One of a Kind: 1913 2-1/2hp Hippe-Steiner

Join Howard Fischer as he recounts discovering a unique 1913 2-1/2hp Hippe-Steiner gas engine that appears to be the only one still in existence.

By Staff
article image
Photo by Bill Vossler
Howard Fischer’s rare 1913 2-1/2hp Hippe-Steiner appears to be the sole surviving example.

1913 2-1/2hp Steiner

Manufacturer: Hippe-steiner Mfg. Co., Chilton, Wisconsin
Year: 1913
Serial No.: 625
Horsepower: 2-1/2hp @ 450rpm
Bore and Stroke: 3-1/4in x 6in
Flywheels: 22in x 2-1/2 in
Ignition: Spark plug and buzz coil
Governing: Hit-and-miss, flywheel governor
Fuel: Gasoline
Cooling: Hopper

When Howard Fischer brought home a gas engine two years ago, it turned out to be the most unique of the “over 1,000” gas engines the 87-year-old from Kewascum, Wisconsin, had dealt with in the past 72 years. The 1913 2-1/2hp Hippe-Steiner gas engine he found is to date the only one known to exist. “I don’t know for sure that that’s true, but I’ve never seen or heard of another one,” Howard says. After the decades Howard’s spent actively trading and collecting engines, that statement carries some weight.

A Little History

Howard grew up on a farm near Mequon, Wisconsin, and his uncle Ed started him off in old iron in 1949, giving him a Model T Ford. “After that, I just got interested in old engines,” Howard says.

The next step was a 2-1/2hp Alamo engine his father used on an orchard sprayer, which Howard remembers seeing back in 1947, when he was 15. “My father’s brother Bill moved to a farm where there was a circa-1922 1-1/2hp Simplicity engine, and they were just going to leave that one sitting there.”

Howard’s father, George, said Howard could have the engine. “I knew nothing about engines,” Howard says. “All I could do was screw around with it. I cleaned it up, and tried to run it, but all I got out of it was a couple of coughs. I’d wanted to shell corn with it,” he remembers.

By chance, a repair man was called out to the farm to look at the furnace, and interested in the old engine, he took a look at the Simplicity. “He turned a screw, and putt putt putt, off it went,” Howard remembers. After that, a friend of Howard’s who had dropped by said he had a 1hp IHC Mogul engine, and that he’d give it to him. “I said, ‘No, I’m not going to take it for free. You’re not going to give me that engine. I’ll pay whatever you want.’ He wanted $1. And I still have both of those engines today,” Howard says. That’s more than a little remarkable considering the number of gas engines that have passed through Howard’s hands over the past 72 years.

About 1959, Howard met engine enthusiast Bob Knoeck. They became fast friends, and starting dealing gas engines between the two of them. “He was like a brother to me,” Howard says. “Between the two of us, we went through at least 1,000 engines, buying, selling, trading. At the time, we’d buy an engine for $5 and thought we were big shots if we sold it for $7.50,” he laughs.

Their sojourns took them all over the United States and into Canada, searching for and finding engines. “When we came upon an engine we would buy it, and then decide who would get it afterwards.” Sometimes both of them wanted a particular engine for their own collection. Whenever that happened, they’d simply own that engine jointly. “We never had a fight or squabble over an engine. Our goal was always to trade up or buy a harder-to-find engine.”

1913 2-1/2hp Hippe-Steiner

Which brings us full circle to the rarest engine of all that entered Howard Fischer’s life, the Hippe-Steiner.

“Gary, who owned the Hippe-Steiner, had been given it when he was 10 years old, and he had it for 60 years,” Howard recalls. “I’d known about it, and the catch is that it took me 40 years to buy it from him.” That required some doing. The owner said he would trade it for an International Harvester engine of 10-12hp, so when Howard found one for sale hundreds of miles away in North Dakota, he drove to where it was and bought it. “I brought it back and showed it to Gary, but he said it wasn’t the right one,” Howard says.

Two other would-be-owners of the Hippe-Steiner offered Gary 10hp and 12hp IHC engines, but he turned both of them down. After that, Howard called Gary up and gave him an ultimatum: “I told him he had a month to make up his mind. ‘I’ll trade you that engine I bought as is, and if you don’t want it, I’m going to sell it.'”

Gary turned Howard down again, so Howard sold the IHC, and realized a substantial profit on it in the process. That was all 30 or 40 years ago, Howard says. “That kind of thing doesn’t happen much any more,” Howard says, “trading large engines for small ones; the big ones are worth so much more than most of the little ones.”

The Prize

Two years ago Howard got a call from Gary, who said he would trade the Hippe-Steiner engine for a hard coal stove Howard had. “That’s one of those old stoves with all the nickel on it. To make a long story short, I accepted the deal, adding some cash to the offer, and finally got the engine 40 years after I first tried to get it. It had been in a fence line for a few years before Gary got it, and then it sat inside for 60 years, but Gary never did anything with it. I don’t know what the first owners used it for. Judging from its condition, it did very little work,” Howard says.

When he bought the engine, Howard told Gary that any time he wanted to see the engine, he was welcome to come and look at it. “Gary said I was the first person that he ever sold an engine to. And he did come and watch it run, and was fascinated, because he had never seen it run before.”

Howard says he doesn’t think the engine was used much, and it was always kept inside. “I don’t think it was run much. I built a wider truck that supports the engine better so I could move it around, as the one it was on was narrow and tipped easily. At a show this year, Jason Dahm and I ran two Hipper-Steiners at the same time, my 2-1/2hp and his 6hp engine. They were the only two. I’ve been told that my 2-1/2hp Hippe-Steiner, which is serial no. 625, is the only surviving one of that size,” Howard says.

The build of the engine is interesting, featuring a single casting for the head and cylinder. “You can’t take the head off the engine. The valves are on the side of the engine, and by removing three screws the intake valve and its cage will come out. Once you do that, you can take out a pin and pull the exhaust out.”

Very little information is available on Hipper-Steiner engines, but the October/November 2001 issue of Gas Engine Magazine has some information thanks to an article written by Wayne Halsey: “These engines were rather unusual in that the cylinder head was cast in one piece with the cylinder,” Wayne wrote. “The valves are in an ‘F’ arrangement. The exhaust valve … comes back to an adjusting screw on a lever. This lever is on a shaft that goes through the base to the other side to another lever with a roller running on the exhaust cam. The governor is on one flywheel with a linkage by the exhaust valve adjusting screw. A separate cam runs the igniter continuously.”

Howard says that after he got the Hippe-Steiner and was working on it he need to remove two round plugs fitted to the engine that wouldn’t come out. “I couldn’t budge them, so I took an acetylene torch and got them red hot. I pushed ashes on them so they would cool slowly.” Which they did. “I didn’t need a wrench to remove them. They almost fell off in my hand.”

The gas tank is also part of the casting and can’t be removed, and naturally enough was full of debris after sitting for some 80 years. “I got a little bit out using forceps, but I wasn’t having much success until I talked to another engine buddy, who suggested using lye mixed with water.” Which Howard did, letting the concoction sit for two or three days. “Then I put a hose in and ran water through it. At first the water was black, then it turned brown, and then stuff started coming out, and 15 minutes later the water was clear. I put in gasoline and got it started, and it has run fine ever since,” Howard says.

Although mostly complete, the engine was missing its pulley, but Howard had one in his stash of parts that fit. As to the engine’s paint, Howard believes Gary painted the engine blue years ago, but he isn’t sure if it is the correct shade.

“People who don’t know much about engines or know that it’s a rarity mostly just think it’s nice and that it runs well,” Howard says of the engine. “But collectors who know that it’s a very rare engine are much more interested in it.” So far, nobody has tried to buy the engine from Howard, but then, “I wouldn’t sell anyway,” Howard says. Not after waiting so long to get it.

Engines Today

Howard says he still has about 30 engines. “I’m not going to build another building,” Howard says, “that’s enough.” But he can still get excited about engines. “Recently at an auction I found a camshaft from a compression engine that was used to start Mogul IH tractors. The guy had it mounted on a board. Only 500-600 of them were made, and it’s hard to find. I told my friend Jason, ‘We’re not leaving without it.'” And they didn’t. Even at 87, Howard still has a strong interest in interesting parts and unique engines.

In the end, what Howard enjoys most about the Hippe-Steiner is that he’d known about it so long, and that he never thought he would get it. “That was quite an accomplishment, getting the engine, because I’d wanted it for so many years, and because it’s so rare, and I just never did think I’d get it. And I like it.”

Hippe-Steiner Manufacturing Co.

According to Wayne Halsey’s article in the October/November 2001 issue of Gas Engine Magazine, Hippe-Steiner’s roots go back to June 1908, “when a partnership was formed between Robert Hippe and Henry Steiner to build engines in Chilton, Wisconsin.

“About 1912, Robert Hippe sold out to Henry Steiner and left the company. The company name was changed to the H. A. Steiner Manufacturing Co. and the engines produced became known as the H. A. S. These engines were produced in sizes 3hp to 16hp and some had high-tension ignition (spark plug and buzz coil). The engines were a dark green, but were different mechanically,” Halsey wrote.

“About 1915 the company moved to Plymouth, Wisconsin, and the name of the engine was changed to the Steiner Long Life. At this time, a 1hp engine was added to the line. However, before 1920 they went out of business. We believe they produced about 3,000 engines in 12 years,” Halsey wrote.

Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and author of several books on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact him at Box 372, 400 Caroline Ln., Rockville, MN 56369; email:

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines