19675 T Drive N. Olivet, Michigan 49076.
This story could serve as a warning to women of would-be retired
iron collectors, or in most circles, of what are identified as
gasoline engines. It can also serve as a support to those women who
already have husbands who are ‘hooked’.
I use the word hooked, not reservedly or loosely, but rather as
a factual term. Because ladies, antique gasoline engine collecting
is an addiction! If your man says, ‘But I just want one.’
don’t believe it for one second! That ‘just one’ is
like trying to eat one peanut, one potato chip, or one olive. The
strongest of wills succumb to this strange phenomenon.
I speak from experience. My husband Bill, also known as Carl, is
a collector. It began in the summer, 1965, at a gas engine show in
Coldwater, Michigan. Being rather naive at the time, I failed to
notice the warning signs at first.
Bill scrutinized every engine on display, whether it was a
single exhibit or a trailer load. He pulled levers, diddled
gadgets, flipped flywheels, looked down, up, under, and into all
parts of each and every engine. All this time he was asking an
untold number of questions. Examining something that methodically
was the red-alert I failed to pick up on. That is, until on the
ride home. The conviction in his statement, ‘I’m going to
have one of those someday,’ set off a ‘beep, beep,
Winter came and went. As spring began to set in, I was beginning
to think I had misinterpreted the tone of his last summer’s
comment. Bill’s rhetorical question, ‘Guess what I
found?’ upon arriving home from town that day ended that
I’ve discovered during this collecting phenomenon that where
an engine is located or found and its condition are highlights in
engine collecting conversations. A dilapidated chicken coop was the
location of Bill’s first find. It was covered with dust,
cobwebs, and chicken and bird droppings, and set up with rust from
blowing snow and rain through the broken window under which it had
begun to settle in the dirt. This blob even had a
When buying or selling, Bill likes to haggle, something in which
most men are proficient. But this gem did not warrant the usual
haggling, and he readily handed over the asking price. (What I felt
was ridiculous for a blob of iron.) Upon payment addiction took its
Engine number two, a Novo used for running a sheep shearing
machine, was unearthed at the local junkyard. He got it for junk
prices and what with junk prices on the low side at the time, this
price sounded a little more sensible.
Fellow shop workers soon got into the act of relaying
information as to other possible buys. Before long more engines
found a new home on our farm.
A Sunday drive ended at the house of a man who just happened to
have two engines he was willing to part with. The visit wasn’t
a total loss, however. (Those two engines made quite a dent in the
checkbook.) The man had worked for the Rumely Oil Pull Tractor
Company in Battle Creek in his earlier days, so the conversation
was both interesting and educational.
For awhile Bill’s snowballing hobby saw a temporary
slowdown. Subscriptions to the Gas Engine Magazine and the
Farmers’ Advance soon activated the hobby again.
Now I know it’s necessary to advertise auction sales, but do
they really have to list EVERY item? Miscellaneous sounds adequate
A burning tire soaked in fuel oil smokes like the smoke from a
Cushman Bill had gotten at one of these sales. It brought the
neighbor running: he thought the barn was on fire. A storage
warehouse for obsolete machinery at the neighbor’s workplace
had two engines, ‘something like what you got there,’
resulted in further acquisitions.
One summer we took a vacation(?) to Arkansas. I’ll admit we
did do some fishing two nights by lantern light. One 1200 pound
Hvid, plus three smaller engines made quite a load in our
three-quarter ton pickup, on the return trip to Michigan.
Bill’s ‘just one engine’ has now reached almost the
50 mark. The overflow definitely needed storage space so a new pole
barn was erected. A 14 by 20 foot garage was bought and moved from
Battle Creek onto the farm. Then a 12 by 20 foot shed addition was
added to the big hay barn. The overflow continued. Finally another
pole barn was erected. This is to be the last addition. My comment
to the possibility of a new barn is ‘reorganize’.
With most addictions one does not always stick with the one
substance originally addicted to. Bill’s has multiplied to what
the family refers to as his ‘unique unique’ addiction. It
ranges from items small enough to hold in one’s hand, to a half
mile of railroad track on which he runs his Fairmont crewmen’s
car. Needless to say, it is no problem knowing Bill’s
whereabouts. He is either at an auction sale, a gas engine show, or
home among his treasures, usually the latter.
Dealing with this type of addiction does have a workable
solution. One merely follows the old axiom, ‘If you can’t
fight them, join them.’ As soon as Bill clears a large enough
working area I am planning to dismantle and restore an antique of
my own, a 1928 Bolens garden tractor. It has a vertical-mount
Briggs and Stratton engine, which in turn has the spark plug coming
out of the front of the engine head and the carburetor on top.
I’ve been told this is the opposite of most Briggs and Stratton
engines. I’ll have to take someone else’s word for
Is is possible that I, too, am becoming an addict?