Display of Rare Aermotor Engines Turns Heads

Aermotor engines at Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

| June 2006

When nearly two dozen Aermotor gas engines turned up at last summer's Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, it was a rare treat for engine enthusiasts. A fairly rare line, Aermotor was the feature at the 2005 show. "It's not an everyday feature," says engine enthusiast and Barry Tuller, Three Way, Tenn.

Aermotor engines were manufactured by the same company that began producing steel windmills in the late 1800s. Based in Chicago, Aermotor built three basic engine styles: an 8-cycle, one-flywheel pumping engine; a fluted-hopper engine, available in 2-1/2 and 5 hp models; and a "sausage hopper" engine, available in 5 and 8 hp. Although each style is distinctive, the fluted-hopper engine is the one that really draws a crowd.

The unique hopper, crafted of galvanized steel, is more than a mere novelty. "The concept was that you could cool water faster if you had more surface area," Barry explains. The unusual design continues to set the Aermotor apart: The fluted-hopper would be tough to replicate today. "The tooling they used to make that hopper would have been incredible to see," he adds.

At last summer's show, the feature display included six fluted-hopper engines, another set up as a pump engine with a cover where the hopper would have been, and several 8-cycle engines. The 8-cycle pumping engine is the most common engine in the line, Barry says, and was probably the Aermotor with the longest production run. The "sausage hopper" remains a scarce find (none were displayed at Mt. Pleasant last summer).

Aermotors are not only unique; they're solid. "They're exceptionally well built engines," says engine collector Mark Churchill, Coon Rapids, Minn., who showed his 2-1/2 hp fluted-hopper model at Mt. Pleasant. "They used great materials and great workmanship." Thirty-six years ago, as a junior in high school, Mark launched his engine collection with purchase of that Aermotor. Every new collector should be as lucky. "At the time, I didn't know what an Aermotor was," he recalls, "except that it was strange looking."

Mark's parents, though, were not keen on his acquisition. When Mark made clear his desire to attend an auction to buy the engine, his father attempted diversionary tactics familiar to parents everywhere. So the 17-year-old set off to his first auction on his own, bid without a number, and got the Aermotor for $75. "I would have gone to $100," he says now. Returning home with his treasure, he encountered the full force of his mother's wrath at his purchase of "an old piece of junk." Happily, a knock at the door silenced the scolding.