It all started when visiting my mate Larry at Hilston, NSW, a small town north of the "Black Stump". Larry and Sue, also engine nuts, told me of their horror trip to recover a 15hp International 'Famous'. It was a trip of blown tyres, asthma attacks and the engine almost coming off the trailer. "No way am I going back to get the Cliff and Bunting" Larry vowed. This was when I pricked up my ears as I have a Cliff and Bunting hand chaffcutter. Cliff and Bunting were well known makers of chaffcutters in Australia but I hadn't heard of a Cliff and Bunting engine.
Some six months later I met them at the Echuca Steam Rally and Larry said he may sell the 15hp Famous, if I wanted the Cliff and Bunting and was silly enough to travel the approx. 400 miles to collect it. He had contacted the owner and I could have the Cliff and Bunting if I could find him an engine for his Honda motorbike.
This left me with two problems; how to find a Honda 100cc engine, and how to afford to get the Cliff and Bunting home. It was at this point I asked my son Shane to make a WANTED sign, carby for a 4hp. Sundex even though we had been told these carburettors were impossible to find as there were only 24 of the 4hp Sundex on Fred Mynard's Sunshine register. It seemed unlikely we would have success, but then almost immediately Alan Parkinson came along and said he had the carby we wanted. When I asked how much it was, he said he wanted to swap it for a governor for a coffin box Hornsby. This would be as hard to obtain as the carby, but I took his phone number in case I found one.
All the way home from Echuca I had this problem on my mind. On arriving home I rang Robin Knight, a fellow engine collector and mate who knows more about engines and where to find parts than most people I know. Yes, he did have a spare governor and when I asked the price he replied "Nothing, you can repay the favour one day". I then told him about the Cliff and Bunting engine and the 15hp Famous. Robin said "If you don't want the Famous I will buy it and bring the two engines home".
Len Hopcroft (left) and Larry Conner with the newly-rescued 8hp Cliff & Bunting.
Arriving back at Robinvale with the 15hp International Famous on the trailer and the Cliff & Bunting in the back of the pick-up truck.
My problems were nearly solved. Next day I saw Tony, a local who I remembered had a Honda 100cc. Yes, he said I could have it if I bought a muffler for his other Honda. I agreed to this and returned home to telephone the Honda dealer. I found that these mufflers were available but he would have to import one from Japan. I thought my luck must change soon, but the muffler did arrive in the three weeks quoted, and many phone calls later Robin arrived from Portland, a seven hour trip.
We left for Hilston at 5:30 am the next day. After a good trip across the Hay plains where you can travel for hours without seeing a tree, let alone a house, we picked up a Cooper vertical at Maude, a small town just before Hay. We arrived at Hilston at 11.30 am Larry told us to leave our sleeping bags in the truck, as, if it rained here we were going, we'd be staying there until it dried out. We then set off to where the Cliff and Bunting was located. The road soon turned to a track of black clay and I could see what Larry meant about the rain.
After travelling for a couple of hours we were only about halfway. The only thing to see was the track ahead and a row of telegraph poles. You could clearly see these following the curve of the earth. I gave up counting 'roos and emus; there were thousands of them. After about another twenty miles on two wheel tracks across what appeared to be a dry lake bed we arrived at the long abandoned homestead.
At last, there was the Cliff and Bunting with its transport wheels buried in years of drift sand. It was an ugly brute but we soon set about winching it onto the trailer. Other engines lying around the site included a 'M' type Lister with a removable head and kerosene carby, an Australian made Southern Cross that appeared to be a copy of the Lister, a Fuller & Johnson pump jack engine and the remains of a Sundiesel made by H.V. McKay, Australia.
I would have liked to have had these engines but we hadn't made arrangements with the owner, so had to leave them. We set off for Hilston and after one blowout and several near misses with kangaroos and cattle (most of the roads up there are not fenced and the stock wander on the roads at night) we arrived at Hilston at 9.30 pm - a long day.
After a good nights sleep we started early again. We had to remove the Cliff and Bunting from its transport and load it into the back of Robin's F-100 Truck. We then winched the Famous onto the trailer and the Cliff and Bunting transport was dismantled and stacked around the Famous. It was a heavy load.
Larry ran his beautifully restored Tangey for us while Sue and the family cooked up a BBQ. Later, as we headed for home, we found out just how heavy the load was. Over the next 250 miles we blew tyres at a steady rate. arriving home with only four wheels on a six wheeled trailer and all our spares used. It became another long trip. arriving home at 11.30pm.
Next day we unloaded the Cliff and Bunting and Robin purchased 4 new tyres before heading back to Portland, another long 7 hour trip for him. The things we do for rusty iron! I then started to check the Cliff and Bunting. The name plate read The C & B Heavy Duty Farm Engine, Manufactured by Cliff & Bunting. Melbourne. No. 382, 8hp 400 rpm.
The 8hp Cliff & Bunting, serial number 382, in its new home at Robinvale.
Amazing transformation - the same engine completely restored just three weeks later.
The engine is a Brons cup type diesel. 6 3/8" bore with a 9" stroke. It was fairly complete. missing the governor rod and decompressor lever. I have since made these up; and rebuilt the injector which was rusted.
The rings were fairly worn and after pricing a new set at over $600, I machined up 6 new rings from a D8 Caterpillar Dozer cylinder sleeve. I painted and assembled the engine and belted it up to a 4hp Sundial. A sniff of aerostart and lots of smoke later, she was going, approximately three weeks after the recovery. I have since found three other people who own 4 hp Cliff and Bunting engines, but I am yet to find another 8 hp or any history on Cliff and Bunting engines. Perhaps some readers may be able to help me.
* Len Hopcroft, Robinvale, Vic 3549, phone (03) 5026 3411, or email 'email@example.com'.