Unfinished Business

Father and Son Team Up to Complete a 20-Year-Old Project

| April/May 2004

  • 3 HP International Harvester Model M
    In addition to chrome flywheels and a polished, stainless steel exhaust, this 3 HP International Harvester Model M was treated to 11 coats of prismatic metallic paint. While the special treatment may not please the purists, Kevin and his father think it's

  • 3 HP International Harvester Model M

About 20 years ago, Dad bought a 1925 IHC 3 HP Model M stationary engine. As a career mechanic who grew up on a farm, he enjoys finding old engines and getting them running again. Dad spent one winter working on the Model M, installing a new cylinder sleeve, rings and some other repairs to get the engine running again.

Months later, the winter restoration fun was over, and a new show season was starting, so he sprayed a coat of primer on the M, oiled it up good and put it aside until he had more time to paint it. For Dad, machining a new part or putting an old engine back together is much more interesting than sanding and painting, so often those are the last things to get done.

I didn't have much time to help Dad back then, so for the next 20 years the Model M sat waiting for a shiny new coat of paint while other projects were started and completed. These days I have more free time, so Dad and I are finally tinkering with engines together. We love to see how slow we can make an engine run, and I decided that the throttle-governed M would be a good challenge.

To make it run extra slow, we removed the governor springs, machined a smaller venture for the carburetor and re-adjusted the valve and spark timing. Now, the engine sounds great running at less than 100 rpm.

Normally, we restore an engine to match the original, but this smooth-running engine called for something more than the usual. I worked on the flywheels, the rocker arm and the carburetor top until they were smooth and shiny, then I had them chrome plated. Next, I buffed and polished all the copper and brass on the engine, and I replaced all the exhaust parts with polished stainless steel. Finally, I added 11 coats of prismatic metallic paint to give it a very special look.

I know some purists will frown on it for not being original, but I felt that an engine that sounded this good firing less than once a second deserved to look just as good as it ran. I just hope Dad doesn't find out that I spent more on the paint than he spent on the engine when he bought it!