A W.F. Porter Engine has Never Surfaced: Frank Gassett Thinks he Has One
Recently, I acquired an air-cooled, hit-and-miss engine, but have not made a positive identification as to its manufacturer. It has a brass plate attached to the upper cylinder skirt, but no data is shown. Looking in C.H. Wendel's American Gasoline Engines Since 1872 makes me believe it's a W.F. Porter, as most engine features are identical to the photos herein.
The engine is heavy, weighing in at about 600 pounds. Cylinder cooling fins are few and spread apart, which no doubt necessitated the belt-driven fan. There are five cylinder barrel fins and five diagonal cylinder head fins. I didn't see any wear patterns that would indicate a cooling shroud was ever used. Cylinder bore and stroke is 4-1/2 inches and 5 inches, respectively, and the crankshaft journal diameter measures 1-1/2 inches. The flywheels are 20 inches in diameter and have a width of 2-1/8 inches. The belt pulley diameter is 12 inches, and width is 5 inches.
The base and cylinder are cast as one, and there are two bearing bosses located below and to each side of the cylinder skirt, which allow a transverse-mounted idler shaft to rotate for a PTO. Embossed on the fly-wheels is "BE1," and the main bearing caps read "B3." The engine is equipped with a Lunkenheimer carburetor and buzz coil/spark plug ignition. The fuel tank is cast with the base.
I have talked with several people who have some knowledge of this type of engine, and all say it was built by Air Cooled Motor Co. of Lansing, Mich. This may be true, as many components shown in Wendel's book of the engines manufactured by Air Cooled Motor Co., Original Gas Engine Co. and Ideal Gas Engine Co. (apparently all are related) are similar to those on my engine. One person advised that his similar engine has "Air Cooled Motor Co." embossed on the flywheels, but mine lacks this feature.
I believe my engine was manufactured early in the 20th century, as the main castings are very heavy and crude. I also believe whoever built my engine must have built the W.F. Porter engine also.
I can't honestly say I restored the engine, but parts and repairs were made to bring it to a state of good running condition. The cam gear lies under the crank gear, and as a result of worn main bearings, the two gears were bottomed. The crank gear was constructed of bronze and was worn beyond use as a result of the bottoming. So, a replacement was cut. Two fan blades were missing, so I had a four-blade fan assembly cut from stainless steel sheet metal at the local technical school's machine technology department. I poured new main and rod bearings with help from my best friend, my wife, Nyoka. The green paint I used is the result of finding traces of old green paint under the accumulation of oil and grease while cleaning.
I would've thought starting would be a problem, as the carburetor sits far below the intake port. Not so. In fact, I had a severe flooding dilemma, but installing a fuel shutoff valve between the fuel tank outlet and carburetor inlet rectified this. Opening this valve prior to starting for only a few seconds, then returning it to the "off" position, allows just enough fuel to enter the mixer for an easy start. After start up, shifting the valve to "open" maintains continuous operation.
Hopefully some of you Gas Engine Magazine readers have knowledge of the history, have collected technical data or just know interesting information about this engine and are willing to contribute. Most importantly, I would like to know the manufacturer, approximate year it was built and the horsepower rating. It would also be interesting to learn how the two bearing bosses were utilized for a PTO.
Contact gas engine enthusiast Frank H. Gassett at: 156 Kelley Bottom Road, Oglethorpe, GA 31068; (478) 472-8894; firstname.lastname@example.org