A Really Big Fairbanks-Morse Z

An engine collector’s large 1931 Fairbanks-Morse Z features an updated fuel pump provided by the company and a truck made of steel.

| December/January 2019

  • Dale Rieppel’s 1931 15 hp Fairbanks-Morse Z.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • A substantial engine, the 15 hp Z could power anything from a line shaft to a buzz saw.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The steel truck for the Z features a seat for a driver for when it was being pulled by a horse.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The 15 hp Z still has its original Fairbanks-Morse magneto, driven directly off the cam gear.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The 15 hp Z’s large, 44-inch flywheels help ensure even running.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Owner Dale Rieppel with his 1931 15 hp Fairbanks-Morse Z. The fuel pump is a replacement item supplied by the factory as the original type had apparently proven troublesome.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Fairbanks-Morse Z, 15 hp, 350 rpm.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • The Scott-Carver Threshers’ Assoc.’s 1917 Vilter steam engine.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Vilter’s major business was supplying engines and refrigeration equipment to brewing companies and other industries dependent on refrigeration.
    Photo courtesy of Bill Vossler

1931 Fairbanks-Morse 15 hp Z

Manufacturer: Fairbanks, Morse & Co., Beloit, Wis.
Year: 1931
Serial No.: 768581
Horsepower: 15 hp @ 350rpm
Bore & stroke: 8in x 10in
Flywheel: 44in x 4in
Ignition: Spark plug w/magneto
Governing: Throttle
Cooling: Water, screen-cooled

A few words from Dale Rieppel’s father, Erich, led Dale into a lifetime career working with big equipment. “Hey, you took it apart,” Dale’s father said to him once after Dale had disassembled a piece of equipment. “Now you can just put it all back together again.”

“That,” Dale says, “changed my life. I came to realize how difficult it can be to put things back together. I guess that’s what led me to a career in heavy construction equipment repair.” Before moving into heavy construction, Dale was a member of the Naval Construction Battalions, or Seabees.

Dale’s father provided a mentorship for Dale when he was a kid, helping him understand what made things tick by taking them apart and putting them back together, and that’s where it all started for Dale.

First engine

Dale got his first engine on the farm when he was 12. “My dad bought it for me to have an engine to play with, a 1930s Cushman Cub. I had to learn how to start it, and then make it run better. Mostly it was trial and error on my own part. But that wasn’t one I took apart – at least not until later,” he says with a laugh.

Dale says that his father – “A great man with only a third-grade education” – groomed Dale to be a mechanic and his brother to do the farming and look after livestock so they could keep the farm running. “I grew up as a farm tinkerer and have been repairing things since I was 5 or 6 years old,” Dale says.


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