A subject which comes up every so often on the ATIS internet mailing list is
just how much an engine should be restored, to a high-gloss, pin-striped perfection or left as much as possible
“as found”, with original paintwork. The following comments are a variety of opinions which surfaced during this
discussion, which just happened to have a most appropriate subject heading: “Engine Show Heaven”.
* I attended a small local show this weekend and got a neat treat today. A collector friend of mine brought
in his 1910 round rod 7-1/2 hp Galloway and a 1913 Gilson 6hp, both in original condition on their original horse
carts. He could not make it in to the show until late this afternoon, so he told me that these were mine to run
until he made it to the show. What an absolute treat to sit between these two beautiful, original, and smooth running
pieces of art!
As some have stated on occasion, the spectators seem to be drawn to the engines that are in their original working
clothes, and these were no exception.
* I believe that some of it is that the "rustys" look more like the mental image in many folks memories
of "the good old days". Growing up during the 40's and 50's I do not recall seeing that many shiny tractors.
Sure there were new ones being bought but most of those had to sit out in the weather and there were a lot of really
old ones in use too. Those were seldom repainted.
I can't recall ever seeing a clean shiny stationary engine running as a kid. I never saw one repainted until they
started being collected. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing the great restorations, engines and tractors both but
that isn't the memory picture most of us have.
* I will say that a really nice original "anything" is worthy of preserving and in fact should be preserved
in it's original condition as far as "finish" is concerned. I do however think that it should be put
into like new mechanical condition.
But! the showing of rusty broke down junk with homemade bailing wire repairs and non-correct retrofitted parts
is an act of showing disrespect to the original designers and the men that dedicated their lives to building these
tools. I will acknowledge that the "users" of these tools had to do what they could to keep them going,
but I see no excuse for a collector to not make the proper repairs.
11 of my fourteen stationary engines are in original finish, but every one of them is in top mechanical condition
with all of the correct parts. To me this hobby is not about "just make it run" it is about learning
the old ways, preserving it and making it work today. I am also one that does not feel driven to show engines doing
a job. I carry a display board with my engines that explains what they were used for, but all of these jobs are
still done today by electric motors, it's the engines that are the story, to me it has always been about the "Engines"
and making them run like new even if the are a 100 years old.
* I agree with you, with one exception. If these were "of necessity" farm repairs or modifications, then
they might be worth preserving to show folks what sometimes had to be done to keep these tools working in times
of tight money. BUT... If you're gonna do that, then THAT should be the focus of the display. Put up an info board
explaining the repair or modification, why it might have been done, what the cost of a proper repair might have
been, and what the "correct" configuration should be. Don't just exhibit a cobbled together engine with
I feel that both preserves an interesting part of engine history and shows respect to the craftsmen who designed
and built the old engines AND the tinkers and smiths who modified and repaired 'em.
* I have a 2 hp Monitor, built in 1915, and it is pretty close to being barn fresh. I made a couple of new pins
for the governor linkage and a new pushrod, gave it a quick and dirty valve job and run it like it is. I wanted
to do a full blown "trailer queen" restoration on it but it runs and I spend most of my time on big engines
and stuff in the engine shed at the club grounds. When the first show came around this year, I dug it out of the
shed and stuck it on an old set of trucks from a cement mixer, figuring it was temporary but easier to move. It
ran all weekend flawlessly and I got a lot of comments about how neat it was left original. My buddy told me how
good it looked on those trucks! I want to leave it this way and run it until it needs extensive
repairs. When it does, I suppose it will be blasted clean and the whole she-bang but I dread the thought of it.
It just won't be the same. This Monitor was the first engine I have bought in several years that actually would
run when I hauled it home. When it is left in the "unprettified" state, you can see what it really is,
warts and all. So much heartbreak can lurk under a little bondo and Krylon!
I like some of the old repairs, done when the thing was in use, as long as it runs good. Crude modifications look
pretty good, except when they are covered with new paint! Paint is only temporary but good repairs last a long
* May I just interject another view concerning preservation. I would say one of the only times a "different"
style of repair could be left alone is on a piece that has been in one's family since it was new, & has the
owner's kinfolk's "fingerprint" as it were, that is, a ding here, a dent there, or somewhat of a different
style of repair. The I-beam that holds the axle on my great-grandfather's Galloway saw rig is bent. I know that
either he or my grandfather did it, so it stayed that way when I restored it. The same will be true when I get
my grandfather's Allis WD running this winter. The fenders are dented up, but my grandfather did it, so they are
going to stay that way. If they had repaired something on them that wasn't quite kosher, I would be
inclined to leave it that way for the same reason.
* I get one heck of a kick out of some of the jerry-rigging that was done to keep an engine going.
* I can’t touch the nail in the intake on Granpa’s United .
* One of the most rewarding , and most difficult things are to repair and restore an as found engine and make it
all look a hunert years old and unrepaired . In fact its my favorite kind of engine .Trying to properly screw up
the new and or home made fasteners and replicating corrosion and patinas in iron is much more challenging than
antique furniture ever was .
* The only thing I take off the engines is any marking that was put on for the sale ( I sometimes get them at auction
and they paint #s and such on them with some kind of paint). I do just enough to get them running and that is it.
I figure the younger generation deserve to find one in semi original condition.
* Had to comment the "leave it like it is restoration". We all spend lots of hours and mega bucks dressing
these old engines up, when most of them really didn't look or were that well painted right from the factory.
* Personally, I like the "working clothes" look - it takes 80 to 100 years to achieve that.
BUT, whatever it looks like (and variety of restoration levels makes a show more interesting than if every engine
was perfectly original or beautifully restored), they should be RUNNING!
And on the subject of old repairs, it's interesting to note that in the general antiques market, the value of repaired
items used to be considerably less than those in perfect condition, but now the trend is changing as the ingenuity
of some repairs (and also the probable expense) is a good indicator of just how valuable the item was considered
to be at the time.
*As for level of or even whether to restore - I've read this thread with much interest - seems to me like we're
talking here more about people than machinery - more about what or whom is to be commemorated than the iron itself.
And that's reflected in the really great part of this hobby - it
ain't the iron - it's the people.
Doesn’t that just sum it up!!! This hobby attracts a huge variety of people and with that comes a diversity in
Once again, my thanks to Ted Brookover who saved this e-mail thread for me when my computer crashed. I don’t know
what subject I’ll find for next month’s article - right now there’s a lively discussion going on about whether
all crank handles should be melted down, or that they are the only correct way to start an engine.
If my calculations are correct, this article will be appearing in the December issue of GEM, so I’ll take this
opportunity to wish everyone all the best for the holiday season, and to look forward to another wonderful year
of restoring, running and showing engines.