The Engine Gal

By Staff
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Kaili Ruggiero’s 1912 4 HP ARACO engine that has yet to run.
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Kaili with her 8 HP 2-cylinder Cushman.
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Her 1-1/2 HP 1931 IHC M.
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Kaili’s toughest restoration before the ARACO, a 5 HP 1923 Jaeger FW.
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Kaili’s minibike powered by a 1960 Clinton engine.
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This 1949 Farmall Cub is Kaili’s favorite restoration she has completed with her father.

Although a love for old iron was always in her blood, Kaili
Ruggiero was 7 years old when she attended her first antique engine
show. The show was put on by the Maryland Steam Historical Society,
and this is where Kaili got her first piece of equipment: a
“rust-bucket” garden tractor.

“Dad figured I would be interested (in the hobby) because I
always followed him around and helped him with any project, such as
antique cars and a jukebox,” Kaili says.

Kaili remembers a lot about her attraction to antique machinery
from her childhood. “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel was my
favorite story. I had a little video that I wore out, and I still
remember all the songs!” she recalls. “I remember sitting on the
basement floor testing tubes for the jukebox, drilling wood for a
porch when I was quite small, and setting up and telling stories
about my old Marx toy train that I named Rudy at Christmas

She remembers getting “bitten by the bug,” as they say, while
riding that tarnished garden tractor back at the Maryland show. “I
was holding the throttle open and trying to steer it, when the
spark plug wire just blew off the plug!” she says. “I thought it
was awesome; tractors were so cool!”

Kaili currently owns a 4 HP 1912 ARACO hot tube engine; a 5 HP
1923 Jaeger FW; a 1-1/2 HP 1931 IHC M; an 8 HP 2-cylinder Cushman,
circa 1918; a 1952 Clinton Rugged Rider garden tractor; a circa
1940 Clinton engine; a circa 1930 Sattley air-cooled engine; a
circa 1925 Briggs & Stratton running a Demming pressure pump;
and a 1949 Farmall Cub. She also has a minibike, made with an
antique frame and a 1960 Clinton engine.

She is most proud of the Farmall because she says it was the
best restoration she and her father have done together. “I was so
proud that we turned something tattered and dull into something
shiny and running great!” she says.

Her toughest restoration yet has been the 5 HP Jaeger, although
she says the ARACO has been the hardest, it’s just not done yet!
“That engine (the Jaeger) was a mess. It had everything but the
magneto and the oiler, but someone had taken it apart and covered
it with horrible paint and re-arranged everything,” she says. “Now,
this was one of our first big engines, and even though we had the
book, we couldn’t figure out how to time it. After getting the
cylinder re-bored, a few new parts and some tips from Harry
(, we got her running. Also, getting all that
nasty paint off was quite a hassle.”

The reactions of the old iron community to 20-year-old Kaili’s
age and gender have varied. “My friends all think I’m a little out
there,” she says, “but in the old iron community, I get things
like, ‘Wow, we need more girls like you!’ I rarely see other women,
especially young women, who are interested in rusty and dusty
things. Sometimes I get the feeling that some young men find me a
threat because I know more than they do. But they need to realize
that gender should never discourage or encourage one’s

Kaili says she will attend at least seven shows this season and
she looks forward to some of her favorite things: “The sound a
steam engine makes, it’s almost breathing; the smells like exhaust
in the air and the taste of farm-fresh food,” she says. “I love
running and driving things, like getting stubborn engines to start
and controlling those big tractors.”

In the future she would like to expand her collection in
different ways. “I would like to own a steam engine, an OilPull, a
National Transit hot tube engine, a 1972 Duster, a 1968 Barracuda,
a Harley, an IHC Titan and a Fuller & Johnson,” she says. “You
know, little stuff like that.”

Whatever the future of this old iron hobby, it is a guarantee
that Kaili will be there. She encourages collectors to get more
young people involved. “Take ’em to shows,” she says. “Parents, get
your daughters, as well as your sons interested. Girls like to play
in the dirt, too!”

Contact Kaili Ruggiero at:

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines