California Pioneer

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6 hp Bean engine

Don ‘Wiley Coyote’ Wiley of Riverside, Calif., describes his Bean engine as ‘kind of a rare bird.’ He bought it 10 years ago at a Branch 30 swap meet purely to keep another guy from taking it home.

Today, though, the rarity of the Bean, which Don thinks probably was made in the 1920s or ’30s, makes .him happy he indulged in its purchase.

‘Out here,’ he notes, referring to California, ‘I only know of one other in existence, and it’s not in very good shape.’

What is common and called a ‘Bean’ in California are spray pumps used in citrus groves. The Bean Spray Pump Co. of San Jose built high-pressure sprayer rigs that growers have been using for more than 100 years.

The Bean engine originally was made to power these high-pressure rigs, Don says, but most of those rigs ended up being equipped with Novo engines. He speculates that’s because the Bean engines proved too costly to build.

‘This engine is really overbuilt,’ he says. ‘Most (engines) are more like a tea kettle, but this is a closed system, like a car. They spent so much money on them, the engines weren’t economical.’

It has an external water pump to circulate water, which Don explains is very unusual on such a small engine, and its flywheel does double duty as the radiator fan.

The original Bean Spray Pump Co. eventually turned into FMC Technologies, Inc., which today offers a bit of historical information about Bean on its Web site. John Bean is reported to have invented a continuous spray pump in the 1880s to battle scale in his California almond orchards. When neighboring growers wanted their own spray pumps, a new business was born.

At the turn of the century, Bean’s son-in-law, David Crummey, incorporated the company and began large-scale manufacturing. By the 1920s, mergers with makers of food processing equipment prompted a name change to Food Machinery Corp., and by the mid-19305, FMC claims it had become the world’s largest manufacturer of machinery and equipment for handling fruits, vegetables, milk, fish and meat products.

World War II prompted FMC’s diversification, first into the manufacture of military machinery and later, into chemical and petroleum equipment. In the 1970s, corporate headquarters moved to Chicago, and in 2000, the company restructured into a machinery business, FMC Technologies, and a chemicals business, FMC Corporation.

C.H. Wendel’s American Gasoline Engines Since 1872 makes a brief reference to the Bean engine. According to Wendel, Bean Spray Pump Co. had factories in both San Jose and Lansing, Mich.

‘It would appear that Bean engines were actually built at the San Jose plant under the supervision of E.B. Cushman, formerly of the Cushman Motor Company,’ Wendel reports. ‘The design is nearly identical to that concurrently built by Collis Engine Company of Clinton, Iowa.’

He notes the Novo Engine Co. also was formed in Lansing, in 1912.

The only other tidbit of information in Wendel’s book is on the engine illustration used with the Bean entry. It reads that Bean 4 and 6 hp engines were equipped with Pinion Wico Magnetos and Air Cleaners.

When Don brought his Bean home, it already was in good order. ‘Really other than overhauling the radiator and magneto, I didn’t do anything,’ he recalls. ‘It just needed cleaning.’

‘Machine grey’ is the original color, he said, but the original lettering may or may not have been red. Don’s red lettering, nevertheless, goes very nicely with the truck he built for the engine, so he could take it to shows.

Slightly redesigned by Don from the normal-style truck, this one has dual hind tires to help carry the engine’s weight, and a wider stance, so it won’t tip over.

This year Don is planning to haul the Bean to the two annual antique engine and tractor shows in June and October at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum in Vista, Calif. He’ll put it to work powering a vintage corn grinder.

‘I’ve got a nice grinder with a shaker on the bottom,’ he said. ‘People just love that cornmeal.’

Don says it’s not every year his Bean gets to go ‘on the road’ because he has some 50 vintage engines, 50 vintage tractors and quite a cache of other old pieces of equipment from which to choose for show going.

A Kansas City native, he says he started collecting when vintage equipment was ‘cheap’ and now has contracted ‘collecting fever.’

A friend who lives in Des Moines has been on the lookout for years, tipping Don off to rare finds coming on the market.

‘I’ve hauled a lot to California,’ Don says. ‘I’ve got my own museum out here.’

Among his most-prized pieces are three Sears, Roebuck & Co. Economy tractors, dating to 1938 or ’39; a 1930s Thieman Brothers tractor; two Fordsons, a 1918 and a 1920, and a 1930 Case, of which he is only the second owner.

The Economy, Don says, is one of fewer than 500 ever built. ‘It’s not a kit,’ he adds. ‘This is a full tractor. It uses a Model A engine.’ And of the Thieman: He was lucky enough to talk with one of the Thieman brothers, who was then in his 80s. From him, Don learned the company went out of business during World War II because of the steel shortage but when in operation, manufactured just two products: the tractors and steel burial vaults.

Don reports a full compliment of the Caterpillar number series – ‘That’s my favorite’ – and such engines as a 3-1/2 hp Jaeger, several Cushman Cubs and a Farm Master, also made by Sears.

– For more information on Don’s Bean engine, contact him at (909) 788-8154 or (909) 733-8154.


Don Wiley plans to have his Bean engine at the Vista, Calif., Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum’s 2002 antique engine and tractor shows. The shows are June 15-16 and June 22-23 and Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26-27 at the museum, 2040 N. Santa Fe Ave., Vista, CA 92083; (800) 587-2286;

Farm Collector Magazine
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