An Engine To Reminisce With

By Staff
article image

1535 Peach Clovis, California 93612

This story began a few years ago when I started looking for the
components for a small riding tractor. Our grandsons would soon be
in need of a larger toy. I wanted a Fairbanks-Morse 1 HP dishpan
engine with battery ignition. During WW II Dad had pulled one of
them off the junk pile under the old fig tree and proceeded to work
on it. He said it was needed to power a hay elevator under
construction. I was dubious, but in a couple days it was running
and it pushed many tons of baled hay up into the barn that summer.
You could almost guess how many bales were on the elevator at any
time by the rhythm of that hit-and-miss engine.

In 1989 my wife and I were visiting family in Elmwood, Illinois,
where I found the running gear of a discarded garden tractor. One
of the advantages of a fifth wheel trailer is that there is always
room for pieces of rusty iron. An understanding wife is important,
too. Since that time I had been looking for one of the engines.
From American Gas Engines, these engines were introduced in 1922 as
a competitive engine for $44.50. Needless to say, they have a
higher price tag today.

In the spring of 1995, Dick Hamp of San Jose said he had an
engine for me if I wanted to do the restoration. At a fair price, I
thought it a collector’s dream. It was a basket case, but he
made sure all the parts were in the basket and usable. I restored
it for the shows last year, so this past winter I started tractor
construction. The foundation of any machine is the frame, and I
settled on 3/16 x 1 x 2 angle. A lot of consideration went into
placement of the engine relative to the axles and leg room. It is
narrowed for the engine to nest into with the rear half matching
the transaxle housing. A countershaft beneath the engine makes it
possible for the necessary ratio for travel speeds of 1, 2, and 3
mph. The belt from countershaft to transaxle has a spring-loaded
idler and pedal for operating as a clutch. The countershaft is also
belted to a Delco-Remy starter-generator calculated for 2,000 rpm
at an engine speed of 500 rpm. I had no idea whether the engine had
enough power to drive the generator and the wheels at the same time
so a belt tension knob was provided to the generator. The deck,
fenders and dash were fabricated from old shelving material. A
battery with sufficient cranking power was mounted below the deck
and is used for ignition and a Model A Ford motor horn. Switches
are provided for ignition, starter and horn. Other controls are
throttle, clutch, and brake. A Fordson tractor tool box was mounted
on the dash ahead of the steering column. A combination V and flat
pulley was fabricated to power the tractor and drive stationary
machines. The only new parts were two belts, two pulleys, the
battery, starter switch and electrical wiring. I give thanks to the
rusty iron pile, a collection of stuff too good to throw away, and
many friends.

The tractor performs as designed. It’s fun to drive with
adequate power. It could be debated whether this is a tractor or a
self-propelled hit-and-miss engine. After driving it some, I think
a frame of 3′ channel would have been a better choice. With a
high speed air-cooled engine, the angle iron should be okay, but
with this engine the tractor keeps ahead with every power pulse and
the frame acts as a spring member.

The tractor will be driven in the tractor parade at the
California Farm Equipment Show in Tulare, April 20 and 21. One of
my grandsons will be at the controls.

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines