Gas Engine Bloopers

| September/October 2001

Freewheeling Engine

I have discovered that there were several heretofore-unknown gas engine and equipment manufacturers who, for want of a proper name, were unsuccessful in a highly competitive industry.

The following accounts of these individuals and companies have been slightly embellished for hysterical accuracy.

In previous articles to GEM, I have mentioned two gas engines that faded into oblivion--The Snort & Wheezer Engine and the Shivers & Knox Engine. Often just the negative connotation that the name might give was enough to cause the manufacturer to fold. A case in point is a light plant developed by an optimistic entrepreneur named Harley Neff. After perfecting his home lighting plant he made one tiny error by adding his middle initial, and as a result the Harley E. Neff Light Plant was never a commercial success. Too late he recognized his error and renamed it after his two daughters as the Dawn-Saralee Light Plant but by now prospects for recovery were dim, and Harley decided to pull the plug on further production.

A good idea but a poorly chosen name was also the downfall of a Mr. Smedley Hoover. He lived in Lake Lactose, Wisconsin, deep in the heart of dairy country. Impressed by the design of the Taylor Vacuum Engine, he decided to develop a gas engine specifically for milk production, and it was an excellent machine but for the fact that he named it the Hoover Vacuum Engine. It was not on the market very long when rumors started to circulate that cows were suddenly and mysteriously disappearing in conjunction with his equipment. It can be accurately stated that udder hysteria soon brought production to a standstill. Mr. Hoover was completely baffled by this turn of events, not knowing what to do. Then the solution hit him like a bolt out of the blue. . . 'Eureka! I'll change the name!' And so he did. (You already guessed, didn't you?) You can still find an occasional Hoover, aka Eureka, vacuum engine; in fact some are still in use--but not for milking, but rather for cleanup around the barn.

It is said that imitation is the purest form of flattery, but in the case of Roscoe Stickly, it was more an opportunity for thievery. Roscoe wanted to make a quick killing in the gas engine business. At that time, the Stickney engine was very popular because of its excellent design and superior construction, so he decided to design a cheaply-built copy and capitalize on the Stickney name. He recognized that the two closely spelled names, STICKNEY and his own, STICKLY, would undoubtedly fool the buyer, so he decided to have his name cast into the flywheels and on the engine block. Because he did not have the startup capital to build a manufacturing plant, he placed an order for the first hundred or so castings to be produced at a local foundry. They were soon delivered to his small shop where he quickly and haphazardly assembled them. He was just putting the final coat of paint on the last engine when he noticed it. The foundry had forgotten the 'T' in his name and he now had 100 'SICKLY' engines to unload, and, believe me, potential buyers did notice.

Due to a design flaw, 'The Freewheeling Engine' lived up to its name in a totally unexpected way!