Gade Engine Restored

Self-taught engine enthusiast restores rare, unique 4 HP Gade engine.

| December 2013

Dave Arnold was a city boy with a farm gene. “I’ve always been interested in engines and the mechanical life,” he says, “flying, working on airplanes and cars.”

But as a youth, he was told he couldn’t be a farmer. “In the ninth grade I wrote about becoming a farmer,” he recalls. “My teacher and high school counselor both said I couldn’t, because I was going to go to college and farmers didn’t need college. That’s a snapshot of how education viewed farming in 1955.”

Booking it

In the 1980s, when Dave attended his first threshing show, he marveled at the array of working antique machinery he saw there. Then working as marketing director for Motorbooks Inc., he looked for books on gasoline engines but found publishers had largely overlooked the category. So he opted to learn by doing. “I thought gasoline engines could be a neat hobby,” he says, “so I decided to learn as much as I could about antique stationary farm engines and tractors and steam engines.”

He found a good source in Hazel Magnuson, who continued to operate Yesteryear Farm in the Lindstrom, Minn., area, after the death of her husband, Denny. “Dennis was an auctioneer who brought home whatever was left from auctions in the 1950s-1970s,” Dave says. Dave visited the Magnuson farm many times to study equipment and learn about old iron, always traveling by motorcycle to appease Hazel, who worried that he might want to appropriate pieces from the collection.

Eventually Hazel decided to part with the collection and Dave bought seven gasoline engines from her. Using what he had learned, he went on to write three books on old iron: Vintage John Deere, The Iron Workhorse: American Gas Tractors and Steam Traction Engines, and Classic American Farm Gas Engines (with C.H. Wendel).

The gift of the Gade engine

One of the gas engines he bought from Hazel was an unknown. “Nobody knew what it was but I sensed it might be rare,” he says. “I took it out of the mud and brought it home in about 1985.” In the era before the Internet, Dave struggled to learn the engine’s identity. It turned out to be a 4 hp Gade engine built in about 1910, one of only nine of the low-base 4 hp Gades known to exist.