Behind the Door

By Staff
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The finished Briggs & Stratton WMI.
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The engine before restoration.
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The engine before restoration.
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The Briggs & Stratton engine in pieces, as a display.
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View of the finished engine.
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View of the finished engine.
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Painted parts drying in the sun.

When June of 2006 arrived, I decided to spend a weekend
completing a small engine for the summer show season, as I had not
worked on an engine since the fall of 2005.

Most of my Briggs & Stratton engine collection is stored in
my garage, with the larger ones kept at my son’s shop. There was
one, however, that rested behind the door to my wife’s laundry
room. I am not sure why I left it there; it just ended up there
after I bought it on eBay from John Campbell of Norton, Ohio. I had
covered the B&S in plastic and it was as complete as I
remembered it in 2003 when I put it there.

I knew I had to work on a complete engine if I was going to
finish the job during one weekend, so this was the one I chose. My
tolerant wife was very happy to hear the news that my upcoming
weekend project would be on the engine behind her laundry room

This particular engine was a Model WMI. The model is the
industrial – hence the “I” – version of the popular washing machine
engine that B&S built throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s.
It has a deep oil sump base that incorporates an oil pump for
heavy-duty lubrication. The original model WM had only a splash
system for this purpose.

I had previously researched this engine and found it was a Type
20460 and serial no. 164227, which meant it was built in May 1938.
It had a 1/2 HP rating and 2-by-1-1/2-inch bore and stroke. I also
knew it had been used on a lawn mower, as it still had an original
decal on the cylinder shield that read “Eclipse.” As this decal was
in fairly good shape, I decided to retain it as part of the little
engine’s history if it was possible.

The engine incorporated two starting methods, both a lever start
on the drive side and a rope pull on the magneto side.

My weekend arrived and I woke early Saturday morning to get a
good start on stripping down the WMI. It took me an hour and a half
to take apart all the pieces and another three hours to clean and
inspect them for wear or damage.

Everything looked good, so by noon, I was well into glass
beading and painting all the parts that needed it. By dinner time,
the painted parts were hanging on racks in the warm sun.

On Sunday morning, I applied a second coat of paint, and by noon
I began to reassemble the parts. I added engine and air filter
decals I obtained from CPC Reproductions of Rhode Island to the
finished paint work. I preserved the original lawn mower decal by
carefully cleaning and coating it with three layers of marine
varnish. This process took longer due to the drying time for the
varnish. So, although I finished reassembly of the WMI on the
Sunday, technically the engine was not completely put together
until later the following week.

The decal preservation turned out very well, so even though this
engine was to be a weekend project, I felt the extra time spent
preserving this piece of history was well worth it.

Unfortunately, the little engine never started when I gave it a
try. It turned out the magneto was not functional and a replacement
was required before it would run. But what a great way to spend a
weekend! I would like to thank my wife for giving me the weekend
free from the usual chores and for not complaining too much about
the engine behind her laundry room door.

Contact engine enthusiast John Cox at: 2224 Wyandotte Drive,
Oakville, ONT Canada L6L 2T5;

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