15 hp Foos Engine Put Back Together

A mammoth Foos engine found in pieces is restored to its original greatness

| November 1998

  • Mike Cartwright's 15 hp Foos gas engine
    Mike Cartwright's 15 hp Foos gas engine. The 270 RPM engine, built in 1903, made its first public appearance late last month at an Oklahoma show.
  • Mike's
    Mike's "basket case," as it was when he purchased it about four years ago. 
  • Mike (at right) and a friend, Glen Whitworth, fine-tuning the engine
    Mike (at right) and a friend, Glen Whitworth, fine-tuning the engine. The engine has been restored to its original dark green color. All of the wipe spark is brass; the counterweights are black.

  • Mike Cartwright's 15 hp Foos gas engine
  • Mike's
  • Mike (at right) and a friend, Glen Whitworth, fine-tuning the engine

When you see Mike Cartwright's 15 hp Foos engine Type S (with wipe spark ignition) on the show circuit, it may be hard to figure why he affectionately refers to the mammoth engine as his "basket case." But if you'd seen it when he first got his hands on it, you'd understand. 

"It was just in pieces on a trailer," he said. "Every piece, every bolt had been taken off."

The engine, which Mike said hadn't been run in at least 60 years, had been completely disassembled decades ago near Oklahoma City. Manufactured in 1903 in Springfield, Ohio, the Foos engine once powered a cotton gin. It showed signs of having been through a fire.

Restoration was no small undertaking.

"The cylinder was cracked, and had to be bored and sleeved," Mike said. "Jerry Abplanalp in Wichita did that work. Glen Whitworth (a friend with a home workshop in Tulsa) helped me a lot. One of the counterweights on the crankshaft was busted, so he machined two rings to put over the counterweights. They had to be heated and pressed on - that's the kind of tolerance it had to have. And then we had to use a forklift to lift the crankshaft up on the lathe."

And that was just the beginning.


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