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| September/October 1993

  • Van Blerck engine
    A 1913 Van Blerck engine.
  • Van Blerck and the JVB engine
    Van Blerck and the JVB engine in 1921.
  • Van Blerck lubrication system
    The Van Blerck lubrication system.
  • Van Blerck model N
    A Van Blerck model N.
  • Van Blerck Portable Inboard
    The Van Blerck Junior Portable Inboard.

  • Van Blerck engine
  • Van Blerck and the JVB engine
  • Van Blerck lubrication system
  • Van Blerck model N
  • Van Blerck Portable Inboard

7964 Oakwood Park Ct. St. Michaels, MD 21663

Joseph Van Blerck was a talented designer of marine engines and an active business man. He deserves to be better-known by collectors of antique engines.

Van Blerck was born in Holland on August 16, 1876. He came to Monroe, Michigan in 1904, where he set some early records in power boat racing. The only picture of Van Blerck that I have seen was published in a 1921 advertisement. He has the rotund well-to-do look of a Dutch burgher as suits his name. By his own statement, he had been in the marine engine field for 20 years, or since 1901.

An early and very small advertisement of the Van Blerck Motor Company of Detroit, Michigan appeared in September, 1909. These Van Blerck engines and all subsequent ones were always four-cycle. In March 1911, Van Blerck had a half-page ad showing two engine lines. One line, for pleasure and cruising craft, was built in 2, 4, and 6 cylinder versions. Bore was 5', stroke was 6'. He also offered engines for racing. Those engines appeared to be similar but had the bore increased to 5'.

In the 1913 Van Blerck catalog there were type B Medium Duty engines of 5' x 6' bore and stroke in 2, 4, and 6 cylinder versions and type C High Speed engines of 5' x 6' bore and stroke in 4, 6, and in-line 8 cylinder versions. The weight of type C engines was about 25% less that that of a type B engines and the rated speed was higher. The Van Blerck high speed engines had full-pressure lubrication with a dry sump system. There were two gear pumps, one to supply pressure to the bearings through a drilled crankshaft and the other a scavenging pump to return oil from the crankcase to the oil tank. The engines were of T-head design, requiring two camshafts, and with two valves per cylinder. Dual ignition was used with two spark plugs per cylinder. A Bosch magneto supplied one plug and a battery ignition system from the same manufacturer supplied the other. Prior to the First World War, Bosch would have been Robert Bosch, the German company. The catalog tells of racing successes and has a picture of eighteen trophies won by Van Blerck-powered boats. Most remarkable is a photo of the starboard side of an in-line 12 cylinder 300 HP high speed engine; 'particulars on application.' I calculated that it had a displacement of 2369 cu. in. The title page of the 1913 catalog says 'Van Blerck Motor Co., Detroit, Michigan.'

With the 1913 catalog is a booklet titled Review of the Racing Season of 1913. The address shown is Monroe, Michigan, which was the factory location. This is a beautifully-printed booklet. It includes a photo of the port side of the in-line twelve. The engine powered Kitty Hawk V, claimed to be the fastest boat in America.

3/19/2014 4:26:31 PM

We have an early Van Blerck Engine, one of the earliest ever found. It is in running condition and viewable on youtube at the link provided below Anyone with information on his early work please contact me at email address provided below youtube video. Thanks again!

12/19/2013 11:13:07 AM

Long Island City is the borough of Queens, New York. Right across the East River from Manhattan. Citicorp HQ is located there for example.

Billy Joe
5/9/2011 11:23:42 PM

I bought a Van Belrck Junior at an Estate sale, and it is 100% complete. But Im not sure what year it was built. It has a serial # of 586-B. Could anyone help on this. Thanks: Billy Joe.


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