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Engine Prices and Stories From Yesterday

I would like to hear some engine collecting stories from the past. Most of us have probably picked up an engine over the last couple of years for free or next to it, but I was wondering about some of those engine purchases made back in the 40's through the early 70's. My dad remembers that he didn’t buy an 8-10 horsepower screen cooled Mogul on a cart for $60. He thought it was too much money for an engine because at the time, $5-10 would buy most any engine. I would sure like to see that engine in his barn! Then he told me about a stove pipe Domestic that he and another man used to trade back and forth for around $20 (several years after the Mogul but still cheap.) He has owned a lot of really cool stuff over the years that he bought and sold for very little money. He has never regretted a minute of it. I guess they knew what "cool" was long before the rest of us did. I think one of my favorite pictures is my dads Rumely Oil-Pull purring away right after it was unloaded in 1964. It would be nice to hear stories of yesterday from the rest of you. --Mark

Mark, A good friend of mine (92 years old) in Nebraska told me a story of trading a set of four wooden spoke car wheels for an engine down in Kansas "sight unseen" in the late 1940/early 50's. When he arrived at the warehouse to get the engine, the guy uncovered it and revealed a new & never run Stickney, still in its wooden crate. He still has the engine in the shed and I've got his entire conversation and story of the "trade" on video tape. -- Dusty

Mark, I didn't get into engines till 1977, but regret not having an interest sooner. My family farm had several treasures that I wish someone would have taken an interest in. Two of my uncles got tired of stumbling around the 25-50 Avery in the machine shed so they tore it up for scrap in 1957. There was also a drum drive Emerson Brantingham 1915 model and a man from Iowa found out about it and bought it for 100.00 in 1960. There were several engines also, and they were all scraped except for a Z style D Fairbanks and a 1.5hp F-M Z. I have gotten several engines just for hauling them off. I collect Ottawa engines and of the seventeen I have, four of them I have gotten free. -- Dan

I remember attending my parent's neighbors sale right around 1977-78 when I was younger lad. He had an old McCormick Deering 3 Hp on original skids still in nice original paint with the Wico magneto. My grandfather bought it for $25.00. My father has it now and the magneto has never been worked on, and still shoots a good spark. My Grandfather used to talk about Ford Model A's and T's that he would buy in the thirties for $2.00 and drive them for a while and then junk them and the scrap man would pay him one dollar for them. I wish I could have had all of those that he junked. He did manage to keep an odd ball item that he owned, a 1942 Toro Estate tractor. It is just like the one Arnie Palmer used in his Penzoil commercial. The only difference is he painted it Dark hunter green and John Deere yellow. If I'm not mistaken he bought it for scrap in the 1960's -- Lonnie

One of the big differences is our income. While I'm retired now on fixed income, back in the 50's and 60's I was having kids and buying my first house and extra money was not available. A lot of those engines were being broke up for scrap just to put some bread on the table. Farming wasn't all that great here in the east at that time either. – Dick

In 1955 I remember a neighbor that had a 9HP Witte on a steel wheeled truck, and he was getting ready to junk it for $2.00. The engine ran beautifully. Another neighbor had a 10HP Witte and he and his boys were joking about junking it for the astronomical sum of $5.00. What would anybody do with that kind of money? My grandfather died in 1957 and my Grandmother sold the family sawmill, a Chase number one, and the power plant, a McCormick 22-36 for $100.00 and laughed all the way to the bank. I bought an Ottawa drag saw from my father in 1959, complete with the Hedgehog, for $10.00 and got stuck sawing all his firewood for him. In 1972 my friend sold me an IHC M for $25.00, but wouldn't sell me the Myers Bulldog that it had run since 1930. I believe that he is still pumping water to his house with that pump. -- Harvey

I bought my first engine (1 3/4 hp Galloway) from an old guy up the road in 1968. The price was 5 bucks. I still have that engine. Last fall I bought a 6 hp Mogul at a sale in South Dakota, price 7000 bucks! My, how times change. -- Ken

My first engine was a 1-1/2 HP Fairbanks-Morse throttle governed dishpan, complete with the original magneto that was given to me by a neighbor who spent a whole day cranking it to no avail except for the occasional pop out of the mixer. This was in about 1951. I was about nine years old at the time. He got ticked off at my watching him (from a respectable distance) and told me that if I could get it going, I could have it. A half hour later, I was dragging it over to my yard. About 1957, an older friend decided he wanted the dishpan but I wasn't really interested in selling it but told him that I'd trade it for an unusual Fairbanks-Morse ignitor vertical engine he'd just bought out of a barn. We did the deal and I still have that "T". That was my second engine. Now, what I regret is the nice engines I saw go to the breakers back in the fifties. I could have filled a garage with freebies taken out of tractor sheds and barns to make room for more "modern" equipment. -- Elden

I was at a old car swap meet in Milwaukee in Feb. 1968. A fellow said he had this old 15 HP Springfield gas engine that had 49 1/2" flywheels and he wanted $50.00 for it. About the end of June I got thinking about that engine and I called him. He still had it and I told him I would come up on the 4th of July as I had the day off. He had it at a repair garage where he worked. He used the wrecker to load the base with cylinder on the pickup truck and then the flywheels. I paid him the $50.00 and went home. I found out later that it was only a 6 HP. I sure got took on that deal. Ha Ha. I still have it and it is my oldest and best engine. -- John

When I first started collecting engines in 1969 I could haul most every engine I found away for 5 or 10 bucks. Of course you must remember that 5 or 10 bucks bought a heluva lot more than today. I bought a running vertical Maytag with the washing machine for 5.00, an 8HP Ohio side shaft for 175.00, a 6HP Olds for 60.00 and took it home, put gas and fresh batteries in it, oiled it up and it ran! You could also get IHC M's & F-M Z's for next to nothing. All of these things have moved on except for that Maytag vertical, I still have it. Most times you could get them to run with a little coaxing. Engines found setting in the hedgerow were usually free for the asking. Man, those were the days! I was 10 or 11 years old, and that fact alone helped an awful lot. -- Brian

In 1974 a neighbor gave me a FM 1 1/2 headless he saved from the junk man at an auction for $2.25. That was my first engine. Then while hunting ground hogs in 76 with my uncle in WV, I asked about old iron and did he know of any around? He took me to his great aunts farm where I bought a 12hp Fairbanks and Co. Bulldog for $50.00 and the wood mill it was belted to was $400.00 firm! I didn't buy the mill but I wish I had. Many more stories as we all have I'm sure, but those are ones that stick in my mind. -- Randy

All these stories from "yesterday" make me sick, sick, sick! guess I was born about thirty years too late. I have always loved this old iron since the day I first saw an old "popper." You can be sure it is in the blood as it comes down through the genes. -- Lester.

LESTER, Love of old iron might come down through the genes, I'm just not quite sure where the genes started. In May of 2002 I started the fatal hit and miss bug. Yes my dad remembers those old pieces of junk! Why would anybody want those? Boy I know where some of those are buried but they are 100' underground. Man if I thought we could find them!! -- Scott

Ten to twelve years ago I was in the local hardware store talking to my sister's boyfriend about an engine he had. A clerk I know called me over after the boyfriend left and told me his cousin had an old engine he had lost interest in and I could probably buy it. As I was leaving he called me back and told me about an engine he had seen twenty years ago but thought it might be gone by now. It was on the way home so I stopped and looked where he said. Walked right up to a 6hp John Deere in the bushes. As I was walking around it I stumbled over something that turned out to be a Sears Stover Economy. Couldn't find the owner that day so went and bought the cousin’s engine, a 3hp FM ZC for $200. Loaded it on the trailer and came home. Next day went back to check on the JD and Stover. Owner said he didn't have anything like that and asked me to take him and show him. He walked right up to it without seeing it until I pointed it out. His reaction was that he didn't need then, had no interest in them, and that I could have them. Free! I took him home and went back and loaded the engines. It's long but there's more. I just had to show my finds to my engine buddies so I hit the road to their town. On the way I stopped for a Coke. When I came out of the store a man was looking at my trailer with the three engines on it. We talked a while and he asked if I was interested in another. What's the correct answer to that? Anyway he had a 10hp Witte in an old shed on his property and said if I would get it running I could have it, FREE! As we were talking a man from the used car place next door came over talked a little and asked if I was interested in a Delco light plant. Answer? He had one in his barn and let me have it. FREE! To end this long drawn out tale, I got the boyfriends engine which turned out to be a FM D, a JD 6hp, Stover Economy 1.5hp, FM 3hp ZC, 10hp Witte, and Delco light plant and the only one I paid for was the ZC. All this started from one conversation in the hardware store. I've got several other tales but this is long enough. – Huck

Thirty years ago when I was a young teenager, my dad and I stopped at a neighbors farm, while they talked I saw this big flywheel engine sitting under a piece of tin, remember the crankcase was open, and the connecting rod appeared to be mostly brass in color. The farmer saw me looking at it, and said sorry they had just sold that one, then took me into the barn where there were 3 more gathering dust. Later we drove up to their hill farm, where the lack of electricity meant their JD flywheel was still used to pump water for the cattle, one spin and it was popping away. A few years later, my grandfather died, and poking around his old farm place, found a JD 1.5 horse sitting out in the grove. With some help we loaded it up, got it home, and in a couple of weeks, got it unstuck, talk about wear. The engine was bought new on that place, and had sat for close to 20 years, been submerged in the flood of 52, and the valves were almost rusted away. At the time, didn't see anyway of making the valves or head work again. Then a neighbor mentioned he'd left a JD at his old place, ten years before. I drove out there in the rain, and right next to the foundation of a barn that had burnt, sat the JD 1.5hp. It was a real struggle to get it into the truck, as the skid was rotted away. Got it freed up but the valves were rusted on it too. Got broke and hungry and had to sell them both some time back. -- John


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