Engine Sparks Plug Collection
Above: The One Point spark plug. The maker intended the center electron to fire off of the top of the piston as it came up to the top of the cylinder. “I don’t believe this was a very successful plug,” says collector Mike Healy.
When Mike Healy bought a Monitor pump engine
more than 30 years ago, he thought he was starting a collection of
gas engines. But that 1-1/4 Monitor turned out to be an incubator
for another collection: vintage spark plugs.
As a boy, Mike regularly joined his family on visits to steam
shows in Missouri. By the time he was 14, he was completely
captivated by vintage iron. "I can remember the first time I really
got hooked on gas engines," he says. "It was on a visit to my
uncle's house. Up on a shelf in the shed was a small Briggs &
Stratton engine. My uncle and dad started it and told stories about
how it ran the washing machines before electricity was available in
In 1973, he bought his first engine (the 1-1/4 hp Monitor) at an
auction. The engine appeared to be in good condition, and even had
traces of original paint. Buoyed by encouragement from veteran
collectors also at the auction, Mike recalls, "I was one happy
19-year-old driving home that day."
When he got home, one of the first things he did was check the
Monitor's ignition. "I still remember, to this day, the spark plug
in that engine," he says. "It was a Champion. I removed it and
cleaned it. It intrigued me that you could take the plug apart to
clean the core. It was nothing like the spark plug that was in the
lawn mower. "Before long, extra plugs he'd find here or there began
to take up residence on a shelf in the shed. Ah, for the good old
days: "At that time I could still buy a Champion A-25 spark plug at
the local NAPA parts store," Mike reminisces.
As his engine collection grew, so did his interest in the spark
plugs that came with them. "Before long," he says, "I learned many
engines ran better on good old-stock plugs than the ones I was
getting from the parts store."
Portland meet seals the deal
That casual interest broke wide open on his first visit to the
Tri-State Gas Engine and Tractor Show in Portland, Ind., where he
stumbled on to the Spark Plug Collectors of America (SPCOA)
display. "I was amazed by all the different names and shapes of the
plugs," he says. "Some were even in their original boxes!" Portland
fast became a regular stop on his show schedule, and before he knew
it, Mike was an official collector. "At the 1993 show, I was in the
process of buying a spark plug from SPCOA founder Bill Bond when he
told me not to buy the plug, but to use the money to join the club
instead." Nearly 15 years later, Mike and his wife, Janet, continue
to enjoy their affiliation with the organization, which has a
membership of nearly 300. "We are very active in the club and I'm
editor of the club magazine, The Ignitor, and serve on the
board of directors."
As with many collector organizations, SPCOA serves as a
clearinghouse of information. "The education, especially what you
get through the magazine, is a big resource," Mike says. The group
holds three meets each year (Portland, Hershey, Pa., and Le Sueur,
Minn.) and a "Winter Plug Fix" in New Jersey. Although the Healys
get most of their plugs from other collectors and at swap meets,
the club's real appeal, they say, is the people. "We love the
fellowship," Janet says. "It's such a great group of people."
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