SPECIAL ELECTRIC HOT ROD

An 1899 6 HP Fairbanks-Morse Type T Special Electric that was hard to pass up


| February 2008



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Trip mechanism for the igniter that looks like a factory piece.

In early 2004, a neighbor, Bob, was visiting me and saw some of my engines. He said he had his father's engine, which I should take. It was an IHC LB 3-5 HP. Soon after I picked it up, it was putt-putting just like new. When Bob heard it, he said I needed to go to Kansas and get "the 6 HP Fairbanks Special Electric."

As I was trying to sell a 6 HP IHC M, I declined. But then he mentioned the magic word - upright. Shoot - another long trip and another restoration, just when I was trying to clean out the shop. Bob's uncles, the owners, wanted their engine to go to a good home. If I could bring the LB back to life, mine was a good home.

In September 2004, I picked up Bob and we drove to my brother Sam's house in Stillwater, Okla. We transferred to his Dodge 3/4-ton diesel and heavy trailer. Who knew what we'd find? In another five hours, we were in Ness City, Kan. The brothers came to the motel to visit us. "Do you have four-wheel drive?" Uh-oh - it had been raining on the limestone powder the county puts on its roads. It is as slick as melting ice and called "smear."

Fifteen miles of two-wheel drive smear later, we walked into the shed and saw the engine. Although the Fairbanks was highly modified and dirty, it looked solid, turned free, didn't have rust and it was a big upright. One uncle used his large bucket loader and a logging chain to load the engine on Sam's trailer. Another 15 miles of smear, and we were on our way home, white knuckles and all.

Back to the beginning

Back around 1899, a farmer in Ness County, Kan. bought this 6 HP Fairbanks-Morse Type T Special Electric engine. He used the engine until the mid-1930s to power a line shaft for a grinder, lathe and air compressor in his farm shop, making many modifications to the engine.

Weather in western Kansas can be severe and at some time the cylinder froze and was replaced. The head was probably replaced, too, because there are supposed to be serial numbers on both pieces. Only the cylinder is stamped, and the number there begins with the letter "O," which would not have been an original issue. There has been discussion on the Internet about this type of serial number, but it is all supposition. Also, this cylinder never had the cast brass nameplate.