My 5 HP Economy


| April/May 2000



Economy engine

1425 Kristle Lane Lake Charles, Louisiana 70611

For several years I had been looking for a 5 HP Hercules or Economy hit and miss engine. Though I had located several over the years, they were either too far away, too expensive, or just not for sale. Then one evening I got a call from Robert Mayeux, another engine collector. Somewhere along in the conversation I asked him if he knew of one for sale anywhere. In fact, he did. It was a 5 HP Economy E that he had owned previously and had sold to a friend of his in Patterson, Louisiana. I got his name and phone number and gave the man a call. The next Saturday my wife and I were on our way to Patterson to look at the engine. It was about a 150 mile trip.

Arriving at his house I looked the engine over carefully. The price was firm but at least one I could afford. The engine was in reasonably good condition. It had been stored under a porch and was last run several years earlier. The serial number indicated that it was manufactured in 1920. I agreed to purchase it. Unfortunately the engine and cart were too big to go in the back of my small pickup, so I left him a deposit and we were on our way back home empty handed.

When we got back home, I called a friend who had a larger pickup and trailer and asked him if he would like to take a trip to Patterson to pick up the engine. He asked, 'When do you want to go?' I said, 'How about tomorrow?' Sunday morning he and I were on our way back to Patterson to retrieve the engine. So with two trips, approximately 600 miles total, I had my 5 HP Economy home safe and sound. With a little bit of cleaning up, a little bit of adjusting, and a little bit of starter fluid, I had the engine running before nightfall.

I called Robert Mayeux to tell him I bought his old engine and to get a little history. Turns out he found the engine along one of the bayous of southeast Louisiana. It had originally been used to power a sugar cane press at a community mill, and worked well into the depression years, giving many people access to fresh cane syrup when it might not have been available otherwise. One can't help but visualize people from a bygone era with bundles or wagonloads of sugar cane bartering with the owner of the engine and mill for its use and then cooking the freshly squeezed juice into cane syrup.

When Robert found the engine it was partially buried in the ground dangerously close to a burn pile. He recovered the engine and restored it to running condition. He had a unique 'magneto substitute' built for the engine that operated exactly like the original magneto but worked with a battery and coil. The engine was mounted on an old lawn tractor frame and turned a hydrostatic transmission via a v-belt arrangement. Along with several other bells and whistles, a Robert Mayeux trademark, it was dubbed the 'Bayou Buggy.'