By Staff
1 / 5
The engine as it looked when I bought it, except I had removed the mixing valve.
2 / 5
Boring engine in lathe.
3 / 5
Head after guides and seats were installed. See pitting referred to in story.
4 / 5
View of the Independent after restoration.
5 / 5
View of the Independent after restoration.

23170 McCollister Road Defiance, Ohio 43512

I was showing my engines at the Maumee Valley Antique Steam
& Gas Association Show at New Haven, Indiana, in August of
1995, when a fellow named Arnie Hartman set up next to me with a
big trailer-load of engines for sale. I wasn’t particularly in
the market for another engine, but I went over to see the different
engines that he had for sale. He had one that caught my eyeit was
different than any I had ever seen. Arnie told me it was an
Independent Harvester and I would look a long time before I would
see another like it as he had only seen one other. I asked him if
it was for sale and he said it was, so after a little dickering, we
settled on a price and loaded it on my trailer.

The engine was in pretty rough shape. The rocker arm was broken,
the piston was stuck, and it was missing a lot of parts, as the
before picture shows. Arnie told me that there was a fellow out in
Kansas who advertised in GEM who had decals for sale; he thought I
could get a rocker arm from him, also.

Well, after getting home I proceeded to get the piston free what
a job! I set the engine on end after removing the head, and poured
brake fluid in the cylinder and set it on fire. I let this get the
engine quite warm and tried to beat the piston out of the bottom,
but it didn’t move, so I thought maybe it would move the other
way. So, I disconnected the rod from the crank and put the rod cap
back on the rod and proceeded to pound on it with a block of wood
and a hammer. After a couple of licks with the hammer, the rod and
cap both broke right through the babbitt bearing. I just stood
there and said, ‘I can’t believe you did that, Vic.’
Upon closer inspection, it was plain that this had been broken
before and welded back together. I would take care of that problem
later, but still had a stuck piston, so after more burning and
heating with an acetylene torch and beating with a block of wood
and sledge hammer, the piston was finally out.

As soon as I had removed the head it was evident that the bore
would have to be bored and sleeved, as it was pitted something
terrible. Another engine collector, Tom Laffey, told me about a man
who would bore and sleeve an engine for $100.00. So I got
directions to the man’s place from Tom and headed over there
with the block in my truck. When the man took a look at it, he said
it was too big for his machine, so he wouldn’t be able to
handle it. He said I might check with a nearby automotive machine
shop, so on my way home I stopped there. They came out and looked
at it, and after measuring it, they decided they could handle it on
their machine. I asked them what it would cost and they said at
least $300.00, maybe $400.00. Well, my dad raised me to hold onto
my money rather tightly, so I told them that it was kind of a rare
engine, but I didn’t know if it was that rare and I would have
to think about it. It didn’t take me long to decide I
didn’t want to spend that much to have it sleeved.

I suppose I should mention here that I am a retired machinist
and I have my own shop at home. After getting home, I looked at the
Bridgeport mill, but there was just no way I could do it in there.
I then looked at my old 16′ lathe and thought, you know, if I
had a fixture built to hold the engine on its side and fastened the
fixture to the lathe carriage, I could bore it right there. I
believe it was before I started the fixture that I checked with the
local automotive store to see what I could buy in the line of a
sleeve. They had what I needed, but it was about 1′ shorter
than the bore, but it would be alright, as the rings wouldn’t
come back far enough to come off the sleeve, so I ordered it. I
built the fixture mostly with scraps, but had to buy some new
material, and also made a boring bar and a couple of pieces that
were a slip fit over the boring bar and into the bore. The head had
a register that fit into the bore for about 1/8′, so the bore
was not rusted in this area. The rear of the bore is where the
piston sat, so it wasn’t pitted either. This setup got me lined
up pretty close and with a little shimming soon had it indicated
in. By running the boring bar from the chuck to the tailstock, it
made a rigid setup, but sure was a pain when I wanted to check the
bore size. I had to pull the boring bar out, check the bore, then
put the bar back in and indicate it back true, as I only have a
4-jaw chuck for this lathe. Got it bored to accept the sleeve,
threw the sleeve in the freezer, and laid a trouble light in the
bore. After about an hour, I got the sleeve out of the freezer and
it slid right into the bore. As the sleeve warmed and the bore
cooled, they became as one and I was able to bore the sleeve to
size as it came 1/32′ undersize. The block is now sleeved and
bored to original dimensions. The sleeve cost me $36.00 plus a few
more dollars for steel for the fixture a long way from $400.00, but
a lot of time involved. Being retired, I have more time than money,
so I spent my time and kept my money.

Remember the broken rod and cap? Time to fix that. I made a
fixture to hold the parts in place and grooved them out so the weld
would go deeper. When my youngest boy, Mike (who is a good welder),
came home, I asked him to weld everything back together. I still
needed the babbitt bearing. After talking to a fellow who could do
this and doing some reading on the subject, I decided to try to
pour one myself. It didn’t go too badly, although my mold
leaked and it came up a little short on the one flange, but it was
serviceable. Brought back memories of pouring lead soldiers as a
boy. I also replaced the bushing for the wrist pin.

I looked in the GEM magazine for the ad Arnie had told me about
and sure enough, there it was. Dale Russell of Independence,
Kansas, had the decals so I wrote him and inquired about the rocker
arm. Dale called me and said he had the rocker arm and told me the
price, so I ordered the decals and rocker arm. Dale asked me about
the condition of my engine and I told him I was missing some parts
and he offered to send me his parts so I could get some cast off of
them. I machined the governor shaft, gear, and flyballs out of cast
iron, the other parts I had cast. I also made a gear for the
crankshaft at this time, as it was also missing.

As can be seen from the before picture, the mag and ignitor
bracket had been replaced with a plate for a spark plug. I started
looking for the bracket and finally located one, but the fellow
wanted more than I wanted to give.

Back to the GEM magazine. After looking through quite a few back
issues, I found where David Babcock of Michigan had advertised for
one, so I called him to see if he had ever located one and he said
he never had. He said he had part of a bracket on his engine. I
asked him how much of it was there, and all there was missing was
the shelf that the mag sat on. I told him that if he would ship it
to me I would repair it and have one cast off of it for myself,
which he agreed to do. After receiving the bracket, I
rough-machined a shelf for it and had Mike weld it on using a
nickel rod, then I finished machining it. I then gave it to John
Barlage, a pattern maker friend of mine, and he made a follow board
for it so I could have a couple cast from it, in case I messed up
in machining it, which happily I didn’t. When I returned
Dave’s bracket to him, he was pleased with it and wanted to
know what he owed me for fixing it. I told him nothing, as I had
gotten my bracket in the effort, but he insisted, so I told him the
next time he sent something off to be cast, to just cast me the gas
filler cup, which he agreed to do. I machined the wedge and journal
myself from a chunk of cast iron. While at Dave’s house, I took
measurements of the gas tank and made one of these when I got

The head was in bad shape, too, and I had to put guides and
seats in it. You can see how badly things were pitted by the
picture. Of course, the valves also needed to be replaced. When the
boys left home, they left a lot of car parts, among which were some
Chevy valves, so I reworked a couple of these to fit the head.

The valve push rod guides were worn quite a bit, so I cleaned
them up on the mill and made a new push rod a little wider to fit
the new dimensions.

The needle valve was rusted fast in the mixer and twisted off
for me, so I had to drill it out and make a new one. The choke
plate was missing, so I made one of these, also.

I now needed to remove the flywheel so I could install the
pinion gear. Of course the gib key was broken off, so I had to try
to drill it out. With the key broken at an angle, it made it
difficult to drill straight, so I ended up putting it in the mill
to get as much of the key out as I could. Then by putting it on
some blocking, I was able to drive the crank out of the flywheel. I
installed the gear, replaced the flywheel, and made a new gib

I ran into Dave Babcock at the Jones, Michigan, Spring Swap Meet
and he said the gas filler cup was at the foundry. It arrived in
the mail about a week or so later. I machined it and it was ready
to install.

This left me with the castings I had made off of Dale’s
parts, to machine, which consisted mostly of drilling holes. Dale
also sent me some literature on the Independent Harvester Company
and sketches of the skid the engine was mounted on, so I built the
skid and put the engine on it.

After putting it all together it started without much trouble,
so I tore it apart to paint it. Dale also sent the correct paint
number, which is a dark blue, but I had this blue paint at home
which is a pretty blue so I used it rather than to buy new.
Dad’s raising again.

As you can see by the after picture, I ended up with a nice
looking engine. It took a lot of work. My wife complained that was
all I did last winter but it was worth it. I am proud of this
engine, but I would not have not been able to have this engine if
it were not for a few nice people like Dale, Dave, and John who
helped so much. But then most people in this hobby are nice people
who are willing to lend a hand.

Arnie, whom I got the engine from, when he heard I had it
restored was anxious to see it, but our paths didn’t cross
until the Findlay, Ohio, Show at which time he took a photo of it.
Before he had seen the engine, but after he knew I had it done, he
asked if I wanted to sell it back to him,, but I graciously
declined. I think this one will be with me quite a while.

Again, I can’t thank enough those who helped me with
restoring this fine engine. Thanks Dale, Dave, John and all the
others who helped.

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines