Flower Bed Engine

By Staff
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The engine as found.

39443 Glen Road Yucaipa, California 92399

A chance meeting at an associate’s place of business with
one of his customers led to a once in a lifetime find. We were
talking about hobbies and I mentioned that I collected antique
engines. He told me he ran across one in somebody’s front yard
not six miles from where I live. They were using it for a yard
ornament and he thought it was a West Coast engine. He asked the
owner if it was for sale; it was not!

I checked Wendel’s American Gas Engine book for a
description of the West Coast, but all I could find was a reference
to it in the manufacturer’s index.

I thought about it for a month or so and at one of our swap
meets in February ’91, I asked around about the West Coast
engine. The information I got was that it is a very rare engine
indeed. After hearing this, yard ornament or not I’ve got to
take a look at it and see if it’s worth trying to buy. I called
Bob, the gentleman who told me about it, and got directions to its
location.

The next day I decided to stop by on the way home from work to
check it out. When I saw it for the first time I couldn’t
believe my eyes! As far as I could tell it was complete, very
little rust and well protected with paint. The oilers, carburetor,
magneto and fly ball governor were all there. I got permission from
the occupant of the house to get a closer look and take some
pictures. It was sitting in a flower bed not five feet inside a
three foot high chain link fence in the front yard. He told me it
belonged to his landlord and it was not for sale. This didn’t
deter me and I made an offer to pass along to the owner with a
bonus for him if he would work the deal. This was March ‘91.1
would drive by at least once a week to check on the engine to see
if it was still there. One day I finally met the owner and he told
me the engine had been sitting outside for about six months and he
ran it from time to time to keep it loose. He had painted it
several times, the last time when he painted his house light blue.
He assured me the offer that I made for the engine was a generous
one and if he decided to sell it I would be the first one he would
notify. I understood that his house was for sale and that would be
motivation to sell the engine. I had to keep this find a closely
guarded secret, I didn’t want to start a bidding war I
couldn’t win. I only told my friend and engine buddy Don
Wiley.

We took some time off in May and went to the Jerome, Arizona,
engine show. All I could think about was that West Coast
engine.

About two months went by with many calls and weekly checks on
the engine. I hadn’t given up yet, but my hopes were starting
to fade. Then one Sunday night in July I got a call from the owner.
Good news! If my offer was still good I could come and get it. I
was there the next day bright and early. From the information the
owner gave me, the engine had spent its working life at a ranch in
Colton, California, and from its condition it was probably kept in
a building.

I completely disassembled it, stripped the three coats of paint,
light blue, yellow, and green. I repainted it forest green to match
the original color which I found under all that paint and grease.
The engine has a factory conversion from igniter to Webster H.T.
magneto and spark plug. The cylinder was in perfect condition, no
rust or pits. It looked like a smooth bore shot gun. The only
repair I made was to bush the throttle linkage. That was the only
significant wear that I could find. This engine uses all oilers for
lubrication, no grease cups. Patent dates are October 15,1901 and
February 14, 1905. The engine, a 2.5 HP, has a 4′ x 8′ bore
and stroke, 2′ diameter crank shaft and 26′ flywheels. It
has cam operated intake and exhaust valves. The rated speed for the
engine is 400 r.p.m. and is flyball T.G. slide valve. The engine
alone weighs 750 lbs.

West Coast engines were manufactured in San Diego, California.
They ranged from 2.5 HP to 500 HP. Not many are left today. This is
the only 2.5 HP I know of, but I suspect there must be others out
there somewhere.

I got it restored in time for our October ’91 engine show in
Vista, California (San Diego County). The engine runs very well,
except with no load it acts like a hit and miss. After ignition the
governor will shut off the fuel mixture and it will coast under
compresssion until the governor opens the slide valve to take in
more fuel mixture, then the cycle repeats itself. Under load it
runs like a regular 4-cycle engine. The engine must have done a lot
of idling in its lifetime by the looks of the wear it had to the
throttle linkage.

The moral of my story is perseverance. Looking back I guess I
was somewhat of a pest. The owner really didn’t want to sell
it. If it were not for my bugging him it might still be sitting
there out in the weather and being watered along with the
flowers!

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