International Famous Budget Restoration

Len Hopcroft is a member of the Robinvale/Euston Vintage Machinery Society. Robinvale and Euston are small towns on the Murray River border of Victoria and New South Wales in Australia. The area produces mainly grapes, citrus, wheat and wool.

In the just over the first three years that Len has been a member of the society he and his son Shane have restored 28 engines! This is the story of one of them:

This is the tale of an 8hp International Famous restoration which started early in 1993 when I was talking to Mike Kingwill who operates a machine shop in Nhill (a town about 200 miles from Robinvale). Mike is also an engine enthusiast, well known for his cutting gear.

Mike mentioned that he had an 8hp International Famous for sale complete, except for the igniter, in fairly poor condition and with the piston well stuck. I lost no time in heading for Nhill and, after agreeing a price, returned home to survey the engine. When I started to dismantle my new treasure the first disaster I encountered was the main bearings. Years of water in the oil caps had rusted the crankshaft badly but the big end was good. Next when, after two days' work, I removed the head and pistons, things got even worse. Water had been in the cylinder for years and had rusted up to quarter of an inch deep.

Above: The finished restoration barely three months later.

Left: The 1911 8hp International Famous, serial number B2654, before restoration!

Sewer pipe cylinder liner

I couldn't afford to have the cylinder resleeved so I put the engine in my 'toohard' basket and moved on to cleaning up my scrap heap. During this clean-up I was about to throw away an old cast iron sewer pipe when I looked more carefully at the size of it and put it down. I got my calipers and found it measured about half an inch oversized and inside .040 under for the International Famous cylinder.

I then went to see Bert Knight, a retired engineer who used to run the local power station, operating such engines as an eight-cylinder Harland & Wolfe and Ruston Hornsbys.

I explained my problem to Bert and asked if it would be possible to make a cylinder liner from a sewer pipe. He thought we could try and was willing to help. This was good news because Bert owns a larger lathe than mine and this was needed. After inspecting the crankshaft Bert agreed that the way out was to machine down the main bearing jounals and sleeve it back to standard.

We decided to repair the crankshaft first. The shaft was machined, then the steel sleeve was made and shrunk on to the shaft. Bert machined it to .005 oversized to make up for the wear in the bronze bearings.

Next on to the cylinder lining. First I made a centre for the sewer pipe on my small lathe, then we set up Bert's lathe and, after many hours, we had a liner machined on the outside.

We planned to bore out the cylinder to take the liner on the lathe but the cylinder was too large, so it was off to Staube Engineering in Mildura who did an excellent job for me at a reasonable price.

I then found the liner a bit tight, so I honed the cylinder until the liner would almost go in by hand, gave it a coat of high temperature Loctite and pressed it in.

Honing for the perfect piston fit

Because there was only .040 on the inside to play with I machined the piston to .010 under and my son Shane and I honed the cylinder to fit the piston, using a deglazing hone. It took six-and-a-half hours, taking turns on the drill and when the drill ran hot we changed drills. It was sure hard to remove .030 this but way the result was a perfect fit.

DIY rings recipe

It was then time to make the rings. I used a cylinder liner from a Cummins truck. I don't know if this is the correct procedure for making rings but it works OK, as follows:

First machine a ring .030 oversize, cut with a hacksaw and wedge open with a steel wedge bolt between two ½ in plates and heat in a forge to a dull red and let it cool. Make a false cylinder .030 oversize and fit the ring and clamp in a closed position. Remove it from the false cylinder and machine to the size of the cylinder. It should then be a good sealing ring.

Getting it together

While all this was taking place I was given an igniter and then a Webster low tension magneto. Next came the paint job and construction of the petrol tank and cooling tower.

The engine was then assembled and started, approximately three months after the recovery trip.

The nameplate reads: "International Harvester eng. No B2654 8 h.p. R.P.M. 275"

I have now run it for many days and the cylinder and rings are working well.

Above: Bert Knight machining the 8hp Famous crankshaft.

Above: Bert making a cylinder liner for the 8hp Famous,
out of a cast iron sewer pipe.

Above: Len Hopcroft taking his turn on the
lathe to produce the sewer pipe cylinder.