Boy Meets Engine

By Staff
1 / 3
2 / 3
3 / 3

P.O. Box 1026 Leeds, Alabama 35094

Photos by Ed Brushac

Christinas, 1975. Clarksville, Arkansas. Driving out to the
in-laws for the festivities. Driving along Highway 64, I see a
junkyard. Junkyards always deserve a ‘look-see’ for
something of interest. This time it pays off. There, atop a neatly
piled stack of scrap iron, are several spoked wheels of some sort.
We pull in and I find the owner of the junkyard. 1 ask him
what those wheels and Dig castings are. He is not sure, so I take a
closer look. They look like some kind of old engine or compressor.
There are two of them, and we agree on a price of $60 for the lot.
Well, here I am, 500 miles from home and, as luck would have it, we
are in the Honda Civic! He agrees to save them for me until I can
get hack out to Arkansas with my trailer.

That is how I found a 1933 Fairbanks and a C.H.&E. of
unknown vintage. Keep in mind that, at this time in my life, I knew
absolutely nothing about antique engines or the hobby. All I knew
was that I had found something interesting to play with.

The C.H.&E. was fairly complete, so I gave it to a friend to
fix up, as he did not have machine shop facilities at his disposal.
He could get his fixed up and running with little

Mine was an absolute basket case. I had by this time figured out
that it was indeed some kind of very old engine, but still had not
a clue as to what it was used for, or where to get help or parts or
anything. All I knew was it was a four stroke, the fuel system was
gone, and there was no timing mechanism or gearing whatsoever. Boy,
this was going to take some work to make it into an engine!

The piston was stuck fast, and the valves were broken off even
with the head. The babbitt bearings were also completely
non-existent. On the bright side, the block was not burst, the rod
was straight and the flywheels were not broken or bent. After
taking the head off, I poured in some oil and let it sit for a
while. Eventually, the piston was delicately removed, with the aid
of a piece of oak and a fire axe! For some unexplainable reason,
the piston and rings were perfect, but the cylinder bore was rusted
out an eighth of an inch where the rings touched the wall. Oh well,
I always wanted to sleeve an engine.

Good old NAPA auto parts. They had a sleeve that was close
enough to work with. I put the block in the boring mill at work
(while the boss was out of town) and bored and pressed the sleeve
in place. Next, for bearings, I found some prefab brass bushings
that were close to the right size and split them in half
length-wise. These were held in place in the block and caps by
drilling and countersinking the halves and screwing them in place
with flat-head brass screws. Crude but effective! The rod got the
same treatment. After that, I put the crank in a lathe and gave it
a good polishing, so it would turn freely in the homemade bearings.
Now, the piston would go up and down. Great, but still no cam or
gears or spark ,or timing.

Thanks to the good Dr. Ferdinand Porsche and the local
Volkswagen bone yard, my valve timing was taken care of. A sleeve
was pressed into a VW crank gear and rebored to fit on the
Fairbanks crank. One big set-screw makes it infinitely adjustable.
For a cam, I sawed a section of a VW camshaft to about three inches
long and turned a couple of lobes off of it to leave a stub shaft
on one end. Next, a VW cam gear was bushed and sleeved to fit on a
short shaft section that was turned on the other end of the
remaining camshaft lobe. Next, I bored out a block of aluminum to
accept the new camshaft. This was bolted to the block where the
original timing mechanism must have gone. A dead Briggs and
Stratton lawnmower engine gave up a lifter, and now I had gear

For the spark, I took a Dremmel hand grinder and ground a hollow
in the side of the cam gear. This let the rounded-off head of a
quarter-inch bolt fall into the hollow to work an old set of points
from my Honda. A friend gave me a T-model coil (later changed to a
homemade buzz coil), and I robbed a carburetor from an old
lawnmower. Hey, we’re getting close! Two Chevrolet valves
modified to fit the head, and a couple of old springs from the
company junque pile, and I’m in business. Next, I bolt it to a
piece of cross tie and fill the gas tank made from an empty propane
torch bottle. A few turns of the crank, and, WOW, it really is an

This project was completed in 1976 and, since it was our
bicentennial year, my wife suggested that it be painted red, white
and blue. So be it! After having many enjoyable hours over three or
four years’ time listening to and playing with my ‘one of a
kind’ engine, my bubble was finally burst. On a trip through
Kentucky, we accidentally happened upon the Mammoth Cave Antique
Engine Show. That is where we found out that I was not the only
weird person who played with old engines. What a great thing to
find out.

We have now been in the old engine hobby for nearly twenty
years, have had a great time at many engine shows and have met many
really nice people. Thanks to a junkyard in Arkansas.

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