With a Little Help From my Friends

A Seager Olds restoration featuring talented allies

| February 2007


I started collecting engines in 1999, although I had admired them for some years. When I was young, my dad told me about flywheel engines and how he almost got one for free back in the early 1960s (only to miss out by just minutes when a relative of the fellow showed up and decided to take it).

By 2002, I had collected a small number of engines, mostly of the usual beginner type: Hercules, Stover, Novo (all of which I still have). Then, at the Portland, Ind., show that summer I saw an absolutely beautiful engine - a Seager Olds. I stopped and looked at it and asked a number of questions because I had never seen one before. From that moment, I decided I wanted to find one of these for my collection. That proved more difficult than I imagined, as Olds engines are fairly few and far between - and also quite pricey when found. Therefore, my problem was compounded. I needed to actually find one that was for sale, and it had to be in a state that I could afford (basket case).

After looking for some time, I put a wanted ad on Harry's Old Engines engine ads. I received a reply from a fellow named Rex Messner, whom I am now very happy to call my friend. He told me to contact him, as he thought he might have what I was looking for. I phoned him, and it turned out he had a 4 HP square-hopper Olds and a 6 HP oval-hopper Seager Olds in pieces. He lived some distance from me and we arranged that I would go to his house on New Year's Day 2003, as he has a New Year's gas-up every year. I traveled the 175 miles to his house and enjoyed the company, the food and Rex's engines - almost exclusively Olds.

Later in the afternoon, Rex showed me the two Olds engines he had for sale. The 4 HP was complete and would run; the 6 HP Seager was in pieces. They were both the same price. There was no doubt in my mind which one I wanted - the 6 HP Seager! The circa-1912 engine was mostly disassembled, as restoration had been started some years earlier. Three parts were known missing: the front water cover and nut, as well as the check valve (which is specific to Olds). We agreed on price and sealed the deal. We loaded up the engine and a plastic crate full of parts and I took it home.

I put the engine on a pallet in my pole barn and that's where it sat for about the next nine months, as other projects took priority. I finally decided that if I was going to get at the Olds I better park it in the middle of my shop where I would see it every day. I did exactly that in January of 2004. In the days that followed, I sorted through the box and bag-o-parts that I got trying to figure out where things went. When the engine was disassembled, all of the parts were taken off except for the governor. I had no idea where many of the parts went, so I figured I was in for a real jigsaw puzzle.

Assessing the engine

As I evaluated the condition of the engine, I found a number of areas in need of machine work and rebuilding. The major problem was that the crankshaft was bent quite badly on the pushrod side of the engine. The flywheel wobbled at least 3/4-inch. The guides in the valve cages were badly worn, and one of the valve cages had an ear broken off and welded back crooked. The cam rocker shaft in the bottom of the engine was rusted and pitted, and the cam roller was frozen solid. The bearing support for the outer end of that shaft was partially broken away. The piston pin was quite worn. There were a number of twisted-off bolts in various places that would need to be drilled out and the engine needed to be completely cleaned, as there was loads of rust everywhere.