Fairbanks-Morse V-twin Diesel

In 1939 Fairbanks-Morse Started Limited Production of a V-twin Diesel - So Limited They Forgot the Engine Existed

Model 45

The Model 45 appears very well-engineered, with stout castings and a compact profile.

Content Tools

I like all kinds of engines, but old i diesels arouse a particular interest with me. I don't know why, they just do. I once told my wife if there were an aftershave lotion that smelled like diesel exhaust, I would probably buy some. Maybe that's a clue.

Every now and then I drag out old issues of Gas Engine Magazine and go through a few. You never know what you might have missed, and one day while reading through the March 1988 issue I ran across a short article and accompanying photo of a unique two-cylinder Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine. As it had the first time I read the article, the engine caught my attention, but this time was different.

That engine stayed on my mind for quite a while, so one day I called the owner identified in the article. He lived in Vermont, and as luck would have it, he sold the engine a short time after purchasing it. He remembered, however, the name of the person he had sold it to, so I tracked down the next owner. He had also sold the engine, but could not remember to whom. Dead end. All I knew then was that the engine was still very likely somewhere in Vermont. My interest faded.

Rekindling the Flame

A couple years later I was browsing the classified ads on Harry's Old Engine Web site, a frequent practice for me. Since I don't collect marine engines I rarely read the Marine Engine Ads section, but that night I did. Looking through the ads, I immediately spotted a listing for a 'Fairbanks Marine Diesel Engine.' The ad description provided little detail, but it did say 'two cylinder,' and the seller was from Vermont! I immediately called him, and his description of the engine confirmed he had either the same engine described in the March 1988 issue or one just like it.

The engine's seller operated a classic car automotive restoration and repair business, and the engine's previous owner had bartered the engine for some automotive repairs. Over the course of the next few days we made a deal, and I arranged to pick up the engine in Vermont a few weeks later. I live in neighboring New York, so Vermont isn't far away. This was in September.

My wife and I  make a habit of driving through central New York and Vermont during the fall foliage season in mid-October. Columbus Day weekend is a favorite time of mine, as the long weekend and the many local harvest festivals in both states add to the enjoyment. The country foods, fresh apple cider and splendid fall colors lift the spirits.

On a beautiful, crisp and sunny October morning, I showed up at the owner's business and loaded the engine in my truck. With the engine safely loaded I was ready to head for home, but the sunny weather and fall colors were too much to ignore, so my wife and I spent a nice weekend in Vermont.

Once home, I began researching the engine, but with the exception of an entry in C.H. Wendel's American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, I found nothing. I decided to call Fairbanks-Morse and was put in touch with George Ferriter, a very helpful gentleman who apparently gets stuck with all the calls from old-engine collectors. I described my new engine find to George, and he told me right off that no such animal was ever built by F-M. 'Nope. No way. We never built a V-twin engine,' George said. That was until I faxed him a copy of the photo in Wendel's book of a V-type Model 45 F-M diesel engine. Puzzled by the photo, he told me he would look around and get back to me. A few weeks later, he did.

The Model 45

The engine I have is a Model 45 A 3-1/2 S. It is rated at 10 HP at 1,200 rpm, and it is a narrow-angle, V-type two-cylinder engine. As George related to me after his investigations, the Model 45 diesel engines were designed for the railroad mechanical refrigeration market and first entered production on Oct. 10, 1939. Serial no. 815146 was the first Model 45 built, and production of Model 45 engines ended a short time later on Feb. 1, 1940, with serial no. 815195. World War II was looming, and the U.S. Navy visited F-M during this period and requested F-M devote 100 percent of their productive capacity to building large, opposed-piston diesel generators to power submarines. As a result, production of the Model 45 diesel engine ceased.

Only 49 engines were manufactured during this period, and the last four engines were never shipped - they were instead disassembled and put on the F-M shelves for parts stock. Of the 45 engines shipped 30 were two-cylinder V-type models, with single-cylinder models making up the balance. With few exceptions, these engines were shipped directly to F-M branch stores for showroom sale, and this particular engine was shipped to F-M's Cleveland, Ohio, branch store.


Number of Cylinders



Bore and Stroke, inches . ......... . ......

3? x 4?

3 ? x 4 ?

Braka Horsepower ................................



K.W. Capacity Generating Untt



R.P.M,....................................... ......



B.M.E.P. Lbs. per sq. in.................



Piston Speed, feel per mlnufe.



Mam Bearings;




Type and Size-Timken Roller Beating

559 & 552B

559 & 552B

Auxiliary Bearing Dia, x  Length, inches

1 7/8 x 1 3/8

1 7/8 x 1 3/8

Crankpin Bearings Dia, x length, inches. [2 1/8 x 1 ?


Piston Pin Bearings Dia x Length, inches

1? x 1 ? 

When production of Model 45 engines resumed after World War II, the V-type two-cylinder layout was abandoned and replaced with an inline two-cylinder configuration. Witte and other manufacturers of small diesels had moved into the market for small diesel railroad refrigeration engines, and F-M's V-type engine configuration was apparently too expensive or too troublesome to manufacture. But even with a new design the post-war Model 45 engine failed to successfully penetrate the small diesel engine market.

Literature obtained from F-M shows the Model 45 in generator and marine engine configuration, and F-M records indicate that at least two V-type engines were sold as 6-kw generators to supply standby power for hotels. Fairbanks-Morse never printed an owner's manual for the pre-World War II models, but George Ferriter and F-M were kind enough to provide a copy of the original hand-typed, hand-illustrated manual that had been prepared for, but never submitted to, the printer.

My engine is equipped with a stub output shaft and was intended for stationary engine duty. A former owner of this engine was told it was used to power a Ferris wheel. My engine appears complete, although I have not had the opportunity to get it running. I have not seen another like it, but would certainly like to hear from anyone who knows of any other Model 45 V-type two-cylinder F-M engines. 1 would also like to thank George Ferriter and the folks at Fairbanks-Morse for their help.

Contact engine enthusiast Jeff Conner at: 8269 Dunham Rd., Baldwinsville, NY 13027; e-mail: jconner2@twcny.rr.com