What Started out as Little More than a Boat Anchor is now a Real Showstopper
This engine started as a rumor among friends at shows, with several talking of a sideshaft engine near Prairie Home, Mo., and how the family would not sell. We've all heard about these things, and some people get the chance to break the chain of “I won't sell.” Dad and I never got that chance with this engine. Even though several collectors told us where it was, we never made it to see this one. While we wanted to, we just never took the time to track it any further, when so many others with more money to offer had been there and were turned down flat.
That was, until Clifford Duffey worked his magic. Cliff is a very modest man in his upper years, well known and respected in the Midwest as a collector and a gentleman. And Cliff did what no one else could: In the early spring of 1992, he came home with the 6 HP Sheffield in his truck. When asked, he claimed to have just caught them on the right day. He must have said the right things!
A few weeks later, Cliff came by Dad's house asking for our help fixing this rusted mess. I mean, this thing was stuck, rusted, busted and broken beyond belief. It had originally been mounted on a hay baler and had been in the weather most of its life. The water jacket had an 8-inch-long crack right behind the sideshaft and the head had a crack in it 17 inches long! Yes, the crack was halfway around the perimeter of the head, starting at the gasket surface right behind the sideshaft, and the head had a blacksmith's band shrunk around it.
The flywheels were another fine mess. We first noticed the hubs on both sides had blacksmith bands shrunk onto them, and upon inspection we found that one hub had a huge crack between the spokes in the middle of the clamp section (the hubs are split-type with bolts) and two spokes were broken loose. The other hub was worse; both halves of the clamp were broken and three spokes were loose. The sideshaft-side flywheel had been taken off and turned around backwards, the crankshaft gear was gone, the flywheel appeared to have been run loose and the keyway had been wollered out badly. The igniter operates off an eccentric on the end of the sideshaft, which also drives the governor with a bevel gear, and it was missing.
Dad and I proceeded to dismantle the engine after moving it to our house, and soon found out it was not going to be an easy thing to do. Just getting the small parts off the front of the head proved to be a challenge taking several weeks, but we didn't break anything. The crank and flywheels were easily removed, but that was all that came off easily. The hopper bolts on with flanges at the head and the top of the cylinder, and those bolts broke off. Carburetor bolts broke, igniter bolts broke, head bolts broke. (Do you see a pattern here?) With everything we tried to take off, one or more bolts were rusted so bad they broke (yes, we used lot of penetrating oil, several kinds).
After a couple of months we finally got down to the piston, and that was going to be tough. Some time was necessary to loosen it, so we decided to soak it in a 30-gallon barrel of ATF for a while. During the process of tearing down this well-weathered mess, we found only a small trace of green paint under the head. It was faded badly, but it was paint.
After the engine soaked in the ATF for many months, and for reasons I don't know but am grateful for, Cliff offered to sell the engine to Dad and me. Given all the problems with the engine, he thought it would be better if the Sheffield were in our hands. We settled on a price and the hard part was done. It was ours now!
About a year went by while we finished some other projects. Spring was getting close, so we pulled it out of the oil, thinking “this thing is going to just slide out with no problem.” Yeah, right! After making a collar and plate to fit over the domed piston, I bolted on a 1-inch-thick iron cap from a gas pipeline, using new bolts where the head bolts go. I then drilled and tapped a 1-inch fine-thread bolt in the center to tighten down on top of the plate made for the piston. When it was as tight as I could get with a 4-foot cheater bar, I figured I'd better do something. So out came the big torch.
I used a large propane torch to heat it up until the oil that I kept behind the piston began to boil. It still refused to move! I heated and cooled repeatedly, with no luck. Finally, I got out my big cheater bar, almost 7 feet long. By golly, something has got to give! It did, but the end cap I used on top broke and split in two. Then I went to plan B: I found another cap, made of good steel this time, and I welded a nut to the inside so the 1-inch bolt would have twice the threads to hold onto.
I had to heat and cool a couple more times, and finally, with the super 7-foot cheater in hand, she let out a BANG! The piston had moved; only a little, but it was a start. I worked on it till 10 p.m., then gave up for the night.
A couple days later on Saturday morning, I made up my mind it was coming out. If the piston hadn't been nearly all the way to the top, it wouldn't have taken so long. After several hours of work with the torch and the big cheater bar, the wrist pin was finally showing. It was still moving extremely hard, but the bangs weren't quite as loud. This had to be the toughest piston to remove that I have ever worked on. After the wrist pin cleared the back of the cylinder, I was able to switch to the little cheater bar, and when the first ring came out, I was down to just the 1/2-inch-drive ratchet, and finally it was out!
After the disassembly was completed, then came the job of sandblasting everything. It took several hours under the hood to get the full subbase, hopper and all that very stubborn rust off. We could finally see just what had to be done to this jewel. The cylinder was the biggest mess. There was no way we were going to get out of sleeving it. The poor old engine must've run forever, and how a cylinder could be so worn out and stick a piston that tight I'll never know! We didn't even bother to clean up the flywheels; they were too far gone to salvage.
With everything cleaned and primed, things began to slow down. There were gears to buy, a sleeve to put in, and a crankshaft and flywheels to find. Eventually, we were lucky enough to find a crank and a couple of flywheels that were nearly an exact fit! They came off of a 7 HP Alamo, but the part numbers don't match any of the Alamo books I have. They are either a special set for a specific application or they were meant to fit a different brand engine that Alamo supplied. The only difference between the original flywheels and the replacements is that the replacements are 3/4-inch smaller in diameter. That, and there is only one bolt on the clamp, whereas the original had two bolts.
Dad can do some fantastic machine work, but a 6-inch sleeve job takes more equipment than we have. A few years went by and we managed to shave the original piston down and get the sleeve put in. We also recast the exhaust valve rocker, which was broken and had been repaired old-school style. It had been run so loosely it wollered the old rivets to the point it wouldn't stay straight anymore. The igniter also had to be recast and rebuilt. Wayne Walker Jr. in Osawatomie, Kan., swapped parts with us to recast. He cast a gear, igniter trip and gear guard for us, and we cast him a carburetor and fuel pump to complete his 6 HP Weber sideshaft. Our carburetor and fuel pump were in decent shape, but they were rebuilt and readied for the engine anyway.
Angle gears for the sideshaft proved to be the toughest thing to get our hands on; even finding someone to make them is difficult, and very expensive! About eight years went by before a friend in the machine shop business found a place that could make the gears at a price we could afford – but still not cheap! Now remember, we restored many other engines in this time, so it's not like we were just sitting around waiting.
By fall 2004 we had the head repaired, new valves fit, crankshaft reground, rod bearing repoured, new sidshaft made, all the recast parts machined and even the cart was started. We planed, sanded and finished the white oak platform ourselves, which came from a large machine pallet a friend gave me.
In January 2005, I got the cart completed and Dad and I poured the new main bearings. It was the first week of February before the weather would let me sandblast the new trucks and paint them coal black. Soon afterwards, the green was shot on the engine. It seemed like it would never come, but the day finally came in mid-March to put the Sheffield together.
It took several weeks to complete the final assembly and fitting of every little detail. Our engine didn't have a tag on it, so Don Petersen sent us a digital image of the tag on his 25 HP Sheffield. We then sent the image to Ron Mattson's Antique Engine Collectors Nametags in Johnston, R.I., who made us a new one. My daughters, Krista and Courtney, painted the lettering on the hopper and battery box. We touched up the rest of the paint and everything was ready, but we had no wires the right size. All Dad could find was spark plug wire. We had to wait about a week and a half for the new wire – a very long week and a half. The day the wire came in, it took about 20 minutes to get it wired and ready.
My tradition is to finish an engine completely and take pictures of it before it is ever fired up. It was tough to hold out – I wanted to hear it run! On May 10, 2005, after many pictures were taken, fuel was added and everything was oiled, greased and double-checked. With Dad choking it, I cranked it over, and on the second turn of compression she fired! I pulled off the compression relief knob and she took off and came up to speed. It's not very often we fix an engine that starts and runs great on the first try, but the Sheffield only needed minor fuel adjustments and ran without a hitch for 30 minutes, then I shut it down to check some things and put it away for the night.
After 13 years, the waiting is over. If it weren't for our family and lots of good friends, this engine never would have been completed. It turned out beautifully and is a proud member of our collection. To date I have found only one other Sheffield engine, Don Petersen's aforementioned 25 HP, which was shown in Gas Engine Magazine, August 2004, in a show report from Tulare, Calif. If anyone knows of another, please let me know.
Contact engine enthusiast Bill Anderson at: (660) 886-7480.