The Cushman Engine Connection

Maker of the legendary Cushman "binder" engine featured at Mt. Pleasant show.


| August 2016



Antique Farm Motor

Bud Kaufman’s 15 hp Model 56 Cushman was originally restored by C.H. Wendel. Once owned by Jim Brown and Scott Cushman, the engine today wears its original restoration. Legend among collectors suggests the engine was used in a traveling circus at one time.

Photo by Leslie C. McManus

Galen Perron has been fascinated by Cushman engines since he was a boy of 9 or 10. Initially, he was like the kid in the candy shop, bedazzled by the variety. “There were so many different models and types,” he says. “And they were on everything, from lawnmowers to scooters.”

Eventually though, it was the line’s innovation that reeled him in. “Cushman was way ahead of their time,” he says. “Their competitors’ engines were much heavier. Cushman used lighter castings. They were innovative in a lot of ways. They were always making changes to the engines to make them better. Like the way the valves were configured: Cushman had them in line with each other. Normally you only see that on really high-price engines.” 

Hooked, Galen began building a collection at age 12. His first engine: a 4 hp Cushman Cub. Today, the Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, man’s 50-piece collection is limited to Cushman pieces.

Cushman’s “Binder” Engine

Cushman was the featured engine line at the 2015 Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant. As a hometown boy, Galen was there with a selection of his engines, including a couple of 4 hp Model C engines and a 5 hp Model 1B2. The older of the Model C engines is a rare piece predating 1911. “This one has an embossed head,” he says. “The embossed head engines were only built for about 18 months, from 1909 to 1911.” 

The 4 hp vertical Cushman was commonly referred to as a “binder engine.” The engine was equipped with a combination cone clutch and belt pulley, notes C.H. Wendel in American Gasoline Engines Since 1872. “A chain sprocket mounted behind the pulley was intended for operating grain binders, thus the term ‘binder engine,’” Wendel explains.

Galen’s pre-1911 Model C was already restored when he bought it at an auction. He believes it to have been a local engine. “It was probably used on farm equipment like a binder or a potato digger,” he says. “It’ll run at 850 hp.”