1921 1-1/2 HP IHC M that GEM purchased last October.
Upon attending my first engine show back in August 2007, I knew that the best way for me to truly understand what was behind the chug and puff of old engines was to get my hands dirty with one that I could work on. Fortunately, Editor-In-Chief Richard Backus was in total agreement as he, too, was interested in working on an engine.
We decided that we wanted to find a small horsepower engine that was complete but needed a little bit of work to get going. Our budget was small ($400), so we figured our best best would be to buy an engine at auction. Our plan of attack was to go the route of the common-man gas engine collector: We’d ask for tips from other collectors, buy parts from the advertisers you find in GEM, and then document the whole experience in the magazine and on this website.
And last October, everything seemed to fall into place as Conser Auction Services announced a public auction in Meriden, Kan. – just 20 minutes north of our Topeka homebase. The auction announcement listed several engines that seemed to fit into our parameters, most notably, a 1909 4 HP Ottawa on original trucks that was listed as “restorable.”
Upon arriving at the auction, we realized that our $400 wasn’t going to go too far. Most of the engines belonged to the heirs of the late Everett Bowen, and many of them were rare and in good, running condition. The rest, including the 4 HP Ottawa, were restorable, but needed much more work than Richard and I felt capable of doing. About to leave dejected, we spotted a 1921 1-1/2 HP IHC Model M that appeared to be barn fresh. We gave the flywheels a turn and found that it wasn’t stuck and had pretty good compression. Above all, it looked complete, and we decided that of all of the engines at the auction, this was the one for us. We also figured it would go for much more than $400, but we decided to place an absentee bid, just in case.
Three hours later, Richard got a phone call from Conser: We won the engine! And, even better, it only cost us $300! We’re still shocked that we got what appears to be an outstanding find for so cheap. I guess in the coming months, we’ll find out just how good a deal we got. Stay tuned!
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