6680 N. Alvernon Way Tucson, Arizona 85718
Here is a picture of my pride and joy 12 HP Witte. It was two
years ago this month that I took an interest in these old engines.
I joined the local tractor and engine club two years ago and
decided to take a tractor that I had restored to the county fair.
While I was there, I started to ask questions about the old
engines, and since I have an inclination toward old rusty iron, I
realized that I had to have one. I soon found out that they are not
easy to come by. I did get some leads from some of the club
members, and after several calls and some more leads, I had my
I really got the bug and kept looking for other engines. I
followed up on any lead I could get. Since my brother was venturing
into Mexico looking for old stone grinding wheels, I asked him to
keep his eyes open for an old engine. One day he came by with a
picture of an engine he had found. I could tell from the picture
that it was a Witte, and by my brother’s description I guessed
that it was a 6 HP. He said that the owner would sell it and that
there was a part for the engine locked in a nearby shed. I told him
that I was interested, and on his next trip he bought the engine.
The item in the shed turned out be the mag. When he got home, he
called me and said that it sure was heavy. I went by to have a look
and it turned out to be a 12 HP!
I spent about six months restoring the engine. It was very
complete with the exception of some of the carburetor parts, oiler
and exhaust push rod. The piston was stuck but in a position to
protect the cylinder. I approached this project slowly as I did not
want to break anything. I took everything apart and even managed to
get the piston out without breaking the rings (which I reused). The
cylinder was in great condition and there was nothing cracked or
broken anywhere on the engine. The head studs were badly rusted,
which I understand is common for Wittes, and most of them broke off
when trying to remove them. I had new studs made, did a lot of
re-taping of threads and a lot of cleaning, but everything went
I decided that I would make a wagon to move the engine around
and for display. I later found out that it is difficult to back up
a wagon and that I need a lot of practice.
I sandblasted the parts and painted it a dark green. I
reassembled it on the wagon and it went together without any
problems. I did have to re-time the exhaust. When I took it apart,
I marked the timing so as to get it back together the same way. It
turned out to be way off. I was curious to see what the compression
was like, and it had good compression. In fact, I can’t turn it
over through a compression stroke. I was concerned about starting
it. That concern went away when I bought an operator’s handbook
that described the ‘back kick method’ for starting. It
sounded so simple.
After it was completely back together and everything was timed
just right, I called my brother to come over and lend some moral
support. I followed the handbook’s instructions and retarded
the spark, primed the cylinder, and on the third try it fired up
and ran like a champ. The next day it started on the first try.
What a great feeling to have it work so well.
The engine, serial number 90507, has a bore and stroke of 6.5 x
11. It displaces 365 cubic inches!! I am planning on showing it at
the county fair next week. It has been such a great and rewarding
project. I want to thank the members of the ‘Power of the
Past’ club here in southern Arizona for all the support and
advice. It really made a difference to get help and tips from the
people who have the experience and knowledge.