A Little Bit of Everything

A Collector and his gas engines from the land of 10,000 lakes.

| November 2005

Though Ken Ebnet of Long Prairie, Minn., likes to have fun with his gas engine collection — he tries to get spectators to guess what one of his engines' exhaust is made of, and queries them about what his Ingersoll-Rand engine might be. Ken takes his collecting seriously — he wants to know more about his engines than is found in the popular references, and wants to be set straight where he doesn't have the correct information.

Though Ken grew up on a farm, the only gas engines he encountered as a kid were a pair of Briggs & Stratton engines he rigged up to add some speed to his bicycle. “We moved to the farm I grew up on in 1947, and the only thing resembling a gas engine was the remnants of an old Delco light plant in one of the buildings. Some of them ran off wind chargers and some ran off gas engines, but we had regular electricity by the time we moved to the farm, so we never had any gas engines.” Today, Ken has a 32-volt Delco light plant as part of his collection.

Getting Involved

About 20 years ago, Ken started attending farm shows and spotting gas engines for sale in the newspaper. “All of a sudden I decided it would be kind of nice to have one of those engines,” says Ken. He heard about a Sattley 1-3/4 HP engine, and decided that would be his first one. “It was for sale, the price was right, and it wasn't a real popular engine, which is probably why I could afford it. We still had kids in school at the time and I couldn't afford too much, so I started out with the cheaper caliber of engine I saw at an auction sale, or heard about, or advertised for sale.” The Sattley carries the Montgomery, Ward & Co. name, as they bought out Racine-Sattley Co. in 1918. This Sattley 1-3/4 HP engine carries serial no. TA-16215, and was manufactured in the 1920s.  

The 61-year-old retiree's only engine with restored paint is a MacLeod, (serial no. TA18687), the Canadian sister to the Sattley. “I bought that one because of the Sattley,” Ken says. “It was missing a few parts, and I knew the Sattley parts were interchangeable, so I could copy the ones I needed off the Sattley for the MacLeod, and get them made cheaper.” The major differences between the two are that the Sattley has a solid flywheel and a wet head, while the MacLeod has a spoked flywheel and a dry head. Both machines were made by Nelson Bros. “My personal opinion, although I've also heard it from a few other guys, is this: Engines are only original when they're made the first time. If there's enough original paint showing on an engine, I prefer to keep it just as it is.” He says he doesn't care if other people repaint their engines, but he believes the collector needs to get the correct factory colors. “Farmers back then didn't have the money for paint, and when paint wore off, that was the way it stayed. Plus,” he laughs, “this way I don't have to worry about chipping anything.”

“But as far as filling in all the voids with fiberglass, liquid putty or whatever, some of the factory moulds were pretty crude when these engines were made 30, 40, 50 years ago, so I'd just as soon leave them that way.” He admits that the repainted ones really do look sharp, but he prefers to concentrate his efforts on making nice varnished wood carts for his engines.

The carts have made handling the engines much easier, and for years, Ken's wife, Ardis, helped. “A few years ago she surprised me with an engine hoist, because she said she was tired of having to come out and help me roll the engines in and out of the pickup. So now I can do it by myself.”