Engines & Engine People

| June/July 1998

  • 5 HP Superior engine
    Restoration has just begun on the 5 HP Superior.
  • 5 HP Superior engine
    Another view of the Superior.

  • 5 HP Superior engine
  • 5 HP Superior engine

134 Wexford, Belleville, Michigan 48111

Well, the show season is over for the year, my iron toys are mostly put away for the winter, the old woman has a nice fire going in the wood stove, the house smells a little like wood smoke and the apple pie she just took out of the oven, and I have time to ponder some of the things that probably would never cross my mind if I had anything better to do.

Youth was okay when I still had it, but this old age isn't all bad either. Gives us a chance to back off and look around a little. Wasn't it Socrates who said, 'The unexamined life is not worth living?' Of course someone else advised, 'Don't kick sleeping dogs.' I guess we can take our choice but I'd like to share a few of the things that are going through my mind if any of you are interested.

Lately, engine shows with old iron, old ways of doing things, and especially old people have been a big part of my life. I enjoy most all aspects of engine shows, everything from the gigantic steam traction engines that currently change hands for more money than I paid for the house I live in, all the way down to those nasty, smoking little two cycle washing machine engines. But I have to say that my all time favorites are those big horizontal hit & miss oil field engines. You know the ones I mean. They typically arrive mounted on a trailer with at least two or three axles that look to be overloaded, and when they fire, which doesn't happen often, the whole thing shakes in spite of the owner's best efforts to block it up good and solid.

So I sit here enjoying the fire and dream about engines and engine shows in general, and I wonder why I am so fascinated by hit & miss engines in particular. Then it occurs to me that maybe it is because these engines seem to have an almost human personality. (No, it is only wood smoke.)

Bear with me. I will try to explain. It may not be easy. You see, the hit & miss engine's personality results from the four stroke cycle it employs and the governing device that is used to control its speed. You know all about four cycle engines I am sure, but let me just chase it through once the way I understand it.