Three generations of the Soukup family have accumulated an impressive line-up of Sandwich engines.
Like many collectors, Ed Soukup got started collecting antique gas engines in an innocent way. “My dad, Henry, grew up with a 4 HP Stover engine on the farm, and after we went to a 1972 threshing show, he said, ‘You know, it would be nice just to have just one engine,’” Ed laughs. Today, three generations of Soukups – Henry, Ed and Ed’s son Jay – have amassed a collection of 75 engines. Though Henry passed away in March 2012, he was involved until the last couple of months and was instrumental in getting the younger Soukups interested in the hobby.
Ed’s first taste of owning his own engines was as a teenager when he spotted a 1-1/2 HP McCormick-Deering engine. “At that time I thought anything with two flywheels was neat and would have bought every double flywheel at the time, but I couldn’t afford much, so I settled for that McCormick-Deering.”
He fixed it up and in 1977 decided he wanted another engine. His dad said he would have to sell the McCormick-Deering to get something else. That something else turned out to be an 8 HP Cushman, still at the farm where it worked its entire life. “Dad said it only had one flywheel, but I pestered him, so the next day we went back and bought it for $75. The guy had bought the engine new. That doesn’t happen nowadays because the people who bought them new back in the 1920s and 1930s aren’t alive any more. This one hadn’t been used in many years, and the cart wheels had sunk a foot deep.”
Years later, Henry said he wished he would have let Ed keep that very first McCormick-Deering.
The Soukup’s collection of Sandwich engines came about by accident, after Ed bought a 1-1/2 HP Cub Sandwich at an Isanti, Minn., auction in 1978, and he and his father restored it.
Ed bought his favorite Sandwich engine, a 1916 6 HP, in 1982 at a huge Rice Lake, Wis., auction featuring more than a hundred engines, including many large ones.
Seeing the 6 HP Sandwich engine amongst all those monsters made it look smaller. “When we saw it, I decided I was going to buy it,” Ed says. “I thought we would winch it up on planks onto the bed of our half-ton pickup.”
Not so fast. When they began winching, instead of the engine moving the pickup moved backward. So they had to wait until after dark when the auction tractor finally got to them. It lifted the 2,000-pound machine, including the base, with difficulty and lowered it into the truck bed.
“The back of the truck went down, down, down,” Ed says. “On the way home, the headlights shone up in the trees, and the front end steered funny. When Dad saw it, he said, ‘That’s a pretty big load for that pickup.”
The engine had a stuck piston, which proved difficult. “A long time heating the cylinder, putting liquid wrench around it, soaking it with rust inhibitor and rust remover, finally got it unstuck,” Ed says.
Henry bought an original cart, which proved to be way too small. “You could hardly move the engine around because the wheels were too small,” Ed says. “So Dad built a wagon for it. That’s the only one without an original cart. Dad was fussy about having original carts on them.”
The 6 HP is Ed’s favorite because he’s always liked bigger engines. Plus, it always starts, runs well and runs very slowly.
That 6 HP became the impetus for more Sandwich engines. Henry said it looked so similar to the other Sandwich and thought it would be neat to get a line-up of them.
Next came a 1922 Sandwich Cub, the smallest at 1-1/4 HP. Henry didn’t want to take a gas-guzzling pickup on the long trip to South Dakota for the auction. “He didn’t think anything was there, so we went just for fun,” Ed says. “I don’t know why the Sandwich wasn’t listed.”
Once they saw the Cub, Henry asked Ed if it would fit in the car trunk. Ed said it would, so they fit it in and drove it hundreds of miles home. “It was a pretty nice engine,” Ed says. “We cleaned it up and painted it, though we probably shouldn’t have, but that’s what everybody was doing with engines in the 1970s and 1980s but aren’t doing today.
“I blew up pictures and pinstriped according to the original literature,” Ed continues. “Dad and I are old fashioned and wanted to do that kind of work ourselves. It was part of the hobby, and we had fun doing it together. It was a labor of love.”
They ground the valves, added new rings and got it running.
With all the engines, Ed, a machinist, made new parts as needed, including bushings, valves, valve springs and repoured babbitt bearings because at the time foundries wouldn’t machine just one or two parts. “I‘d take a piece of steel and weld stuff together so it looked like the original casting. Then grind it and machine it until it looked original. Sometimes you couldn‘t tell it wasn‘t original,” he laughs.
Other Sandwich engines followed: another 1924 Cub with a WICO magneto and spark plug, a 1917 1-1/2 HP, 1918 2-1/2 HP, a 1926 3 HP that is a re-rated 2-1/2 HP but with a WICO magneto and spark plug, a circa 1921 4 HP Sandwich, and a circa 1930 3 HP. (See “Soukup Collection” later on in this article for details on the engines in the Soukup collection.)
“It took us until 2007 to get the entire set that we have,” Ed says.
The only ones they are missing are the rare 8 HP Sandwich and the very rare 10 HP. “I’ve never actually seen a 10 HP Sandwich. Dad saw one at auction that brought $10,000,” Ed says. “He also thought they would be too big to handle without getting into heavy equipment like a 1-ton truck or something.
“I wish I had pushed Dad when we knew there was an 8 HP Sandwich in a barn in Wisconsin, but we never pursued it,” Ed continues. “Dad was always pretty conservative. He didn’t want to spend too much money.”
Ed says his son Jay was instrumental in getting all the Sandwich engines to shows. “He was a big pusher to get all of them out. We hadn’t had them out for a few years, and after Dad died, he said we should take them to shows in memory of Grandpa. A lot of people knew Dad because of the Sandwich engines, so to have them at shows this year was in memory of Dad.”
The rarest of the Soukup Sandwich engines is the circa 1930 3 HP Sandwich with 22-inch disc flywheels with a 1-3/4-inch face. It has no serial number, as the brass plate is missing. “This is probably one of the last Sandwich engines made, because its company, the Sandwich Mfg. Co., was bought by the New Idea Spreader Company,” Ed says. “These disc flywheels are similar to New Idea flywheels. All other Sandwich engines have spoke flywheels, and I’ve never seen another one with disc flywheels. It was probably kind of a transition engine, made for a year or less.”
Fate played a part in the Soukups getting the rare 3 HP Sandwich. Five years before acquiring the engine, a guy named Rick said to Ed, “Your dad is the Sandwich guy, isn’t he?” When Ed said he was, Rick said, “I’ve got something for you, because you might get another Sandwich engine someday.”
The something was a magneto bracket and trip lever for a Sandwich engine, difficult to find, like all Sandwich parts.
For $35, Ed bought it and put it on a shelf. When Henry saw the rare 1930 3 HP Sandwich engine with disc flywheels, he hesitated to buy it. “He said, ‘It’s missing the magneto bracket.’ I reminded him that we had a bracket at home,” Ed says. So the purchase was completed, and the trip lever and bracket were a perfect fit.
The 3 HP engine is the only one in their collection that the Soukups did not restore or repaint, as the natural look is more prized nowadays.
The engine was pretty much complete, Ed says, but it needed a gas tank, which he made. After that, it still took a while for them to get it running. “After re-timing it, the engine still wouldn’t run because the carburetor had dirt stuck inside. I took out the needle valve and cleaned the carburetor.” Next, Henry bought an original cart, and they put it all together.
The rarest non-Sandwich engine in the Soukup collection is their 8 HP Root & VanDervoort. “This was the most expensive one, $500 between the two of us.”
Peter Lowe, with the international R&V registry, doesn’t have an 8 HP listed. “He’s never seen one, so as far as we know, it’s the only 8 horse that’s known,” Ed says. “It’s a short sideshaft engine, and we’ve never heard of another one. Nobody at shows has seen one, and we talked with Edwin Root, who has a pretty large collection, and he’s never seen an 8 HP like mine.”
Ed and his father bought it from the original owner in Rockford, Minn. “Dad worked for the state of Minnesota testing gas pumps to make sure they metered right,” Ed says. “He was in Rockford when he found out about the engine. He asked the owner if he was interested in selling it, but the guy always said, ‘No, no, not yet, just stop by again and we’ll see.’ I think this guy just liked Dad to stop and visit and talk about farming. He was in his 70s and Dad was in his 50s.”
This went on for a few years until the owner finally relented and sold it. The engine had been used for sawing wood but had sat unused for 30 years; it was covered in moss when the Soukups acquired it.
The oddest place Ed found an engine was in the city of St. Paul, Minn., on Seventh Street, where an old bachelor owned two houses with weeds growing in the backyard. He had been a woodcutter and logger and had a bulldozer, old trucks and other equipment in the backyard. “Everything there seemed old,” Ed remembers. “Finally I asked if there were any old engines and was told there was something in the garage rafters.”
After climbing a ladder, a haymow-like door was the only entry. “Inside was an engine, with rough-sawn 20-foot planks that I slid out to take the engine down,” Ed says.
But the upright engine didn’t fit through the door. That meant he had to remove the skids and exhaust. Three hours later, he slid the engine down the planks onto the ground using a rope. “He must have taken this 1915 Detroit Motor Works 2 HP engine apart to get it up there and put it back together,” Ed says.
Ed says people like seeing a series of engines in a row. “Others might have rarer engines more interesting to a collector, but the average person doesn’t know that much about engines and likes the looks of the lined-up Sandwich engines. Thousands of pictures have been taken of them.”
Some questioners ask why they’re called Sandwich (they were manufactured in Sandwich, Ill.); who painted them (Ed); what they originally looked like (just like now, as original literature was used in restoration); do they run on gas or steam (gasoline) and so on.
“Some people think they are more or less junk,” Ed says. “I was hauling aluminum cans to a junkyard and wanted steel for wagon axles. ‘What do you want inch-and-a-half steel bar for?’ the junk guy asked, and when I told him, he said they’d had a steel wagon just the other day. He said they’d chopped that thing up right away. I hate to see that, because they are a part of history.”
Ed enjoys auctions the most. “Actually, I like everything about it, but when Dad and I would go and find an engine and get it home, that was fun.” Ed’s son Jay favors getting them running for the first time.
Finding space is the most difficult part of collecting engines, Ed says. Or getting Sandwich engine parts. “You can buy a new magneto for a 1-1/2 HP John Deere but not for Sandwich engines. We want real parts rather than the reproductions.”
The love of antique gas engines brought Ed and his father closer together. “Dad and I went to shows together, auctions, swap meets, sometimes for two or three days in the camper. First Dad drove, had the money, and I had to talk him into buying. As he aged, I drove, he talked about which ones to buy, and I paid. He just loved to go. Pretty much engines the year around.”
That family bond now continues, as Ed’s son Jay is also very interested in antique gas engines.
“It’s a fun hobby, and now I’m glad my son and I are enjoying it together, too,” Ed says. “Other than getting married and having kids, that was the biggest part of my life. It was a great hobby for me to do things with my dad.”
Contact Bill Vossler at Box 372, 400 Caroline Ln., Rockville, MN 56369 • firstname.lastname@example.org
The Soukup collection includes 75 engines of different makes, including more common brands like Fairbanks-Morse, Stover, International, Associated and the like. But the most compelling ones are the Sandwich collection.
6 HP, serial no. E13211; 35-inch flywheels, 2-1/2-inch face; 6-1/16-by-9-inch bore and stroke; flyball governor in flywheel; igniter with Webster magneto; hopper-cooled.
1-1/2 HP, serial no. A17788; 16-inch flywheels, 2-inch face; 3-3/4-by-5-inch bore and stroke; flyball governor in flywheel; igniter with Webster magneto; hopper-cooled.
2-1/2 HP, serial no. B19219; 26-inch flywheels, 2-inch face; 4-1/4-by-6-inch bore and stroke; flyball governor in flywheel; igniter with Webster magneto; hopper-cooled.
4 HP, serial no. C20058; 30-inch flywheels, 2-inch face; 5-1/8-by-7-inch bore and stroke; flyball governor in flywheel; igniter with Webster magneto; hopper-cooled.
1-1/4 HP, serial no. AA25664; 14-inch flywheels, 1-3/4-inch face; 3-1/4-by-5-inch bore and stroke; flyball governor in flywheel; igniter with Webster magneto; hopper-cooled.
3 HP, serial no. B30285; 26-inch flywheels, 2-inch face; 4-1/2-by-6-inch bore and stroke; flyball governor in flywheel; igniter with Webster magneto; hopper-cooled.
3 HP, no serial no. available; 22-inch disc flywheels, 1-3/4-inch face; 4-1/2-by-6-inch bore and stroke; governor weights in flywheel; WICO magneto; spark plug; hopper-cooled.
1910 Root & VanDervoort
46-inch flywheels, 3-3/8-inch face.