The 2 HP Fairbanks-Morse Model Z

This “Contractor’s Special” is one rare dishpan

| February/March 2012

The 2 HP Fairbanks-Morse Model Z engine with the solid or “dishpan” flywheels is one of the most common and available engines, as they were produced in large numbers and were very reasonably priced. The 2 HP Model Z was produced in four configurations: The hit-and-miss engine equipped with simple carburetor and magneto; the throttle governed engine with magneto that was designed to run on kerosene as well as gasoline; the battery and coil equipped engine; and the “Contractor’s Special,” which was a hit-and-miss with simple carburetor and magneto, and was equipped with a metal shroud to protect it on a job site. It is the Contractor’s Special that has turned out to be a very rare engine combination. The engine is common but the shroud equipped engine is rare.

Background on the “Contractor’s Special”

The Fairbanks, Morse & Co. sales bulletin H245G gives the following description of the Contractor’s Special: “The 2 HP ‘Z’ Contractor’s Special is completely enclosed, in a heavy steel housing, which is securely bolted to the steel engine skids. The working parts of the engine are thus protected from dust, dirt, water, etc., at the same time all parts that require attention can be reached easily. For instance, the cylinder oiler projects above the housing in order that the operator may see at all times how the engine is operating in respect to cylinder lubrication. The hopper opening is large so that cooling water can be added with ease. A cover over the hopper opening prevents dirt, refuse, leaves, etc., from entering the hopper and perhaps interfering with the cooling system.

“The valves can be reached easily through the door in the head end of the housing. Another door on the side of the housing permits of filling the fuel tank and a similar door at the crank end permits access to the grease cups on the crankshaft and the connecting rod bearing.

“These doors, while amply large for the purposes intended, are not large enough to permit ‘stripping the engine’ so that the steel enclosure in addition to protecting the engine while it is in operation also protects it from unscrupulous marauders when it is left on the job overnight. The engine is shipped completely assembled in the neat dust-color enclosure.”

Faulty design

Apparently the shroud did the exact opposite of protecting the engine from dirt and dust, and actually caused the engine to suck in dirt and dust, facilitating premature aging of the engines. It also restricted the tuning and adjustments on the engine, and once the shroud was removed it was seldom replaced. It appears that they were not a popular item and were not marketed very long. It also appears that the 40-pound shrouds probably wound up as scrap for the war efforts. All I know is that the one I have in my 2 HP Model Z collection is a rare one and a great conversation piece at the shows I take it to.

This engine’s past

The history on the one I have, as I know it from conversations with collectors, is that it was found in a Maryland barn and brought to the Coolspring weekend in 2007, where it was purchased by Hit & Miss Enterprises of Orwell, Ohio. They had it on their website for sale, where it came to my attention. As it was the only 2 HP Model Z Dishpan configuration that I didn’t have, I eventually took a couple engines to trade and additional cash to Ohio and brought it back. I cleaned it up, repainted it as close to a “dust color” as I could and then mounted it on an antique railroad cargo cart. I tuned it up and put a weaker spring in the governor to slow it down. It also has the original solid steel oil lubricator, which is also a rare item. (See the “Pressed Steel Oiler” article in the July 2001 issue of Gas Engine Magazine for more information.) It is a great runner and gets a lot of lookers and photographers at the shows.


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