Learning About Antique Engines in High School

A new program with a new twist


| May/June 1970



high school 1

Herb Wilcox removing carbon with wire wheel from a 6 hp. Novo piston.

Photo by Greg Wedin

At Warren Western Reserve High School old single-cylinder antique gasoline engines have added a new dimension to the small engine power mechanics program.

Western Reserve High School is in its fourth year of existence, with a total student enrollment of 2,300 students. The school with its modern architectural styling outside is offering new and unusual course offerings on the inside. One of these is a course entitled, "Small Engine Power Mechanics." The program as well as the shop is designed with the facilities to teach exclusively two-and-four-cycle gasoline engines.

At the time of its conception and first year of operation it dealt exclusively with four-cycle engines such as those found on lawn mowers, go-carts, mini-bikes, etc; two-cycle engines as used on lawn mowers, chain saws, etc. and the ever popular two-cycle outboard motor. As a teacher I encountered many problems faced by most teachers, but due to inherent interest of most teenage boys, motivation was not as big a factor as it is in other teaching areas but there were inevitably those students who could not be motivated or reached.

Quite inadvertently a fellow teacher, Mr. Al Lietzow (graphic arts instructor), asked me if the boys would like to work. The answer was "yes" and shortly thereafter a rusted hunk of cast iron in the form of a 3 HP Fairbanks-Morse throttling governor engine found its way into my shop. The fervor of interest and the motivation that this engine caused was phenomenal. Everyone wanted to work on it. No matter what the job or how dirty or time consuming, there was class after class of eager beavers.

Being that this engine was so different from those that we currently see, it became the conversation piece of the industrial arts and vocational education department as well as other parts of the school. Being a younger fellow this engine was strange but not totally unfamiliar. Because of my background (my father at 72 is still running a general repair shop for anything that has a motor or wheels) and the area where I grew up (the farming section of southern New Jersey) this strange brute was somewhat familiar. The students worked, adjusted, made, designed, manufactured parts, readjusted, redesigned, and remanufactured parts in a futile effort to get the engine running.

As I also teach driver's education I am on the road in the driver's education car many hours a week. One day I passed the home of a fellow collector and GEM subscriber, George Bunting. A few days later I returned to the house with the gasoline engines in the yard, and what is now a wonderful friendship was started. At that time George introduced me to GEM and lent me some back issues to read. In reading these issues I came across the name, Carleton Mull with whom most of you are familiar. With his knowledge and help, some minor adjustments were made on our 3 HP Fairbanks-Morse and it was running. Now interest was really boiling. Such weird noises, parts moving back and forth, sucking noises, gears turning all where you could see them out in the open. What a sight, and, by-gosh, a fantabulous teaching aide. Would you believe a running four-cycle engine as good as any cutaway teaching aide?