The First One’s The Best One

By Staff
article image
Herb Mann
The restored 2 HP engine now belongs to Phyllis Brantingham.

10634 Oakford Union Lake, Michigan 48085

If you remember me from my last story, you will recall that I
and my family got indoctrinated into the wonderful world of
gasoline engines and everything that goes with them. Of course
seeing someone else restore one or watching someone else run one
isn’t the same thing as finding, restoring, running, and
showing your own. This is definitely not something that falls into
the category of a spectator sport. So the first decision was
easy-we’re going to get an engine!

Great, says the wife-what kind, how big, where are you going to
put it, and (this is the big one!) how much will it cost?

No problem here-any kind, any size, anywhere I want, and however
much it takes!! Bet you can’t guess who doesn’t do the
checkbook around here.

And so our quest for an engine began-Mason, Michigan;
Kalama-zoo, Michigan; Findlay, Ohio; Buckley, Michigan-Gee Hon’
we still don’t have an engine we can call our own yet. Of
course by now we have been exposed to big ones and little ones,
green ones and red ones, pop-pop-pop ones and hit-n-miss ones, and
expensive ones and no cheap ones. This is really starting to get
discouraging. But by now we are starting to weed out a
few-sideshafts are too expensive-Maytags are noisy and
smelly-anything over 5 HP requires a commercial trailer with
electric brakes and a garage equipped with a crane.

Of course we did find some we could afford-this one is only $250
and only needs a mag, head, mixer, and one flywheel-here is one for
only $1000 and all it needs is a mag whose name I have never heard
of and a bracket that even Rube Goldberg couldn’t improvise.
Besides, if we spent $ 1000 on something that didn’t run
instead of replacing the refrigerator that died-oh well, you know.

After leaving Portland, Indiana (with the back of the van empty,
again), dear Phyllis suggested that we are going about this all
wrong. She suggested that we take the advice of our dentist, Ben
Ridings, who, next to Dad, has been our biggest influence in
getting into this rewarding hobby. His advice to us was that the
fun is in the hunt. About this time it was late evening and we had
just turned down our street, and Phyllis calmly asked, ‘I
wonder what is in that old cement mixer there at the back of old
Joe’s orchard? You know Ben and your dad both said that those
old mixers sometimes have an old engine in them.’

Now people, I have been driving down this dirt street for
fifteen years and I never saw the item she described; yet sure
enough, sitting under an old apple tree, was indeed an old cement
mixer. Of course, by this time we were tired, and the kids were
hungry (they started getting hungry five miles out of Portland!!),
and we knew the poor dog was probably by the door with all four
legs crossed- sooo-if it has been there this long it will be there
in the morning. Besides, someone has probably already rescued the
engine-heck it was probably that one at Portland that was stuck,
missing an oiler and crankshaft and only cost $600.

So the next morning, I walked down to Joe’s and asked if he
minded if I looked at the old cement mixer in the orchard. Guess
what? He had forgotten all about it. As we approached the object of
our year long search, Joe explained how he and his neighbor had
built the basements for their houses using this very mixer and he
showed me the scar on his chin where he got his education on
starting one of these engines with a crank.

He opened the doors on the back of the mixer-a Hercules!!!-
Remember how you responded when you saw your first newborn; five
fingers here, five toes there, two eyes, you get the picture. Well,
same thing here; two flywheels, mag, oiler, mixer, even extra spark
plugs still in their boxes!!! Without hesitation, I grabbed the
flywheel nearest me and moved it-it’s not stuck! I held the
plug wire and turned it again- *&%?*&!!-well, the mag’s
hot! Why did I do that? I don’t know. Why do people stick their
hands in snow blower chutes? Why do kids always close their first
pocket knife by holding the blade in one hand? Must be God’s
way of keeping us humble or something.

At any rate, I tried to act calm and asked him if he might be
interested in selling it. Joe laughed the kind of laugh that makes
you check to see if you got everything buttoned and zipped before
you left home. ‘Heck, I figured I would have to pay you to haul
it out!!!’ was his reply.

I can live with that- After using a chainsaw to make the apple
tree give up her rusting sibling, Joe hooked up his old 9N and
dragged our new found pride and joy home. He was still laughing as
he unhooked and started pulling away, ‘Good luck!’

As the old Ford’s exhaust got further away, Phyllis and I
sat in the garage and stared into the back of this thing. Now what
do we do? We jumped up at the same time, ran in the house, she beat
me to the phone, and dialed-Hi Dad!!-Guess what?!!!

As you can see in the picture, after a lot of elbow grease,
paint, changing every nut, bolt, and screw to brass, and a whole
lot of technical advice from our friends, we have come up with a
sweet running engine that will always be our favorite. Favorite?
You mean there is more than one. Show me someone in this hobby with
just one engine and I’ll show you an engine junky that is in
desperate need of a fix!! ‘Til next time.

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