Engine History: 1959-1963 Checker Continental OHV 226 Six – The Only Extinct Post-War Engine?

Is the Checker Continental OHV 226 six the only extinct American post-war engine? I can’t find any references to one still in existence in running condition, never mind any images, running or not.

I’ve never been this frustrated by a Google Image search. I’ve long wanted to do a post on the OHV version of its Continental 226 six, so that’s what I set out to do, starting with some images. Result: zero. I managed to find this one little shot in the 1961 Brochure. Otherwise, nada. I did find some references with images of it at some old forum pages, but the images are no longer available, something that happens all-too commonly at forums, since they commonly used image hosting, not actually retaining them in their files/server.

Anyway, here’s my post on the Continental FO-226 OHV six, such as it is. And if any of you can find images or more information on this rare engine, please post them and I’ll add them to this article.

(Update: Joe Fay, the owner of a 1959 Checker with one of these engines has responded in the comments to let us know there’s a few others out there too. His engine is pictured below:)

Commenter George Ferencz found this picture (below):

Here’s that picture of one found in a non-running barn find on a trailer, although it looks like it might still be able to run. That was in 2018, and the site (Barn Finds) was extolling swapping in a Chevy LS, of course.  Who knows what happened to it, but the odds are good that the original engine was not kept by the new owner.

Checker Motors had used Continental engines since its beginning, as had over 100 other makes of cars, trucks, tractors and other equipment. During the 1920s, there were dozens of “assembled” car brands using Continentals, most often the L-head (flathead) six, which eventually evolved into the 226 cubic inch six that was also adopted, modified and built by Kaiser-Frazer. I couldn’t even find an image of a non-Kaiser or Jeep Continental 226 for automotive applications as used in the Checker, so this one here is from a Kaiser. The Kaiser engines had more ports and other changes to make them a bit peppier.


Checker used the Continental-built 226 L-head six going back some time before the war (exact details are not easy to come by). But in 1959, there suddenly appeared an OHV version of it.

Here’s a crop from the 1959 Checker brochure showing the two versions. The blocks and internal components were the same to the degree possible, but I don’t have a lot of details. Unique parts for the OHV 226 became very scarce some years back; I only came across one reference of a forum poster trying to keep the one in their ’62 Checker going, but he was seriously considering swapping in a Chevy six or V8.

Here’s a short article on it at the time.


Here’s the specs for the two versions. The L-head was rated then at 95 hp @ 3000 rpm, and the OHV at 125 hp @ 3900 rpm, with a one-barrel carb. In 1962, it got a two-barrel carb which upped power to 141 hp @4100 rpm. Somewhat curiously, the L-head version had its rating reduced that year to 80 hp.

Perhaps this higher-output engine was associated with Checker’s decision to begin “civilian” sales of its cars and wagons in 1960. I suspect most taxi operators were probably fine with the bullet-proof L-head version. One wonders what the take rate was for the two versions, among taxi operators and “civilian” buyers. Most likely much higher among the second group.

In 1964, Checker dropped the two Continental sixes and switched to the Chevy  230 six. Their 1964 brochure still shows the Continental six.

That got updated for 1965, when the Chevy six is quite apparent. And the Chevy 283 V8 also became available that year.

Unfortunately, I have nothing more on the Continental OHV 22 six. Did Continental create this new version specifically for Checker? There’s no indication of any other users. Was it a successful conversion? Any reliability issues?

Given the low volume of Checker production during this time, the number of OHV sixes built is probably just a couple of thousand, if that many. Seems a bit odd for the time and effort invested for such a limited number of engines built.

I did run across one or two references to a 1952 Kaiser-Frazer experimental OHV head for their 226 engine, but with no details or images. Might there be a connection between the two? Possibly, but then an experimental head is not the same as a production one.

Let’s end this with a brief mention of another conversion of the venerable old Continental 226 six, in this case the more ambitious Kaiser SOHC aluminum hemi-head 230 cubic inch “Tornado”, as used in the new 1963 Wagoneer and Gladiator, as well as the military M157 and of course then shipped to Argentina where it had an illustrious career in the IKA Torino.There’s still a fair number of these around, including this one that we found sitting in the Nevada desert on last summer’s overland trip.

What’s quite unusual about the OHV 226 is that it has a crossflow head, with the intake and exhaust on opposite sides of the head. That was just about never done on an inline engine in the US back then, unless it had a hemi head like the Tornado above.

If the 226 OHV Continental is truly extinct, it’s probably the only post-war American engine to have attained that status.