Thirteen is not always an unlucky number. That’s how many years it took Milan Deprez of Sherwood, Wis., to gain ownership of his headless Fairbanks-Morse engine.
In August 1987, Milan says, he was displaying his engine collection at the Wisconsin Steam Engine Club Show in Chilton, Wis., when an elderly gentleman name Ruben Bloy stopped to visit. As an auto technician, Milan had worked on Ruben’s vehicles for years.
In the course of their conversation that day, Ruben mentioned he had a Fairbanks-Morse 1-1/2 hp headless engine. He wondered if Milan was interested in buying it. ‘Of course I said ‘Yes,” Milan recalls. He inquired about the cost and Ruben mentioned a price that was very reasonable at the time. He invited Milan to stop by and look at the engine, but asked him to call first.
‘Whenever I called,’ Milan says, ‘I was always told he wasn’t ready to sell yet, and after six or seven years of the same answer, I gave up and more or less forgot about it.’
Then in the spring of 2000, Milan went to a local farm auction and ran into Ruben again. ‘After a hello and some small talk, he asked if I was still interested in ‘that’ engine,’ Milan recalls. ‘Of course, I said yes again, and asked if the price was the same after 13 years. He said that it was – that he was a man of his word, but if I wanted it, I should pick it up that day.’
Milan did just that. He says he grew up using engines, and 25 years ago, started collecting and restoring them. Today, he also has a 5 hp Fairbanks-Morse, a 1-1/2 hp Lawson, a 1-1/2 hp John Deere E, and an 8 hp Sandwich that belonged to his grandfather, who operated a small sawmill, where Milan helped out as a boy.
Ruben reported his Fairbanks-Morse last ran in 1941, when it was used to mix concrete for the floor of a machine shed where it was stored after the job was finished.
The day Milan picked it up, the engine turned over, appeared almost complete and still was on its original factory cart. The only two items missing were the muffler and the crank guard; he later found the oiler in the hopper, under a lot of dirt.
After a complete disassembly, a good cleaning, new rings, paint and some minor magneto work done by Don Cross of Appleton, Wis., the engine is back together and running great. It will be on display Aug. 10 and 11 at the Chilton show, at the Calumet County, Wis., Fair grounds. FC
The Fairbanks-Morse last ran in 1941, when it was used to mix concrete for the floor of a machine shed.