1937 Ruston Hornsby PT Carrot Top -by Alan Cullen.
It was while I was exhibiting at a rally in Worcester, 12 years ago, in my early days as an engine enthusiast, that an unusual style of engine caught my eye. My wife Lynne, and I certainly felt it looked very different from a D-Type or the normal run-of-the-mill engine.
It was a Ruston & Hornsby PT Carrot Hopper and we decided that one day we would have one of our own. It was not exactly a burning ambition, because as time passed I gradually built up my collection to the point where it numbered six Ruston Hornsbys, without any Carrot Hopper.
Part 1 – The Acquisition
Then in November 2000, I spotted in the December issue of Stationary Engine, at the foot of page 36, an ad for a selection of engines, which included a Ruston Hornsby PT Carrot Hopper. I quickly made a phone call to discover from the owner that I was the first to ring up about that particular engine; it appeared that at that point no one else had spotted it, or wanted it.
The owner revealed his price, which I agreed to, subject to an inspection providing that all was well. The next day was a Saturday and a day that I was organising a club rally, but a good friend offered to take an empty trailer and the appropriate amount of cash and drive off to Huntington, to collect the engine (if it looked OK).
He checked it over for me and found that one or two parts were missing, but nothing too serious. It looked very original and there was no frost damage, so he bought it and fetched it back to East Grinstead. I was still in the middle of my Moffat-Virtue at the time, so the Carrot Top had to wait a few months.
All it got was a few re-sprays with Plus-Gas, until the following winter.
Part 2 – Assessment
Everywhere possible was full of sand or straw, from having been stored in a barn for over 25 years. The magneto was dead, the float and needle were missing, but a carburettor brass top and starting handle were part of the package.
On opening the crankcase door and checking inside, apart from the usual amount of crud and sludge in the crankcase I was amazed how sound the engine was considering it was over 64 years old and had been neglected for a long while.
Part 3 – Restoration Begins
Time had taken it’s toll, on the fuel tank in particular. Only three holes showed until a little pressure was applied to the thin metal walls. I was quite prepared to steam out the tank, prior to welding repair. However, there was absolutely no trace of petrol fumes, it hadn’t seen fuel for a least 25 years. So I was able to go ahead with the MIG-welder and weld some patches on to seal it all up. This operation was soon completed, so the next stage was to treat the inside with sealant. By this process I was at least able to keep the engine with it’s original fuel tank, although it would have been easier to throw it away and buy a new one. In general the restoration was not too serious: The carb was in good order, beneath the sand and muck. A new air baffle had to be made, a needle valve turned and PT float acquired (which was supplied by a club member). So after dismantling, it was a matter of cleaning the jets and pipes out. A good friend turned me a new exhaust valve, because the existing one was rather thin around the edges.
One snag was the removal of the key in the flywheel. At some time in it’s life someone had hammered in a square of metal instead of the correct key. So with careful use of a drill and some heat in the right place, the flywheel came off. While all this was happening the magneto parts were purchased and fitted. Ray Kings spun up a new copper cover for me, and to give it the right appearance I had it chromed.
I had a trolley that had been made for a Wolseley in the past, so I decided to mount the carrot top on it for the time being. I have not been able to find any drawings of this model with trolley dimensions, so until I do, the Wolseley trolley will have to suffice. The next task was to attack all the castings with a high-speed rotary wire brush and mask-up; all surfaces came up well. Two coats of red oxide were applied, each rubbed down between coats, two coats of Ray Hooley’s Chocolate Maroon paint was then applied by brush, this engine was obviously supplied ‘red’. Then to keep it properly dressed up, it was a case of bend up the fuel pipe and fit the transfers supplied by Ray Hooley. Although I have the original handle, I felt it wasn’t worth risking a whack in the chin, or worse, scratching the magneto cover. So I made a handle to fit on the other end of the crank. Much safer, just remember to make and wind it in reverse rotation (because it’s on the other side).
Part 4 – Successful Completion
At the end of the winter, with a little help from my friends in the way of parts and advice, and many hours of enjoyable work, I now own an engine that I have wanted for a long time.
It is not exactly the rarest engine around, although Ray Hooley only knows of 12 remaining, but it is certainly different. Incidentally, I am not only the proud possessor of an interesting engine, I also own a box containing just over four pounds in weight, of rubbish that i took out of it!! Seriously though this may not have been the most difficult engine to restore, but it must have been very well built 65 years ago. It has now been rallied three times since it’s debut and has not had any problems whatsoever.