A Case for Keeping Records

By Staff

409 Mills Lane, New Albany, Indiana 47150

Being a relative newcomer to this hobby, only about two years
now, I am rather hesitant about writing anything that sounds likes
I’m giving advice, so let me tell you about this dumb idea I
have. I’m going to use a few hypothetical situations;
hopefully, you can fit yourself into one of them.

1.) It’s midway through engine show season and you’ve
had a busy year. You’ve been gone almost every weekend to a
show and most of your engines have been run a good deal. You notice
the oil in the John Deere 1 HP looks a little odd, not really
dirty, just off color. ‘Let’s see, when did I change it? At
the beginning of the season, no, that was the McCormick Deering;
well it must have been last season then!’ Wouldn’t you
prefer to know exactly when you changed the oil, and maybe a close
estimate of how many hours it had been run since then, and maybe
even an estimate of how much oil you have added to it along the

2.) This past spring, you took a friend along to a show, and now
he’s interested in getting into the hobby. You’ve kinda
taken him under your wing and are encouraging him (as many of you
do, thankfully). He calls one Saturday morning and says, ‘Hey,
pal, I located an Economy just like yours, in good mechanical
condition, running and reasonable. It does need a good cleaning and
going through and probably paint. How much will it cost to get it
in show condition?’ You could use your vast experience and give
him your best guess, or you could look in your records and quote
him what you paid for decals, gaskets, paint (as well as colors and
brands), and you might even have sources for these as well as parts
and manuals. You could probably even give him a good estimate of
how many hours are involved in the restoration.

3.) Christmas is a month past; the grey, snowy, windy, cold
weather has gotten the best of you. Off we go to Florida, for two
weeks. Plan on taking in at least one engine show while there
(it’s almost sinful that those folks can enjoy their engines
all year round). Returning home, you find that while you were
soaking up sunshine and thoroughly enjoying yourself, some low-life
circumvented your triple shielded, supersonic, high-tech security
system and made off with your most prized engine. After the normal
period of grieving and ranting, it is decided to ring up the
insurance company; ‘What do you mean you have to have the
serial number? Why didn’t you get the serial number when you
wrote the policy? I can’t believe you expect me to have that
kind of information!’

4.) At a local Fall Festival, you have your engines set up and
running when a stranger approaches and comments, ‘My dad had
one of those on the farm, but it somehow got away from us. Would
you be interested in selling it?’ All engines are prized
possessions, some more than others. It so happens that you know
where there is an engine you would die for, you just have to have
it. So, under the circumstances, you might be willing to part with
this one. ‘Now let’s see, I bought this from,
‘what’s his name’ and I paid !@#! Heck, I’m not
sure. Well, let me think, what did I have to do to it and how much
did I spend to get it running?’

I hope you were able to relate to one of the above examples. Our
reasons for collecting engines may differ, but I think one common
goal is to keep them around and running in the best condition that
we can. I don’t advocate that everyone do what I do, but a few
records on your engines are probably in order. I’ll explain
what I do, and maybe give you some ideas for your own system, which
can be as simple or high-tech as you want.

I personally use a pocket size spiral bound notebook for each
engine. You could use a loose-leaf 3-ring notebook or even 3′ x
5′ index cards. The first page has my name, address, and
telephone. Page two has the person’s name from whom I got the
engine, as well as price paid, and nothing else! If I ever get rid
of it (which is doubtful), I can tear out this page, and still
provide the new owner with a short history on the engine. Pricing
is a very personal thing, after all!

The next page is information on the restoration: parts added and
costs, general notes on the condition of the internal parts, decals
(cost and suppliers), paint brand and color name or number and
cost, date the restoration was completed, and an estimate of the
hours spent on the restoration.

Next, I skip a couple of pages, for afterthoughts and a
separator page. Then I start my log section. It contains dates for
oil changes as well as brand of oil (if appropriate), date the
engine was run and estimate of how long, estimate of how much oil
was added (if appropriate), date any maintenance or checks were
performed, and winterizing and storage information if necessary.
There’s no reason to go overboard on the running time; at the
end of a show, I simply use my best estimate of how long I had each
engine running.

I tried several methods simultaneously, to see which I liked
best. A basic requirement was to keep the log portable and
manageable, so I could have it with me at the shows. I toyed with
the idea of loading the info into a computer, but that violated my
basic rule. To aid efficient use of the system, I put a stick-on
label on the front of each book and record engine make, size,
model, and serial number. A box half as long as a shoebox will hold
logs for more engines than I could get on a trailer.

My personal disclaimer: This system is not for everyone, maybe
it’s not for anyone; as I approach (too quickly and close) the
half-century mark, I find that some details begin to lose their
cutting edge and run together! I can still count all my engines
with my shoes on, but I am certain that I will start misplacing
information sooner or later (probably sooner), so I developed my
log system. Some of it is stolen from the military, and part of it
was added for my personal desires.

I’ve found the logs help me enjoy my hobby and give me a
good feeling about preserving this old iron. I hope someone finds
this interesting or useful.

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines