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Engines of the Past

Friday, October 1, 2010

Recently I was looking up some engine parts for a customer on a Tennant Model 6650. This model is newer and has a GM Engine. For a moment I was reflective on how we got to this point, that is, this GM Engine, a four cylinder, distributorless engine from a point of many years ago. At that place in time, the mid 1970’s the engines would have been mostly two cylinders. The brand names may still be familiar to you. They were Onan, Wisconsin, Kohler, just to name a few and Continental which you probably heard of was the “all popular” Y 112 a four cylinder.

I thought, in this article, I would delve into the history of the IC Engine in the various brands of sweepers and scrubbers.

First of all, there were no sweeper/scrubber combinations. Either you owned a sweeper or a scrubber. The true concept of sweeper/scrubber had not yet been developed. That would not come about for another 10 years.

The big manufacturers, at that time, were Tennant, American-Lincoln, Advance and Wayne Sweepers. I say Wayne Sweepers because Wayne manufactured just sweepers and no scrubbers.

In that day the Models most recognizable would have been the Tennant Model 86 and the Model 240 Sweepers. These were some of Tennants most popular ever. To this day you may see at least a Model 240 now and then. It was produced primarily with three engines:
#1 The Kohler K482S and later the K532s
#2 The Onan NHC
#3 Wisconsin Model THD

All of these were air cooled and produced a range of horse power between 18 to 25 HP. The Kohler, in my opinion, was the best engine for your money. The Onan was too expensive on parts and it was an all aluminum block, did not hold up.

The aluminum block was not yet perfected. When they got hot, they would crash. The Wisconsin was a good engine, it just wasn’t a Kohler. It was what I call a “quirky” engine.

The other manufacturers usually followed Tennant in suite by using the same model engines. When the Tennant Model 265 came out in 1975 it changed everything for its time. Here was a four cylinder Ford engine producing about 48-horse power. This engine as well was water-cooled.

Advance quickly followed with the Model 5600 with their Ford Engine. Wayne as well installed a Ford; however, by 1980 Wayne was in trouble and stopped production of all sweepers.

By 1976 to 1977 Tennant started using the ever popular Y112 but by then it was too late for Continental. Ford forged ahead because of price and their sales team was more effective. However, Continental would go on supplying both the Y112 and F163 until the early to mid 1980’s.

With the introduction of the sweeper/scrubber in 1985 a larger and more productive horsepower engine was needed. It would not be until the 1990’s that the 2.3 liter Ford be installed. By the end of the decade, a more environmental friendly engine, less pollution was required. By the year 2000, 2001 Gas made the way in the sweeper/scrubber market with two engines:
#1 The 1.6 Liter
#2 The 3.0 Liter

This article is just to give you an overview. There were some engines not mentioned because the lack of impact on the market place. An example was the 4-Cylinder jeep which was actually installed in the Tennants sweeper Model 92 in the 1970’s. They were I was later told, WWII Army Surplus. But that’s for another time.

Hope you enjoy reading Creamers Corner. You can reach me at

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