Engine Spark Plug Collection

How Mike Healy's gas engine became a diverse spark plug collection.

| April 2006

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 rural areas."

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."