320 Locust Street Ridgecrest, California 93555
Restoration of any of these old engines requires a lot of work, but more importantly a lot of LUCK. In the case of this restoration, I believe I used up a good share of my allotted luck. One day out of the blue, I received a phone call from someone who wanted to talk engines. He was fairly new to the hobby and, like most of us, was eager to exchange information. During the course of our conversation he mentioned that he had acquired an engine which was too large for him to store and which he was looking to trade for a smaller one. He had researched the engine through scanning the big 'yellow book,' and he believed that the engine was a Reeves. He described it as having a huge water hopper but missing most of the small parts, including the entire governor assembly. Well, I was ready for a challenging project, so we eventually worked out a trade after exchanging photographs and numerous phone calls.
I never expected to find any of the missing parts, so my initial approach was to research engines that had similar designs with the intent of possibly copying and duplicating these parts. During my research, I located an old article in GEM regarding a 2 HP Reeves and its owner, Mr. Lotus Alexander of Columbus, Indiana. I called Mr. Alexander and had a brief conversation with him regarding the large Reeves. He informed me that according to my description of the size, it had to be a 12 HP since they didn't make 10 HP. The bore is 7 inches with a 14 inch stroke. He had never seen one of this size and was somewhat amazed that I had turned one up. I sent Lotus a picture of the engine, but unfortunately he passed away two months after our conversation.
Good friend and fellow engine enthusiast Ed Cooksey noticed that the Reeves engine governor design was similar to that described in the Holm patent which had been used on the Sparta Economy engines. With this in mind, he drafted a letter to Mr. Glenn Karch, an expert on Economy and Hercules engines. Mr. Karch had no information regarding this similarity, but was wise enough to forward our request to Don Siefker. Don provided some information on the Reeves governor and suggested that we contact Mr. Charles Reeves of Plainview, Texas, for additional information on Reeves engines.
This was where we hit the lucky jackpot and the engine gods took pity. The first thing I discovered by talking to Charles Reeves was that he had a 12 HP Reeves which he had believed to be the only surviving one. His engine is a portable model with the original horse pulled trucks, while mine is a stationary model with a sub-base. The next thing I learned was Charles Reeves is about the nicest and most helpful individual an engine collector can hope to run into. Mr. Reeves offered up any, or all, of his engine parts for loan to assist me in making copies of the parts I needed. Since Ed Cooksey was planning a trip through Texas that summer, we agreed to have Ed stop by and remove any parts that would be needed in the project. During the remainder of the year and the following summer, weekends were taken up with getting parts reproduced so that the original ones could be returned. The cast iron parts were taken to Covert Iron Works in Huntington Park, California. Roy Covert was very helpful and produced excellent castings from the original parts. The cast iron crank guard alone weighed 55 pounds.
With the exception of the fuel mixer, the borrowed parts were copied and machined by the following Thanksgiving. My wife and I decided to take a quick trip to Plainview, Texas, and return the parts during the Thanksgiving break. Of course, this involved spending a very enjoyable afternoon with Charles discussing engines. He insisted that I keep the fuel mixer longer until Ed Cooksey could return it the following summer when he came back through on his way to Mississippi.
Now there were two major parts to be completed, the fuel mixer and the connecting rod. Ed had always wanted to learn about casting parts, so the fuel mixer provided a formidable challenge. The fuel mixer on this engine is a l inch Lunkenheimer, type B, LH. We made a core box first and attempted to make some cores using the green sand techniques described in the literature. I had to wait for a day when the wife was out of town and I could use her oven for baking. We learned from this attempt that the core sand would not hold up long enough to make the trip to the foundry and we should leave the core making to the pros. The fuel channel in the carburetor that routes fuel from the fuel line around the circumference of the mixer 90 degrees to the jet presented somewhat of a challenge. As a core for this channel, steel tubing was filled with molten lead to keep the tube from collapsing. The tube was bent to shape, the lead melted and removed, and the tube was positioned in the core box. The tube was cast within the brass casting and trimmed afterward to length. We completed the core box and traveled to Ontario, California, where the brass foundry is located. The owner gave the core box a passing grade and agreed to cast the mixer body. We decided that a few spares would be good to have since we were going through all this trouble. When we completed the machining on the mixer body, which was very challenging in itself, the reproduction mixer looked identical to the original. With this success under our belt, it was declared the first and last fuel mixer that we would ever attempt to duplicate. Whatever price you are paying for those reproduction Lunkenheimer mixers, it is worth it.
The final major component was the connecting rod. Ed's philosophy is that almost anything can be made if you work at it long enough. The connecting rod was fabricated by splitting the web portion of a three inch H beam lengthwise, tapering the web portion of each of the two halves and welding them back together. Next, a grinder was used to provide the necessary taper on the flanges. The Reeves uses a pinch bolt design for connecting the end of the rod to the wrist pin. Both ends of the rod were fabricated and welded to the tapered channel beam. The end-product was completed without any warping and looked like the original connecting rod, with the exception of a missing part number. Having had no success in locating a correct 7 inch cast iron piston, I was fortunate to have located a similar piston with a shorter skirt. The piston had been removed from an old air compressor. The piston was modified to adapt to a horizontal lubricating system and worked out fine.
When everything was completed, I applied a layer of sandable filler, two coats of sandable primer, gave it two coats of acrylic enamel, Dupont RS907AK, painted the flywheel rims royal blue with Rustoleum spray paint, and had a local sign painter do the lettering for me in imitation gold color. On 18 April 1998, Ed Cooksey and I gave it a charge of gas, hooked up the battery and coil and started turning the giant flywheels. The compression was so good that we had to open the compression release to get past top dead center. After a few false starts, the engine started firing and began to run. It was quite a relief to see all the new governor parts, ignitor and mixer work as they should. The flywheels, which are 42 inches in diameter with a 3 inch face, are so heavy that when the governor detent disconnects, it takes two 'hits' to get the flywheels up to governing speed before the detent catches and it begins the 'miss' period. The total engine weight is approximately 2700 lbs.
I located a Wizard AC flywheel magneto that mounts perfectly to the magneto bracket on the opposite side of the engine. I am still missing a large ball type muffler that would mount to a three inch pipe thread exhaust. Any help in locating a muffler would be appreciated. Shortly after completing this engine, I located a 2 HP Reeves with flywheel magneto and bracket. I have restored this engine as a companion to the larger one. Both engines made their debut at the Chowchilla, California, show in June 1998. I can be contacted at the above address or by calling 760-375-3658.