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.
Once more, I’ve learnt something. Thanks Paul!
Others would include the dozens of Franklin O-335 engines that powered most 1948 Tuckers, There was the 1955-56 Packard V8 which also powered some Nash, Hudson, and Studebakers, plus some racing cars. Most recently, the Cadillac Blackhawk twin-turbo DOHC V8 which didn’t last a year.
I think PN’s point is that there might not be any running examples left of this Continental unit. Your examples are certainly orphans in varying degrees of rare, but there are some running versions out there.
I see. In that case I nominate the Citroen GS Birotor, only a few hundred made, but the company tried to buy them all back . A handful survived though so not extinct. Likewise the Chrysler Turbine engines from the ’60s, 55 built, most crushed, those engines saved taken out of saved bodies. A few have reunited, and that was never quite a production engine (or car).
The mention of a running Turbine Car is interesting since one of the few car guys with the werewithal to keep ultra-rare, orphan engines running, Jay Leno, has one. If I were to suggest the person to keep something like the last Continental 226 going, it’d be him since he has the extensive machine shop (including a 3-D printer) to do it.
The only question would be ‘why?’. The old engine doesn’t seem to have anything particularly noteworthy attached to it. Occasionally driving around in a stylish Turbine Car powered by a unique turbine engine is one thing. Driving a Checker powered by an old OHV engine is quite another. It’d be sort of like keeping some old, one-off agricultural engine running. I suppose the biggest draw would simply be for someone to be able to say they had the last one that still ran, an automotive Last of the Mohicans if you will. Not really worth the effort, IMHO.
If you push out the definition of “engine” beyond internal combustion to any motor vehicle propulsion system once used on public roads by other than corporate test drivers there’s the GM EV1 system and comparable early-modern EVs that were lease-only and taken back at the end, from Honda and maybe a couple others.
If by extinct Paul means there is not a single running example to be found, he may be on to something.
If you take extinct to mean a post-war design that is no longer built, there are many examples in addition to the ones you mention.
An open question would be whether extinct includes examples used as industrial, agricultural or aviation engines. There might be some of these Continentals lurking about in such applications with owners oblivious to the rarity of what they have.
If by extinct Paul means there is not a single running example to be found,
That’s what I mean. Dead fossils don’t count.
As I said in the top of the post: I can’t find any references to one still in existence in running condition
Wow, I never had any idea that there was an OHV 226. And I can imagine that the take-rate was really low. The overall numbers were low for Checkers in general, so could there have only been maybe 3k or these made a year for about 3 years?
I wonder if the OHV could brag about better fuel mileage – that might have offset the extra up-front cost for fleet operators. But the lack of information would indicate that the value proposition just wasn’t there. And if the OHV conversion led to any baked-in service or durability problems, that would have made the situation all the worse.
I think it’s safe to assume that both Checker and Continental saw the end of the road for the flathead, so it was rather imperative to either build an OHV version or? Obviously the better and cheaper choice would have been for Checker to buy Chevy engines at that point.
The issue would have been forced on them when the emission regulations kicked in.
That’s what eventually happened to AMC, right? And Studebaker converted their flathead six to OHV around the same time.
Between 1959 and 1964 Checker would produce 30616 cars a year. I have tracked used Checker sales since 2015, at a minimum there are a least 100 Checkers running around with 226 OVD today. Here is one currently for sale being sold on Facebook Marketplace. The Connie engines are great, very reliable, are very quiet and smooth. by 1964 Continental Engine was selling engines to CMC at a loss, and essentially fired CMC as a customer. For its part Checker started looking for other engine sources as far back as 1957. A8A used AMC engines and in the early sixties Aerobuses were using Chrysler 318 engines. Litigation with Chrysler in the early sixties stopped a deal to source 318, so CMC went with GM.
Even the woman in the lead in picture appears astonished to find that OHV 226 sitting between the frame rails… like maybe they were as rare as rocking horse poop even then?
And also, if Kaiser *had* adopted an OHV version of the engine, I wonder what kind of name the marketing department would’ve brewed up with for it… Super-Dupersonic, perhaps?
Well hello, new favorite idiom!
According to a history of Continental I read, they were losing money on the engines they sold to Checker. When they raised the price, Checker switched to Chevrolet engines.
That makes a lot of sense. presumably the new OHV 226 must have cost a bit, and in order to amortize it ans build it it would have been more expensive. Nobody could undercut Chevy given their massive volume.
This from a Popular Mechanics road test, September 1962. Useful?
And it reinforces a point I forgot to mention in the article: the intake and exhaust are on opposite sides of the heads! That makes it technically a cross-flow head, quite unusual for the times in the US. I don’t know why they did that, as it also makes heat for the intake/carb difficult to impossible.
I’m a bit surprised it’s not an F-head like the Willys four cylinder, but it’s pretty clearly not, given that the exhaust is attached to the cylinder head. The exhaust is on the same side as on the flathead, which does make me wonder…
And I truly can’t tell if the under-hood photo here is a Checker/Continental six or not: https://barnfinds.com/hunka-hunka-60s-checker-marathon-wagon/
Bingo! I’ll add it to the post. Thanks!
Thanks for the fun challenge this morning, Paul—the least I can do in repayment for all I learn from you and the other contributors!
Pretty interesting that it’s crossflow. That seems a lot of development on the old Red Seal /KF/etc engine, and tad exotic for yeoman duties.
Here’s something I read that may or may not help. Continental made engines for the military, one being called a COA 331, a 5.4-ish litre ohv six, but this was actually a REO engine renamed. I wonder if the head in the Checker motor was bought-in unit from someone else, like perhaps REO?
My point is that industrial engines tend to get made forever, and I wonder if the 226 OHV soldiered on under some other title? That potentially could mean one is still running somewhere, in some stationary capacity.
The crossflow aspect just dawned on me fully (see comment above). The fact that the exhaust is on the same side as it is on the flathead makes me wonder if it’s some sort of F-head where the exhaust flows up through the head, but that makes no sense. It’s just very odd to see a crossflow head on an engine like this.
The 331 was a physically larger engine. The 226 was the biggest of this block family; there was a 206 and possibly a smaller one yet if you go digging around in the 1920s.
The OHV 226 apparently was not used in industrial applications, according to some forum discussions on this engine. The flathead 226 (and 206) was very widely used, in lots of agricultural and industrial applications, but not the OHV version.
This is apparently why parts were almost impossible to come by 15-20 years back, when these forum discussions happened. One guy had a Checker with an OHV 226 and was desperate to find parts.
I don’t really know much about the care and feeding of older engines, but I’ve read that it was common practice – maybe even routine maintenance – to “de-coke” the top end of an engine. I’m not sure if that was due to poor fuels, poor motor oils, or what, but from what I understand, it involved removing the cylinder head(s) and scraping off the carbon buildup. I also don’t know when this practice became less- or unnecessary.
But I have to imagine that this “de-coking” was a LOT easier on flathead engines. I also want to think that taxicabs, which tend to do a lot of idling, get more carbon buildup than engines that see more normal usage.
If any of this comment makes any sense, I can see why taxi fleet owners preferred flathead engines. If I’m grossly incorrect, will someone please enlighten me?
Speaking as someone who ran a fleet of taxicabs, the most important factor is reliability and commonality. For example, if I have been running all Oldsmobile 307’s for my cabs, introducing another engine will make make parts supply harder.
“Decoking” was still common in the 1960s from what the old timers told me. The carbon build-up was due to poor quality fuels and lubricants.If one opened up a SBC from say 1970, some carbon would be present on the pistons. An SBC from 1980 would not display carbon on the pistions, or very little.
This is my experience of carbon build-up on pistons. This is not a scientific supposition, just my observation from working in a garage for 10+ years. Your mileage may vary.
My dad was a heavy equipment mechanic back in the day, (retired 1976), and he would rev the engine up to about 3000 rpm and slowly dribble water straight down the carburetor throat for about 30 seconds. The steam cloud coming out of the tailpipe was enormous.
He did this to a couple of cars but I can’t imagine him attempting to do this on a diesel enģine.
Here you go! 1956 Checker A8 (first year for the classic cab body) with Continental 226 and a Bendix transmission of some sort. Starts up at 3:07.
I’ve seen pictures of this car before. But if this has the OHV 226, it must have been added later, as it was not available until 1959. Too bad he didn’t lift the hood.
Also, he said it had a Bendix automatic transmission. never was such a thing. Checker used Borg Warner automatics.
Makes me wonder if he really knows what’s under the hood of his car.
The Bendix reference was purely “mispeak”, I meant to say Borg-Warner, chalk it up to nerves due to being on camera. The engine is indeed a 226 OHV Continental engine. A 1963 version. Paid $100 bucks and plopped it into the A8, replacing a messed up Chevy 350, runs like a top. The 226 Continental engine is far from extinct. Parts are readily available and many members of the ICTA still run their Checkers with Continental OHV. Next time maybe you should do more research than just your typical “Google Search”, maybe talk to some Checker owners. Your comment “Makes me wonder if he really knows what’s under the hood of his car.” very insulting given many of your articles/blogs and past the use of my photos have come from me.
Thanks for the info.
I ran into several forums where it was discussed that certain parts for the 226 OHV are either difficult to source, or not available.
My apologies, but it really would have made the video much more interesting if you had popped the hood and pointed out the engine and said a few words about it. It’s a rather key and distinctive part of your historical Checker, even if it wasn’t original.
I am sure I have a running video somewhere, will see what I can find.
Continental OHV installed in my 1958 Checker Model A9
Nice. It’s fascinating that this engine has a crossflow head. That’s extremely unusual for American inline engines.
FYI, Checker did not use model year designations. Checkers were typically titled or registered based on delivery date. My Checker Model A9 was serial number 00006 assembled in October of 1958 and titled accordingly. So technically Checker started using the OVH 225 six in 1958. I will check my Checker production files, the OVH 225 may have been available on the A8 too. There were several non listed engine options for the A8 including an AMC engine option. A seperate model designation existed for AMC engined A8, the Model A8A.
That’s not surprising. Some other small manufacturers used to do the same thing.
Never knew about the AMC engine option. There’s always much more to learn.
Within A8 production beyond the A8A there was also an A8B. I suspect that the A8B is the Continental engine OVH. Note this summary production report on parts number sequencing. Parts numbers 92000 thru 93799 represents engine parts number sequences. A8 flathead 226, A8A AMC and I assume A8B for 226 OVH. CMC was really a very small specialty car company, engineering happened on the fly.
This engine is in a 1963 Checker
There are a handful of taxi collectors worldwide. One of them may own a Checker with that engine, though there would undoubtedly be more of the later ones with GM engines.
EDIT: la673 beat me to it! So, not an extinct species though unarguably endangered.
The old Continental Motors factory in Muskegon MI had some automotive engines in an informal display at least 10 years ago. Don’t know if the 226 was one of them. That factory is still in use today building air cooled 1790 engines for the Army and foreign military customers. Now owned by L3 Combat Propulsion Systems.
Five rings on each piston…!
Wonder whether the rest of the engine was similarly overbuilt?
It’s an interesting footnote and technically relatively straightforward. The new OHV head is laid out with pushrods aligned with the flathead’s valve guides, and some extra metal to seal the old ports. Then add block off plates to the block and arrange the manifolds. These OHV or IOE conversions are most common on Fords like the Riley for the Model A, Ardun and Tornado, among others for the flathead V8 and the Willment IOE for the British 100E
Continental Motors is unusual in its role as a pollinator AND supplier.
Most licensers just own the IP and license it out for royalties, with strong restrictions on modification.
Most suppliers just sell engines or pistons or differentials.
Continental sold a lot of engines and also licensed its designs to carmakers, who went on to develop fresh versions of the engines.
I would guess that the Crosley COBRA engine is effectively extinct. Well, there might be one around, but I would imagine whoever owns it would be very afraid to run it for any period of time.
Friend of mine had a running Crosley COBRA on a genset. They are out there.The really odd thing about the Jeep Tornado is that it had only one cam lobe per cylinder. Neat rocker arm setup to make it work. I’m going to hit up the folks on another forum dedicated to antique engines about the OHV Continental.
The COBRA did just fine powering generators during WW2. When it was installed in a car, that was another matter.
The 16v Triumph Dolomite Sprint also had one cam lobe per cylinder.
Great article, thanks. I have wondered about the OHV Continental 226 myself, I saw one years ago in a Checker wagon (not running). I was told a handful of Checkers were built with Chrysler 318 V-8’s in 1963 before the decision was made to go with Chevrolet, those cars may have been even rarer then those equipped with the OHV 226.
There were. Yesterday I found a Hemming’s article stating a 318 was used in the ’63 and ’64 Aerobus as Checker didn’t feel the 226 six was up to the task. These went away with the changeover to Chevrolet engines.
How many were built, other than very few, was not stated.
You don’t have to go to Hemmings; My CC on the Aerobus covered that.
The Aerobus had a deeper and thicker frame and a number of other chassis changes. It was of course much heavier, especially loaded and it needed more power, so they all came standard with the Chrysler poly 318 up to 1965, and then the Chevy 327. It was also available with a truck-type four speed manual with very low first gear. I couldn’t tell the exact year of the one I found, but it might have had the 318.
Interesting subject. By this time, Continental was primarily an industrial engine supplier. It’s possible running examples of this OHV six exist in tractors and other machinery. Certainly the side valve predecessor was widely used in models such as the Massey Harris 44/6.
I’m repeating myself, but I came across some old forum discussions where those (presumably) in the know said that it wasn’t used in agricultural and industrial applications.
Drove one of them flatheads back in the sixties,hacking in Buffalo. Damn near impossible to kill that sucker. Slow as a brick monkey. Traded it for a Chevy six. Bad trade.
The Standard Catalog of Amercian Cars, 1946-1975, Edited by John Gunnell shows he OHV 226 was the station wagon engine for civilian Superba and Marathon sales through the 1964 model. For 1965 Checker switched to GM-sourced Chevrolet 230 ci six and 283 ci V8.
If any of the Checker OHV 226 ci engines are still operational, most likely the example would be in the conservatorship of a Checker club enthusiast.
The 1964 Checker flyer lists a “140 hp six cylinder engine”. That corresponds to the Chevy 230 six, not the 226. There’s other references that the change to the Chevy six happened in 1964, but it may well have happened during the model year.
I was a bit confused by that too, but I’m convinced it was (mostly) in 1964.
The 283 V8 came along in 1965.
While rare, Continentals can still be found powering portable industrial air compressors, generators and welders.
This might be of interest and help: http://www.numeralkod.com/cross/archivemanuals/chrysler/6%20cylinder%20over%20head%20valve%20engine%20form%20no.%20ohm-660/part%201.pdf
I am currently rebuilding a fo6 226 ohv engine for installation in a 51 Kaiser for it is very similar to a prototype that Kaiser built in 1951 only of greator displacement code name VH-6 248 of both iron and aluminum verisons.
For everyones info the 226 OVH engine was available in Divco trucks in 1966 and 1967
You mite try getting the book called Continental it’s motors and it’s people, I checked there is still some available online it was published in 1983, lot of info on checker and all the auto applications, I am a huge wisconsin air cooled motor collector they where acquired by Continental in the 40s it’s a really nice book on the full history of all there motors
Continental, it’s motors and it’s people is a great read for the full history of all the products they made, airplane,tank,construction,ag. turbines
I would like info on there ohv V8 and its application
I don’t recall seeing that in the book, but I will look and reply back
Answer to question regarding KF V-8 engine development!
In late 1945 when Henry Kaiser and Joseph Frazer joined forces to establish a new car company to compete in and go after a market that was in great need of automobiles because of WW-2 and the stoppage of auto production KF needed to get into auto production as soon as possible and the longest lead item to manufacture would be engine development, testing and manufacturing of an engine. Time was the essence that they did not have so they teamed up with Continental to provide a engine as a stop gap until they could develop there own engine.
Engine develop projects started in 1946 and continued thru 1955. All the engines that they designed and protyped is a story in itself, V-8’s of 232, 255, 288 and 327 cu inch’s, inline 6 of various displacements, aluminum and iron and even over head cam design, to much info to cover here.
KF quit using continental as a supplier in 1950 for they were making there own version of the 226
I have a color brochure on the V8 that Continental built being of large displacement 500-600 ci, proubly truck application.
Continental made a lot of 6 cyl large displacement gas engines upward of 800 ci.
There downfall was not going diesel