A Step Backwards

By Staff
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609 Main St. Piedmont, South Dakota 57769

I have always been intrigued by the masterful skills of our
ancestors in the development of engines, machines and automobiles.
For a number of years I have been restoring engines, tractors and
machines and have marveled at some of the ingenuity used to develop
them and make them work.

In a past GEM magazine, I saw a picture of an auto someone had
built, which used a stationary engine for the power source. An idea
to try to build an auto similar to what had been built years ago
started to grow. Shortly after seeing the picture, I was at an
auction sale and spotted the metal parts to a horse-drawn spring
wagon in an iron pile. I purchased the wagon with the idea of
building an auto; little did I realize what I was getting into!

When I got the wagon home and placed it up on blocks in the
garage, it seemed my family and friends thought I had lost my mind.
But their ‘needling’ added to my determination. I started
by replacing all the wood on the wagon axles and frame. No wheels
were with the wagon, so I scrounged up some old model T wheels
which were in pretty bad shape. Tires for a T are expensive, so I
decided to use 18′ implement wheels, motorcycle tires, and
spokes and hubs from the T wheels. I cut the ends of the wagon
axles off and welded on spindles from a T. In choosing an engine my
decision was driven by weight and physical size. I used a 1924
Cushman four horsepower model C binder for a power source. I
modified the engine by adding a second flywheel to make it run
smoother. The engine sits right behind the seat and is belted to a
3-speed lawnmower transmission. The transmission is then
chain-driven to the wheels using the original lawnmower axles. I
added a radiator and a fan to the engine. The body was constructed
entirely of wood. The clutch and brakes are controlled by a single
lever. The first time the lever is pulled, the drive belt releases.
With additional pull, flat pads are engaged with the rear tires to
slow the auto. Crude, but it works!

The auto will do 12 miles per hour in high gear and runs very
well. Even with modern tools and materials, building an auto was a
major challenge. Hats off to our ancestors who accomplished great
things with little to work with. If Cushman Company had ever built
an auto, maybe this is what it would have looked like. I titled the
auto Cushman model #1. The state inspector who inspected the auto
for the title application was at a loss as to what to inspect. His
comment was, ‘I don’t know where to start. I’ll be back
after I study the manual!’ Well, he did finally approve a title
and the auto is licensed. Stop by on a summer Sunday, we’ll go
for a drive!

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