By Staff

1408 N. Van Buren, Ottumwa, Iowa 52501

In 1789 our Constitution was adopted. In the study of history we
find the influence our founding fathers have had on our lives. It
changed our culture, our way of thinking and the way others see us.
The internal combustion engine is a part of this history and has
had a great influence on the way we have developed an American
technological advancement. This technology has made the United
States one of the world’s industrial powers. From Otto’s
first engine a slow development took place with the first one
cylinder slow speed engines to modern engines with a hundred horse
power for every 100 cubic inches of displacement, brought about by
high compression, turbo-charged and better fuel systems. These
developments are some of the history we have. Time has changed our
way of living with many new laws, but the Constitution of 1789 has
stood the test of time giving proof that we have something sound to
build a government on. Otto’s engine does the same thing for
the development of the internal engine. The internal combustion
engine has been a great influence on the industrial advancement we
enjoy today.

As we visit antique shows and view the array of old engines we
sometimes wonder what motivates the restoration of these old
engines. People who restore these old engines are an entirely
different group of people. They are friendly and helpful in that
they have this interest in preserving the old engines that are a
part of history. They bring back an old engine that tells of this
history of how we lived. These historians attending the antique
shows are people who are proud of their restored engines and want
to show them to anyone who will stop by and visit about their
engine. When a group of school children come by they learn how
their grandparents lived in ‘the good old days.’

In the past many of the cities of the midwest had grey iron
foundries and any place there was one of these foundries there was
someone with a machine shop that would build a gas engine. Some of
these shops built only a few engines and others built thousands of
engines in various size horse power. They were made for the farm
trade or marine engines for use on the lakes or rivers. They came
in many ‘sizes and shapes’. Many of these engines were
developed to use as a source of power for generating electric
current, pumping water and operating line shafts in the machine

The old rusty engine or tractor out back in the junk pile is a
challenge to the person who brings it back to life. The piston is
stuck and the valve mechanism is rusted until they will not work.
Many times after the piston is free the cylinder wall is pitted
with rust until it needs reboring or a new sleeve. Where do we find
a new ignitor or at least one that will work? Some of these parts
cannot be found so here is where his welder, lathe and drill press
come in. How do you time the ignition? The mice chewed up the
instruction book fifty years ago and now it is cut and fit to get
various parts adjusted. After much cranking it fires and the first
exhaust is the sweetest music of the day. After some more
adjustments it is running and now what color do we paint it? One
fellow says it was dark blue, another says his was a shade of green
and one fellow swears his was original dark red. He doesn’t
know what color to use so he buys a can of grey paint. Grey always
looks good.

This restored engine brings back memories of past history as he
remembers how he watched his grandfather crank on an engine to pump
water. He would go out to the water tank and get a drink out of the
pipe. It was so clear and cold and no one was concerned with how
close the well was to the barnyard.

How proud he will be when he takes it to his first antique show
and some of the spectators stop by and admire it even if it’s
not painted the right color. He knows he has a part of the history
that has made the United States what it is today.

While attending the Sunday worship service at the Mid-West Old
Threshers at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and looking out over the various
exhibits from high up in the grandstand one realizes the history
that is displayed there.

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