Circa-1890 6 hp Olds Engine

Dick Vye's very original Olds engine is a hit at shows.

| December 2016/January 2017

Circa-1890 6 hp Olds

Manufacturer: Old Gas & Gasoline Engine Works, Lansing, MI
Year: Circa 1890
Serial no.: 2756
Horsepower: 6 hp
Bore & stroke: 5-1/2in x 7in
Flywheel dia & width: 40in x 2-1/2in
Weight: 2,000lb (approx.)
Ignition: Battery and Igniter
Governing: Hit-and-miss w/ pendulum governor

As an avid collector of old stationary engines, imagine my excitement when two years ago a friend pulled into my driveway with a large engine on his trailer that I did not recognize. On closer inspection I noticed an “Olds” tag and realized immediately that this was a very special and rare piece.

The engine belonged to his cousin, and I asked if it might be for sale. Alas, it was not. This was a collector’s dream, and it appeared it was going to remain just that until last fall when his cousin paid me a visit to look at my collection of engines. He told me he remembered starting the Olds for his grandfather over 50 years ago to cut firewood and that it had sat in the barn ever since. Through our many conversations he finally agreed to sell the engine to me at a price that was amiable to us both.

It was missing parts, of course, but that didn’t deter me. This was going to be a true labor of love. An integral missing part was the fuel bowl, but with a cracker jack machinist’s help – aka Whiz Bang – and some blueprints sent by a wonderful gentleman who happened to see an ad I placed for some of the missing parts (I can’t thank him enough!), and a little Maine ingenuity, I was able to replicate the other missing pieces; fuel pump, air intake, choke assembly and plumbing.

While in Florida last winter I had the pleasure of speaking with other collectors at Zofol Springs and Florida Flywheelers who told me more about the Old Gearless Engine. It seems that Olds didn’t want to infringe on the patent rights of the Otto engine so the company designed its own. I was also told this engine was built between 1890-1893, identifiable by its large brass tag. After 1893, a smaller brass tag was used.

In cleaning the engine I discovered much of the original paint still intact. The engine was mounted on a large horse-drawn cart and I would have loved to keep it on the original cart since it, too, still had most of the old blue paint, but logistically that was impossible. It currently sits on its original mortise and tenon pine timbers, and it has a wood pulley over the original pulley; I didn’t change a thing there – it’s a true work of art!