In Memoriam

People are at the Root of the Old Iron Hobby/ and John Fankhauser Knew that Better than Anyone A Tribute to a Special Man

| July/August 2003

  • Memoriam

  • Memoriam

I haven't been in this hobby all that long, but I've known John Fankhauser the whole time.

The first guy I really got to know was Dave Rotigel. He introduced me to the Fort Allen (Pennsylvania) Antique Farm Equipment Association. I was working on my second engine (a 3-1/2 HP United) and I had a ton of questions about it, especially some problems with the mixer. Dave suggested I attend the next show, as he had someone he wanted me to meet, the smartest damn engine man he knew. This was John Fankhauser.

We sat in the shade and jawed for a while, and I dragged out my mixer. John gave it a long, slow examination and finally said, 'Am, what I'd do is put that old mixer up on a display shelf and put a good Model T carburetor on your engine. It'll run much better.'

That was John. He had a real appreciation for old engines, whether in their working clothes or beautifully restored. But deep down, John was an engine man, and for an engine man the thing was a piece of equipment with work to do to put food on the table.

As I started attending more and more engine shows, John would often ride along. Coolspring, Sistersville, Portland, Siam, Asheville, Findlay ... long drives made much shorter and more enjoyable with John along for the ride. He told stories about his working days in the family dairy and about working his own oil wells. He talked about oil field engines from first-hand, personal experience. The man had done so much, and he was an articulate storyteller.

The more I learned about his life, the more he reminded me of my Dad. My Dad died when I was 26, so I never got to share things with him that came to me later in life, things like engines, which he would have loved. My Dad and John had a lot in common, and I think they would have been great friends.


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