R.D.#2, Box 173, New Salem, North Dakota 58563.
I've been collecting and restoring old engines for only about seven or eight years. I have gathered a number of unique engines of which I am very proud and have enjoyed every minute of this fascinating hobby. I've always been more than happy to collect smaller horsepower engines, but at the same time I've always admired those wonderful old Aultman-Taylor, Hart-Parrs, and Averys. Not to mention those fascinating old steamers. But, like many others, I've always been content to watch and drool as they drive past at local shows. Either due to lack of space or lack of funds, I had given up on ever owning a showpiece like those.
I guess that is where my story actually starts. Back in 1986 I was reading through the sale ads in GEM and ran across one from L. E. Evans of Great Falls, Montana. Upon visiting Mr. Evans, I purchased a 4 HP engine. The nametag claims it to be from the 'Wonder Cement Company.' As you can see, it more than likely originated from Waterloo, Iowa. It took almost a year to get the engine home and upon doing so, I discovered just how much my new 'prize' actually weighed. It was on metal skids and I couldn't even slide it across my garage floor. So much for asking my slowly disappearing friends to help me lift it in and out of my pickup. Well, I was just going to have to build a cart to set it on. No problem. But let's face it, even atop a set of nicely greased wheels this little wonder, at times, is still going to be difficult to move around. So why not have it propel itself. GREAT IDEA! But where do I start? What do I use for wheels, for a transmission, and for steering? How big should it be? How wide? This little project was more than overwhelming. But what fun!
I had always admired the old Titan tractors and their unusual frame, so I decided to use their design for the frame. I had acquired a steering sector from a J.D. 95 combine and the two seemed to complement each other. I did a little trading for the wheels from a J.D. threshing machine which I used on the rear. The bull and pinion gears came from a McCormick horse drawn mower, as did the seat and leaf spring. But what about a transmission ? My uncle owns an old Avery and I'm always impressed with the unique design of their drive train, so simplicity seemed to be the best idea. One forward speed, no reverse, with a belt tightener and brake on one operating lever like the old two cylinder J.D.'s. I wanted an antique look so a flat drive belt seemed to be appropriate. But what about the operating speed? Let's see, the engine runs at 400 r.p.m. The bull gear has 'X' number of teeth and the pinion has 'Y'. The rear wheels are 30 inches tall. Convert miles per hour to feet per minute. Calculate rear wheel circumference. I should have paid closer attention during high school algebra class. But, lo and behold, somehow I came up with the right sized drive pulleys!
So after many long, wonderful hours I had the frame assembled and ready for the engine, or so I thought. Upon its maiden run, with my wife and young daughter behind for power, when I turned right it went left. And when I turned left, it went right. This will never do. I added a couple idler gears in front of the steering sector to correct the problem.
The chassis looked ready to go so I started on the engine. I'm not sure where Mr. Evans acquired this engine but I was thankful to him, for the engine was in good condition. I completely disassembled, sandblasted, cleaned and adjusted everything.
But what color should I paint it? I love old engines but I do get tired of looking at red and green all the time so they were out. I began reading in Mr. Wendel's book about engines sold through Sandy McManus, Inc. They matched my little 'Wonder' to a tee and the blue with yellow striping was just what I was looking for. Fordson grey covers the frame, with the connecting rod, push rod, ignitor and related parts being gold.
I have no idea exactly how long this whole project took, but I loved every minute of it. I drove it in our local parade in 1989 during our state centennial celebration and received many compliments. It travels just fast enough to walk beside, but riding is much more fun. So if you're like me and would give
your right arm for one of agriculture's old dinosaurs but you can't find anyone to sell you theirs at a price, do like I did. Build your own! You'll have one of a kind. And I guarantee you'll love every minute.