The Old Olds With a Heart That Could


| September/October 1990



Early Oldsmobile logo

Early Oldsmobile logo. Olds began using the Rocket logo about 1949, when the over-head valve V-8 was introduced.

P.O. Box H Waterford, California 95386

This story has a beginning that happened quite a long time ago, shortly after the turn of this century, and during the period of World War I. The location: Modesto, California.

Albert Landini, barely a teenager in 1918, walked to school every day past a livery stable which had an object in back that drew him like a magnet-an old car that had been abandoned and junked. Some parts were missing, but the engine was intact. Since this was war-time, the school he attended had been unable to obtain a gasoline engine for the shop classes (they called it manual training then) to work with, and this looked like a golden opportunity. As it turned out, it was. The livery operator gave Albert and his school chum, Nip, the old car on condition they would clear it out lock, stock, and barrel. The next couple of weeks' spare time after school was busy for Albert and Nip. The kids' coaster wagon and a borrowed wheelbarrow were pressed into service, and tools were conned from every available source. The single cylinder engine was pried out and transported to the school shop for inspection, tear-down and overhaul. The car was a 'curved dash' Oldsmobile of about 1901-1905 vintage. The engine required a 3-point suspension for mounting, and this was accomplished by using some old railroad ties and scrap timbers.

The boys, with the aid of their manual training teacher, got the old engine running, by using a Model T Ford carburetor, and a jury-rigged chain driven tractor magneto furnishing the spark. At the end of the school year it was taken to the Landini Ranch on the east side of Modesto, where it was intermittently used to run a fanning mill for cleaning grain for a number of years. About the early 1930's it was retired and stored outside by the ranch tankhouse, where a pile of old boards and scrapped fruit-drying trays gradually accumulated-and it was forgotten.

In the spring of 1987 I was told by a mutual friend that a Mr. Landini of Modesto had some old engines that he needed to dispose of. Following up on this, I arranged to meet him and found a delightful gentleman in his 80's, from whom I purchased a 1923 FBM, 3 HP, Model Z and some other items. Mr. Landini was in the process of selling the final couple of acres of the old family ranch for development, and he showed me a large pile of old boards and fruit-drying trays alongside the original ranch tankhouse. He said that somewhere under that pile there should be an old car engine which he had not seen for over 50 years. We had taken a mutual liking to each other, and when I expressed an interest in the old engine he promised to phone me when the engine was uncovered during the property cleanup.

Sure enough, about a month later, I got a phone call from Mr. Landini. He told me the engine was uncovered and available! I was over at his place within the hour, and there it was-an early Olds single cylinder, side-shaft automobile engine, and everything turned and moved. How lucky can you get??!!