Engine parts from long gone companies

Posted by Andrew Lydecker on

The last lot, discussed in the previous post, contains at least a half dozen distribution containers full of engine parts.  Since my day job requires me to travel, I often have lots of free time, so on this last trip I brought a couple of containers full of engine valves.  They were all in boxes of 2-12 valves, and had manufacturer names and part numbers.  Piece of cake.  Just look up the part number on the internet and get the application, right?




One container had boxes of valves from four different companies - Thompson Products, Sealed Power, Manley, and RMC (Rich Manufacturing Company).  I've heard of the first two. 

Thompson Products merged with the aerospace firm Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation in 1958 to form Thompson Ramo Wooldridge, later shortened to TRW.  But the problem with Thompson parts is, at some point, presumably after they became TRW, they revamped their part number system and unless you have a Thompson Products catalog, you have no reliable way to determine the applications of the various part numbers.  They are out there, though, and sometimes an internet search brings up an application and sometimes you find catalogs for sale.  Thompson parts are the least problematic in terms of looking up the part numbers.  They were a big company with a long history, and there is a lot of information out there. It's just a matter of finding it and piecing it together. In this particular example, a fairly extensive search for the part number VS422 did not reveal anything.

Now the next company, Sealed Power, is still in business.  They began life in 1912 in Muskegon, Michigan, as the Piston Ring Company.  They changed their name to Sealed Power in 1931.  By the 1950s, 80% of original equipment pistons and rings were supplied by Sealed Power.  In 1988, they changed their name again to SPX Corporation.

Sealed Power has a catalog of parts for vintage applications.  But again, like Thompson Products, at some point Sealed Power revamped their part number system, and unless you get lucky and find some information in an internet search, it's difficult to pair the part numbers with the applications.  But also like Thompson, Sealed Power printed a lot of catalogs, and these come up for sale on Ebay from time to time.  Still, I had a hard time finding applications for the number of SP parts I found in these two containers


Another company is RMC, or Rich Manufacturing Company.  The boxes give the location as Battle Creek, Michigan, and a quick internet search for Rich Manufacturing Company of Battle Creek brings up several pages on the George R. Rich Manufacturing Company, founded in 1903 to produce industrial tools.  In 1916 the name was changed to Clark Equipment Company - one those folks who have spent any time in a warehouse will recognize as a maker of forklifts.

The problem is, these boxes of RMC valves post date 1916 by a considerable amount of time.  So unless there was a subsidiary of Clark Equipment Company making engine valves into the 1960s, it's doubtful that we are talking about the same company. 

One other clue I ran into was an obituary for a Mr. Roy Core of Battle Creek Michigan, who passed away in 2000 at the age of 82.  The text of the obituary states that Mr. Core was a long time employee of Federal Mogul, which had formerly been called the Rich Manufacturing Company.  A quick search for the history of Federal Mogul located a page on Federal Mogul's own website detailing the history of the company - a history that did not include a change in name form RMC.  It did, however, indicate the acquisition of RMC around 1974.  Given that Federal Mogul and RMC were in the business of manufacturing automotive parts, my hunch is we have found our company. 

Now to complicate things further, in 1921, two brothers with the last name of Rich formed Rich Enterprises in Illinois and began making wooden delivery wagon bodies.  They branched out into childrens' toys in 1923 and in 1928 moved to Morrison, Illinois, and changed the name of the company to the Rich Manufacturing Company.  In 1929 they suffered a fire at their plant and the loss sent the company into bankruptcy.  After emerging from the process, they purchased the defunct Illinois Refrigeration Company, changing their name to Rich Illinois Manufacturing Company.  The company ceased operations in 1962 after a flood destroyed their facilities.

 So apparently, there were a lot of people named Rich who wanted to get into the manufacturing business in the early part of the 20th century.

 So history lesson aside, it's not really much help in terms of figuring out what engines these valves fit.  There seems to be very little out there in terms of part numbers and applications, and Federal Mogul part numbers bear very little resemblance to RMC numbers.  So, it's going to be a bit of work to find something out regarding the applications for these parts.  It would be a shame to toss them on the swap meet pile and sell them for pennies, as you can see they are in virtually new condition.

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