The rescue and restoration of a 1914 1 HP Fairbanks-Morse Eclipse No. 1 all started when a friend told me about an antique gas engine sitting at the shop of a man he knew. A few weeks later, we went to meet the man and see the engine. We met, and after talking for some three hours he took us into his shop to see the engine. I don’t have the neatest shop, but when he opened the door there was stuff literally piled from the floor to the ceiling, a small path wending its way through it all. He told us where the engine was, and after about 30 minutes of looking we finally found it – in pieces.
Pulling parts out of the way, I discovered the engine was a Fairbanks-Morse Eclipse No. 1 with double flywheels. As we looked it over, the man told us he had taken it apart over 30 years ago with plans to fix it. “Is it for sale,” I asked? “Maybe,” he said, “let me think about it.” We talked some more, and thanking him for his time we went on our way.
About a month later I was in the area, so I stopped in to see what he had decided. He told me his son wanted the engine, so I thanked him again and went on my way. For two years, whenever I was in the area I would stop in and talk to him. Some times I would say something about the engine, and other times we would just talk about old cars and, as he was a dirt track racer, dirt track racing. On one of my visits I had two engines with me, a new 11 HP Honda and a new 12 HP Kawasaki, which I offered in trade for the Eclipse. Still no deal.
Persistence pays off
About six months later I stopped in again, and this time he told me to go in the shop, get the Eclipse out and look it over. I started pulling out parts, and while looking for all the parts to the Eclipse I found a small marine engine – single-cylinder, upright, inboard, no name on it. I set it out with the Eclipse. With all the pieces finally out in the open I looked every thing over. All the parts to the Eclipse were there, even the gas tank (which was in good condition), and the marine engine was complete and had fair compression. He asked me if I still had the two engines, and when I told him I did he asked if I still wanted to trade. I told him I’d give him both of my engines for the Eclipse and the marine engine, and he agreed.
I made the trip back home, got my two engines, went back to his place and unloaded my engines and loaded up the Eclipse and the marine engine. When I got home I unloaded my truck and looked over my new toys. I set the marine engine aside and started on the Eclipse.
The valves were in bad shape, so I made new ones, cleaned all the parts and put it together. I was amazed that after 30-plus years all the parts were there, including all the nuts, bolts, washers and springs. Once 1 had it all back together it was time to start it, and after a few pulls on the flywheels the Eclipse started and ran. I wish I could say it ran well, but it didn’t. The governor wasn’t working, so I stopped the engine and checked it over. Everything looked okay, so I started it again – it didn’t run any better.
After a few days of trying to find the problem I got to thinking. I remembered that while I was putting it back together I had noticed that someone had made a new camshaft for it. Looking at the cam again I found the problem: The lobe on the cam was in the wrong place. With the governor on the cam gear it all has to be in line, but it wasn’t. I moved the lobe to where I thought it should be, put it back together and tried again. It worked. With the governor working properly and a little tinkering it now runs well and starts easily. Looking around my shop I found an original set of skids for a 1 -1/2 HP McCormick-Deering M. I mounted the Eclipse and a battery box on the skids, and it looks so good I think I will leave it this way.
I took the engine back to the man I got it from to show him how it turned out. He came out of his house, saw the engine in the truck and asked, “Will it run?” I didn’t say a word, I just got in the back of the truck, turned the switch on, pulled the flywheels and off she went. You should have seen the smile on his face – that made it all worthwhile. I still stop in every now and then to talk and see how he is doing, because I didn’t get just an engine out of the deal, I also got a friend.
Contact engine enthusiast Randy Tucker at: 2013 Tom Sadler Road, Charlotte, NC 28214, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org