2224 Wyandotte Drive Oaksville, Ontario, Canada L6L 2T5
As any collector of anything will tell you, every collection has its 'crown jewel.' It is that piece that you would not part with for any price. I have collected many things and found that in most of my collections the 'jewel' comes sometimes by accident but usually after gaining quite a bit of knowledge and after a great deal of searching. That changed, however, when I began collecting small engines.
In my search for Briggs and Stratton engines, I attended the Niagara Antique Power Association show in Sherkston, Ontario, in July 1993 and came across a Model P. As I had only collected a few other B&S engines, I did not even think that it was a B&S until I saw the brass plate that was still attached to the crankcase. Ralph Fossey of Welland, Ontario, who was selling the engine, told me it had come from a railway jigger. It looked quite old and, although the price was much more than I had ever paid for an engine before, I just had to have it. In keeping with most engine collectors' wives, my wife thought I was crazy to pay that much for a greasy old piece of junk. I made the arrangements and picked it up at Ralph s house a week later.
After some research, I found I was the proud owner of a Briggs and Stratton Model P engine, serial number 2526 rated at 1 HP with a 2 inch stroke and bore, probably built in 1921. The gas tank appeared to be an old syrup can lying on its side with the screw top lid sealed by solder. The muffler was just a straight pipe, and a wooden support had been built above it to hold the gas tank. The drive side had a large toothed sprocket, presumably to operate the railway jigger by chain drive. While reading an old history of the Briggs and Stratton Company, I discovered a reference to the company selling these engines to railway companies for just such a purpose.
I began the work of restoring this engine in January 1995. It must have had a long useful life, as most of the operating parts were well worn. It appeared' to have been in an accident at some point in time, as one of the cast iron supports had been broken in half and some of the cooling fins had pieces missing. The damage to the support had been carefully repaired by riveting the two pieces back together using a steel fishplate on the outside face. I left this repair to retain some of the history and character of this engine.
The throttling system on the carburetor had been modified, and to my dismay the magneto magnets held very little charge. I was not very optimistic at this point, but continued to make a list of all work and parts required to get the P running again. I took the magnets to an industrial fecharger but to no avail; they would not hold a charge.
August 1995 found me in Portland, Indiana, attending the 'big show.' There I met Jim Miller from Conover, Ohio. I told Jim about my magnet problem, and to my surprise he said he might have a pair at home and would look. Late one afternoon about a month later, I was working in my garage workshop when the postman arrived with a small box. I opened the box and to my amazement there was a pair of magnets and, even more importantly, a photocopy of a model P owners manual. Jim Miller had found the magnets and sent me a copy of his manual. I wrote Jim a thank you letter and paid his very reasonable price for the magnets, promising to send him photos of the finished restoration.
After studying the manual carefully I was able to machine the missing parts for the carburetor to make it operate as original. The manual also helped me to realize that the engine was missing a cooling fan. This problem was solved later. I ordered a reproduction gas tank and cap as well as a muffler from Charles Camara of CPC Reproductions in Tiverton, Rhode Island. In 1996 another old engine enthusiast told me that Del Packard of Ashland, Ohio, whom I had also met at the Portland Show, had made fans for this type of engine before. Del agreed by letter to make me one, and I soon had it ready to mount.
I cut a new mount from a piece of 10' x 4' aluminum L stock for the gas tank and made a set of gaskets from sheet material. New piston rings were made by Joe Sykes of Niagara Piston Ring Works in Lockport, New York, Joe also completed some machine work that I was not able to handle. A Model A exhaust valve was cut down to replace the original, and a 6M NOS Champion spark plug finished the job.
The restored P started again for the first time on December 7, 1997. Once the point setting was set correctly it ran very well.
I'd like to thank all those B&S enthusiasts who helped me with this project, especially Jim Miller because without his help I wouldn't have my 'crown jewel' ready to display this summer.