| March/April 1974

Box 60S - R.D. 6 , Newton, New Jersey O7S6O

I used to collect Model 'T' and 'A' Fords, however, when prices became high I lost interest. Ten to 15 years ago you could buy cars for $100. to $300. and parts were plentiful and relatively inexpensive. For the past few years I have been collecting old gas engines and enjoying the hobby very much. I also agree with a previous author in GEM who feels the people collecting engines nowadays are friendlier and a more interesting group than the antique car collectors. My youngest son, Tom, and I have about 80 engines from Maytag size up to 25 HP. The average price we have paid to date is around $22. per engine; most are restorable but a few are only good for parts. It is always hard to determine how much to pay for engines; we like to get them as cheaply as possible, which is natural. I think we've done pretty good. Any comments from GEM readers?

We particularly enjoy tracking down leads, negotiating for purchase, and hauling our new found treasures home for further examination, tinkering, and eventual restoration. Many people spend $25. for a day's outing or something; we end up our day's outing with an engine and great enjoyment finding and obtaining them.

My most prized engine is the 'Safety Vapor' engine patented 1889 - 1893. I purchased this for $25. from a Mr. Harvey from Connecticut. He tells me it was originally used by his father to grind coffee in New York City, and it operated on 'city gas.' When they moved to their farm, it was converted to burn gasoline. If anyone has a similar engine or knows about them, I would appreciate a letter. When we purchased this engine, it was, of course, 'stuck fast' and we did a lot of careful disassembly and 'freeing' of the moving parts. You'll notice that it has a belt driven flyball governor similar to a steam engine to regulate the fuel/gas mixture into a rotating 'disc' containing the fuel inlet and exhaust outlet ports. The timing chain works the trip igniter which breaks the electrical contact inside the cylinder, causing a low tension arc and subsequent ignition. When firing under no load, we sometimes have a problem getting the carburetor adjusted so that it doesn't misfire every other time. Under load she fires great.

Our largest and most costly engine is a 25 HP 'Y' semi-diesel Fairbanks Morse built in 1920. We purchased this from the State of New Jersey on sealed bid. We found the engine sitting in High Point State Park. It was originally used on a sawmill rig and was in pretty good shape (free). In bidding, I offered $51.75, as I thought some scrap metal dealer might have also bid. (I'll never know if $10. would have been enough.) It must weigh about 3 tons. For $40. more, I had it carried on tilt bed truck to my home 20 miles away. We first mounted it on a steel wheel wagon but my son made me remount it on a concrete base (which we built), since the wooden beams on the wagon were sagging and close to breaking. As soon as we rig up a water cooling system for it, we'll fire it up. It has a 'hot' plug for starting.

My 'heart breaker' is a 1 HP OTTO which is in such bad shape it breaks my heart to look at it. It is rusted into one piece. We tried soaking it and tinkering with it but only succeeded in making it worse by breaking the timing gear on the crankshaft.