all I knew to do was just start soaking everything with penetrating oil. After about a year of soaking I started removing a few things, and then I decided to have the engine metal blasted - not a good idea. The bearings were in good condition, at least until I had this done. I found out the hard way that metal shot will go places it shouldn't, or you don't want. At this point I decided to paint the engine and keep it for a decoration.

One day while talking to a friend of mine, Don Sheets, I mentioned the engine and how the steel shot had found its way into the babbitt bearings. Don said that was no problem, as he could pour new ones for me. Well, that was in the early 1980s, and the engine stayed a decoration, only now with new bearings. I remembered how confident uncle Earl had been that I could get it running again, but there it sat.

Another 20 years went by (nothing like a little procrastination in one's life), and I got to thinking about uncle Earl and decided it was time to finish the job. I called another friend, Dave Harris, and ask him if he would work on the mag for me. Dave agreed, but he could not find a place to stop. One week - and a lot of work - later, he had made new parts, installed new springs, everything to get the mag working.

Now, some 30 years later, the engine runs again, and surprisingly well, with just a little blow-by. Thanks again to Don and Dave for a job well done, and to Charlie Brewer for the donated spring collection - it was desperately needed. The Uncle Earl engine is not fully restored, but is at last 'runnin' good' and giving much pleasure. I know that 1 -3/4 HP Economy engines are not real rare or valuable as engines go, but you can't put a price tag on sentimental value. I only wish uncle Earl could hear it. He probably has one just like it up in Heaven, and he's probably thinking, 'Boy, what took you so long?'

Contact engine enthusiast Dean Hayden at: 11919 N. Riverview Rd., Chillicothe, IL 61523-9527, or e-mail:


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