Been There, Dunn That

Free From Marine Duties, a 1916 2-cylinder Dunn is Ready for a New Life on the Farm Show Circuit

| February 2005

Walter E. Dunn Mfg. Co. built the “Dunn Motor” in Ogdensburg, N.Y. The company was best known for its vertical 4-cycle marine engines, which were made in single-cylinder, 2-cylinder, 3-cylinder and 4-cylinder versions. The company was founded in 1900, and was active until about 1922. This engine, a 2-cylinder, 4 HP vertical inboard engine was built about 1916.


I finished restoring this engine this past summer after about 18 months of work. I came across the engine almost by accident in the course of discussing other engines with a Canadian collector. I acquired the engine in October 2002, and started its restoration the following month. At first the Dunn looked like great restoration material, but then I realized the engine had three pretty serious problems: 1: The base plate (which holds the cylinders away from the crankcase) was cracked and pieces were broken out on one side; 2: The two rear support studs were sheared off at the top; 3: Both bronze connecting rods were bent forward. It seemed to me that a scrapper yanking the engine out of an old boat hull with a chain caused all this damage.

I took the engine apart and started cleaning everything. I took the base plate with the loose pieces set in place to Lord's Welding Shop in Port Crane, N.Y., who not only welded the pieces back in, but smoothed out the weld and marked and re-drilled the standoff and cylinder bolt holes. This saved me a heck of a lot of work by not having to re-create the original cast iron base in steel plate. Plus, I really wanted the engine to be original.

The Dunn was more of a “motor rebuild” job than the last engine I did. That engine, an Emmons, but really made by the Stanley Co. of Swampscott, Mass., required a lot of turning, milling and welding fabrication, plus I did a wet sand and spray enamel finish.

The timer on my engine is the same style as the 1914 rear-mounted units. I suspect Dunn moved the timer up front and high for ease of adjustment – and to keep it away from water. I had to take a light trueing cut on the pot metal timer base to get a stable area for the phenolic body. Aligning the two contact points after putting new hardened contact balls in place was a trial-and-error job. I finally used a caliper to set them both at equal points.

The Dunn's lubrication system was a subject of much discussion by the crowd at, a great place for information on vintage marine engines. There are no other operating open crankcase Dunn engines, but we figured splash from the crank and the continuous dripping of oil from the drip oilers down past the cylinder walls and into the crank wells would do the job. This is exactly what happens. It is a very dirty, oil-flinging engine! Even so, it has run about eight hours total so far, and the inside is completely slick with oil. (I used mirrors and lights to look up into the wrist pin and small end area.)


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