Perkins Engines (officially Perkins Engines Company Limited), a subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc., is primarily a diesel engine manufacturer for several markets including Agricultural, Construction, Material Handling, Power Generation and Industrial. It was established in Peterborough in 1932. Over the years Perkins has expanded its engine ranges and produces thousands of different engine specifications including diesel and gas engines.
High-speed diesel engines
F. Perkins Limited, incorporated on 7 June 1932, was founded in Queen Street, Peterborough, to design and manufacture high-speed diesel engines by Frank Perkins and Charles Wallace Chapman (1897–1979). Chapman was design engineer (technical director) and company secretary and was given a ten percent shareholding. He was to remain with the business for more than a decade before re-joining the RNVR though remaining a consultant to the company. Frank Perkins obtained further initial support from directors Alan J M Richardson and George Dodds Perks.
Before Chapman and Perkins the diesel engine was a heavy and slow revving workhorse, lacking performance. Chapman's concept was the high-speed diesel – an engine that could challenge gasoline as the primary motive power. The world’s first high-speed diesel engine[dubious ] was Perkins' four-cylinder Vixen, which made its debut in 1932, and in October 1935 Perkins became the first company to hold six world diesel speed records for a variety of distances set at the Brooklands race track in Surrey. Sales were strong and by the time of World War II the company made two series of engines, P4 and P6. Soon after the war, the company went public, and established a number of licensees for local manufacturing and sale.
F. Perkins Ltd. was purchased by its largest customer, Massey Ferguson, in 1959. Keeping its separate identity, the business continued under the name of Perkins Engines and in 1994 became a subsidiary of LucasVarity. Development continued and Perkins updated its engines to meet stricter emissions rules while developing new series for power generation and forklift trucks.
A supplier to Caterpillar Inc. since the 1970s, Perkins was bought by Caterpillar in 1998 for US$1.325 billion, creating what they claimed was the world's largest diesel engine manufacturer. With an ever-expanding global footprint Perkins now has manufacturing facilities in the United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, China, India and a joint venture with Ishikawajima-Shibaura-Machinery company in Japan. On January 1, 2009 (replacing Hans Haefeli), Gwenne Henricks became President of Perkins Engines after having worked in Caterpillar’s Electronics and Connected Worksite Division in North America. Gwenne is also a vice-president of Caterpillar.
Various Perkins diesel engines have been made for industrial, agricultural, construction, material handling, marine and power generation markets, and Perkins Gas-based engines (Natural Gases, Landfill Gas, Digester Gas, Bio Gas, Mine Gas) use for continuous power generation.
Perkins' 1.6 litre (99 cubic inch) P4C engine, producing 45 or 60 hp (45 kW), was popular in Europe and Israel for taxis and commercially driven cars during the 1950s and early 1960s; many cars, including American imports, were retrofitted with these engines for taxi use, with kits made by Hunter NV of Belgium. Perkins engines were also used as standard factory equipment in Jeeps and Dodge trucks in the United States in the 1960s. They also continued to be popular in European trucks from their original customer, Commer and other companies.
The Perkins 6.354 medium duty engine was designed to be compact enough to replace petrol/gasoline V8 engines in trucks, despite its in-line six-cylinder design. Producing 112 horsepower (84 kW) in early years (later rising to 120 hp), it had a small jackshaft driven by the timing gears for the auxiliary drive, with the oil pump driven by a quill shaft so it could run auxiliary equipment at engine speed with simple couplings.
After acquiring Rolls-Royce Diesels of Shrewsbury in 1984, Perkins continued to supply British Rail with engines for its diesel multiple units. Perkins went on to purchase Gardner Engines in the summer of 1986 to complement their line of lighter diesel engines.
Global product support is provided by 4,000 distribution, parts and service centres.
Perkins plays an active role in all the communities in which it is based, sponsoring a range of programmes from Formula Student to the Perkins Great Eastern Run and the Heart-to-Heart programme in China to the Thomas Deacon Academy
- F. PERKINS LIMITED (Incorporated under the Companies Act, 1929). The Times, Monday, July 23, 1951; pg. 9; Issue 52060
- Z Yaakov Wise, Manchester Papers in Economic and Social History, Number 63, Manchester University, March 2008
- Obituary, Mr C. W. Chapman. The Times, Monday, December 3, 1979; pg. 14; Issue 60490
- "Perkins Heritage Timeline".
- "Perkins diesel engines and the Perkins Ltd. company". Allpar. Retrieved 2008-05-16.
- Barden, Paul, ed. (June 1986). "Truckmonth: Perkins snaps up Gardner". TRUCK (London, UK: FF Publishing Ltd): 31.
- "Perkins Distributor Locator".
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