RESTORING THE INDEPENDENT


| January/February 1997



The engine

The engine as it looked when I bought it, except I had removed the mixing valve.

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.