Rare 12 HP Badger Engine Rescued from Harsh Wisconsin Weather and Brought Back to Life
There's no disputing sideshaft, flyball-governed engines are hot these days, and for good reason: All the moving parts working together are constantly keeping your eyes busy, almost leaving you in a trance. That, and everybody wants one.
One guy fortunate enough to get his hands on one of these increasingly unattainable engines is Bill Winkler of St. Anna, Wis. His 12 HP Badger engine, made by the C.P.&J. Lauson Co., Milwaukee, Wis., was found nestled outside next to a barn.
Another collector had found the engine on a farm near Alcorn, Wis., in fairly good, complete condition. Even so, 100 years of harsh Wisconsin winters had taken their toll on the poor old Badger. The collector approached Bill at the 2003 Badger Steam and Gas Engine Show in Baraboo, Wis., and told him about the engine and his plans to attain it. Bill showed interest and asked if he could have the first chance at buying it. Obviously his wish was granted.
A feature unique to the Badger engine is that there is no base. However, there is a short bedplate bolted directly to the cart's channels. Other features of note are the intricate pinstriping and the stout connecting rod. According to C.H. Wendel's American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, the rod was machined from a solid steel billet, and “… remained as an identifying mark of high quality design for many years.”
Bill purchased the engine in 2003 in the same condition it was found just a few months prior, and spent the next six months restoring it. When discovered, the engine had been converted to spark plug ignition, and Bill intended to find the necessary parts and convert it back to its original igniter-type ignition.
Amazingly enough, a few weeks after Bill made his purchase, some friends of his came across an original C.P.&J. battery box in that very same barn the engine had been sitting next to all those years. Although the box is not original to this particular engine, it did contain the Badger's original igniter.
When Editor-in-Chief Richard Backus caught up with Bill at the 2004 Portland, Ind., show, he informed Richard that he had just recently finished restoring the engine. During the restoration, he sent the Badger's piston to Paul and Bill Debolt at Debolt Machine Inc., Zanesville, Ohio, to have them sleeve it. Debolt first shaved the piston down, fit a cast iron sleeve onto it, then re-machined the ring lands and wrist pin hole. The 5/8-inch ring lands that came from the factory were re-cut to 1/4-inch. As opposed to sleeving the cylinder, the piston was sleeved because it is much easier to shave a piston down on a lathe than it is to bore a 12-inch-deep hole in a huge piece of cast iron, and most machine shops don't have a boring bar large enough for a job like that anyway.
Most everything was so rust-pitted that the valves and seats had to be ground, the head shaved, rod turned and flywheels spun. Most of this work was done by a couple of local machine shops in Bill's hometown. Once everything was machined, Bill started in on the assembly, and was able to reuse the original bearings, as they were in good shape. Before the assembly was completed, he painted the engine and all the appropriate parts the correct shade of green originally found on the Badger. A local pinstriper, Betty Daun, painstakingly striped the engine per factory photos. Bill then cut new channels for the cart and bolted them to the original trucks.
The old muffler was in bad shape externally, so Bill made a new housing around the muffler's original innards. Finally, all that was left was to construct a gas tank and cooling tank, since the originals were missing. Bill wanted to extend a special thanks to Jim Keets in Minnesota for supplying him with the necessary dimensions for these tanks, made by a local tinsmith, which turned out great.
A collection of about 25 engines sits in Bill's garage, two of which are also Badgers – a 6 HP tank-cooled and a 6 HP hopper-cooled. His collection consists mainly of C.P.&J. Lauson, John Lauson and Lauson-Lawton engines, which is why the collector in Baraboo approached him in the first place.
This Badger in particular is very rare, according to Bill, and up until a few months ago was the only 12 HP igniter-fired and tank-cooled model known. The only other one is owned by Bradley Styles on the East Coast, but his is missing a few must-have parts. According to Bill, only eight or nine 12 HP igniter-fired Badgers exist, but most are hopper-cooled.
Bill has his dad to thank for giving him the old iron bug. He claims his dad, Don, helped out a lot on the Badger project and offered his expertise, as well as his nice, warm garage to work on his engines in the winter months. Bill, Don and Bill's brother, Tom, have each restored a gas engine every winter for the past five or six years.
Now that Bill has what everyone else wants, it's not likely he'll part with it anytime soon. But he does show it annually at Portland, Baraboo and the Chilton, Wis., Steam Antique Engine Club Show, so you can view this beautiful engine there while shooting the breeze with Bill.
Anyone with information or literature on the Badger line is encouraged to contact Bill, as he is always interested in learning more about the line.
Contact engine enthusiast Bill Winkler at: (920) 894-7614; firstname.lastname@example.org