A Hard-Won Witte

By Staff
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St. Rt. 2, Box 17, Walton, Wisconsin 25286

I have a story that I think is too good not to be shared with
fellow gas engine collectors. About two years ago I heard about an
old gas engine sitting in a building on a remote farm in West
Virginia.

I learned about it from a fellow with not too good a reputation
for telling the truth. Knowing this I kinda dismissed the story.
About a year later I ran into the nephew of the people who owned
the farm where the engine was supposed to be. I decided to ask him
if he knew of a gas engine with two flywheels. He being a very
young lad said he knew nothing about this type of engine. But, he
said his grandfather had the engine the first man told me about. I
had doubted the story, but I guess the tale teller had made a
mistake and told me the truth!

To get on with the conversation I had with the young nephew of
the original owner, he suggested I talk with his father about
buying the engine. This being Saturday night, I waited until I
thought his father was out of bed Sunday morning. I was sitting in
his driveway, told him my business there, but he was very little
help.

He said there were about seven heirs involved and he wanted no
part of it on his shoulders. But, he would talk to his father who
was a brother of the man who bought it new. A few days passed, then
he called me to tell me his father also would not give the go ahead
to sell. But while we talked, he gave me the phone number of one of
his father’s brothers, and told me to call him and get his
opinion.

I phoned him long distance and took about an hour to bring him
up to date on what was happening in the county where he had grown
up and become a doctor. Finally I got a chance to break in on the
conversation and ask about the engine. He said he remembered it
well; that his brother bought it new to run a cut off saw.

Considering the fact it had sat there for about fifty years and
none of the family showed an interest in it, he told me to have his
nephew set a price on it and let me have it. I thanked him and the
next day I was back in the driveway at the nephew’s to relate
to him what I thought was good news.

Wrong. He still wanted no part in pricing it.

He told me he thought I should go talk to his father in person
and indicated he didn’t wish to discuss it any more. Well, I
thought, if he could not talk to his father I surely would be
wasting my time considering the fact his father was 86 years
young.

So, feeling very low, I went home and decided to forget about
the whole mess.

Well, another six months passed and I ran into the young lade
great nephew to the original owner and grandson to the 86 year old,
and he wanted to know if I were still interested in the engine,
because if so, Grandpa had decided to make me a price.

Again the next day being Sunday I decided to give it one more
try. I waited until I figured he’d be up and I knocked on the
door. The old gentleman invited me in to talk.

After about an hour of discussing past events he said, ‘I
have arrived at a price where I can divide among the heirs and have
no change.’ I told him it seemed a bit rich for me, but after
going to this much fuss, what was a little more going to
matter?

So, after unlocking the gate at the old farm, we were faced with
a lock on the door of the building, with no key. It was so rusty,
it would not have opened anyway.

The nephew pried off the lock and I went in and over in a dry
corner sat a 6 HP type F Witte. I took hold of the flywheels and to
my surprise, they moved.

I am getting ahead of the story a little bit. The old gentleman
told me the engine had been sitting in this same spot for 40 to 50
years and he could not ever remember hearing it run. Well, to be
safe I took along three extra men, a pry bar, a hand winch and
chains plus a 4-wheel drive truck. So, I figured after doing all
this I would go ahead and load the engine.

Immediately after getting it home I made a return trip to the
old gentleman’s house and gave him his price, naturally in
cash, thanked him and headed home. By this time darkness had
overtaken me and I had to wait all night before looking my
investment over real good.

To my surprise after wiping a little bit of 40 years of dirt,
this engine had about 95% of the original finish left on it plus it
was still mounted on the shipping skids. I immediately got the
squirt can and oiled every moving part. Let it soak for about a
week and just today put gas in the carburetor and gave it a few
turns. Put the plug wire back on, cranked again and to my surprise
again it started and ran perfect.

Had an EK Wico that was still as hot as the day it was built.
Have checked the engine very closely and have not found one worn
part.

So boys, if you hear of an old engine, be patient. You just
might own it some day!

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