The following was posted on the SmokStak bulletin board at the
www.enginads.com web site. Not exactly a discussion, it was just
too good to pass up. Enjoy!
By Tim Claremont
After being in the old iron hobby for any amount of time, it
becomes common practice to peruse the classifieds in a quest for
more stuff. At first we tell ourselves we are only looking for that
one last part to complete our current restoration project. Remember
when you had just that one engine that was practically worthless
because it needed the doohickey that holds in the muffler bearings?
What a waste to let it sit there and allow its molecules to
coalesce any further! Remember thinking that if you could just
locate and install that $10 part the engine would be worth
Once you have talked yourself into the small repair that will
reap these massive rewards you start scanning the classifieds.
You’re not sure exactly what the part is called, but if someone
is offering up parts for the same brand as your engine, it will
probably work, right? You call on every ad that mentions your make
of engine. Then your eyes start to catch the ads that offer similar
engines to your own because ‘that one will have the part I need
… and a bunch of extras … and the price is not much more than
the cost of the part I need … and it isn’t located too far
In the beginning, and with shipping costs in mind, the ads that
piqued our interest are fairly close to home. But as the natural
progression of things continues, it becomes entirely possible, even
rational, to retrieve engines from even farther away. Certainly Joe
in West Bumble knows someone who can carry it to Coolspring, where
Fred can pick it up and haul it back to East Gibblefritz, where you
can schedule a day trip to grab it next fall. Perfectly rational,
as long as you’re not trying to rationalize it with the
In the course of three months you realize you have accumulated
three more engines, four oilers, two mufflers, a torn copy of the
owner’s manual, two carts with broken wheels and a pickup to
carry it around in. Also note that the very part that initiated
this quest is still nowhere to be found.
Eventually the wife catches on, noticing the family car
doesn’t quite fit into the garage as well as it once did. She
thinks the answer is to clean the garage. You think the answer is
to buy a smaller car. Marriage counselors call this
‘dissension.’ Engine hobbyists call this ‘stage
In time, a burst of energy will encourage you to start the
restoration of that parts engine you bought, because it is just too
good to relegate to ‘parts only’ status. I mean, it only
needs a little cleanup and lubrication. You decide to tear it
‘Tear it down’ is a technical term. It means to
‘skin your knuckles on every conceivable part of the
engine.’ You start by grabbing the gator-grip you purchased on
that infomercial last June to remove the easy stuff. Thirteen
seconds later you break the gator-grip, strip the threads on the
part, slam your hand into the sharpest part of the engine and come
to realize there is no easy stuff after 65 years.
Although the staff at the emergency room is very nice, they just
can’t figure out how you did this, either. Looks like you are
going to need ‘specialized tools.’ Four hundred and
sixty-seven dollars later you have exactly what you need, and $450
worth of stuff you have absolutely no use for because it was a
package deal and a great ‘bargain.’
Six weeks later the engine is apart. Some of it is in the
garage. Some of it is in the parts cleaner. Your neighbor has the
broken parts and is going to weld them back together during that
night class at the local high school. One of the fittings is
sitting next to the $1,500 computer you bought so you can describe
it to your on-line friends who have feigned enthusiasm for the last
four hours. Yup, the restoration is well under way. Now it is time
to reassemble. Was that thunder I just heard?
As soon as you have part ‘A’ and part ‘B’ in
your hands and you bring them together, a strange cosmic force
causes you to have a brilliant thought. You have just entered …
‘The Midas Well.’
Another technical term, this is the condition that tells you
that you ‘Midas Well’ paint the individual parts while they
are apart. It is called the ‘Midas Well’ for good reason.
Namely, a king’s ransom will be required to get this project
completed because you Midas Well replace the bearings. And you
Midas Well buy a sand-blaster. And you Midas Well have that
crankshaft turned. And you Midas Well buy another engine. And you
Midas Well buy a Winnebago to travel to every engine show in the
hemisphere. And besides, what else are you going to use to tow that
18-foot flatbed trailer you picked up last week?
Finally, three years and two months later, the time has come.
The last part has been torqued down. The timing is set to factory
specifications. The addition to the garage is half done. The engine
cart is stained just the right color. You call your neighbors, as
well as your friends in the emergency room. You roll the cart into
the driveway. Nothing left to do but give the flywheels a yank.
Gently you give it a tug. Nothing. Probably have the bearing
caps a little too tight. You pull again. Nothing. Probably need to
prime the carb. You pull again. Nothing. Probably got the spark
plug too wet. You pull again. Nothing.
By now the razzing from the peanut gallery is getting kind of
loud. The crowd is starting to disperse. Your muscles are worn out.
And the fact that the sun went down an hour ago doesn’t help
any. You call it a night.
At 3 a.m. you wake up out of a sound sleep and exclaim something
about spark plug wire continuity, or some such thing. You Midas
Well get dressed because there is no way you are going back to
You rush to the garage, replace the plug wire with one of the
extras that you found inside the engine compartment of the
wife’s car, and wheel the engine into the driveway just as the
sun crests over the horizon. It would be really rude to start this
thing at this hour of the morning, so you wait four minutes until
your bout of consideration fades.
Calmly, you prime the carb. You twist the grease cups. You open
up the oiler and round the corner to the back of the engine. With a
flick of the wrist your passion has come to fruition with a bang as
the engine fires under its own power for the first time in half a
You are brimming with pride as your friends and family and two
very nice policemen gather around to express their, umm,
appreciation for your fine work. It is hard to understand what the
officers are saying because the engine is a bit loud, but nothing
could top the personal satisfaction of this labor of love.
Agreeing to try to lower the decibel level, you adjust the choke
a bit and turn the gas valve down. This becomes hard to do because
the vibration is now causing the cart to begin rolling down the
driveway. Being the quick thinker that you are, you plop your foot
in front of the cart wheels to bring it to a stop. Good thing your
wife had your emergency room friends on speed dial.
You cringe as the left flywheel glances off the side of the
Winnebago. You shudder as the cart progresses into the street.
Finally, the roller coaster ride stops as the head of the engine
comes to rest against the police cruiser.
The next day, some other poor soul is perusing the classifieds
and comes to your ad for a ‘barn fresh’ engine that
‘ran at one time.’
‘Marriage counselors call this ‘dissension.’ Engine
Hobbyists call this ‘stage two.”
SmokStak at www.enginads.com is an engine conversation bulletin
board, part of the Old Engine series of web sites started in 1995
as ‘Harry’s Old Engine.’ Harry Matthews is a retired
electronic engineer and gas engine collector from Oswego, N.Y., now
residing in Sarasota, Fla.