Yes, we are here!

In times like these our hobbies become lifesavers. At GAS ENGINE MAGAZINE and FARM COLLECTOR, we have been tracking down the most interesting and rare vintage farm machines and collections for more than 80 years combined! That includes researching and sourcing the best books on collectibles available anywhere. Our online store is open and we are here to answer any questions you might have. Our customer service staff is available Monday through Friday from 8a.m.-5p.m. CDT. We can be reached at 1-800-888-9098 or by email. Stay safe!

How I Got Started On Engines and What Keeps Me Here

| September/October 2001

  • Delco light plant

  • Delco light plant

  • Delco Engine

  • Delco light plant
  • Delco light plant
  • Delco Engine

70 Hurlbut Road Mexico, New York 13114

About two years ago I visited a tractor and engine show in South Dayton, NewYork, with a good friend of mine (and fellow old tractor owner), Norm Ziegler. It was several hours from home, and we went there mainly because they had antique tractor pulls, something neither of us had ever seen before, both of us being former city folks and fairly new to tractors. There were quite a few tractor pullers in attendance, and we spent a considerable amount of time in the morning wandering around looking at the different tractors and pulling setups.

While waiting for the pulls to start, we took a walk through the engine display area. Norm and I had never had any exposure to these strange-looking things before, and really had no idea what we were looking at. There was an older gentleman there (I wish I had gotten his name) with a JD 1? HP and a little Maytag sitting in the back of his old pickup. He was very friendly and quite talkative about his engines. I had a million questions and this looked like the ideal place to get a quick education. Norm was less interested in this stuff and wandered off after a short while. I spent the next ninety minutes talking with this gentleman about old farm engines, hit and miss governing, throttle governing, open and closed crankcases, water hoppers and oilers. He took me around the display a little to show me examples of what he was talking about. It was quite the experience. I left the show hooked, bitten badly by the engine bug.

I didn't know anyone else that was into engines. I didn't know of any local clubs, or of any other shows I could attend. I had no idea where to find one, but I had to have one. I carried a couple of pictures from the show around with me, and started asking friends, students and co-workers if they had ever seen old engines like these, and if they knew where one could be found. My persistence paid off. I had recently started a new teaching job at the local state college, and one of the other automotive instructors there was an Indian motorcycle collector. He said he knew where there were a few engines sitting in a barn where he bought his last bike. He didn't know what they were, but he was sure the owner would part with them for a reasonable price.

Within a few days we were there. We found three Delco light plants in various states of disrepair. Two of them were stuck, and the third was free and appeared complete. The owner said it had run about 15 years ago, but wouldn't start now; the other two had been stuck since he'd acquired them. They weren't exactly what I was looking for. I really wanted something that looked like what I had seen, two flywheels, a water hopper, etc., but I had to start some place. I bought them and took them home. I had never heard of a light plant before. I had no idea what they were, of how they operated. I turned to the Internet for help.

A quick search turned up quite a bit of information. I found out what they were used for, and even a few places to buy parts. I called one of them, Wayne Spahr (Dr. Delco), down in Pennsylvania. I was in need of service information if I was going to repair them properly, but I had no idea what I had, let alone how they worked. Mr. Spahr suggested I send him pictures of them and serial numbers and he would help me identify them. Then he could get me the proper repair manuals. I found out I was the proud owner of a Model 850, Model 1260 and a Model 1278, all made between 1910 and 1935. The 1260 was in the best shape. Between the service manuals and extra advice from Dr. Delco, I was able to tear it down for inspection and have it running in very short order. It needed a little wiring repair to make the generator charge normally (mouse damage), but other than that it was very straightforward preservation. I mounted it on a reinforced pallet along with a bank of batteries and was set to go. This is the engine I bring to all the shows. It starts, runs and charges flawlessly.


Gas Engine Magazine A_M 16Gas Engine Magazine is your best source for tractor and stationary gas engine information.  Subscribe and connect with more than 23,000 other gas engine collectors and build your knowledge, share your passion and search for parts, in the publication written by and for gas engine enthusiasts! Gas Engine Magazine brings you: restoration stories, company histories, and technical advice. Plus our Flywheel Forum column helps answer your engine inquiries!

Facebook YouTube


click me