A Not So Easy Emmons

Badge-engineered Single Built by Stanley Co.


| June 2005



06-05-008-Emmons-20.jpg

At the August 2001 Southern Tier Antique Gas and Steam Engine Assn. (STAGEA) show in Maine, N.Y., my wife Sherry and I set up my engines for display. I usually take a fast walk around the displays and flea market looking for "stuff" for the engine hobby or my railroad lantern collection (I am genetically pre-disposed to collect things). In the back of an old pickup truck I saw an old single-cylinder inboard engine with "$400" written on the side. I was intrigued because its nameplate said it was made by E. Gerry Emmons Corp., Swampscott, Mass., a maker I had never heard of. Although it had a big spark plug sticking out of the head, there were a lot of pieces and broken parts. I never got to speak to the owner, but I did get his phone number. Once home, I searched through some of my inboard literature and poured over the digital pictures I had taken. Finally, I spotted a similar engine (made by the Stanley Co., also of Massachusetts) in an old Motorboating magazine. It was clear I had missed out on a very neat make-and-break ignition engine.

That next Monday I was on the phone to the gentleman setting up a time when I could drive up and "see" (buy) the Emmons. After we made the deal and loaded the engine into my minivan, I headed back home, very sweaty, but very happy. Somehow, the motor got real heavy on the trip back and I had to get my neighbor Rick to help me unload it.

Engine Assessment

With the Emmons in hand, I began to do a survey of what was broken or missing. Right away I could tell the main bearings were pretty worn out - there was a loud "clunk" when lifting the flywheel up. I could also see that several of the ignition parts were gone and/or had been cut off and probably thrown away during the "blacksmith" conversion to spark ignition. The mixer on the engine was obviously part Schebler and part Lunk-enheimer. Then there was the question of why there was a cork wrapped in cloth electrical tape jammed in a hole down low on the engine casting right by the mixer.

What I believe to be a 2 1/2 HP engine turned over, but not too easily and there was a lot of blow-by. I was not really thinking about compression at that point. This little lack of foresight would come back to bite me after the engine was all assembled. I realized there would be a lot of machine work ahead, which is good in the winter months. I also knew I'd be attending the Hershey, Pa., Antique Auto Show and staying near an uncle with a big sandblaster. In the meantime, I dismantled and researched the Emmons as much as I could.

I was put in touch with Keith Billet of Billet Industries, who is the antithesis of the blacksmith repair man who modified the Emmons. Keith isn't into simple pencil and paper sketches of parts or approximate figures. He uses a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program to produce industrial quality drawings and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) tapes that will allow an automatic lathe or mill to produce a replacement part. Well, Keith is also an antique engine collector who happened to have a single-cylinder Stanley with the same ignition system. Keith was willing to lend me the parts from his engine that I needed to copy and I agreed to loan him the parts from my engine that were missing from his.

I was also put in touch with a Canadian collector, Larry Healey, who had a Toquet (a predecessor of the Stanley Co.), and while the ignition system was not identical, seeing the mixer on the Toquet was like getting the Enigma code or finding the Rosetta Stone: I now knew what the hole with the cork was for and why the Schebler/Lunkenheimer was made.