Old Iron Heritage

Minnesota man uses old iron to bring the past to life.

| November 2014

  • 1918 Waterloo Boy
    At least twice as large as tanks on comparable engines, the gas tank on Ray's 1918 Waterloo Boy is unusual.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Water-cooled Maytag
    This very rare water-cooled 1-cylinder Maytag may have been a prototype, built at a time when Maytag was branching into engines for other products besides washing machines.
    Photo courtesy Ray Smith
  • Water-cooled Maytag
    This very rare water-cooled 1-cylinder Maytag may have been a prototype, built at a time when Maytag was branching into engines for other products besides washing machines.
    Photo courtesy Ray Smith
  • Ray Smith with his gas engines
    Ray Smith amid a few of his gasoline engines, along with a couple from his late father's collection.
    Photo courtesy Ona Smith
  • Closeup of the 1918 Waterloo Boy
    The magneto on Ray's 1918 2 hp Waterloo Boy had been removed when he got the engine. A spark plug had been bored into the engine, but Ray put it back to its original magneto state.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • 1918 Waterloo Boy
    Ray's 1918 2 hp Waterloo Boy, built by Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co., Waterloo Iowa.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • An unusual Enduro engine
    Ray's unusual Enduro engine was originally used with a sewing machine in the harness shop — and Ray has the sewing machine it was paired with.
    Photo courtesy Ray Smith
  • Another view of the Enduro.
    Another view of the Enduro.
    Photo courtesy Ray Smith
  • Challenge engine
    Ray's 1-1/2 hp Challenge engine has water jacket cooling and a spark plug with a high-tension magneto. Serial no. 26825, this Challenge was probably built in the mid- to late-1920s by Challenge Co., Batavia, Ill. It has a 3-1/2-by-4-1/2-inch bore and stroke.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Robert Smith and a friend with their homemade iceboats
    As a youth, Ray's dad, Robert Smith (right), and a friend built a pair of iceboats (or ice sleds). One has a 1918 Harley-Davidson 61 engine; the other has a 4-cylinder Henderson — making them what might be called early, fan-powered snowmobiles. "They built everything from scratch," Ray says. "They whittled out wooden propellers and made a place to sit, like an airplane cockpit, with three runners."
    Photo courtesy Ray Smith
  • 1935 Harley-Davidson 74
    Ray has kept tabs on the 1935 Harley-Davidson 74 he restored years ago. It's passed through at least two additional owners and two restorations. This is how it currently looks.
    Photo courtesy Ray Smith
  • 1920s Cushman engine
    When Ray got this late 1920s Cushman 2-1/2 hp engine, its piston was stuck — a difficult proposition on a headless engine like this one.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • 1920s Cushman engine
    A back view of Ray's late 1920s Cushman 2-1/2 hp engine, built by Cushman Motor Works, Lincoln, Neb. With a diameter of 14-1/2 inches, the engine's flywheels are smaller than those on similar engines.
    Photo by Bill Vossler

  • 1918 Waterloo Boy
  • Water-cooled Maytag
  • Water-cooled Maytag
  • Ray Smith with his gas engines
  • Closeup of the 1918 Waterloo Boy
  • 1918 Waterloo Boy
  • An unusual Enduro engine
  • Another view of the Enduro.
  • Challenge engine
  • Robert Smith and a friend with their homemade iceboats
  • 1935 Harley-Davidson 74
  • 1920s Cushman engine
  • 1920s Cushman engine

Ray Smith has a clear understanding of antique gas engines. He knows what makes them run, he knows how to get parts made and he knows how to coax them back to life. He also knows how much the antiquated relics mean to an old timer.

And that’s what prompted him to load up a pair of engines he’d just restored and pay a social call on an elderly friend. But before he went to the door, he unloaded the engines onto his friend’s driveway and started them. Then he rang the doorbell and helped his friend out to the driveway, where the other man could see and hear engines that had once been his, running again.

“He was getting up in years, and wasn’t able to get around too much,” Ray says. “So he really appreciated what I’d done.”

A Harley as a starter project

Ray, who lives in Nicollet, Minnesota, has been around old iron much of his life. His uncle used an International Harvester Model M to pump water and his dad had an IH LA on an elevator.



But his first restoration project was a battered and burned Harley-Davidson motorcycle. At 15, Ray spotted the frame of a Harley leaning against a corncrib. The motorcycle — a 1935 Harley-Davidson 74 — had caught on fire and burned, but it looked like a prospect to Ray, who bought it and took it home.

When he began working on the Harley, all he had available was a 1912 Harley-Davidson single-cylinder engine. But it didn’t have enough power, so Ray gave the motorcycle’s original engine a second look. “The fire had melted the solder out of the gas tank,” he says, “but it didn’t destroy the engine, so I put that in.”



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