The extreme belching of smoke from a long, gray exhaust pipe filled the air, floating east with the breeze, as the loud clanking of the great engine beat with rhythmic precision.
A crowd inevitably gathered as owner D.W. Ruhter of Moab, Utah, started the rare engine; rare in this case meaning singular, as this is the only Stover 20 HP crude oil engine, complete and working, known to exist.
This engine, Model EL, is dated 1913, and is one of only 114 ever produced. It bears serial no. 4869L.
According to C.H. Wendel, in Power in the Past Volume 3, Stover introduced a new line of crude oil engines in 1912 ranging from 6 to 30 HP. "These semi-diesel engines were marketed for several years, but Stover production records indicate plenty of design problems along the way," Wendel writes. In his book, American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, Wendel writes that the engines were plagued with broken crankshafts, leaky shaft seals and various other difficulties.
Other models of this engine include the AL 6 HP (42 made), CL 12 HP (202 made), DL 16 HP (34 made), FL 25 HP (40 made), GL 30 HP (25 made), TEL 40 HP twin-cylinder (seven made) and the THL 60 HP twin (one made).
Wendel says the crude oil engine owed its basic design to William F. Freidag, the factory superintendent. "In July 1910, Freidag applied for a patent on his oil engine designs, finally receiving Patent no. 1,013,759 in January 1912," Wendel writes.
D.W., owner of the engine for the past 10 years, says he has only started it 20 times since its acquisition. He was living in New Mexico when he heard of a Fairbanks-Morse Y for sale. When he actually saw the engine he knew it wasn't an FMY, and after checking in Wendel's BYB, he found that the engine was indeed a Stover crude oil engine.
The engine had pumped water into an apple orchard and it ran, though it had no paint. It has an adjustable pump and D.W. can regulate how much smoke it spews. Engines are notoriously grimy, but this one takes the cake. "It slobbers oil bad and gets terrible dirty," D.W. says.
Because of problems with the engine, Stover followed it with production of 15, 20, 25 and 30 HP fuel oil engines in 1918. "Although these engines were of much better design, sales were nevertheless quite low," Wendel writes.
Despite the engine's rough history and filthy running, it must be something special for D.W. to have held onto it for 10 years. Mostly, though, he likes it because it's big. And he likes it more now that he knows "there ain't no more."
For now, the engine is quite happy to be run twice a year as a rare jewel, smoke-encircled and loud as she is.
Contact D.W. Ruhter at: 224 Tusher Road, Moab, UT 84532; (435) 259-1783.