Charged by the Wind
(Page 3 of 4)
Difficult to come by
Show-goers ask many questions about the curious devices, he says. “A lot of people don’t know what Winchargers are, or what they do,” David adds. He’s happy to fill them in, sharing information he’s amassed over the 20 years he’s collected Winchargers. Among the things he’s learned: Collecting Winchargers isn’t a hobby for the person who needs instant gratification.
“This is one of those collections where you have to be very patient,” David says. “It's only been in the last five years that I’ve started to do much with them. They’re pretty hard to find. You may only find a couple of pieces a year. There aren't very many people who collect these, and there are a lot of people who have just one.”
If that one Wincharger is complete, he adds, it’s a real prize. “It normally takes two buys to make one working unit,” David says. “When you do find one, everybody’s looking for the same parts. Everybody wants props and governors.”
Occasionally, David locates a Wincharger that’s been stored in a barn. “Those are the ones in the best shape,” he says. “If they’ve been left outside, they’re pretty pitted, pretty weathered.”
Restoration begins with sandblasting, followed by the search for parts. Sometimes David finds substitutes for small parts, and every now and then he encounters New Old Stock parts. Basically, parts are in such short supply that the collector needs a strong start. “You want to buy the units as complete as you can,” David suggests.
Each Wincharger unit came with a propeller, air-cooled generator, autotype brake and instrument panel. The storage battery for the Wincharger came in a variety of forms — everything from an automotive battery or two, to high-capacity cells enclosed in heavy glass jars.
The 6-volt Wincharger was typically roof-mounted atop a black, four-legged tower. The 32-volt Wincharger was sometimes roof-mounted, but generally stood on a galvanized, three-legged tower high enough (anywhere from 40 to 80 feet) to clear obstructions like trees or buildings. That tower came in 10- and 20-foot sections, with a 5-foot topper.
David plans to return with his collection to Mt. Pleasant for the next show, Sept. 2-6, 2004. He enjoys telling the Wincharger story, and the chance to meet with other collectors. He’s even gained a bit of a reputation at the popular farm show, he notes with pleasure. “Two years ago,” David says, “a guy came up to my exhibit, and asked ‘OK: Who’s the Wincharger nut?’” FC