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17-Engine "Mega Monster" Sounds Like A Jet Engine
A bet that he couldn't connect five lawn mower engines together was the beginning for Ken Ryan. It led to construction of a "mega motor monster" with 17 Briggs and Stratton engines, all running together. He rides in a sulky cart behind the unusual rig.
"People stare, and their jaws drop," he says. "I drive it at shows for fun, starting up and driving it once an hour or so. A lot of people don't realize at first that all of the engines are connected."
Connected they are, with 16 V-belts running from one to another via four jackshafts to a pulley on the gear driven transmission. Ryan starts one engine with its rope pull. With the aide of 9 manual clutches, three automatic clutches and three compression releases, the rest of the engines start up, either by themselves or in groups of two and, in one case, three at a time.
"I start one of the right rear engines and pull the hand clutch to start the next, which starts two and so on," he says. "It is just a series the way they start. If it is warmed up, I can go from one to all 17 in about 15 seconds."
All throttle controls, ignition and power drives are hooked together with toggle switches and a dead man's switch he wears on his wrist. "I have 35 controls in my operator area - clutches, chokes, compression releases, ignition shut offs. They are all right there," he says.
The engines are mounted on a home-built frame made with 1-in. channel iron boxed at certain areas for strength. He mounted a set of 6 by 12 duals at the center point of the frame. A set of tires picked up at a household auction is mounted rigid at the front end. The 6-forward, 3-reverse transmission was recycled from a 1953 walk behind Simplicity garden tractor. Ryan made disc brakes for the wheels.
To turn the 1,120-lb. vehicle, Ryan simply pushes down on the handlebars. "The balance has to be just right," he says. "If it is too heavy, it can't turn, and if it is too light, the front end picks up every time you hit the throttle."
Ryan says his engines if left stock would produce about 36 hp with their 124 cu. in. displacement. However, he admits he doesn't leave anything stock. With modifications and racing fuel, he estimates power at the wheel of about 50 hp.
"I have it geared down so it produces about 15 hp in high gear," he says.
Among the modifications was switching over to electronic ignition to eliminate excess vibration. He also runs rubber tubes from gas vents on the upper level of engine fuel tanks. They drain beneath the lower level of engines. That eliminates the danger of vibration induced gas spills dripping down on hot exhausts.
"With 17 gas engines, you have to be real careful about fire," he says. "I keep several fire extinguishers handy.
The toughest challenge in the entire project was figuring what order to start the engines. Once he figured that out, he simply follows it every time. Then he sits back and listens to the roar.
"It has 17 1 by 6-in. straight chrome pipes," he says. "It sounds like an aircraft engine. You'd never imagine these are Briggs and Stratton engines."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ken Ryan, 126 N. Fairview, Dover, Ohio 44622 (ph 330 343-7535).

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2007 - Volume #31, Issue #1