A few years ago a young man named Keith Sulak came up to my display at a show. He asked me if I would help him get his Olds engine running. As soon as he said Olds, I was interested.
The first thing I asked was if he said Olds or Olds engine. He assured me it was an Olds engine because the decal was still visible and easy to read. So, of course, intrigued by the thought of working on an Olds engine I said yes, that I would be glad to take a look at it and see what was needed to get it up and running again. Because of my interest in these engines I asked him if it was for sale, but as it once belonged to his uncle he wanted to keep it. We agreed that I would work on it when he was ready.
Some time went by before I heard from Keith again. He came into the store where I worked and asked for me. When I walked up to the counter he asked me if I remembered him, “the guy with the Olds engine.” I said I sure did. Then he told me the shed the engine was stored in was beginning to fall in on itself and he figured it was time to restore the Olds.
When he brought it over to my place, we unloaded it and upon inspection it turned out to be a Seager Engine Works Olds No. 3 Type A, 4-1/2 HP, shop no. D9907 with patent dates of Sept. 25, 1906, and April 6, 1909.
The engine appeared to be pretty much intact except for the ignition. This particular engine is set up for a battery and buzz coil ignition. Someone in the past had started taking it apart: The crankshaft, flywheels, and piston and rod were removed. Luckily, whoever did that greased the piston and rod and wrapped them up to protect them. The cylinder bore was also greased, although the grease had hardened over the years. Thankfully, there was very little rust to deal with on these surfaces.
After taking a lot of close-up photos, I finished taking the engine apart. I then asked Keith if he wanted to paint it or leave it as-is, as some of the paint and one decal were still present. He said he wanted it to look sharp, so we decided to repaint it. His research turned up the correct paint color and new decals.
He took the major components to a shop to be sand-blasted, primed and powder-coated. At this time we ran into a problem. While at the shop the rocker arm assembly, pushrod and anti-backfire rod got misplaced. Keith and I think another customer picked them up by accident and never returned them.
It turned out to be a good thing I had taken the close-up photos. My wife increased the size of the photos till they were actual size and printed them. I took measurements from the photos and the engine and then proceeded to build replacement parts. The two rods were pretty straightforward, but the rocker arm was another story.
This rocker arm is very unusual looking, not like anything I had ever seen before. Building a new one took me a day and a half. When finished it looked very much like the original and once installed it worked properly. Maybe someday we can find an original from a parts engine.
This engine weighs more than 1,000 pounds and is rather tall. We decided we needed to build a sturdy cart wide enough so the whole thing wouldn’t be top heavy. After we came up with a plan, Keith bought the supplies and built the cart in his shop.
Once the cart was ready, Keith brought it over to me and we worked together to mount the heavy crankcase onto the cart. From there I began to assemble the engine. The timing marks were easy to find, which was a good thing since I did not take the crankshaft off the engine.
Upon assembling the engine I discovered that we were missing the two parts that make up the exhaust valve latch up assembly for the hit-and-miss. I am in the process of making a workable latch. By this time I had constructed a new ignition system. The governor controls the ignition, but the exhaust valve is not held open. Hopefully I can fix that little problem.
I hooked the hot box to the engine and got everything timed as close as I could. Then I called Keith to come over for the first start up of his engine.
The engine started but ran way too fast, so we quickly shut it down. After reworking my ignition system it works much better now.
We spent a little more than a year getting to where we are. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun. We showed the engine for the first time at the Texas Early Day Tractor and Engine Assn. show in Temple, Texas. This show is always the first weekend in October.
I want to thank Keith for letting me be a part of this great project. We are now starting to restore an antique buzz saw to belt to the engine.
Contact Larry Shulda at PO Box 401, Waco, TX 76703 • (254) 829-5364 • Lshulda@gmail.com