Scratchbuilding a 1/8th scale Hicks Marine Gas Engine by Patrick Matthews
Visitors to San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf are likely to notice a small fleet of colorful "Monterey Clipper" fishing boats. But visitors in the 1930's would have seen scores of these boats in the same area, and most would have been rigged for catching dungeness crab, and not so much for catching the tourists' eyes.  Hicks01
The commonest form of these boats had a small cabin that was open to the back, and when you looked inside, you'd usually see a Hicks marine gas engine- a "one lunger", a make'n'break engine that was known for its "potato-potato-potato" exhaust note.
Hicks02_FWharf1936 Hicks03_WW2 Hicks04_inboardProfile
Jame L. Hicks was an Irish immigrant who found a home in The City in 1860. He was a machinist who moved into the sewing machine business, and who started dabbling with gasoline engines as early as 1896. By 1907 he was advertising his own marine gas engine, naturally called a "Hicks". The engine found success in the small boats of the mostly Italian immigrant fishing community. Photos here show a portion of the fleet at Fisherman's Wharf in 1936, and the fleet being "escorted" to the fishing grounds by the USCG during WW2. The escort was deemed necessary as the Italians weren't trusted by the government... and that's a whole other story...  Hicks05_inBoat
By 1918, at age 86, Hicks was finally able to sell his company and retire. The new owner, the Yuba manufacturing company, eventually moved production from San Francisco to their giant facility in Benicia, CA. Yuba made design changes over the years, but most of the engines looked like the one shown here, which also matches the 1926 engine which can be seen today on the Hyde Street Pier (part of the San Francisco Maritime Historic National Park).  Hicks09_HydeStPier
Yuba ended production of the engine in the 1940's during the war... probably due in part to depressed demand, and surely in part to the engine's obsolescence. The engine was a beast, weighing as much as 1700 pounds and making only 8HP. Lubrication was "total loss"- everything that got oiled merely dripped its oil into the sump. There's no telling how much of this oil was "recycled"! Speed was controlled not by a throttle, but by a lever that lifted the intake rocker arm. Spark timing was manually adjusted too, using a lever which affected the timing of the spark tripper rod on the right side of the engine. A significant upgrade was to add a generator, which merely rested its friction drive wheel on the flywheel rim. And kicking the flywheel over was the only way to start the engine. The engine also has an integral reverse gear set... forward/neutral/reverse are selected by the tall hand lever. Hicks06
Yuba's Hicks drawings have been lost to time. But a subcontractor who made parts for Yuba had a full set of drawings in his machine shop, and these were donated to the SF Maritime in the 90's. The drawings are blue prints, blue lines, and diazos made in the 20's and 30's, and bear all the evidence of being well-used on the machine shop floor. I was able to get usable cell phone photos of every print I needed to reproduce the engine as a 1:8 scale animated model. Hicks07

The parts were all modeled in CAD and modified as needed for model usage. 3D printing was used to make most of the parts, including the working gears the brass fittings. The brass parts were actually printed as waxes to be used in the "lost-wax" casting process. The largest such casting is the authentic Hicks-pattern "weed cutter" propeller. Other parts were photoetched, and additional parts were machined the old fashioned way.
Hicks10_PrintedFlywheel Hicks11_BedplateCylinderSupports Hicks12_HeadValveGear Hicks13_RevGears
Hicks14_PE Hicks15_MachiningWPumpRod Hicks16_Crank Hicks17_Parts
The model engine is driven by electric motor and chain from inside the display base; a self-made sound board plays an actual Hicks recording. It can be seen (and heard) in action by clicking the YouTube link on the right.

1:8 scale was chosen as it is a popular scale for Monterey Clipper R/C model boats. Any model of an early Monterey MUST have a visible Hicks engine, so I'm happy to help!

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More of Patrick Matthews's work.
Updated 5/15/2017