My Not-So-Economical ECONOMY


| January/February 1997



Economy engine

10 Babbitt Road Mendham, New Jersey 07945

I guess everyone who has ever bought an old iron gas engine has a story about how they found it rusting in a field, or sitting for years in an old barn, and how they got it for next to nothing just so the farmer's widow could get rid of the old thing. Well, my story is nothing like any of those, because my story starts with a love of old one-lung hit and miss engines that goes back to years of visiting the Kutztown Folk Festival in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.

Every July my wife and I would eagerly await the Kutztown Folk Festival knowing that my wife Carol (who's an avid quilter) would walk through the huge barn loaded with handmade quilts, and I would try to catch the hit and miss engine demonstrations of threshing and log sawing. Carol always saw the quilts, but somehow I always got to the engine demonstrations just as they were shutting down, or too early for the engines to be fired up. I always promised myself that, one day, I would own one of those things then I could run it whenever I pleased.

A very good friend of mine, Dennis Townsend (I call him 'The Instigator'), had been driving his 1946 restored Far-mall 'A' tractor in our local Fourth of July and Labor Day parades for years. Hitched to his tractor would be a landscape trailer hauling a 6 HP Witte belted to his corn shelter. Dennis turned up my enthusiasm for the hit and miss engines (he's done it to a lot of others, too!) and I soon found myself at The Blue Mountain Antique Gas and Steam Engine shows in Bangor, Pennsylvania. Here was a place where the engines ran all day! And, you could see a whole grove of them operating a myriad of machines and implements!

This discovery led me to purchase not only the hit and miss engine, but a 1946 partially restored Farmall 'M' tractor (it needed to be rewired and have new rubber installed and lots of loving care). The Economy that I located was a 3 horsepower 'S' model made in 1925, serial number 335877. It had been mounted on a wooden cart that had to have been designed by Rube Goldberg, as the front wheels could only turn 20 degrees in either direction before they would lock up against the sides of the cart. This made maneuvering the engine and cart a real disaster!

A happier discovery was locating a cast iron set of front and back trucks in a tractor graveyard owned by Chet and Elmer Crane in Martins Creek, Pennsylvania, to use as an engine cart for the Economy. Although the set of trucks weighed 300 pounds, I just knew at first sight that these were the ones I'd been looking for. They had so much old paint on them that they could only be salvage by media blasting them down to bare iron (just another expense in the pursuit of engine excellence).