The British are Coming

Relatively uncommon on our shores, Stuart Turner engines were once a marine engine mainstay in Britain.
Joseph Masters
August/September 2002
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In 1958, Stuart Turner Model P5M, serial number 57578, a single-cylinder 4 HP, two-stroke gas engine, was supplied as original equipment on my sailing boat Mist, a Cheoy Lee Pacific Clipper, also known locally as the Frisco Flyer. The Stuart Turner had developed a bad habit of stopping abruptly after several minutes of operation, and when the Mist went to the yard for a weeping keel bolt, ending up in classic wooden boat fashion with a complete 'keelectomy,' I decided a rebuild of the engine was in order.

Background

Cheoy Lee originally produced wooden commercial craft from a shipyard in Shanghai in the late 19th century, moving its operations to Hong Kong in 1936 where it still operates today, its primary product being large pleasure yachts.

My boat, Cheoy Lee ship number 722, Pacific Clipper #9, arrived in Richmond, Calif., in 1959 as deck cargo on a freighter from Hong Kong. Launched directly from the deck of the freighter with the mast unstepped, she was motored to Roland Reed Associates on the Oakland Embarcadero for commissioning. She was originally christened Betina and subsequently renamed Mist.

Stuart Turner Ltd. was incorporated in 1906, its first offerings consisting of model steam engines, lathes and small gas-powered engines for home light plants. In 1911 they introduced the Stuart Stella, a shaft-driven two-stroke, water-cooled motorcycle, and in 1919 they introduced their first two-stroke engine for stationary applications.

Single-cylinder 4 HP two-stroke Stuart Turner. In their heyday, Stuart Turner built thousands of these little engines every year. A twin-cylinder engine using many of the same internal parts was also made.

In 1928, the story goes, a Danish businessman asked Stuart Turner to build engines for pleasure boats, and so in 1929, with an order for 50 engines, Stuart Turner went into the marine engine business. From that time until the late 1930s Stuart Turner enjoyed a virtual monopoly on small marine engines in the UK market.

World War II saw the company turn its production to power generating plants for the military, but with the end of hostilities the company went back into the manufacture of marine engines. By the early 1950s, marine engine production reached 2,000 annually.

The Stuart Turner in its berth in Joe's 1958 Frisco Flyer. Billed as the Pacific Clipper by manufacturer Cheoy Lee, California agents for the boat marketed it as the Frisco Flyer.

Stuart Turner had other interests besides marine engines, and in fact was a pioneer in pump technology, introducing a specialized milk pumping system in the 1930s. Increasingly, Stuart Turner focused its attention on its pump manufacturing business, and by the 1960s its line of centrifugal pumps became its primary offering. By 1970 all marine engine production came to a halt as Stuart Turner concentrated its efforts on manufacturing pumps.

The Rebuild

John Phillips, a very skilled shipwright at Svenden's, did a great job with the boat, but I didn't want to burden him with the motor so I decided to dive in on my own. The rebuild was greatly simplified by the fact that Fairways Marine Engineers in Maiden, Essex, England has all necessary spares as well as unlimited patience. In addition to supplying me with needed bearings, piston rings, oil seals, gaskets, etc., Fairway threw in a complimentary tin of official 'Stewart Green' polyurethane paint, the proper color for my engine.

I am fortunate in having original manuals for the engine and magneto, and a detailed parts listing including wonderful drawings. Stuart Turner appears to have produced a 1-1/2 HP, a 4 HP and an 8 HP engine, the 8 HP being a two-cylinder version of the 4 HP and with many parts in common. It appears that Stuart Turner went from producing their own carburetors to fitting Amals, upgrading their horsepower ratings from 4 HP and 8 HP to 5 HP and 10 HP, respectively, with the shift to Amals.

The manuals are interesting in themselves, providing a great deal of practical advice. Under the heading of 'maintenance,' for example, the manual advises the owner: 'Keep the engine clean. Keep the exhaust system clear. Cleanliness is next to godliness - and also has a big influence on the reliability of your engine, especially as far as the petrol system is concerned.' The manual also provides exacting specifications on such things as proper torque values: 'Drive the nut up hard with ringspanner and hammer.' I think it would be hard to find a modern manual urging the reader to beat the motor!

A 1959 Stuart Turner petrol marine engine catalog describes the company and its engines:

'Stuart marine engines have long enjoyed (and we think deserved) a worldwide reputation for reliability, economy, simplicity and quietness of running; surely all the attributes of the perfect engine! We pride ourselves that we have come very close to achieving this perfection. This has been made possible by over 50 years experience in making engines and by our aim to produce the best possible engine for the price - our engines are not the cheapest on the market, but we do claim that they are the best obtainable in their modest price range.

'Each Stuart marine engine is supplied with a complex set of perfectly matched stern gear and installation equipment. This standard equipment meets nearly every installation requirement for small craft and it is only rarely necessary to supplement it. For exceptional requirements we can, of course, supply additional lengths of stern gear while we have a comprehensive range of special equipment and special propellers, to mention a few. One further point - our interest does not cease when a sale is made. We keep an independent record for every engine built and know of many that are still working heard after more than a quarter of a century's service.'

According to the catalog, the P5M weighed 235 pounds and sold for 115 British sterling (approximately $170 U.S.). Packing, shipment and delivery FOB English port was an additional 3 (approximately $4.50 US).

These really are wonderful motors. The P5M features interlocking throttle and gear controls, which cause the throttle to be closed to the slow running position when the gear lever is moved to the neutral position. This allows you to go from ahead directly into reverse (making a momentary pause in neutral to allow engine speed to drop to idle) and vice versa without concern of harming the engine or gearbox.

Delano Brothers Machine Shop - a third generation San Francisco business catering to the marine industry - fabricated a new bronze prop shaft and, over the years, has been invaluable to the upkeep of the sailing vessel Mist. Their contributions have included the creation of a wonderful, period throttle handle.

Rebuilding a motor in the dining room of a Pacific Heights apartment has, as you might imagine, certain practical limitations, and Alan at The Stable - a San Francisco-based independent Porsche garage - got me over a few critical hurdles. Alan dusted off a set of British Whitworth tools he has and fabricated a very deep, deep-well socket by splitting a standard socket and welding in an 8-inch long pipe insert. This was necessary to get at the nut securing the forward transmission cone, set back several inches on the output end of the crankshaft.

All in all, the rebuild took about two weeks from start to finish, and 'Sparky' has since been returned to her home of some 40 years under the cockpit sole, once again producing the signature puk-puk-pouk of the one-lunger. All in all it was a straight-forward process, and it was interesting to see that someone had been in there before, as I discovered the keyway on the crankshaft had been machined and a stepped key used for the flywheel.

Thanks in large measure to the efforts of Fairways Marine Engineers (www.fairwaysmarine.com), the Stuart Turner legacy lives on. In addition to stocking parts for Stuart Turners, Fairways has original records, drawings - even original patterns - and continues to manufacture hardware for Stuart Turner engines. As for Stuart Turner, the company remains in business to this day, still making pumps and still located in the same Market Place, Henley-on-Thames, England, location where they've been since 1906.

Contact engine enthusiast Joseph Masters at: URS Corp., 100 California St. 500, San Francisco, CA 94111.

The Frisco Flyer

When I first arrived at Svendsen's Boatworks in Alamada, Calif., Dave Wilson, the first person to look at the keel bolt, immediately produced an original Frisco Flyer sales brochures and kindly gave it to me. The brochure had been in Dave's personal archives since childhood, a memento from a boat show he and his father attended.

The brochure describes the boat as follows:

A real racing-cruising auxiliary. Built of 'lifetime' teakwood, this proven auxiliary is the answer to safety, low-cost, and all-around comfort, whether vacationing 'upriver,' day sailing in the bay or offshore cruising. Seaworthiness of the Frisco Flyerhull has been demonstrated on many occasions, one such occasion being 1956 when a single-handed voyage was made from England to the Virgin Islands to New York and returned to England. TheFrisco Flyerpossesses a lively turn of speed, and the deep, comfortable cockpit offers protection from the wind and spray. The cabin sleeps two, with an additional two easily accommodated in the cockpit.


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