Rare and Early: Casey Jones, Dazzle Patch and Downes' Special

Wisconsin collector counts three rare engines at the heart of his collection.

 Rod Pletan with one of his rare engines, a Dazzle Patch, named for the offspring of the highly successful harness-racing horse, Dan Patch. Bill Vossler photo.

Rod Pletan grew up in the gas engine hobby, but he didn’t become a collector until he was in his thirties. “I had a coworker who knew that my dad, Kenneth, had a penchant for finding good deals at auctions,” he says. “He told me if we found any gas engines, we should buy them. He said he would pay for them, no matter how much they cost.”

In this front view of the Dazzle Patch engine, the head and top-mounted exhaust are shown. “Note the home-made governor system, a welded-on carburetor, and gas tank made from a soup can,” Rod says. “But the engine has run, using a new spark plug, gasoline and gas engine ingenuity.” Bill Vossler photo.

In late August 1970, Rod and his father went to a farm auction in St. Francis, Minnesota. “Along the garage were five gas engines, which surprised us, because they hadn’t been advertised,” he says. “So Dad bought all five.”

At home, Kenneth had second thoughts about selling the engines to Rod’s coworker and decided to keep them for himself. “Today, three of those engines are the prizes of our collection,” Rod says. “Well, two, because I sold one of them.”

Taking the labor out of show displays

For the next 10 years, Kenneth continued to buy engines, and he and Rod displayed them at shows. “We also planned to take them apart, get a sandblaster and start working on them,” Rod says. “But instead, to do any painting, we simply wire-brushed them first.” Kenneth enjoyed restoration work, and Rod liked painting and cleaning engines for shows.


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