Olds Engine After Restoration

By Staff
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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.

Lloyd Osmun’s 5-7 HP Type A Olds as found. It’s almost
hard to believe this is the same engine shown on the facing page,
and doubly amazing to think it went back together with most of its
original parts.

Lloyd Osmun’s 5-7 HP Type A Olds as found. It’s almost
hard to believe this is the same engine shown on the facing page,
and doubly amazing to think it went back together with most of its
original parts.

Looking the engine over, Lloyd saw it was rusty and frozen –
remarkably, all of the parts seemed to be there, and there were no
obvious cracks or breaks. Lloyd asked Cappy if he would sell the
engine, but Cappy said he would have to check with his son, Cappy
Rydell Jr., since they had a joint interest in the engine. A week
later they struck a deal, and five days after that Lloyd and Cappy
Jr. pulled the engine out of the dirt with a tractor and dragged it
to Lloyd’s trailer, loading it without incident.

Lloyd hauled the engine to his workshop in Jacobsburg, Pa., and
looking it over he found that, ‘Everything was stuck fast, the
piston, governor, timing linkage … just everything. But the
original striping was still visible and there were no cracks or
breaks,’ Lloyd says. Amazingly, the brass nameplate was still
intact. The nameplate reads:

Self Contained Gasoline Engine Type A #5 Shop # 9690 HP 5-7
Mfd. by Olds Gasoline Engine Works Lansing, Mich., U.S.A.

Lloyd believes this is an early Olds built some time around
1903, and it looks very much like the Olds attached to a
centrifugal pump as shown on page 358 in C.H. Wendel’s
American Gasoline Engines Since 1872. ‘I think she was
built somewhere between 1897 and 1905’ Lloyd says, ‘the
engine has Olds Gasoline Engine Works cast right on it. This means
the engine dates from before Ransom E. Olds sold his company to new
management in 1905 or so. It was built before 1905, that’s for
sure, but how much before, I can’t tell.’

In addition to the low serial number the engine had some other
unusual characteristics, such as a removable head (instead of the
headless design of some Type A Olds engines) and a spark plug in
the end of the head instead of an igniter. He knew he had an
unusual Olds engine, and he started work on it the next day.

Getting to Work

Inspecting the engine further, Lloyd confirmed his initial
assessment- absolutely everything on the engine was stuck. He
sprayed the engine with penetrating solvent, and using a
combination of his expertise gained over the years, a lot of
patience -and heat and oil – the engine came apart. The only bolt
that broke was one on the crank guard, and Lloyd had a new
high-head bolt made to match.

There were a few major challenges, and removing the stuck piston
was the biggest. After removing the head, Lloyd filled the cylinder
with two to three inches of fuel oil and set it on fire. He did
this several times, but the piston still wouldn’t budge. In
desperation, Lloyd contacted a friend who runs a gas station that
has a 60-ton press. They arranged a time to meet, and after filling
the cylinder with oil one more time and burning it off, he drove
the hot cylinder to the gas station. With the cylinder hot, Lloyd
and his friend got to work coaxing the piston free. They started at
11 a.m., pressing, heating and carefully hammering the outside of
the cylinder, and after numerous tries the piston finally broke
free with a load ‘bang.’ Repeating the process, they got
the piston to move a quarter of an inch at a time. By 3 p.m. the
piston was free. The cylinder bore, except for a small part exposed
to the elements, was almost perfect. Through all of this only one
piston ring broke, and he got a replacement from Starbolt.

First attempt at heating the cylinder to remove the stuck
piston. A 60-ton press provided the final pushing power to free the
piston.

The Olds during cleaning and priming. All told, Lloyd spent
around 170 hours transforming the Olds from its as-found condition
to a running restoration.

The only other broken piece was the lock-out rod for the intake
valve (which had simply rusted away), so Lloyd fabricated a new
lock-out rod. He replaced all the springs on the engine except for
the intake and exhaust springs, which were still okay.
Remarkable.

After cleaning and reassembling all the various parts the engine
was painted in its original colors and mounted on new trucks with
wheels from a cement mixer. Lloyd improvised a cooling tank from an
old funnel and mounted it on top of the cylinder, and another
friend, Bob Herder, made a brass fuel level bowl cap. The muffler
had rusted away, so Lloyd had a new muffler cast from an
original.

Running and Showing

On July 6, 2002, less than a month after Lloyd had first seen
the engine and after some 170 hours of disassembling, cleaning,
repairing and painting on the engine, Bob and I went over to
Lloyd’s to help with the easy work of getting the engine
started. One turn after priming and the Olds puffed back to life
for the first time in over 78 years -and the longer it ran, the
smoother it was.

Lloyd exhibited the Olds at the Blue Mountain Antique Gas and
Steam 2002 summer show (also known as the Jacktown show) in Bangor,
Pa. Veteran engine fans know how unique this Olds engine is, and
everyone was amazed that an engine buried for 40 years and then
left in the woods for 38 more years could come back to life so
quickly and run so well. The engine drew a lot of attention and
lively conversation as old times and interested youngsters alike
passed by and asked Lloyd about the engine.

Lloyd tells me he was lucky to have stumbled upon the Olds,
noting how time and time again he thinks of all the nice people who
helped him in his search for the engine’s history. ‘ Each
person I spoke to had a great story to tell,’ Lloyd says,
‘and each story brought back fond memories. Every storyteller
relived his or her glory days and smiled and laughed at the memory.
Isn’t that why we all enjoy the old engine collection
adventure? I enjoyed this adventure. I hope everyone who sees this
engine will too. And one more thing, coincidences – don’t
discount them. It was a coincidence that I stopped in to see Cappy
Rydell after nearly 50 years. Don’t forget your friends, they
help you remember who you are.’

Contact engine enthusiast Ivan Raupp at: 6 Pine Ct,
Bloomsbury, NJ 08804.

Contact engine enthusiast Lloyd Osmun at: 466 Jacobsburg
Road, Nazareth, PA 18064

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines