Old engine buff, Matt Ballentine, restores engines for his collection by fabricating his own parts.
Puff, puff, pop, pop, bang. To the uninitiated, engines running in harmony may sound like noise, but to Matt Ballentine of Ft. Myers, Florida they sound like Bach does to the symphony conductor. Each of his several old engines are lovingly restored, brightly painted and humming with new life.
His collection includes a Fairbanks diesel, make and break, horizontal, 3 HP, open piston, 4 cycle engine that was once used to power threshing machines and saw mills; a vertical 1909 Monitor used for pumping water; a Caille water cooled, 1? HP, 2 cycle boat engine with priming cups that is at least 75 years old; a 50 year old Cushman with a governor for speed, used for threshing machines; a Pelton auto electric air compressor air pump; a 1937 .9 Evinrude Ekka Model 4201 and a Ladder No. 6 Fire Engine light plant.
The restoration of each old engine was complicated by the lack of replacement parts or illustrated literature. It was necessary for Matt to make his own parts in his well-equipped shop. One wall of his garage is lined with machine tools. The rest of the garage is filled with welding equipment, a trailer for the engines, other engines and parts he has collected for restoration 'some day.' No room in this garage for the family cars! They sit in an arbor built on the side of the house. Many scale model airplanes Matt has built hang from the rafters of the garage, further evidences of his skill with hands and tools.
Where did he find such 'treasures?' Many places. One was discovered under a pile of oak leaves on a farm, some came from ads in newspapers and others were traded with fellow collectors.
This Ft. Myers engineer belongs to the Florida club of collectors called the Fly Wheelers. The group holds meets almost every month in various parts of the state and Matt travels to these meets dragging his trailer full of favorite 'toys' behind his car. The meetings are often overnight camping outings and good food as well as engine talk is shared with other fellow members of the club. There are 285 members. The club publishes a bi-monthly newsletter called the Florida Fly Wheelers. Norma Austin is editor; the address is 6795 58th Ave. N. St. Pete, Fl. 33709 for those who would like to contact the group.
The air is full of the 'music' of many engines when this group gets together.
Nina Kimbrough, author of this article, is a librarian and teacher who has lived, worked and traveled in many parts of the world.
She has been connected with schools and libraries in California, Florida, the Philippine Islands, Korea, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Her articles have been published in various magazines. She now lives in Alva, Florida.