A Model A Ford Open Engine Builds a Friendship

Model A Ford open engine learning aid inspires others to build their own


| December 2011/January 2012


Sometimes it is just neat how things come together, from projects to new friends. The gas engine hobby has taken me to new places and I’ve met people from all across the United States. This is the story of one of those chance meetings that forged a new friendship across 2,100 miles.

Since I built my 1929 Model A Ford open engine in 2009, it has been a big hit everywhere I take it. People always tell me what a great teaching tool this is for those who don’t know how an engine works. During each presentation I explain how a 4-stroke engine works with the hand crank engaged: rolling the open engine over by hand and going through its cycles. I have had many requests for plans, but there are none. Just find an old frost-damaged flat head and start cutting! By request, I did post a brief instructional video on YouTube that you can watch at www.farmcollector.com/open-engine. That is how I came to meet my new friend, Julius Schnell, from California.

Julius also had a cracked Model A Ford block, and after watching my video on YouTube, he made his own open engine. His display is upright with a radiator and LED lights to show fire in the open cylinders. He also made a simple distributor off the back of the cam to light them. When he finished his engine, Julius emailed me and asked if I could call him. We talked about how much fun we had showing our engines at car and farm shows, and how the public is so fascinated by seeing the inner workings of an engine, and how it is able to run so well on just one cylinder.

As our conversation came to a close, Julius asked me how far away I was from Baraboo, Wis. I told him I was about 60 miles away. He replied, “Great, I would like to meet you. You see, my wife is originally from there and I’ve been meaning to get her back there so she can visit family.” I told him that my favorite farm show, The Badger Steam & Gas Engine Show, was there in August and it was one of the biggest in the state. What better place for two gas engine enthusiasts to meet! He said, “Wonderful! We’ll time it to get together then.”



Julius truly enjoyed the show and his day there with me. As I gave my presentations, I showed the crowd a picture of Julius with his engine. I told them the story of our long-distance friendship and how he came to visit me at the show. Then I’d say, “Please welcome Julius,” and the crowd would cheer!

I am happy that the open engine idea is catching on, and encourage anyone to do it. Not only will you find it to be a very rewarding display, but you might just make some great friendships along the way.














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