10 HP International Harvester M Restoration

The Haircut Engine, a 10 HP International Harvester M, is rescued 60 years after being abandoned in a Tennessee gristmill.

| December/January 2014

In the January 1997 issue of Gas Engine Magazine, Burton R. Marsh wrote in about “The Haircut Engine,” a 10 HP International Harvester Type M that had been shown to him by Bill Erwin. Mr. Erwin was a barber and a friend of Burton’s brother Joe.

Mr. Erwin ran a gristmill and feed mill in Tennessee as a boy of 11. Sixty years later, Mr. Erwin took the Marsh men to see if the engine was still there. The IH was still in the shed, but it was on its side, stuck and badly rusted. Burton tried to contact the owner of the land for permission to rescue the engine without any luck. But that doesn’t mean the Haircut Engine was forgotten …

The story of the Haircut Engine continues 16 years, to the month, later.

It’s January 2012 and I’m down in Alabama, from Tennessee, to visit with Burton Marsh. Throughout the day we had a good time looking at some of his collection of iron and talking of things of the past. He shared with me many stories of himself and his brothers growing up in the South, as well as stories of his military service and on into his life as a father and husband. It made for a very nice day and the beginning of a very good friendship. As I was about to leave for home, Burton shared one last story with me. It was the story of the article that he had written for the Gas Engine Magazine.

At the time he thought that it may have been eight to 10 years ago that he had written it, when in fact it had been 15. Burton shared the story of the Haircut Engine: an engine sitting in the woods that was not far from where I live. Without hesitation he was able to tell me where it was and who owned it. The gentleman’s name, Robert, was right there as if he had spoken to him just yesterday. Burton is 87 years old and has an amazing memory for names and details.

After listening to the story I, of course, had the normal questions that any man or woman would have if he or she is interested in old iron and rust. Burton told me that he had no luck buying the engine from Robert, that he didn’t know if it was still there and that he no longer had any interest in trying to purchase it. Within five minutes he was able to produce a phone number that was actually still active. We made a call from Burton’s shop but were unable to speak with a human. The good news came a day or so later when Robert returned my call and was open to conversation about possibly letting the engine go.