Lister Engine Forum

Lister Engines => Original Lister Cs Engines => Topic started by: n2toh on December 27, 2005, 02:47:53 PM

Title: 3 or 4?
Post by: n2toh on December 27, 2005, 02:47:53 PM
Were their Lister 3 and 4 cylinder slow speed diesels? If so does anyone have any old documentation?
Title: Re: 3 or 4?
Post by: quinnf on December 27, 2005, 04:25:46 PM
The slow speed Lister diesels are a relic dating from the earliest days of the internal combustion engine.  For more info on that see:

But that's their charm.  Although these engines were popular because of their economy and durability, Lister like all engine manufacturers at the time, eventually began producing high speed diesels and continues that line today.  The company is still in business at and produces engines that aren't much different from what you would find in a forklift or small tractor. 

The 3 and 4 cylinder versions that I have seen were modern engines.  If you search ebay for "lister diesel engine" you might find a picture of one.   I think as more power was demanded for different applications, the convenience of lightweight  high speed engines appealed to customers, that drove sales, and what remained belongs to history.


Title: Re: 3 or 4?
Post by: hotater on December 27, 2005, 04:52:55 PM
My friend and I drove 300 miles in a freezing rain to a ranch auction that advertized four Lister and three Witte diesel gensets....all were high speed two and three cylinder engines (and total wrecks).  It  SEEMS like the difference is fly wheels.  Flywheel engines are slow speed and those without are 1800 rpm and higher (?)   Is that right?
Title: Re: 3 or 4?
Post by: lgsracer on December 27, 2005, 05:39:22 PM
The largest lister was a 6 cylinder check out these pictures and the write up.
Title: Re: 3 or 4?
Post by: quinnf on December 27, 2005, 05:41:53 PM
So Jack, what did you come back from the sale with, and is an engine that's been through a range fire rebuildable or warped like a fortune cookie?

The definition of what constitutes "high speed" keeps changing.  It used to be 1800-2000  rpm.  Now it's commonly 3000 rpm for a diesel.  In the future, who knows?

A friend replaced an old Isuzu 50 hp diesel in his classic 1946 ketch with a new Yanmar turbodiesel.  The Isuzu ran at 1800-2000, and was not unpleasant to listen to, but due to improper alignment with the transmission the spline on the crankshaft stripped out, so the engine was thereafter only good for parts.  I was invited to go over to Catalina island with him to check out the new engine and RADAR installation.  I was anxious to see how the Yanmar, a company whose products I generally like, would perform. 

As it turned out, the turbocharged Yanmar he replaced it with needed to run at 2000 rpm just to make it out of the harbor.  The Isuzu achieved that at about 1100 rpm.  Once we cleared the breakwater, there being no wind he wound up the engine to "cruising speed" (3600 rpm) and I knew I was in for a 6 hour ordeal. 

The engine had the displacement of about a 30 HP normally aspirated engine.  By virtue of a really aggressive turbo setup, it was rated 50 hp output.  The thing made such a racket, you had to stand out on deck any time the engine was running.  I heard he later sailed south to Cabo San Lucas, and had to find a "pick up crew" to help him bring the boat back.  900 miles with the wind and current straight on the nose.  Couldn't have been a happy trip.  So much for progress . . .


Title: Re: 3 or 4?
Post by: hotater on December 27, 2005, 07:12:20 PM

I bought the only decent *looking* 12.5JC Onan  (four cyl. air cooled, 12.5Kw) for $51 and then bought a combo gas and propane carb. from a burnt up genset that sold for a dollar....but I paid $10 for the carb.  One of those 'both went away smiling deals'.  I got the engine running in half a day but the voltage controls are bad and it puts out 90VAC no matter what I do.  Replacement part is $600 and an aftermarket is $ it sits in the shop and gets cranked once a week or so because it sounds so cool.    ;D  (sounds like an old 750 Honda in first gear at 10 mph.)

  All the Listers were 1800 rpm three cylinder engines and all could be well inspected before sale  because most of the major parts were gone and buyers could look right into the crankcase and SEE the seized rods and stripped gears and such.  They went for the price of the trailer they were sitting on.  The Wittes were the same....missing major parts, like cylinders and chunks of crankcases.  All total there were more than a dozen old gensets that had been in or started range fires or been shot or otherwise wrecked.  I think there were only two sets that could have run, and I got one.  The other was identical to mine but was mounted in an old horse trailer with a big fuel tank and sold for a couple hundred bucks.

I *did* buy an old spur-geared ton and a half chain hoist for $10 and a one-legged blacksmith's vice for $40.   ;D

The Yanmar gensets are now the preferred generator/engines in these parts.  There are a dozen or so on remote cattle watering wells within 20 miles of here.    Onan killed their market with $500 service calls that usually resulted in uncertain results. 

I've been a 'gun guy' all my life.  I found out very early in the trade that the REAL problems arise when a mechanizm is 'pushed' beyond it's limit.  More pressure, more velocity, more violence means less accuracy and less dependability and a shorter life......and a REAL pain in the butt, most of the time.
  Engines and guns share a LOT of the same attributes and problems....more speed equals less life. It's just that simple.   And, of course, the addition of plastic, pot metal, and chintzy parts only shortens it more.
Title: Re: 3 or 4?
Post by: quinnf on December 28, 2005, 05:56:09 AM
Sorry to hear you drove all that way for not much.  From your earlier post, it sounded like you were going to return with an instant collection, but when old engines like the Wittes are missing major parts, that quickly becomes a long-term project, doesn't it?

Well, at least the propane carb should keep you busy, and the Onan sounds like it wasn't a bad acquisition, either.  Yes, the 750 did have a nice sound.  I always wanted one of them, but was a little afraid of that much power, so stuck with what I knew, and that was the 350s. 

Rode to Colorado the day after graduation from high school.  As it turned out, it was the beginning of a heat wave.  Heat followed us (a friend on an identical CB350) all the way to Grand Junction.  I was sick from the heat.  Unable to get and/or keep any food down after we passed Lost Wages the first afternoon.  Figured it would be prudent to head for home, so turned around and headed right back through it (Duh!).  Salt Lake desert in a summer heat wave on a small displacement motorcycle is to be missed!  Didn't feel better until we got to Reno  and started climbing toward Lake Tahoe in thunderstorms.  That was the last cross-country bike trip I took!