Thoughts On Restoring Engines or Changing History

By Staff

Rt 2, Box 118 Troy, Tennessee 38260

Last summer my friend and fellow engine restorer Tim Fox and I
came into possession of a rather badly damaged Hercules engine. It
was not missing too many small parts, but the water hopper had
evidently frozen at some time and was almost totally gone above the
cylinder. We both had examples of the Hercules line, so this was
not something we really needed.

At various shows over the years we had seen these and other
engines reworked into pseudo tank cooled types. This was rather
simply done by welding a piece of split pipe onto the top of the
remains of the water pot which gave them the appearance of early
Fairbanks-Morse or International Harvester engines of the cooling
tower persuasion. The addition of a couple of water connections,
pump, and cooling tower or tank made a neat appearing little
engine. It was something that Hercules had never made, but it
attracted a lot of attention at shows.

While we were discussing the various things we would need to
have to do the project, a thought occurred to me. I suddenly
realized that we were going to alter history, so to speak.

At one time in my life I had been a collector of Civil War
muskets. Being rather low on cash, I was obliged to purchase less
than desirable pieces and undertake to restore them to original
condition. In the years after the Civil War, these weapons were
available on the market for a few dollars or less. A great number
were converted into shotguns or carbines by simply cutting off the
barrels and forestocks. These weapons served their owners well in
the settling of the frontier and many were passed down through the
years, finally winding up in the hands of collectors such as
myself. They would not fit into any collection in their
reconfigured style and, to me at least, brought an appealing low
price. It was up to me to weld extensions onto the barrels and
splice fore-ends. Barrel bands, both old and reproduction, were
available, as were rear sights and other sundry items. Over a
period of time I was able to rebuild almost every weapon, including
one that was so badly pitted from storage in a salty smokehouse
that it was necessary to build the pits up with weld.

All of this leads up to the main theme of this story. Sure
it’s neat to make a side shaft John Deere model ‘E’ or
a hit and miss engine out of throttle governed something or other,
but we are messing with history and causing trouble down the line
for some poor guy who wants it ‘TO BE RIGHT IN EVERY WAY.’
Think about it before you start changing that antique tractor, gas
engine or anything else in the way of antique or near antique. It
may tickle our goodie to do it now, but someday a guy is going to
fling a curse on us for messing up what to him was a nice little
engine or tractor before we destroyed it.

Needless to say, after these reflections on the alteration of
history, Tim and I decided that maybe the lowly Hercules deserved
something better than a plastic surgery job that would make it into
something its makers never intended. Think about it before you
start changing things. Somebody down the line would rather have
that item ‘as is’ either to restore properly or maybe as a
parts engine. Remember all of those old muskets. There were many
millions of them at one time, many more than there ever were May
tags or Nelson Brothers or for that matter Fairbanks-Morse. Think
about it, think about it a lot, before you change an historical
item of any kind into something else.

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