1919 Fairbanks-Morse Plugoscillator Engine Restoration – Part 1 of 2

Peter Rooke starts a new restoration project, beginning with stripping the paint and making new wheels for a Fairbanks-Morse Plugoscillator engine.

| April/May 2018

The origins of the Fairbanks Morse Co. date back to 1823, when the company made cast iron plows and heating stoves. The early company, E&T Fairbanks, moved into producing scales, becoming a leading U.S. manufacturer. Employee Charles Hosmer Morse was instrumental in acquiring the Eclipse Wind Engine Co., and later became a partner in E&T Fairbanks, which became Fairbanks-Morse and Co. F-M started producing oil and naphtha engines in the 1890s before moving into kerosene and diesel engines, eventually becoming a dominant force in the fast-growing engine industry.

The Model Z was one of F-M’s most successful engines. First produced in 1916, more than a half a million Z engines were produced over the next 30 years. The Plugoscillator engine was made between June 1917 and 1919, but spark plug and high-tension magneto engines started to appear in 1918. This engine shows serial number 386013, produced in 1919.


The previous owner had painted the engine blue and red. These colors were not to my taste, so the engine would be stripped, cleaned and repainted green to get a closer match to its original color. Stripping the engine would also allow me to examine its parts more closely, fixing and refurbishing parts as necessary. There were one or two broken items, plus other replacement parts that did not look original.

The first step was to remove the igniter and magneto before taking off the flywheels. This meant using a scraper to remove the red paint from the ends of the crankshaft, finishing off with emery cloth before lightly oiling the clean surface. The flywheel clamp bolts were slackened and the keys were removed. One side came out easily, but the other proved to be a little more difficult and it was discovered it had some rust inside that effectively glued it to the flywheel. Eventually it gave, and with the flywheels removed the piston and crankshaft were then removed, along with the cam gear, pushrod and mixer.

A priority was to get the sub-base free, so that it could be used to check measurements for making a new cart. With the sub-base free, it was clear that the gas tank had been painted at some stage, and this paint was now peeling. Fortunately, the galvanizing under the peeling paint still looked good. Once the gas tank was removed the peeling paint was cleaned off with a scraper and then the inside of the tank was cleaned and flushed.


After researching carts for this engine, a plan was drawn up using the dimensions of an original cart on a friend’s 3 hp Z. The first stage was to make the four wheels, 12 inches in diameter with 2-inch-wide faces and five spokes. Some 2.5-inch-diameter steel bar was obtained for a bargain price from a friend who was clearing out his workshop.