One of the many unique things about our new boat Möbius, and perhaps one that will raise the most eyebrows is our choice of the main, and only, engine. I’ll probably make it a whole new post, possibly several to explain all that is behind this decision and for now just give you a relatively quick overview of the whole journey this engine has taken from Canterbury England where we first “adopted him” to his arrival here at Naval Yachts last week.
We affectionately refer to our big beautiful engine as “Mr. G” because it is a Gardner 6LXB. For you fellow engine aficionados and gearheads out there, yes THAT Gardner. The L. Gardner and Sons Ltd. to be precise. If you click on that link or this Wikipedia entry you will get a short history of the Gardner company and the diesel engines the produced for almost ONE HUNDRED years. In 1892, German scientist and inventor Rudolf Diesel invented what is referred to as a “compression-ignition engine” as it used the heat created by compressing the air inside a cylinder to ignite and burn the fuel he also invented that bears his name. So when I say that Gardner engines have a long history having produced their first diesel engine in 1903, I am not being the least bit hyperbolic. Just for a change.
I’ll do my best not to bore you with a full history but just to put them into some perspective here are some snippets about the company. L Gardner & Son of Patricroft in Manchester for many years, were the world export leaders in diesel engines for commercial use all around the globe. Throughout the 50s 60s & 70s, most of the British made trucks and buses relied on Gardner power, and they were certainly engines of legend. In the latter part of the company history, Brothers Hugh & John Gardner designed some of the longest lasting and fuel efficient commercial diesels of the 20th century, a huge proportion of their output is still in daily use. In the 1960’s it was estimated that 83.3% of all fishing vessels built in the UK were powered by Gardners and as much as 45% of the Gardner’s produced went into fishing boats and 59% of these went overseas markets. I can attest to this as I used to teach Auto Mechanics in a fishing town of Ladner British Columbia and while I don’t know exact numbers there were a lot of these fish boats my student’s families fished on that were powered by Gardners. Gardner’s were also specified by the Royal National Lifeboat Institute RNLI for all their boats. So while not the only application, Gardners are very much marine engines.
Skipping over the reasons why for just now, I started my search for a Gardner almost exactly two years ago today and after much research I decided that the Gardner 6LXB engine would be the just right Goldilocks engine for Möbius. These LX series of engines were first designed and tested by Hugh& John Gardner in April 1958 making this their 60th “birthday”. The 6LXB model line was introduced in 1966 and was produced through 1979. Mr. G. is engine #196071 made in February 1975 and put into service in a barge working on the River Thames. In 2015 this ship was renovated and converted to a tug which required a larger 8LXB engine so they removed the 6LXB and traded it in for a new 8LXB and which is how we came to find it at Gardner Marine Diesels Ltd in Canterbury, Kent England. Gardner Marine is the current incarnation of the original Gardner company now run by an amazing fellow, Michael Harrison who I was most fortunate to have been in contact with via Email at just the right time. What I was looking for was a completely original and intact 6LXB as I wanted to do the full restoration and in our initial Emails Michael was hesitant to provide one as they normally only sell “factory new” fully rebuilt engines all over the world. After many Emails back where I explained my rather unique situation and request Michael relented and promised to keep his eyes open for the just right engine for us.
You can therefore imagine my delight when I received this message from Michael:
From: Michael Harrison @ Gardner Marine
Sent: July 10, 2017 11:14 AM
Subject: Re: Looking for a Gardner 6LXB to restore
Good morning Wayne, Many thanks for your email and welcome back to Europe!
Well, I have good news. We ended up purchasing two engines the other day, out of the three, and one is perfect for you, I believe. I did not want to say anything until they were physically here as we often buy engines that come up under par.
However, this is a genuine marine 6LXB engine, with the following equipment/specification:
– Late type crankcase
– Late type cylinder heads with decompression
– Gardner oil cooler with all original copper pipework
– Gardner marine header tank and thermostat housing arrangement
– Genuine marine inlet manifold and inlet trunk
– Genuine marine exhaust manifold and outlet elbow
– Additional original Gardner pipework for oil gauges
– Rear well marine aluminium sump and all original copper connections to and from
– Standard marine extended crankshaft, with original aluminium pulley
– Original cast front engine feet
– Marine fuel pump, which is free and running (it was a running take out)
– Auxiliary oil pump for oil cooling with original copper pipework.
At the time, Christine and I were house/pet sitting for some very dear friends in Albufeira Portugal so I quickly arranged some flights to go meet with Michael in Canterbury and check out the engine and the company in person. Michael is a fantastic fellow and his Dad had worked for the original L. Gardner & Sons company most of his life before the company went through some restructuring and take overs by other companies. Michael and his Dad bought what was left of the company, all their inventory and most of their machinery and while they don’t do the foundry work of casting engine blocks and such so no truly new Gardner engines are made any longer, they do continue to make all the other parts needed to fully rebuild and restore most any of the Gardner models and that is the business which Michael now runs.
EXACTLY what I had been hoping to find.
It was a marine version 6LXB, completely original and intact and Michael is able to provide me with a full set of brand new parts from pistons and rings to bearings, gaskets, pumps and the like.
My long time friend and fellow car nut Robin, arms folded in the back, lives outside of London and he was kind enough to come pick me up at the airport and we drove out to Canterbury to spend the day with Michael touring the whole Gardner company and peppering him with unending questions. Michael can answer every question there is having not only literally grown up with these at his Dad’s side but also because he does or supervises the hundreds of restorations of Gardners and often accompanies them for the installation in places all over the world.
Quickly realising that Robin and I were deeply into all this, Michael gave us an incredibly thorough tour of every part of their restoration shop, all the original machines they are still using as well as the new ones they have built or added.
In the foreground here is a fully restored 6LXB which Gardner Marine had just finished rebuilding back to factory specs. This is what Mr. G will look like in a few months.
For some scale, that little fellow in the back is a different model Gardner. an 8 cylinder 8LB3 that is about to go back to its home in a large fish boat in Singapore.
To those of us who are into such things, these are like meticulously made mechanical marvels.
This is the performance chart for our 6LXB which graphs the real BHP, Torque and fuel consumption curves. It may not make much sense to many of you but what this shows is a very low revving engine which develops its Horse Power very steadily as shown in that almost vertical line sloping up and to the right.
Even more importantly for our use is that incredibly flat torque curve putting out 536 foot pounds in the configuration we will set up.
Best of all and in keeping with our emphasis on efficiency for all aspects of Möbius is the equally flat and low fuel curves at the bottom. This engine has a thermal efficiency of just a touch over 40% which is almost unheard of even today. I will get into all these performance details in a separate post for those who are interested in such things but what we can all understand is the following:
* The HP and Torque curves cross over at 1300 RPM which would be not much off idle for most modern diesel engines so this is a very low revving and long lasting engine.
* Gobs of torque at all revs from idle upwards which is what we need to slowly turn our 1m / 39.5” diameter CPP 4 bladed propeller with more “grunt” than we will ever need.
* Fuel efficiency which could very well help us set records for how little energy is required to move our equally efficient hull at 10+ knots all day and all night on passages around the world.
* Fewest possible moving parts, no turbo, no electronics, heck other than the starter no electrics!
and saving the best for last, Christine’s favorite feature: if needed these engines can be hand cranked to start!!!
OK, OK, enough already Wayne! I’ll get into all this much more in a future post for those of you who would like to know more.
Michael and his crew soon had Mr. G all strapped down and plastic wrapped for the next part of the journey which took Mr. G from Canterbury to Albufeira Portugal where I could work on it for the next few months before we headed off to Antalya.
So a few weeks later this truck backed into the place we were staying in Albufeira (thanks John & Michelle!!) and with the help of a very powerful hydraulic tailgate was soon on the ground and into the makeshift car port I created.
We literally put our life into Mr. G’s hands, or perhaps better said Mr. G’s reliability and torque and my hands, and we know that the G in Mr. G is not just for Gardner, it is also for Goldilocks as we are certain this is just the right engine for us.
How do you know when you’ve found your Goldilocks Girl? When she gets as excited as you about unpacking a box of engine parts!
Over the next few weeks I completely dismantled the whole engine, cleaned everything thoroughly and began the restoration by pressing in new cylinder liners, grinding the cylinder head & block, installing new valves and seats and so on.
Off with the heads…………….
Which promptly headed off to the local machine ship for new valves and seats.
Next off was the cast iron cylinder case which also went off to the machine shop to press out the old cylinder liners and press in the new ones. It is because of this kind of construction where the cylinders are “sleeved” and can have these liners replaced with new ones that this possible to truly bring these engines back to factory new specifications.
I will cary a full engine rebuild kit of parts onboard just in case of the extremely unlikely failure of any of these massive parts given the remoteness of most of our anchorages but I fully expect to have these new parts go to the next owner in 50 years or so.
Had to buy a hydraulic lift to be able to get some of these parts off.
The oil pan and crankcase are both cast aluminum and the pan alone weighs almost 100 pounds.
Total engine weight, dry no oil or water, no flywheel,
is about 2300 lbs / 1044 Kg
Parts are just dry assembled for shipping and will all come apart again in Antalya for further cleaning, painting, polishing and final assembly.
This will be his new home in the workshop GreeNaval has kindly provided right next to where the hull is being built and I’ve not got my work cut out for me disassembling him, lots of spit and polish and then back together he goes all ready for lifting into the completed hull in a few months.