An ugly mule no more
Terry Beasley's 1913 6 HP Associated engine after restoration.
For several years now, I’ve been collecting Associated engines.
After purchasing my 4 HP a few years ago, I have been drawn to the larger engines. I kept my eyes open at the Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Assn. show in Portland, Ind., but the larger Associated engines just didn’t show up for sale.
While browsing the ads at SmokStak.com one morning in September 2007, I found my next engine. It was an early 6 Mule Team Associated that Jon Rosevink had for sale. The engine was complete and not stuck but looked to have a really bad paint job. It did have a nice clutch pulley and brass magneto, though.
After contacting Jon, a price was agreed upon and he arranged shipping from Ohio. I was worried about the shipping cost for such a heavy engine but Jon has some great shipping contacts and I was very happy with the outcome.
The engine arrived in a few days, crated so well it seemed to take forever to get a good look at it. Everything was just as represented and the paint was just as ugly as I expected. According to the serial number it was built in 1913.
The engine had what I thought was most of the original paint showing, but someone had painted over it with little or no prep and most of the outer paint layer was gone or still peeling. I loaded the engine up and headed straight to my friend Stan Hudson’s shop to see what needed to be done to get the engine running, as my new shop was still just a drawing on paper.
The valves were both badly stuck, as was the igniter shaft.
We sprayed everything liberally with PB Blaster and started trying to get the essentials freed so we could hear it run. The valves were stuck badly enough in the guides that we had to remove the head, which was a major task in itself. The engine, having a wet head, had built up rust and scale around the six head studs and it took a lot of careful prying and pulling to get the head off.
After removing the head, the valves were removed and cleaned. Both valve guides looked very good after being polished but the valve stems were badly pitted and now loose in the guides. I wanted to hear the engine run so I decided to make new valve stems and use the old cast valve heads instead of ordering new valves. I had 0.50-inch 304 stainless steel ground rod so I made new stems for both valves and removed the valve heads on the lathe. The old valve heads were pressed on the new stems and the valves reinstalled. The valve guides had to be reamed slightly to allow smooth operation.
Next, we removed the igniter, and after getting the shaft freed up we realized that it also needed to be replaced. We used almost the same procedure as the valves and started by chucking the movable electrode in the lathe and drilling the shaft out of the electrode. We made a new shaft and pressed the electrode on the new shaft. The governor collar was freed up on the crankshaft to allow the governor to operate correctly and the exhaust rocker arm was freed up.
Getting the engine running
It was time to hear it run. We cleaned the mixer and the fuel check valve and hooked up a temporary fuel supply. We oiled everything very well and hooked up Stan’s hot box to the igniter. After a few false starts and adjustments to the speed control, it was off and running. Both governor springs were rusted away so we went into the spare spring box and found likely replacements.
The engine ran well but as things freed up and the lubrication soaked in, it became harder and harder to start. Before long it would hit one time and coast to a stop.
I put a test light in the circuit of the igniter to confirm that the igniter was working. It would light once when the engine was rotated slowly but after the engine hit once no further contact was made. I must have removed everything at least three times and rolled those big flywheels until I could not lift my arms.
This went on for several days until one night an old friend, Jesse Trip, stopped by and was watching me trying to start the engine in amusement. After a few moments he removed the pin that held the igniter tension spring and gave the spring one more turn to add tension to the igniter. The old engine started on the first rotation and ran like a dream.
The old spring was rusty and had lost tension over the years. That convinced me once again that the older guys could still teach us something about these engines. I replaced the igniter spring on my smaller Choreboy engine later that week and it cured some starting and running issues with that engine also.
Hitting the road
With the engine up and running, it was quickly decided that it was too heavy to leave on skids, so we resurrected an old railway station cart and bolted it down.
I contacted Starbolt and ordered a replacement fuel tank and a handful of those igniter springs as well as new valve springs for both valves. I also built a temporary battery box and bolted the new fuel tank on, and was ready to show the engine off a little.
I carried the engine to several of the local shows around eastern North Carolina in 2008 and 2009 and was really happy with the way the engine ran, but the paint issues and the cart didn’t do the engine justice.
Making it presentable
After our last show in 2009, I decided to tackle the appearance of the engine.
I started out by trying to manually remove the peeling outer layer of paint. Most of that layer was in hard-to-get-to places, and after hours of scraping with a razor I realized that this effort was futile. I tried using stripper on just the paint I wanted to remove, but it was a much harder modern paint that took so much effort to remove, the underlying paint was also being damaged.
In the process I figured out that the engine had several layers of the paint, and the original paint was so long gone that I decided to strip the engine to the cast and protect it with linseed oil. That did not work out as planned, either.
When I applied the stripper to the engine I found that there were so many layers of paint and primer that it all just softened into a sticky mess that even a high-pressure washer could not remove. After trying aircraft stripper several times, I decided to have the engine blasted and paint it as close to original as possible. What I got back looked like a newly cast engine.
I removed the hopper from the cylinder by cutting what remained of the heads of the six bolts away with a torch. After removing the top half of the hopper I drilled and removed the bolts and cleaned the threads with a tap. While cleaning out the hopper I found a Tempo wrench, patent dated 1904, wedged between the hopper side and the cylinder.
The cylinder was removed with the head attached so it could be primed and painted silver. The rest of the engine was primed and painted with Sikkens FLNA 30021 that matches the old Associated paint as close as anything I have found. I did paint the flywheel rims silver. According to what I have been told, they were originally left bare, but in the humid South, bare metal just turns brown overnight.
The engine ID tag was very tarnished from years of use. I soaked it overnight in vinegar to remove the oxidation and polished it with Brasso. I didn’t want the tag to be highly polished – just clean and readable.
According to old sales literature I have seen, the Associated engines were given an elaborate pinstripe design. I drew the stripe patterns as close to the old photos in the sales literature as possible using AutoCAD and sent them to a friend that operates a sign shop to have him cut patterns from vinyl decal material to use as paint masks. I used these to paint the striping on the engine with an airbrush.
On to the cart
I looked for a set of wheels that would work with a cart for this engine at the Portland, Ind., show in 2009, but most were already sold when I found them. I checked around locally but wheels left in the wild down South tend to rust away. I decided to make a set of wheels and rolled 3- by 0.25-inch steel flat bar into a 24-inch diameter rim. I used a piece of 1-inch inside diameter by 2-inch outside diameter tube for the hub and 0.62-inch round rod for the spokes. I made a fixture to hold the hub and rim in position while everything was welded. This required a lot of labor but I was pleased with the result.
I made a cart from my drawing using 2- by 3- by 0.25-inch steel rectangular tubing, and came up with a front bolster design that would hold the weight of the engine. Finally, after painting the cart black, I hoisted the engine onto the new cart and started tuning to get it back to the way it ran when it was ugly.
I read a lot of opinions that these engines should be left in their old work clothes, but when one has this many layers of poorly applied paint, I believe a start-from-scratch was my best option.
I finished off the project by building a permanent battery box from oak that closely matches the originals I had seen.
After a few days of tuning and getting everything loosened up, the engine started and now runs like new.
My wife’s granddad, Mr. Craddock, saw the engine just after it was completed and remarked that he had seen the engines being worked back in the day. He asked if I knew how old it was and I told him that it was built in 1913. He laughed and said he was born in 1913 and wanted his photo taken with the engine. I hope he gets to see it turn 100 years old in a few years.
I would like to thank Stan Hudson and Jesse Trip for all of their effort and advice. Not everybody will let you take up space in their shop, and I may have never gotten the engine running right without them.
Contact Terry Beasley at 5633 NC Hwy. 33 E., Chocowinity, NC 27817 • (252) 944-5233 • firstname.lastname@example.org .