A 4 hp Sparta Economy engine gets saved from the recycler!
Greg Dills (left) found the Sparta, but Bruce Heppler (right) did the restoration to get it running.
A friend, Greg Dills, was dropping his recycling off at the Lakeport, California, recycling center in July 2014 and happened to glance over at the scrap pile. To his surprise, on the pile was a pair of spoked flywheels. He made a quick U-turn and drove into the scrap yard for a closer inspection.
After determining that there was indeed an engine in pieces scattered through the rest of the pile, he went to the office to strike a deal. The attendant said, “If you want it, it will cost you by the pound and you better hurry up; the truck will be here in five minutes to load the pile.”
Needless to say, the deal was struck – at highway robbery prices. While paying for the engine parts, the grappling crane positioned itself over the pile to begin loading it into the truck that pulled into the yard.
Greg scrambled onto the pile and began pulling off all the pieces he could find. “The grapple was swinging above my head and the operator was giving me dirty looks for holding up his operation,” Greg says. Finally, the scrap yard attendant said, “That’s enough,” and my friend was left to load most of what turned out to be a 4 hp Sparta Economy engine. Showing serial number 12442, it’s a Model C or CA made in 1911 or 1912.
Greg built a cart and assembled the engine as well as could be done with the parts he found. It was taken to the EDGE & TA Branch 13 Woodland Swap Meet, where I first saw it.
A lot of collectors extensively inspected this diamond in the rough, but they all shook their heads and walked off. At the end of the swap meet, Greg said to me, “Bruce, you should buy that engine; you could get it running.” “Not at that price,” I said.
Let me say that I really like Sparta engines, I have a 1 hp and a 6 hp in my collection, and a 4 hp would be a great addition. A week later we made a deal, and I traveled to Greg’s a couple of hours away to pick up the engine.
The crankshaft was bent, both bearing caps were missing, the governor was broken, the connecting rod was damaged beyond repair, and the mixer and igniter were missing. Fortunately, there were no cracks or breaks in the castings.
I machined new bearing caps from a block of cast iron on my shaper and “aged” them to match the patina of the block. The rod was a different story, it was a total loss. I decided to fabricate a round rod after the Galloway engine design. With all the repairs and fabricated parts, I got the old girl back in shape to where I thought it might run.
I borrowed the igniter off my 6 hp and I had a 5 hp Economy mixer that Greg threw in with the deal.
I got it to chuff and die, flood, chuff and die, and so on. The 4 hp has a 4-1/2-inch bore and a 9-inch stroke with a ratio of 2:1. Because of the long stroke, the engine needs an Essex or Lunkenheimer mixer with the built-in check valve. As luck would have it, at the swap meet where I first saw this engine, I had sold a 1-1/4-inch Essex mixer earlier that morning. It was the old “what am I keeping this for; I don’t have anything it fits”!
As it turns out, there is a gentleman in Oklahoma who makes repro Lunkenheimers, but he only advertises once every five years in GEM. Fortunately, his ad came out the next issue and I gave him a call. I proceeded to tell him that I was hesitant to send him $200 for something sight unseen, but he assured me that he never had any returns and that he would gladly take it back if I was unhappy.
It arrived two weeks later, and when I mounted it on the engine it looked out of place, being the only shiny new part on the engine. I gave the flywheels a spin and it took right off! If you ever need a Lunkenheimer mixer, give Cory Bell a call and you will be pleased.
So ends my tale of an engine rescued five minutes before going to China! P.S. I still need an igniter for this grand old engine. All Sparta 2 hp through 10 hp will fit. Anybody have an extra?