Scratch-Built One-Off Wonders

Iowa man shows his skills by making full-sized scratch-built gasoline engines

| August 2012

In the world of old iron, Mark Goesch is a unique guy. The Sioux Center, Iowa, man builds gasoline engines from scratch — but they’re not miniatures. They’re full-size gasoline engines.

Even more unique, Mark doesn’t use blueprints. “Without blueprints, I need something to fall back on, so I use my memory,” he says. “I only build an engine if I can close my eyes and see it. If I can’t see it, I can’t build it. I close my eyes and my inner vision sees the engine in detail. Like looking at a picture or a bright object. When you close your eyes, you see that object, but I see the engine in detail.”

Catalyst close to home

Mark’s father, Wilbur, was a machinist. That skill and interest spilled over to Mark, who also works as a machinist. “My dad was into old stuff, so as a kid I had some wheels and axles from old hay sweeps and pump rakes,” he recalls. “I put them together with plywood pieces, pushed them up a hill and let them roll down. As I got older, I wanted to build something useful. Miniature builders are very, very talented people who don’t get the recognition they deserve, but I wanted to build something that would be more useful than a miniature.”

Mark’s family’s first farm engine was a 6 hp Fairbanks-Morse bought from the grandson of the original purchaser. “It had pumped water in southwest South Dakota for years,” he says. After restoring it, Mark figured he could just as well build an engine. Most restorers wouldn’t think that way, but his background gave him a unique perspective. Since then, Mark has scratch-built four full-size gasoline engines and a dynamometer.

The first scratch-built project

Mark’s first engine was modeled on the 6 hp Fairbanks-Morse he remembers from his boyhood on the farm. But it’s not an exact replica. “I used to drag race, so I like to modify things,” he explains. “I built the block and was building the crankshaft, and decided to increase the stroke by a half-inch. I thought I only had to lengthen the crankshaft. But I discovered the counterweight struck the block, so I had to modify it, notching out spots to allow counterweight clearance.” He named his 5 hp creation the Goesch in honor of his father, who wore a cap with the same moniker.

Single-cylinder opposed

A year later, in 2005, Mark tackled a 2 piston, 1-cylinder opposed engine. “I built it as a technical exercise, something I dreamed up that doesn’t really relate to another engine,” he says. “The pistons come together and when the gasoline fires, the pistons are pushed apart, so it required two cranks that run with one or both pistons.”