Olds Engine After Restoration

A simple trip and a chance encounter lead to the resurrection of an early Olds engine.

| March/April 2003

Lloyd Osmun's 5-7 HP Type A Olds after restoration. Showing serial number 9690, this is an early Olds engine, but when it was built is unclear. Early Type A Olds engines were headless, while Lloyd's engine features a separate head. The engine looks almost identical to a 1905 Olds Type A shown in C.H. Wendel's American Gas Engines Since 1872, but that engine appears to be a headless design. Olds Gasoline Engine Works, Lansing, Mich., was founded by Pling Olds, brother of Ransom E. Olds, founder of Oldsmobile. Ransom bought out his brother in 1890.

Do you love a good story? I know I do, and my favorite stories are about old gas engines found in the woods and brought back to life. This is the true story of my friend Lloyd Osmun and his remarkable restoration of an Olds engine, found in the woods of northwestern New Jersey after lying buried for over 40 years.

Finding the Olds

It all started in the summer of 2002, on June 14, 2002, to be precise. Lloyd, a master mechanic and gas engine collector for many years, went to Sparta, N.J., to pick up some engines he had purchased. With his 'new' engines safely strapped to his trailer and heading back home along Route 94 through New Jersey, Lloyd remembered that an old friend, Cappy Rydell, lived on the same route in Marksboro, N.J. Lloyd hadn't seen Cappy since the early 1950s, and as he glanced out the driver's side window he saw Cappy's white clapboard home and Cappy's abandoned farm equipment sales office. It was just as he remembered it.

Lloyd immediately noticed an elderly gentleman sitting in a lawn chair by the side of the house - it was Cappy, looking fit and probably well into his 90s. Lloyd pulled into the parking lot between the house and the abandoned shop and went over to speak with Cappy. It took a few minutes for Cappy to make a connection to Lloyd - after all, Cappy hadn't seen Lloyd in 50 years - but soon the stories were flying. Cappy noticed the old engines on Lloyd's trailer, and he asked what Lloyd was up to. Lloyd told Cappy about his engine addiction, and his particular fondness for Olds engines. To this, Cappy nonchalantly offered that he happened to have an Olds engine over in the woods behind his shop. Lloyd couldn't believe his ears.

'Yep, she's been back in the woods over by the outhouse since about 1963,' Cappy told Lloyd. 'That's the year I bought my first rollback truck. I was in the farm implement business, you know. We pulled the engine out of a cistern under a chicken coop where she was buried for 40 years or so before that. The farmer, a Mr. Budd, used the engine for farm chores. I think it must have been near his cistern. Anyhow, it was in his barn. In the early 1920's he decided to tear down the barn and build a chicken coop. I guess he decided the Olds was too heavy to move so he filled in the cistern with stone and poured a slab over the top. He built the chicken coop on top of the slab. In 1963 he tore down the chicken coop and I bought the engine from him. The stone fill and the slab saved the engine.'

Lloyd asked to have a look at the engine, so Cappy got out of his chair and walked Lloyd back into the woods through a sea of abandoned tractors and farm equipment to an old outhouse. There, next to the outhouse under a rusty sheet of old roofing, was an old Olds gas engine. It had clearly been sitting a long time, sunk as it was about a foot into the ground, with trees a foot thick surrounding the engine and some other old farm implements.


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