| March/April 1994

Air-Cooled Engines

R.R.1, Box 1306 Freedom, Indiana 47431

The story of how I acquired this engine is a case of mistaken identity. I had been searching for months for a single cylinder Maytag to add to my collection of small, air-cooled engines. Every lead I followed turned out to be a dead end. Then, during a conversation at work one day, a guy mentioned that 45 years ago his grandfather had put an old engine on a homemade lawnmower frame. Jerry said the engine had never run in his lifetime, but one thing he could remember about it was it utilized a kick pedal for starting. Since his grandfather's farm was still in the family, we agreed to go out there one night after work and search for the mower.

Jerry thought the mower was stored in a corn crib, so I thought I might get lucky and find the engine in good shape, even after all these years. The trip was a relatively short one; I soon found myself standing in front of the barn.

Jerry had told me before-hand that the farm harbored a large population of copperheads, but I did not realize the extent to which he referred, until he declined to enter the corn crib with me, and instead leaned a .22 caliber rifle just inside the door. 'Just in case,' he said. As I walked carefully toward the dark shape at the end of the crib, I wondered what I would find. Finally, I arrived at the mower, but the engine was hidden from view by several empty fertilizer sacks that had been piled on it. Very carefully, I removed one sack at a time until the engine came into view.

Upon seeing it, my heart sank, for even in the gloom inside the crib I realized the engine was much too large to be a Maytag. My curiosity got the best of me and demanded a closer look. Fortunately, the engine was just sitting on the mower, and I was able to carry it back outside into the sunlight to examine it. Upon closer examination, it turned out to be a Briggs & Stratton model 'A,' equipped with kick-start. The engine was covered in the usual dirt and grease, and years of exposure to the corrosive fertilizer had dissolved a good portion of the aluminum cylinder head.

Since I had already restored several old Briggs, I was about to pass on this one, when I happened to step down on the starter pedal, and the engine turned over and actually built a small amount of compression.