Engine Spark Plug Collection

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

| April 2006

  • One Point spark plug
    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.
  • One Point spark plug
    A Maco dual priming plug, typical of those often used on early fire trucks. When the petcock on the plug’s side was opened, gas was put in for priming. A primer line on the other side of the plug connected it to the vehicle’s cylinders. A pump on the dash was then used to get fuel to all cylinders simultaneously, allowing quick starts.
  • Janet Mike Healy
    Janet and Mike Healy at a summer 2005 show, with a small sampling of their spark plug collection. The two are avid collectors, and active members of the Spark Plug Collectors of America.
  • Clean point plug
    A Clean Point plug, featuring a baby blue porcelain core with black lettering and arrow. The Clean Point was designed with a loose ball in the center electrode advertised to resist carbon build-up. While sifting through boxes at a farm auction, Mike Healy found the plug, which was wrapped in string. It apparently had been used on the farm as a plumb bob.
  • Clean point plug
    A Dave’s Hole in the Wall plug.
  • Clean point plug
    During the early 1920s, the Barney Google comic strip featured a horse named “Spark Plug.” Door-to-door salesmen reportedly sold a Barney Google plug with a small check ball mounted in the side of the plug base. The selling point, besides the name, was the fact that the ball allowed air into the plug, keeping the electrode clean and the plug cool.
  • Helmet plugs
    Ball and J.P. Helmet plugs.
  • Helmet plugs
    Fire-A-Ford spark plug.
  • Helmet plugs
    Double Head spark plug.
  • Helmet plugs
    Maytag Twin, Single and 82D spark plugs.
  • Helmet plugs
    Nine Lives spark plug.
  • Missouri
    Missouri

  • One Point spark plug
  • One Point spark plug
  • Janet Mike Healy
  • Clean point plug
  • Clean point plug
  • Clean point plug
  • Helmet plugs
  • Helmet plugs
  • Helmet plugs
  • Helmet plugs
  • Helmet plugs
  • Missouri

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."