The following is one of several articles written by the late Max Homfeld but never published. These were recently found by his widow while going through some of his files, and the article appearing here was sent to us by subscriber Dick Day, who thought the information would be of interest to marine engine collectors.
I helped restore two Ferro marine engines for the I Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The first one was a 2-cylinder 2-cycle engine. The nameplate was inscribed 'Ferro Machine & Foundry Co., Cleveland, Ohio, Type G, 11 HP, serial no. 26885.' The second Ferro was a single cylinder 2-cycle engine with this added statement on the nameplate: 'Ferro Auto-Marine.' On this name plate, the model, HP, and serial number spaces were blank. The 'Auto-Marine' statement was intriguing, and I wanted to learn what it meant.
William Granson Rose's book, Cleveland: The Making of a City, tells that Ferro had its beginning as the Hoffman Hinge Company, making hinges and railroad car couplers. The name was changed to Ferro Machine and Foundry Company in 1905. The location was always at 3155 East 66th Street, Cleveland, Ohio. The company prospered by building high-quality marine engines, with Crispin Oglebay as president and treasurer. In 1910, he claimed that Ferro was the largest maker of marine engines in the world. The marine engine line consisted of ten models, 3 to 25 HP, using three different cylinder sizes, and built as one, two, and three-cylinder engines. All were 2-port, 2-cycle engines. The lubrication system was most unusual, as there was an oil tank (cast into the base on most models) which was pressurized by crankcase pressure through a check valve. Oil under pressure went to a row of drip oilers for main bearings, the pistons, and carburetor air. Coolant passages were drilled rather than being exposed pipes as on most marine engines of that time. Ferro built their own brass carburetors and timers. The 3 HP model was the Ferro Special, a lower-cost single-cylinder engine. It had a drip oiler for the piston and rod and grease cups for the main bearings, normal practice in those days. Ferro also built outboard motors during the years 1906-1917.
There was an article in a 1911 issue of Motor Boat Magazine saying that Ferro was going into the stationary engine business 'in a big way.' The stationary engines were simply the marine engines mounted on an iron base with a pair of large flywheels and a governor.
Ferro V8 Engines - Model Designation and Specifications
Oglebay intended to enter the automobile engine market as well. They began to produce a V8 auto engine in 1917. 1 believe that any Ferro marine engine bearing the 'Ferro Auto-Marine' nameplate was built after the V8 entered the design stage. The V8 was a pioneer for its time, as it was one of the first V8's to be cast en bloc (the cylinder blocks and crankcase in one piece). That indicates the skill and capability at the Ferro foundry. The engine was a valve-in-head design.
I found sales literature on Ferro automotive engines in both the Patent Library of the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers' Association and in the Automotive History Collection in the Detroit Public Library. In the photograph file of the latter library are 8x10 photographs of the Ferro V8 by itself as well as installed in a car. V8 engines were offered in three sizes - 35, 48, and 60 HP -and there was a VI2 of 80 HP.
The 1919 edition of the Victor W. Page book, The Modern Gas Automobile, lists the purchased engines used in 1919 model cars. The 8-35 Ferro V8 was in the Scripps-Booth model D, and the 8-48 in the Jackson and Wolverine cars. The Page book contains a drawing of the Ferro in a Jackson car. Incidentally, there were 76 cars that used purchased engines (not their own make).
I found advertisements for Ferro marine engines in the 1917 issues of Motor Boat Magazine, though the ads were much smaller than in previous years. There were none in the 1918 issues. This must have been the period when the marine engines were dropped. When production of the automotive V8 was terminated is not known.
Rose's book states that Ferro began making cylinder block castings for the Ford Motor Company. I have learned that Ferro cast the six cylinder blocks for Ford for a few years before and a few years after World War II. I believe that Ferro found automotive foundry work more profitable than building their own engines. According to Rose, Ferro produced over 100,000 tons of castings during World War II. In 1946, a management group purchased the company from the Oglebay interests. There was a note in the Clevelander in May 1951 that Ferro was building a 35,000 square foot addition to the factory. Perhaps they anticipated an automotive contract that didn't materialize. In February 1953, The Clevelander stated that Ferro had been sold to the John Harsch Bronze and Foundry Company. Then The News of April 13, 1955 announced an auction of all the Ferro equipment. Employment had gone down to 300 employees, compared to 2,800 in former times, and Ferro was going out of business.
I checked the Cleveland telephone directory and found that the Ferro name lives on. There is a Ferro Corporation at 1000 Lakeside Avenue, with 11 divisions, and there is a Ferro Engineering Division of the Oglebay-Norton Company with the main office at 1100 Superior Avenue. Remember that the president of Ferro in 1910 was Crispin Oglebay. I wrote to both companies, and received a telephone call from Reynold Thompson, president and CEO of Oglebay-Norton. He told me about the present company and sent me an annual report. Today, the company operates bulk carriers on the Great Lakes, and operates coal and silica mines. Ferro Engineering Division designs and builds special equipment for steel mills and coal mines.