A Novo Named Hedda

By Staff
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67 Skymeadow Drive, Stamford, Connecticut 06903

In the spring of 1963 while driving along Railroad Avenue in
Greenwich, Connecticut, I noticed an interesting piece of machinery
in the front yard of a lawn mower repair shop. A Novo 1? HP s/n
20812 had reposed in the dirt with a wooden pail inverted over the
hopper. I inquired about the engine with the owner of the shop; he
called her ‘Hedda Hopper’ and she was for sale. After a
short discussion and an exchange of forty dollars, I was driving
away with Hedda to my auto repair shop nearby.

The piston was free, so after a good cleaning I removed the
valve cages, ground and lapped them in. I hastily devised an
ignition system with a Model T Ford coil and 7-volt burglar alarm
battery. The fuel pump would not hold a prime, so I filled the
carburetor and spun the flywheel until my hands were raw. With much
tinkering several evenings later, Hedda would fire three times in
succession and no more.

Since I had proved to myself that I got her to fire, I was
satisfied to spend my spare time on other interests. I decided to
give her a snazzy red paint job and polish all the brass. A trip
home to rest in my den was next. My wife decided to put a flower
pot in Hedda’s hopper. Hedda then sat behind a small woodstove
for 26 years, getting only a dusting and a gentle turn of her
flywheels.

In the spring of 1989 I came across an issue of Gas Engine
Magazine and was astounded by the interest in antique engines from
people across the country. I immediately subscribed to GEM, which
kindled my interest in waking up Hedda after all those years. So
out of the den and into the garage, Hedda got her fuel pump check
valves reseated and a new packing of butcher’s twine and
Kirkman laundry soap. I made a nifty battery box from an Italian
wine crate. I used the same Model T coil and a 7-volt battery. This
time Hedda would run for one minute and quit. I tinkered with
ignition timing and exhaust valve timing to no avail. Night after
night I cranked her until I pulled my right shoulder so badly I
could not lift a fork!

Some time later I built a truck for Hedda utilizing some oak
plow handles to wheel her around. I took her to a nearby gas engine
show in the fall of 1989. Hedda looked pretty sitting on her spiffy
truck but she would not perform for the folks. Feeling very
frustrated, I struck up a conversation with another exhibitor from
Worcester, Massachusetts. He revealed an interesting
solution. 

My new friend told me he has a Novo 1? HP and uses a 12-volt
motorcycle battery for power. He assured me that the coil
saturation time is so short that 12 volts would not burn the
windings. That evening after the show, I located a 12 volt cycle
battery; since that day, Hedda has started with one spin of her
flywheels, and gets up to governor speed instantly.

The next show two weeks later, Hedda ran for three hours while
crowds of folks watched and asked questions. I was a happy man!

At her next show sometime in 1990, she will drive a 250 watt
D.C. generator via a new leather belt from her flywheel and will
light up a collection of antique Edison bulbs.

I estimate Hedda is 77 years old and still willing to work for
her keep. That is saying a lot in the scheme of things today.

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