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Diesel Engines from China

The October issue of Stationary Engine magazine contained a request from RG for information regarding a Chinese Wei Dong engine in his possession. I have an almost identical engine although mine is a Yuyao, type 165F with bore 65mm and stroke 70mm, made sometime shortly before 1993 in Zhejiang, China.


It seems that Yuyao Power Machinery Corporation of Zhejiang was the actual manufacturer of both these units, which were also marketed with other names through Dong Feng, of the Dong Feng Automobile Corporation which in turn has agreements and international joint ventures with other companies such as Cummins, Citroen, Renault, Mitsubishi and Honda. Dong Feng, was established in 1969 by the Chinese government as an industrial manufacturer of trucks, machinery and military equipment such as tanks. Dong Feng translates into English as East Wind. In 1913 the first Chinese engine factory, Jiangsu Engine Works was established in Changzhou city in a factory formerly known as the Houkeng Metal Works. Diesel engine manufacture began under the name “Saving Star” and by 1934 engines up to 40hp were manufactured. In 1938 a further factory was set up in Shanghai to also manufacture these engines as well as textile machinery.  In October 1964 the factory became known as the Changzhou Diesel Engine Works producing engines under the Dong Feng title. Other factories and brands became set up to produce a standard design as China expanded following the death of Chairman Mao hence Wei Dong in Jingyan, Sichuan province, Yuyao in Ningbo, Zhejiang province  and Swan in Jintan, Jiangsu province.

My own Yuyao is complete with the original silver and blue paint finish with a red fuel tank, starting handle and comprehensive workshop manual / owner’s handbook in English. The book states that it is the smallest engine in a range known as ‘Twi-Combo’ whatever that means! It goes on to say it is “single cylinder, horizontal, four-stroke baby engine, suitable as prime mover for walking tractors, transplanting machines, threashing machines, harvesters, small drainage and irrigation pumps, pest control machines, short-way transport, agricultural by-products processing, small electrical generators etc”. I have since learned that the engine type was based on a Danish design and, in the manufacturing agreement between the two companies, the Yuyao company had to round off the cylinder dimensions to the nearest size to prevent any future interchangeability of spurious parts. This would help to avoid the similar dilemma currently facing owners of Lister CS diesels using Indian-made replacement spares as in ‘Engine Torque’, Stationary Engine magazine Oct 2005.

During the 1980s a number of British firms ( Lister, Perkins etc) were invited to evaluate such engines as the Yuyao, Swan and Dong Feng and some ended up on the preservation scene. However, my own engine has a slightly different, and I think more interesting history.

In 1993 the Mechanical Engineering Department of the University of Bath made its first attempt to enter the Shell Mileage Marathon competition with an economy vehicle and it was agreed to enter the diesel class. The previous year, while walking around the Royal Bath and West Show, I had been drawn to a stand displaying a number of engines for marine and stationary purposes. Talking to the salesman, who turned out to be also the proprietor of Kingfisher Diesels of Ferndown in Dorset, it was obvious to me that the engines displayed, whilst some had UK-made components visible, were not of total British manufacture and I had decided they were from India or somewhere similar despite his protestations to the contrary. Later I remembered the small horizontal model was described as “the smallest diesel on the British market” at that time. It seemed ideal for the motive power for the Mileage Marathon vehicle and, approaching Kingfisher, we were well received and a green painted Kingfisher KDA4 was made available to us. Just prior to the event, the engine having been somewhat modified to suit the purpose, we had a catastrophe with the cylinder and, upon contacting Kingfisher for parts and help, were given a complete engine in original silver, blue and red with the Yuyao nameplate, type 165F and Made in China. The students concerned were sensible enough to have secured the hand book and tools as well.  The cylinder and piston from this engine was quickly switched to the earlier engine and in the Marathon event at Silverstone on our first attempt, we came fourth in class with something like 1197 mpg.

After the event, the engine became superseded and therefore redundant so I recovered the original cylinder and piston and rebuilt the spare silver-blue engine at which time it was noticed that the green Kingfisher had an additional crankcase breather pipe and an elbow fitting proudly stating “Made in England”! It was only this pipe and the green paint which made it a “Kingfisher KDA4”!!!

The Yuyao was mounted on a wooden base with handles as an interesting and unusual engine exhibit which would be a fairly easy unit to load into the boot of my car and start quickly at perhaps a small evening rally. In actual reality, I then forgot about it!

Some years later in 1999, I was judging at a rally in South Somerset and whilst sorting out the club members eligible to be so judged from the ineligible non-members according to the rules, I came across an engine “Not as Programme” in the line up. I was surprised to see it was another Kingfisher but a KDA5, this time in green livery and owned by a South Somerset Club member. There were not too many horizontal enclosed cranks that weekend and, as I recall, it became judged into third place causing some controversy as it was at that time a mere ten years old or so despite looking much earlier. These engines obviously had a niche market in third world countries when too much technology would be their downfall and as such they resemble engines from much earlier era.

© Eric Brain         

September 2005

Edited and posted with the permission of the copyright holder.