Determining the correct ignition system to use on a
Hercules-built engine is a problem that routinely arises among
Hercules engine collectors. Over the course of years ignition
systems were routinely swapped out or modified, leaving current
owners unsure how their engines were originally equipped.
Fortunately, sorting it out isn’t that hard. For the
small-block engines, four basic ignition systems were used from
1914 through 1929. The igniter was the first system used, followed
by the Webster M, the Webster 1A and, lastly, the Wico EK.
The igniter, battery and coil system had a blade-type trip on
the side rod of the igniter to create a spark (Figure #1).
Beginning with the Model D in early 1914, the igniter with battery
and coil was standard on Hercules engines. For extra cost, a
crankshaft-driven Elkhart low-tension magneto could also be
furnished to provide ignition current. These same systems were used
on the Model E engines introduced in mid-1914.
Beginning in 1915, Hercules replaced the optional Elkhart
magneto with the Webster magneto system, and by late 1915 the
igniter on the 7, 9 and 10 HP engines was dropped altogether in
favor of the Webster magneto. The Webster system (Figure #2) used
the Type M magneto, the 303M1 bracket and a different tripping
mechanism on the side rod that replaced the regular igniter system.
By 1917 the Webster system was standard on Model Es, and the use of
this system continued until the end of the Model E era in
A new Webster magneto system was introduced in 1921. This was
the Webster Type 1A magneto (Figure #3), which was equipped with an
appropriate bracket and side-rod tripping mechanism. This system
apparently failed to operate satisfactorily, and many engines
originally equipped with the Type 1A have been changed to another
ignition system. Use of the Type 1A and the F model that it was on
-was short lived.
The Wico EK high-tension magneto system was introduced in 1923
(Figure #4). It required a different mounting bracket for the
magneto, trip mechanism and spark plug mounting. The Type 2 drive
was used to trip the magneto. This system was used through the FW,
G, H, S and X model engines.
Although not standard, a Wico PR magneto system using a special
bracket and an earlier trip mechanism was available on the
aftermarket before the Wico EK magneto system was introduced.
Glenn Karch is a noted authority on Hercules engines. Contact
him at: 20601 Old State Road, Haubstadt, IN 47639; e-mail: