This is the story of “Priscilla,” a 98cc Villiers Midget gas engine sent to me by my good friends Jim and Helen French of Leicester, England. Helen is the author of GEM’S ‘Stationary Engine List’ (SEL) column.
Priscilla, serial no. 76428775, is an air-cooled two-stroke antique gas engine and is believed to be a 98-cc Villiers Midget of the type built between 1931 and 1934. It was originally installed in an ATCO lawn mower. Jim has set everything up for me, including cutting down the throttle cable and mounting it onto the side of the petrol (‘fuel’ to us Americans) tank. The kick-starter is mounted onto the frame, and the engine is very stable sitting on its tripod mooring.
Jim, Helen and their two sons, Tom and Christian, have visited the United States three times, and the engine show in Portland, Ind., has been the centerpiece of their visit each time. A few engines have followed them home to England, but this time they sent one our way.
Villiers engines are very common in England, and most people there wouldn’t give them the time of day. Here in the states, however, they are rare. I have attended the Portland show for the past 15 years, and I don’t remember ever seeing a Villiers engine there. While some Villiers engines came to the states powering motorcycles, I have never seen one exhibited.
Relax, it’s FedEx
On Feb. 26, 2004, Priscilla was shipped via FedEx from Kibworth, a village just south of Leicester in the center of England. Priscilla arrived in the U.S. around midnight the same day at the FedEx hub in Memphis, Tenn. Jim has a twin to this engine, and after tracking my engine to Tennessee, Jim decided to name his Villiers ‘Elvis.’ Thus, mine was named Priscilla.
By 8:30 a.m. on the following day, the box containing Priscilla was sitting in Mansfield, Ohio, waiting to be trucked to me. By about 1 p.m., it was in my hometown of Wharton, Ohio, a small community of 350 people. Only one little problem existed: There was no street address on the box, which had been shipped across the world addressed with only a post office box number.
The Wharton post office was closed for lunch when the FedEx truck rolled into town. The rest of the streets have been rolled up – there are no businesses in town. The driver called back to his depot to get them to call me and try to get an address for delivery. They called, and after a few questions on the phone the FedEx folks decided they had the right person. I should point out that I’m not the only Leroy Clark in this area. Another Leroy Clark (no relation) lives about 6 miles from me, both of us use our middle name, and he, too, was born and raised in this area. While he is older than I, his wife and my wife also have similar names.
I gave the FedEx folks our street address, and as I hung the phone back on the hook a FedEx truck pulled up out front, the driver talking on his cell phone with the FedEx depot. Seems he ran into the United Parcel Delivery man, who told him how to find me. The OPS man has delivered here more than once, even making a short stop on occasion to watch an engine run. Given that the FedEx box was labeled as containing a lawn mower engine, the GPS driver figured it was for me.
The shipping box was so clean it looked as if my neighbor had bought it and carried it over from his house. There were no marks, dents, bent corners or signs of any type of abuse or rough handling. The engine was packed very well and included paperwork about the fuel mixture (16:1), setting the timing (no keyway on these engines), the Villiers flywheel magneto and a compact disc with assembly instructions. Also on the CD were pictures of both engines sitting together before their final separation.
I unpacked the engine and put it together on the kitchen floor. My wife was not home at the time, and the pictures of it assembled were taken inside. The true test, of course, came when my wife returned home. As of this writing, the Villiers is still in the house, and I think she kind of likes the look of it. Jim built the stand it’s on, and liked it well enough to build one for his engine.
It’s A Small World After All
Just a few short years back, this kind of shipment would have been next to impossible, as few of us in the engine hobby had contacts overseas. But with computers and the Internet – and of course great friends like Jim and Helen French – it turns out that it really is a small world. Many, many thanks go out to a really neat family who shows that the love of old engines is shared around the world.
Priscilla, serial no. 76428775, is an air-cooled two-stroke and is believed to be a 98-cc Villiers Midget of the type built between 1931 and 1934. It was originally installed in an ATCO lawn mower. Jim has set everything up for me, including cutting down the throttle cable and mounting it onto the side of the petrol (‘fuel’ to us Americans) tank. The kick-starter is mounted onto the frame, and the engine is very stable sitting on its tripod mooring.