The Engine Gal

A 20-year-old shows she can hang with the big boys

| August 2007


Kaili Ruggiero’s 1912 4 HP ARACO engine that has yet to run.

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 time."

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.