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Vintage Marine Engines by Kevin Whittle of The Oil Engine Co.

Vintage Marine Engines Sales

Kelvin J4 Marine Engine - Vintage Marine Engines by Kevin Whittle The Oil Engine Co Kelvin J2 J4 K4 for sale
Kevin Whittle has produced books dealing with Vintage Marine Engines - (More Info).

To plan the layout for a new boat is an interesting challenge, and while boatbuilders are most helpful, the final decisions are yours. The outcome will have a long term effect on your boating. As you are seeking to capture the special feel and atmosphere of a traditional working boat, it needs care when planning for your aims to be achieved.

Traditional painting - Vintage Marine Engines by Kevin Whittle The Oil Engine Co Kelvin J2 J4 K4 for sale The bow, the sheer of the cabin, the traditional painting and lettering, all needs to be ‘right’. But all of these elements are for nothing if the sight and sound of your engine is inappropriate to that image. It’s no good having a traditional boat with all the traditional paintwork and scumbling if the engine sounds and looks as if belongs on the M25.


I am sure that converted car and tractor engines have their place, but not in a proper boat. Converted car engines that were designed to pull along a one ton car at 75mph for typically four hours at most, and cannot be considered ideal when used to drive a eighteen to twenty ton narrow boat at 4mph for nine or more hours per day, every day for a fortnights holiday. The two are simply incompatible.

Kelvin J2 Marine Engine - Vintage Marine Engines by Kevin Whittle The Oil Engine Co Kelvin J2 J4 K4 for saleA much better solution is a restored Vintage Marine Engine, designed for the purpose and built to last, built to be easy to maintain, to have sufficient power and torque at low revs to turn a large propeller slowly enough for it to be efficient. For all the engines power to be turned into useful work rather than just making wash and bubbles, the gain of course is in better fuel economy, and reduced pollution.

The Vintage Marine Engine of your choice should look imposing, have good spares availability, sound nice, be able to run slowly when cruising at normal canal speed, to have plenty of power and revs in hand to deal with even extreme conditions.

A large capacity, slow running, relaxed sounding Vintage Marine Engine is the only correct solution to powering a traditional canal narrow boat.

Link to article on Kelvin engines


1929 Yarwoods built tug - NB "Tebay" BW 47282 - Historic Narrowboat - Kelvin J3 Marine Engine - Vintage Marine Engines by Kevin Whittle The Oil Engine Co Kelvin J2 J4 K4 Kelvin Engines For Sale
NB Tebay fitted with a Kelvin J3 Marine Engine - Vintage Marine Engines by Kevin Whittle The Oil Engine Co Kelvin J2 J4 K4 for saleI have been narrow boating since 1971 with Vintage Engines.
My 1929 Yarwoods built tug 'Tebay' featured on the front cover of the brochure is fitted with a 1940’s Kelvin J3, rated at 33shp at 1000rpm. It normally runs at 350rpm when cruising at the 4mph limit and still manages over 4.5 hours to each gallon of diesel.


I do not believe a new converted automotive engine could achieve these results.

The Oil Engine Company was established in 1987 to supply Vintage Marine Engines for use in Narrow Boats, and a wide variety of engines were supplied.

Quite early on I was asked to provide a fully rebuilt Kelvin Model J. At that time very few had been installed in narrow boats, not much was known about them, and spares and information were almost non existent.

On completion of the Kelvin J3, I stood back and felt this was the perfect engine for a narrow boat. Tall and narrow, individual cylinders surmounted by individual heads, modular design, with two, three and four cylinder versions made. Plenty of power from the 1500cc per cylinder design, and the ability to run amazingly slowly for long periods, and to do so with real fuel economy. ‘More of these Kelvin’s, I felt would be ’a good thing’.

Nowadays I encourage owners to rebuild their own engines, as the Kelvin is such an easy engine to rebuild this is well within your capabilities.

As the late George Bergius told me “All the Kelvin engines were designed, by my Father Walter, to be operated and serviced by unskilled operators. The vast majority of our customers were fishermen and the member of the crew who could replace his own bicycle chain was appointed engineer!”

Kelvin Marine Engine - Vintage Marine Engines by Kevin Whittle The Oil Engine Co Kelvin J2 J4 K4 for saleAs I purchased more and more Kelvins of various models, it became clear to me that there was a need to inform and explain the quirks of what is a very simple design, but one where things have been done just a little differently to what today we would call the norm. To that end I wrote a article for the Waterways World magazine published in June 1994, detailing the background to the company and their engines. I also started The Kelvin Register for owners and enthusiast of these superb Glasgow built engines.

Built by the Bergius Company, all the Kelvins designed between 1904 and 1958 were from the Company Founder, Walter Bergius’s drawing board. For until the advent of the Model P in 1958 he designed the engines himself, no chief engineer or draughtsman were employed.


Kelvin K4 Marine Engine - Vintage Marine Engines by Kevin Whittle The Oil Engine Co Kelvin J2 J4 K4 for saleBeing designed by a skilled engineer, and with the company run by engineers, its no surprise to find that the Kelvins were of a very practical design, and that they used simply the best materials for the job, rather than today, when engines are built to a price and the cheapest materials are employed so as to last the short life envisaged.

However to enable a quality rebuild to be achieved something had to be done about spare parts, and so The Oil Engine Co. set about the expensive task of re manufacturing parts in small volumes.

Today I am able to offer Kelvin Model J & K parts that have previously been out of stock for a decade and more. New Cylinder Heads, Valves, Valve Guides, Pushrods, Cylinders complete with Liners, Cylinder Liners, Pistons, Little End Bushes, Main and Big End Shells in various sizes, Flywheel Bolts, Water Pipes, Starter Motor Brackets, Exhaust Manifolds, All ballraces and chains are available, along with starter motors, rebuilt injectors and injection pumps, etc.

In addition to all the new Kelvin parts. I have accumulated over the last seventeen years, a very considerable stock of used parts. If you seek a part for any old engine, I may have just what you require!

The Oil Engine Co. is also able to offer the following engines:

Kelvin J2, 22shp at 1000rpm, idle at 225rpm

Kelvin J4, 44shp at 1000rpm, idle at 225rpm

Kelvin K4, 88shp at 750rpm, idle at 160rpm

Bolinder 9hp Pup, semi diesel


For full details, fully illustrated colour brochure, please contact:

Kevin Whittle, 5 Gwelfryn, Llanymynech,
Powys SY22 6LJ


Tel: 01691 830930

Email: kwhittle@btconnect.com


The Oil Engine Co. Established in 1989 to supply vintage marine engines. Now specialising in Kelvins. Generally have in stock for sale: Kelvin J2, and J4. Kelvin K4 plus tons of used parts and new pistons, liners, cylinders, heads, valves. pushrods, main and big end shells for the above. Other vintage engines may be available.
Contact: Kevin Whittle
Email: kwhittle@btconnect.com


www.WhittleBooks.com