Gasoline Engines in Japan

By Staff
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Mr. Sugiyama with his 2 horsepower 'Sato' hot-tube engine.
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2 horsepower 'Wico' engine.
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'Three Star.'
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4 horsepower 'Strong' engine.
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805 Nagatani Mansion, 3-42-13 Nishiogikita Suginami-ku, Tokyo-to
167 Japan.

I met Mr. Kiyoshi Sugiyama while working as an English teacher
in Kagawa prefecture on the island of Shikoku in southern Japan.
Mr. Sugiyama is a farmer and grows blooms for the cut flower
market. He looks for and restores old engines during his spare
time, which, as we all know, is always in short supply. He likes to
keep his engines in ‘as found’ condition as far as
possible, but, who knows, he might get around to doing a paint job
on one of them one day!

I collect old engines in Britain, but never expected to get
involved in my favorite hobby in Japan. However, living and working
in a rural community I found several old engines to restore, and
eventually met Mr. Sugiyama, quite by chance, through a mutual
acquaintance. When I first visited Mr. Sugiyama’s farm, he had
five old engines, and was surprised to meet someone sharing the
same interest. Now, however, he has over thirty engines, and we are
in touch with a number of other enthusiasts, both locally on the
island of Shikoku, and in other parts of the country.

Engine manufacture in Japan seems to have begun in the early
years of this century, with large stationary engines for industrial
use. The first engines aimed at the agricultural market were
imported from America, and we have found Stover, International
Harvester Model M, Fairbanks-Morse Model Z, Witte, and Little Jumbo
engines here in Japan. These imported engines were highly priced,
however, and beyond the means of the average farmer with his small
acreage of land. So it is perhaps not surprising that a lot of
domestic manufacturers jumped into the market, with such names as
Strong, King, Best, First, Speed, Orient, Yashima, Yunkeru, Sato,
Kubota, Tobatta, and Yanmar to name but a few. Many of the small
engine manufacturers were located in Okayama prefecture, which is
just across the Inland Sea from Mr. Sugiyama’s home in Kagawa,
and that district has proved to be a happy hunting ground for us,
with its many rice paddies dependent on water pumped up from the
rivers for irrigation in the spring and early summer.

One of the pleasures of looking for old engines is that you
never know what you will discover next, and this is particularly
true of Japan. I remember an old farmer telling me about the
‘WICO’ engine. Of course, I tried to explain to him that it
was not the engine itself, but the magneto that was so named, the
familiar box magneto being sold in Japan. These days, however,
I’m prepared to listen to any story which an old timer has to
tell! The ‘WICO’ engine is typical of the first generation
of farm engines made in Japan, open crank, and bearing a close
resemblance to its American roots.

Japanese engines rapidly evolved into a fairly standard design,
influenced by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Safety and
reliability were the order of the day, as for many rural people the
stationary engine represented their first encounter with dangerous,
moving machinery. Engines were fitted with hinged crank covers,
centrifugal crank pin lubrication, and Wico type magnetos. Mr.
Sugiyama’s ‘Three Star’ and ‘Strong’ engines
are typical examples. Not all makers followed the standard design,
however. The two-cycle, hot tube ‘Sato’ engine is as unique
as they come. This little engine was designed to be heated up using
charcoal, a common cooking and heating fuel in the days before
rural electricity, and run on kerosene. The charcoal was packed
into the brazier on top of the cylinder head, and heated a hollow
cast iron tube protruding from the head itself. The ash fell into
the surrounding ash pan below. You can imagine the sales
patter-‘no plug, no points, no expensive magneto to go
wrong…!’ This little engine runs good and blows perfect smoke
rings.

Every collector owns a ‘mystery’ engine, and Mr.
Sugiyama is no exception. The engine itself is not really a
mystery, it is its American connection which is intriguing. The
engine is a cold start, four cycle, compression ignition kerosene
engine, made by the ‘Stationary Engine Manufacturing
Company’ of Osaka, forerunner of the present day Daihatsu
Automobile Company. Daihatsu company records state that in April
1922 the company signed an agreement with the R.M. Bit, or Pit,
Company of Chicago, and that in May of the same year, production of
the ‘Super Diesel’ began under license. Initially the
horizontal ‘Super Diesel’ was produced in five sizes,
ranging from 1? to 8 HP. These engines were so successful that the
same operating principles were subsequently incorporated into
vertical and marine engines. The engine has no fuel injector nozzle
or fuel pump; the fuel is gravity fed from a tank cast into the
forward part of the hopper to a third fuel admission valve located
in the top of the cylinder head, whose opening is controlled by the
governor. Fuel is admitted to the cylinder during the downstroke of
the piston, like a gasoline engine, and ignites towards the end of
the upstroke, like a diesel engine. The engine can be easily hand
started from cold. Mr. Sugiyama and I would be grateful to learn
any details about the R.M. Bit (or Pit) Company of Chicago, and
also if any engines of this type were manufactured by this company
in America and survive in collections today. Please write to me at
the following address: Chris Madeley, 805 Nagatani Mansion, 3-42-13
Nishiogikita, Suginami-ku, Tokyo, 167 Japan.

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