1108 Emery Lane Clarksville, Indiana 47129-1508
The Fairbanks-Morse Company was started sometime in the year 1823, and by the 1920s was an extremely successful operation, manufacturing and selling all manner of hardware type items, especially for the farm. In 1913, the company abandoned its already popular hopper cooled type N gas engine for a completely new version called the Type Z. The type Z was an instant success. The small and compact 1? HP Z Model D of 1928 was no exception. It was successful from the beginning. The D was a very popular engine in the 1920s, and today's collectors of 'old iron' are still enamored by this little jewel. Probably one reason for the D's popularity among today's collectors is the fact it weighs roughly 160 pounds, thus it is no problem to load or unload at your favorite engine rally. Rated at 1? HP, the D could be ordered from the factory with a variety of additions. These extras could include an extended crankshaft, steel skids instead of wood, and also an auxiliary water hopper made of sheet steel. Of course all of these additions were added to the base price of the engine, which was approximately $55.00.
However, by the late Thirties the base price had almost doubled. Any additions such as steel skids instead of the traditional wood skids added a hefty cost of $4.00 per unit. This would not be much by today's standards, however you must keep in mind the D was being manufactured and sold during the period commonly referred to as the 'depression days,' and $4.00 wasn't easy to obtain. At that particular time in history a used Model T Ford automobile could be purchased for approximately $5.00. If a farmer or a city dweller had intentions of buying a hopper-cooled gas engine it is doubtful it would be ordered with any high-priced additions unless they were absolutely necessary. However, Fairbanks-Morse Company, like many large companies building and selling gas engines, tried in every way to satisfy the wants of its customers and, at the same time, produce an excellent product at a reasonable price. Costwise the F-M D was competitive and, with a large selection of special additions, the D was a popular source of power.
The D in photo #1(serial number 808616), year 1938, is one of those special engines. It was described by Fairbanks-Morse Company as a 'totally self-contained, model A F-M electric light plant.' (See American Gasoline Engines by C. H. Wendel, page 166.) This little D, rated at 1? HP, was equipped with a belt pulley used to power a 750-watt generator, which was a very much welcomed and needed addition, especially on farms with numerous barns and milking parlors. Some of these generators were in operation as late as the 1940s. Also available from the factory at that time was a factory closed-hopper designed D. The water hopper, being closed, was thus tapped and threaded to receive the proper pipe connections. A tank was added to help in circulating the additional water. Research has failed to reveal if the cooling tank and water pipes were manufactured by the Fairbanks-Morse Company. It would be very interesting to discover a D equipped with an original factory cooling system. Over the years, I have owned (and at the present time have) a 1929, '31, '32, '38, '40, and a 1943 model Fairbanks Morse D.
Unfortunately, none of these engines are closed-hopper and tank-cooled design. When I rescued the D in the photos it was missing part of the fan shroud and the generator. Somehow the D had managed to survive the rigors of many winters of snow and rain by being undercover, but not covered overall. Thus an even coat of rust covers this little gem. However, despite these reversals, the piston was free (the valves were a little tight), and the magneto remained 'hot.' Quite a tribute to the engine builders of that time. In my humble opinion, the F-M D is a pleasure to own and operate.
Give one a shot of gas, and a decent spark and it will probably run. Most observers (especially those visiting a gas engine show) are amazed by the fact that the D has only one flywheel but remains in perfect balance while humming along at a creditable clip. Again, more credit to the designers and builders of the D. Ignition for the early D's was an F.M.H.T. magneto.
Fairbanks-Morse also used numerous other magnetos, among them were a type J and a type R. These were all manufactured by the Fairbanks-Morse Company. The J and R were simple to repair, thus another selling point for the D.
Take your Fairbanks-Morse D to the next gas engine show, start it, and let it run for the visitors. I will admit its 'box-type' design is not a thing of beauty, but I'll bet it will run and won't let you down.