Piersen Engines and Shows


| 5/8/2017 10:50:00 AM


Tags: June/July 2017, Hit-and-Miss, Richard Backus,

Well, I’m almost ashamed to report that I’ve yet to get my 1920 5 hp Piersen running. Worse, I can’t even say I’ve put much time into the effort since last issue, focused as I’ve been on helping my kids get their vintage motorcycles ready for the new riding season. Charlie, just turning 21 this summer, has been upgrading and modifying a 1972 Honda CB350 that’s been hiding in the back of the shop for some 10-plus years while Madeline, now 23, is learning about the 1980 Moto Guzzi 500cc V-twin she recently acquired. The Honda’s moving toward new paint and final assembly, while the Guzzi’s apart for new cylinder base gaskets and pushrod O-rings to take care of a persistent oil leak.

In the interim, however, it’s been enjoyable hearing from readers who also own Piersen engines. And also something of a surprise, as outside of my Piersen I’ve never seen another one and simply assumed they were very few and far between.

Which, in fact, they are. Yet at least four made their way to California, where they’re now in the possession of California engine and tractor historian Jack Alexander. Another Piersen made its way to Illinois, now owned by longtime reader and regular contributor Gary Bahre. Gary’s engine is actually a Collis, made in Clinton, Iowa, after Collis acquired Piersen in 1921. Its brass engine tag announces its heritage, with “Collis” stamped in large letters at the top of the tag and “Formerly The Superior Piersen Designed By E.B. Cushman” stamped in smaller letters below. The tag on Gary’s Collis includes a May 23, 1922, patent date, making it one of the later engines made as it’s believed that Collis went out of business in 1923. Jack’s engines span the 1919-1921 time frame, when engines were made in Topeka, Kansas, by Piersen. One of Jack’s engines shows serial number A755 and another A805. Mine shows serial number A775, making it possible Jack’s engines and mine were built within days or weeks of each other.

My lack of movement on the Piersen is a little frustrating, as I’d really hoped to show it off at the 23rd Annual Power of the Past Antique Engine and Tractor Show in Ottawa, Kansas, Sept. 8-10. The largest engine and tractor show in Kansas, Power of the Past draws an impressive and growing selection of engines every year, making it kind of a natural for a hoped-for first showing. I’ll still hit the show, but I guess the engine will have to wait another year.

On that note, among other shows on my list I’m hoping to make it to the 50th Annual Buckley Old Engine Show in Buckley, Michigan, Aug. 17-20, when the Northwest Michigan Engine & Thresher Club hopes to spin the giant 1907 1,100 hp Snow twin tandem engine we featured in the June/July 2016 issue. It won’t be burning gas yet, instead powered by compressed air, but watching that 225-ton monster spin its 18-foot flywheel will be a sight to see.


Richard Backus
Editor-in-Chief
rbackus@gasenginemagazine.com