Out of the Ordinary: 8 HP Olds Engine
By Steve Traub
Bored with the usual engines, one lucky collector acquires a complete 8 HP Olds from a Missouri museum.
Olds No. 5 Type A
Manufacturer: Seager Engine Works, Lansing, Mich.
Year: Circa 1910
Shop number: 50158
Weight: 1,700 pounds
Ignition: High-tension magneto
Patent dates: Sept. 25, 1906; April 6, 1909
After several years of collecting the more common engines — Fairbanks-Morse, Witte, John Deere, McCormick-Deering, Economy, etc. — I thought it would be fun to find something uncommon for a change. In 2004, while touring a mid-Missouri museum, I saw an 8 HP Olds engine in a small blacksmith display. You actually had to look through a little window to see it. Even though it was fairly dark inside, I could see it was a very complete engine.
I happened to be acquainted with someone who worked at the museum so I asked him what he knew about the engine. He said it had been there for years and he didn’t know much, but offered to make some inquiries. When I contacted him a few weeks later he couldn’t tell me if the engine belonged to the museum or was on loan.
Later I heard the museum had been sold so I contacted the new owner and he indicated that he was taking the museum in a different direction and would be willing to sell the Olds. Now I started getting nervous — thinking I was at the end of a long line of interested buyers. When I next spoke to him he said the engine had not been part of the sale, but was privately owned and had been removed from the museum.
After a bit of detective work I found the owner. When I called to see if he would sell the engine I was surprised to find I was the only person who had expressed any interest in it. We agreed to meet and discuss price. It wasn’t cheap, but I did say I wanted something uncommon.
The engine had all-original gray paint and decals, and the Webster high-tension magneto was still mounted and had good spark. Having been in the museum for about 25 years, it had not been run, but was remarkably intact. The engine was not stuck, but was very dry and hard to turn. We agreed on a price and loaded the 1,700-pound engine on my trailer. I was about to leave when he mentioned a toolbox that went with it. I glanced inside and saw some valves and gaskets, but didn’t pay much attention to it.
When I got home I looked a little deeper into the toolbox and found used valves, new gaskets, copper O-rings, damming blocks for pouring the main bearings and old tools. Also inside was a new, unused plate that bolts in place of the large water hopper so piped water could be used, and a new, unused bottom plate for the cylinder water jacket. I found some of the original paper tags that were on the engine when it was delivered new. One tag has a cork still wired to it and reads, “Remove this plug, screw spark plug in here and attach large battery wire to it.” Another says, “This is the gasoline needle valve. Open 2 turns at start, then close to about 1-1/2 turns.” Two other tags were for the cylinder lubricator and grease cup.
I took a couple of weeks to familiarize myself with the engine and came up with a plan of restoration. After I made sure everything was oiled and operated easily, I shot some gas into the carburetor and it started easily. I then decided to completely disassemble it and see exactly what it needed.
After disassembly I cleaned the hopper, block and base with a rag and cheap paint thinner. I used a fine wire cup brush on a small air grinder that I adjusted to run at low speed to clean in tight areas and also for all the small parts. This cleaned but did not damage the paint. I found the wrist pin very worn and had a local machine shop make a new one and also make and install a new wrist pin bushing in the connecting rod. I ordered new piston rings from Hit & Miss Enterprises in Orwell, Ohio.
The connecting rod and main bearings were still in very good condition. I used some of the copper O-rings found in the old toolbox for the valve cages and the exhaust pipe seals. Evidently it had been well-lubed as there was little other wear in the engine. A corner was broken off the base when it was moved to the museum, but the piece was still with it and a local weld shop was able to reattach it.
I reassembled the engine and with just a couple of small adjustments it ran perfectly. I found a cart at a neighboring farm that was in good condition and just needed cleaning. I used a piece of 4-by-6 oak on each side to mount the engine. The wooden tongue was rotted away so I used a metal tongue from an old Papec silage blower. With a few small modifications it works great. I’ve treated the cart with a rust inhibitor until I decide on a color.
The former owner bought the engine from a North Dakota blacksmith shop where it ran a line shaft attached to several pieces of equipment. It then came to mid-Missouri and soon went into the museum where I first saw it.
I’ve taken it to some local engine shows and the Olds has been very well-received as these engines are quite rare in this area. I’ve added a 2-foot brass pipe to the exhaust to help keep the noise down as the original muffler was quite loud. The Webster high-tension magneto finally gave out and I now have the engine running on a battery and buzz coil. I delivered the mag to Mark’s Magneto Service when I attended the Portland show and hope to have it back soon.
Contact Steve Traub at 2462 Lone Grove School Road, Owensville, MO 65066 • (573) 764-2812
Check out previously unseen photos of Olds Gas Engines in Vintage Photos of the Olds Gas Engine Works.