Engine Ambition: Air-Cooled Engines Capture Collector's Interest

Rudy Adrian shows off his air-cooled engine collection.

| February/March 2015

Rudy Adrian’s foray into gasoline engines began at the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada, when he was 14 years old. “There was an older gentleman, Henry Isaac, with a trailer filled with engines, and I asked a lot of questions,” Rudy says. “After that I helped him every year with that old hay trailer with 10 gas engines on it. He would work in the blacksmith shop and I would help him run the engines. I learned a lot from him, and got interested in the hobby. Every summer during Pioneer Days, until I was 17, I went and helped him out.”

Rudy started working on a 1960 3 HP Briggs and Stratton in 1977. He didn’t buy his first engine until he was 35, after he overheard people talking in the town restaurant: “The owner had a 1915 3 HP Fairbanks-Morse Z he didn’t know what to do with,” Rudy says. “I perked up. That evening I went down and bought it. It was missing the carburetor and ignition system. At home my wife said, ‘That’s kind of neat. What are you going to do with it?’ I said, ‘It’s interesting, and I only want one.’”

The rest of the story is predictable: “After that, I went crazy. I bought engines all over the place, until I owned 125. I was full of ambition and had time to work on them.” Without a tractor to maneuver larger engines, he sold every engine larger than 8 HP; they were too large to take to shows. Today the 51-year-old’s collection has been whittled down to 90.

Into the air

Rudy’s favorite engines are air-cooled. “The older, air-cooled engines with fins intrigue me, and they’re really neat-looking. They’re different, and there aren’t a lot of them around. I don’t know whether they were successful or not.” He has 14 different brands and models of them.

The Waterloo

One of Rudy’s favorites is an original 1912 Waterloo. Seven years ago at a show a guy saw Rudy’s air-cooled Associated on his trailer and said he had a similar engine in his barn. He didn’t know the make, but it wasn’t for sale. “I gave him a card and forgot about it,” Rudy says. “A few years later he called saying he’d sold the farm, so the engine was for sale. I was totally shocked that he had remembered me. It was completely caked with grease and sawdust, but we made a deal for it.”

The owner’s father had bought it to cut rough lumber on a table saw for barn rafters. After cleaning it up with a power washer, making ignition repairs, cleaning the rings and fiddling with it, he got it to run.