Manitoba Engine Restoration: Crash Bang!

Manitoba engine restoration easier said than done thanks to US Standard/Metric bolt size confusion

| October/November 2012

At a recent car club get-together, an acquaintance had an antique gas engine in his garage. It was small (1-1/2 HP), open crankcase, liquid-cooled and had a small locking lever part bolted onto the rear left corner of the water jacket. It looked like a miniature locking mechanism for a plow, only the lever and mechanism were gone. There were a lot of people at this event and we only spoke briefly about this engine, mostly that he had owned it for more than 30 years and could not find the parts to restore it, including the ignition system. There was no trace of ignition at all. The information he had showed a Webster magneto and igniter.

A couple of years went by and he joined our local street car museum (the Minnesota Street Car Museum), which is dedicated to restoration and operation of vintage electric street railcars, and this put us in contact more often. I asked about the engine and I told him I had the knowledge and ability to get it running for him. After another year went by I asked if he wanted to sell me the engine, but he wanted to get it going. Another year went by and he called to ask me if I could make it run again.

He delivered it the next day. In looking it over a lot of work had been done, including being thoroughly cleaned, painted and new valves installed. The bolts that held the cylinder onto the base frame were new. All the babbitt bearings were good and no welding was visible, which was a real plus. On the minus side, the governor slide yoke on the crankshaft was seized up and there was no ignition. I decided to make an igniter cover plate and use a Model T coil and spark plug. The engine owner has Model T Fords and understands the Model T ignition and furnished a T coil and wire for the project.

The engine was mounted on a nice oak skid and looked good. I started by freeing up the governor slide and making the cover plate. I used a modern 14mm spark plug as the 1/2-inch pipe ones are getting expensive and I can make it bigger later to fit a 1/2-inch plug if needed.

The engine is Canadian, made in Brandon, Manitoba, and is called the Manitoba engine. As I noted earlier, the governor mechanism was missing its handle and linkage. The flywheel governor weights were in the water jacket. All I had to do was make new pivot pins and drill them for cotter pins. I made up a linkage and handle that I thought would work and it did, but it looked out of place. I had no idea what it was supposed to look like, but this was too close to the flywheel to be safe. A redesign of the handle got it somewhat away from the flywheel and a little bit safer. Finally, on try number four I was happy with the handle. Quite a lot of work and trial and error went into this, and a whole lot of thought.

The Manitoba engine had good compression, but the valve timing was two teeth off. This was easy to correct. The fuel tank and mixer are fastened together with a solid 3/4-inch pipe directly under the head, going between the skids and the tank, rearward 14 inches. A 90-degree elbow from the head (much like a Maytag engine exhaust pipe) connects the mixer and pickup pipe to the head. This will make more sense later as I get to the exciting part of this story! For a timer I drilled and tapped a #10 bolt into the timing gear. I made an adjustable sliding arm to touch the bolt and then insulated it with a hard plastic mount under and rearward of the cam gear.


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