Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jinxing Things

I have an old, reliable, two-cycle-engine, single-stage snowthrower that doesn’t owe me a dime. It’s hopelessly inadequate for the jobs I ask it to do, but it has never failed me, and I’ve never spent a cent on maintenance. Every winter I test-fire it when the first snow is forecast; every year it fires right up and runs like a charm, and this year is lucky 13.

Last year, when we had that huge storm December 8th and 9th, my little single-stage 21-inch-swath snowthrower chugged through two-foot drifts like a champion. I’d run it into the drift, let it take a bite of the snow and toss it aside, and run it into the drift again, until I’d beaten a path through it. 18 inches of snow fell during that storm last year, and my little champion, which was designed for about a 4-inch snowfall, handled it with aplomb, asking only for another tankful of gas half-way through the long job.

I don’t even know what company sold this machine. Along about the 8th or 9th winter it dealt with, the stick-on decals fell off. The plaque riveted to the body of the thing says it was manufactured by some outfit called “Murray” in Jackson, TN, and the engine is a Tecumseh. I know that we bought it at Menards the first winter we lived in this house, 1998, and that we paid $300 bucks (give or take) for it, opting (wisely, as it turned out) for the fancy electric start feature. I did a quick check and similar models now go for well over twice that price.

Plug it in, prime it with a few pushes on the big rubber thingy, set the choke to “FULL”, turn the key to the ON position, press the “START” button, and it roars to life. Disconnect the power cord and fiddle with the choke a bit after it’s been running about 30 seconds, and you’re off and running. I haven’t even changed the spark plug. The thing just keeps running. I’ve even stopped measuring how much two-cycle oil I add to the gas. When the gallon can that holds the two-cycle mix is empty, I just fill it up with gas and pour in a healthy dollop of two-cycle oil. The machine never complains.

I know, of course, that I have now completely jinxed things, and that the very next time it’s called into service it will puke up a rod or something similarly heinous and die right there on the spot. I’ll transfer a thousand bucks into the checking account and go shopping, right after old reliable has been given a decent memorial service.


  1. Umnnnh....

    "Murray" is now part of Briggs & Stratton b/c Murray owed B&S about a zillion dollars when they went banko (three?? years ago.)

    "Tecumseh" is history, too. They made damn good engines and small-power gear transmissions, but went BK about 2 (???) years ago.

    Dunno what happened to Tecumseh's assets, but last I heard, nobody wanted them.

    Best start accruing for a new 'thrower. Ariens or Simplicity/Snapper are good ones.

  2. I hope your loyal little Tecumseh has many Wisconsin winters left in it.

    Why does a company that makes good products for sale at fair prices not succeed? It's a rhetorical question.

    Tecumseh was snapped up in 2007 by a company called Platinum Equity LLC of Beverly Hills, California. As the name and location suggest, Platinum Equity is one of those leveraged-buyout outfits that manufacture wealth for investors without actually creating value.

    The company didn’t go away, it was simply carved into pieces and the least-profitable bits were discarded. Platinum says its “… in-house teams apply operational guidance and resources in order to maximize value.” As they say in the Foreign Legion, “March or die.”

    What’s left is now doing business as Tecumseh Products Company, a firm that mostly produces compressors for refrigeration systems.

    As for the engines … Here’s a direct snip from Wikipedia:

    In an interview published by The Janesville Gazette on February 10, 2009, Certified Parts Corporation President Jim Grafft said "that he plans to move the engine operation to Rock County, Wis., where he owns three facilities in Janesville and one in Edgerton, and will initially supply parts for TecumsehPower engines. Grafft also said that his company could eventually resume engine production, which Tecumseh Power ceased in December 2008."

    The quote is located here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tecumseh_Products

    Tecumsehpower.com – apparently the engine remnant – is located here: http://www.tecumsehpower.com/

  3. Well!

    FYI, "Platinum Resources" uses a lotta bucks from Hollywood stars. They also purchased Ryerson Steel--and denuded it of actual talent--a few years ago. At least Ryerson has several years' worth of orders from Oshkosh Truck.

    Imagine that! Babs Streisand profiting from the war effort...