Hercules Engine News

By Staff
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Interior of Rudy's work box with original brushes and paints; Rudy Hufnagel's initials painted on the side of the box.
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5 HP Hercules owned and restored by Keith and Curtis Kinney, striped by Rudy Hufnagel.
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Rudy Hufnagel painting pinstriping on 7 HP Hercules gas engine owned and restored by Keith and Curtis Kinney.

Guest Columnist 8100 Effinger Drive Evansville, Indiana
47711

Rudy Hufnagel was born on November 14, 1901. Rudy’s roots go
deep in the farm equipment industry. His dad was a blacksmith in
Newburgh, Indiana, and had learned his trade at the Keck-Gonnerman
Company in Mt. Vemon, Indiana.

The family moved to Evansville, Indiana, in 1916. After working
in a cigar factory for several years, Rudy went to work for the
Hercules Corporation. Rudy and a friend were walking down the
railroad track when they were seen by Harry Wells, the plant
superintendent. Mr. Wells asked Rudy if he was interested in a job
with Hercules. He started work the next Monday.

Rudy worked for Hercules from 1921 until the company went
bankrupt in 1927. Initially Rudy worked in the buggy division as a
parts clerk filling Sears & Roebuck orders. In 1922 he was
asked if he would like to learn to be a striper. After working as
an apprentice for three months (and quitting three times during
that three months), he was allowed to do actual striping. There
were four stripers working for the company. They would stripe for
the Buggy Division, Gas Engine Works, and the Truck Body Division,
moving from area to area as their work was completed.

In the Gas Engine Works the engines were assembled and mounted
on testing blocks. During that evening they were tested. The next
morning they were moved to carts and pulled through a washing area.
After washing, casting defects were filled with putty, one coat of
primer was applied, and one coat of paint was applied. The next
morning the engines would be dry enough that they could be striped.
Following this, the engines were moved to a staging area to await
shipping.

While working for Hercules, Rudy kept his brushes and supplies
in a wooden box that he made. The box was painted Hercules green
and decorated with gold paint. I am fortunate to have this box in
my possession. Inside are the original brushes that Rudy used to
stripe the engines. Rudy brought these brushes over and striped
several of our Hercules engines.

At 89 years of age, Rudy brought his box and brushes to the
Southern Indiana Antique and Machinery (SIAM) Club’s Spring
Show and striped our 7 HP Hercules engine. It was amazing to see
someone of his age pick up his brushes and apply stripes to an
engine and do it as well as he had done it while working for
Hercules. Does this mean that I have the only restored engine with
original pinstripes?

Rudy is a charter member of the SIAM club, and brought his
blacksmith equipment and engines to our shows for many years. Since
moving into smaller living quarters, Rudy has recently donated all
of his blacksmithing equipment and his three Hercules engines to
the club so that they can be preserved and enjoyed by future
generations.

Rudy has been a friend of my family for over 65 years, and I am
very fortunate to have known Rudy all of my life and am able to
call him my friend. He has related to me many stories about his
life and what it was like to have worked in an industry that we as
collectors are trying to preserve. Thanks, Rudy!

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