Keeping a good thing going

11/28/2014 | Words: Jason Schrader | Pictures: MTU Archive

2-Cycle engines, Detroit Diesel, history

MTU’s success today is due in large part to its strong heritage in the diesel engine business. It’s ancestry can be traced back not only Germany’s MTU, but also North America’s Detroit Diesel—both brands that dominated  diesel engine innovation and manufacturing on their respective continents for most of the 20th century. Today nearly 250,000 Detroit Diesel 2-Cycle engines are still going strong all over the world. As the sole owner of this powerful product line, MTU is proud to continue providing expert support.

Originally formed by General Motors in 1937, Detroit Diesel produced its first two-stroke engine in Redford, Michigan. These compact, lightweight, two-stroke engines powered standby generators, tanks, landing craft and road building equipment.

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Production of 2-Cycle engines in Detroit began at the end of the 1930s

Later, the company began developing heavy-duty engines. By 1965 it had produced its one-millionth engine. "Detroits" continued to build their legacy as the diesel engines of choice in North America and achieved many milestones along the way.

The 2-Cycle engine powered most of the 20th century's diesel-driven industrial history. By land or sea, in peace and at war, a progressively more powerful and efficient series of "Detroits" could be found in every industry in every corner of the globe. Around the world, many of these "Detroits" were—and in many cases still are—in service in hard working city buses, generators, pumps, haul trucks, aircraft ground support equipment, commercial marine vessels, high-end marine pleasure craft, and most of the world's armies and navies.

During the '80s, the advent of tougher exhaust emissions regulations pushed 2-Cycle engines to the sidelines in favor of more environmentally friendly four-cycle engines. While many predicted the 2-Cycle engines would quietly fade away, they have proven remarkably resilient and today are making a comeback of sorts. When MTU acquired the Detroit Diesel 2-Cycle product line in 2006, a significant capital investment was made to sharpen market focus and renew commitment to customer support, including millions of dollars to revitalize the product line with genuine, high-quality new and reliabilt® remanufactured parts.

Back to the future
MTU inherited a legendary series of engines that have stood an extraordinary test of time. The granddaddy of them all is the Series 71, so named because it had a displacement of 71 cubic inches per cylinder. It was developed in 1938 for use in transit and Greyhound coaches, stationary power equipment, landing craft and tanks.

Today the original Series 71 design lives on in new, powerful eight-cylinder versions produced for the military, while remanufactured reliabilt® long block engine kit models are sold by MTU for military and non-military applications alike.

The same is true of the 6V53, a six-cylinder version of the Series 53 that was introduced over fifty years ago. New 6V53s are still being manufactured by MTU for military applications, and reliabilt® remanufactured long block engine kit models are sold for various uses around the world.

The two newest 2-Cycle designs—Series 92 and Series 149—are younger by comparison but still approaching a comfortable middle-age. Series 149 engines were introduced in 1967 and are still being sold as remanufactured reliabilt® long block engine kit models to the mining, marine, industrial and power generation customers who have sworn by their performance and dependability ever since.

If there is a greater among equals, it's the Series 92. First produced in 1973, the Series 92 has been sold new in 6, 8, 12 and 16-cylinder configurations to military, marine, construction, industrial, on-highway and energy industry customers. Today it's manufactured for military applications, with reliabilt® remanufactured long block engine kits versions available for all applications.

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Production of 2-Cycle engines started again in 2009 at
Emporia (Kansas) in the USA.

No substitute for experience
What's driving this resurgence in popularity in 2-Cycle products and support at MTU? Why does the U.S. Military, arguably the world's most demanding customer, continue to rely on these engines and parts for vehicles in applications where failure is not an option?

Like the engine designs themselves, there's simply no substitute for experience, and customers seem to realize it, according to George Polson, former director of product engineering and sales support.

“Those of us who worked for Detroit Diesel in the 2-Cycle's heyday recognized that there was still a lot of life left in this product line," states Polson. "When the off-highway division of Detroit Diesel became part of the global MTU organization, we saw an opportunity and urged MTU to also purchase the legacy 2-Cycle product line. MTU was quick to recognize the importance of our 2-Cycle heritage and made a commitment to give it the same comprehensive, long-term support that it provides with all MTU products."

With experience comes expertise, as Lisa Farrens, 2-Cycle business development manager of parts planning, can attest. “When helping our customers, whether it's sales, service or on a technical basis, they appreciate our knowledge and passion.”

It's a commitment that the military and commercial markets have clearly noticed, if rising sales are any indication. Explains Farrens, "We're letting customers know that we've invested a lot of resources and thought into ramping up production of high quality, genuine parts so that we can continue serving our customers whenever and wherever they need us."

From military vehicles in the Middle East to ferry boats in glittering tropical waters, the Detroit Diesel 2-Cycle engine lives on. And when combined with the strength of MTU’s expertise and support, the legend is sure to continue.

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