Fairbanks-Morse V-twin Diesel

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


| February/March 2004



Model 45

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

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.