Gas Engines and Motorcycles Mix it Up at California Show

By Staff
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Ignition and timing components on a Standard Cream Separator.
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Jeff Slobodian brought this Briggs & Stratton inlet-over-exhaust Model PB from the late 1920s. It originally powered a Moto Mower, an early lawn mower.
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This 1 HP Titan manufactured by International Harvester is a pretty rare engine. Manufactured approximately 1911-1912, the engine is of hit-and-miss operation.
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One of the antique bicycle engines displayed by Jeff Slobodian. This Becini direct-drive unit was manufactured in Holland after WW II.
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An Evans sidevalve engine with outside flywheel. These were originally used to power bicycles.
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A Navy-spec Indian engine, sans muffler. As with most military equipment, complete operating and maintenance instructions are firmly riveted onto the unit.

Several years ago, one of the oldest motorcycle
engines in existence was found in England – being used to power
farm equipment! An Ariel engine, it was built in about 1898 and fed
with a surface carburetor. It originally powered a three-wheeler,
but had been used by the farmer as a stationary power device for
many years.

Many improvements to the internal combustion engine were equally
applicable to stationary gas engines and motorcycles, and many
companies produced both. In the U.S., the Shaw company made engines
for both motorcycle and farm applications from 1903 to the early
1920s. Cushman, of Lincoln, Neb., started making engines in 1901
and only went into scooter production in 1936.

Given this affinity between early motorcycles and gas engines,
it seemed only natural for a vintage motorcycle show interested in
widening its appeal to add gas engines to the mix. Bator
International, the organizer of the May 21, 2005, Hanford, Calif.,
Antique & Classic Motorcycle Show &Swap Meet, put out the
call for gas engines in the May 2005 issue of Gas Engine Magazine,
and turnout was reasonable for a first effort.

Hanford, located in California’s Central Valley 40 miles
southeast of Fresno, looks like a transplanted Midwestern town,
complete with cannons on the courthouse lawn, a real downtown to
walk around and the Superior Ice Cream Dairy, where white-haired
waitresses serve sundaes too large to be finished by anyone not a
14-year-old athlete. The 37th annual show and swap took place at
the Kings County Fairgrounds, a large facility with a lawn for show

Jeff Slobodian, a well known California collector, presented an
attractive display that included grandfather clocks and antique
bicycles, many with motor attachments. “I love engines, all sorts
of engines,” explains Jeff. “I have a good time with all of these
things.” Jeff builds his own varnished wooden stands for antique
engines in need of some kind of support. These stands, along with
some duplicates from his extensive collection, were for sale.

A Standard Cream Separator in Jeff’s collection was supported by
its own stand, a rare item. It is a 1915 overhead valve model
neatly enameled in red, with an outside flywheel cast with fins
that direct a cooling breeze to the cylinder. “They were always
sold with stands,” explains Jeff, “but the stands got knocked
around, and many were detached. This one also came with all the
cream separator stuff.”

An Elgin Hafa Hors utility engine, dated 1910, sat on one of
Jeff’s varnished stands. This is an unusual unit. Not only were
there very few 2-stroke engines built at this time (although the
2-stroke internal combustion engine had been invented between 1877
and 1878 by Dugald Clerk), but the mechanism is inverted: The
crankshaft is over the cylinder, and the whole unit works upside

There were two Briggs & Stratton FIs at Jeff’s booth, an
earlier model from the mid-1920s with vertical fins, and a somewhat
later model with horizontal fins. These were used for garden
tractors, rototillers and washing machines. Each came equipped with
its own kickstarter, allowing you to kickstart your wash if you
were stuck at home with the housework instead of off riding your

Jeff also displayed a Briggs & Stratton Model PB with
inlet-over-exhaust valve configuration from the late 1920s. It was
originally used to power a Moto Motor, an early lawnmower. In
addition to the classic bicycle engines from Holland and England,
there was a restored Maytag washer engine and a Dragonfly 5 HP
outboard engine, 1950 vintage.

Both Harley-Davidson and Indian built stationary engines during
the 1930s, and Scott Misner showed up with a 1936 Indian starter
engine, made for the Navy. This 3-1/2 HP unit was probably used as
a starter engine for Seebee equipment. Scott thinks it displaces
90cc, and it had relatively high compression for the era.

Indian had been an exponent of sidevalve top end configuration
from 1916, and this engine is very similar to the ones in the
single-cylinder motorcycles Indian built in the 1920s. Mix was
provided by a Schebler carburetor modified for this application. It
was started by wrapping a rope around the outside pulley and giving
it a good yank.

This is Scott’s only Indian. He owns a lot of Harley
motorcycles, and normally, Harley people don’t like Indian, and
vice versa. “I collect antique stuff,” said Scott with a sheepish
grin. “And this is so unique, I couldn’t pass it up.”

Another booth displayed a 1 HP Titan, circa 1911-1912, built by
International Harvester. This hopper-cooled, make-and-break engine
with hit-and-miss governing is very rare. Bob Boyd, the owner, says
this little unit was used to power washing machines, cream
separators and pumps.

Bob brought along fellow gas engine enthusiasts Linda Fuller and
Emmett Ashley. Linda owns a 17 HP Ruston & Hornsby, which, in
its previous life, was the motivating force for a grain elevator.
Unfor-tunately, she left it at home. Emmett brought cash, which was
quickly transferred to Jeff Slobodian for one of his Briggs &
Strattons. “I have Fairbanks and Maytag engines at home,” explained
Emmett. “I’m a boilermaker by trade, and I keep tinkering with
them. I just like history.”

Bob Boyd fired up the Titan, and it happily putted away for a
knot of interested showgoers. Many antique bike people like any
kind of old engine. “It’s so fun to watch it run,” said Linda.

Bob does a series of school nights, where he brings his engines
and runs them for the local kids. “They are fascinated, even the
girls,” he stated proudly.

Rounding out the transportation theme of the show were several
antique outboard and bicycle engines. Mike Smith normally
concentrates on unrestored American V-twins from the World War I
era, but he couldn’t resist a 2-stroke Evans direct-drive unit that
may have been made in New York between the teens and early 1920s.
“People who come through have said it runs well for such a small
engine,” he said. The Evans rides on top of the rear bicycle wheel
and works by friction; there is no clutch.

Jeff also brought a 1922 Caille outboard, designed to lay flat
in the bottom of a boat, with the drive extending horizontally from
the engine. The device was intended to be transported on the
running board of a 1920s automobile to favorite fishing spots. The
shaft and engine come apart, and the Caille was sold with a special
bracket intended to clamp the shaft to the running board.

Cushman motor scooters were powered by a single-cylinder
flathead engine, which was also developed for stationary
applications. Tim Mitchell, a Cushman enthusiast and restorer, was
motivated by the announcement of a gas engine display at the meet
to bring a 1948 Cushman Husky, which once powered an air
compressor. It was original and complete, except for the
reproduction muffler, the original of which now graces a
step-through scooter. The current popularity of Cushmans (the
California club alone has over 500 members) is making the location
of parts increasingly difficult. “Love those Cushman parts,” says
Tim, “but when they run out, they’re gone.”

Jeff has a solution to the parts problem – he has located a
reliable company to re-cast parts. “I can get almost anything from
a Briggs & Stratton supplier. Other parts turn up at engine
shows, on eBay and at flea markets.”

“I usually try to buy complete stuff, so I don’t have a problem
with parts. Having simple parts re-cast isn’t too expensive, but
cylinders are prohibitive.”

Jeff also had the definitive word on restoring and collecting:
“I have always been a restorer. It’s nice to resurrect stuff that
has been beat up and misused. I have always been a kid, and I will
always be a kid, and I intend to restore stuff until I can’t lift a

For information on next year’s 38th Annual Antique &Classic
Motorcycle Show & Swap Meet, contact Bator International at:
338 Montana Road, Ojai, CA 93023; (805) 646-9566;;

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines