Commer TS3

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Commer TS3
Manufacturer Commer
Configuration three-cylinder, six-piston opposed piston engine with rocker drive to a single crankshaft.
Displacement 3.261 litres (200 cu in)
Cylinder bore 3 ¼ inch (83 mm)
Piston stroke 4 inch (102 mm)
Fuel type Diesel
Oil system Wet sump
Cooling system Water-cooled
Power output 105 brake horsepower (78 kW) at 2,400 rpm
Torque output 270 lb.ft at 1,200 rpm

The Commer TS3[1] was a diesel engine fitted in Commer trucks built by the Rootes Group in the 1950s and 1960s. It was largely the product of Tilling-Stevens, but was developed by Rootes Group when they bought out Tilling-Stevens. The engine was the first diesel engine used by Rootes Group and was of unorthodox design.


Rootes' intention for the engine was to produce a new range of Commer trucks with the modern "cab forward" design, which required an engine low enough to mount under the driver's cab rather than in front of it as previously. Eric W Coy, Rootes' Chief Engineer, was responsible for the development of the engine by a core team of only seven people, at the Humber plant at Stoke Aldermoor.[2][3] "TS" in the engine's name derives from its Tilling-Stevens origins, a company acquired by Rootes in 1950. From 1954 Rootes diesel production was moved to the Tilling-Stevens plant in Maidstone, Kent.[4]


1959 Commer truck designed to take the "flat" TS3 engine with its horizontally mounted cylinders. With the engine mounted beneath the floor of the cab, the bonnet (hood) of the truck could be dispensed with. The windscreen and driver were then moved to the front of the vehicle, resulting in the UK's first short-cab lorry, with a cab forward design that avoided the excessive height of the tilt-cab Bedford QL.

The engine was unusual in being an opposed piston engine where each horizontal cylinder contains two pistons, one at each end, that move in opposition to each other.[5] Even more unusually, both sets of pistons drove only a single crankshaft; most opposed piston engines have a separate crankshaft at each end of the cylinder. The TS3 engine used a single crankshaft beneath the cylinders, each piston driving it through a connecting rod, a rocker lever and a second connecting rod. The crankshaft had six crankpins and there were six rockers.[6]

The engine was a two-stroke, compression-ignition diesel engine with uniflow-ported cylinders.[6] Scavenging was performed by a Roots blower.[7] which was mounted on the front of the engine and driven by a long quill shaft from a chain drive at the rear of the engine. Although the engines gained a reputation for good performance, this quill shaft was somewhat prone to breaking if over-worked.


Data from [6]

General characteristics

  • Type: Three cylinders, opposed pistons. Uniflow ports.
  • Bore: 3 ¼ inch (83 mm)
  • Stroke: 4 inch (102 mm)
  • Displacement: 3.261 L (200 cu in)


  • Power output: 105 bhp (78 kW) at 2,400 rpm
  • Torque: 270 lb.ft at 1,200 rpm
  • BMEP: 105



The TS3 was used in both the Commer and Karrier range of trucks. As the horizontal cylinders were lower than a vertical engine, the engine was mounted beneath the floor of the cab. The bonnet (hood) of the truck could be dispensed with, moving the windscreen and driver forward to give one of the first of the now common cab forward trucks.[2]

Access for maintenance was generally good: a small hatch in the cab gave access to the oil and fuel filters, the injection pump and injectors. Connecting rods and pistons could be accessed from outside each side of the cab, behind removable doors, without removing the engine. As there was no camshaft or valves, this removed the usual need to access the cylinder head of a conventional engine. Even the blower could be replaced by first removing the radiator and working from the front. Only the crankshaft bearings required the engine block to be removed from the chassis.

The engine's distinctive exhaust bark was always apparent, leading to their popular name of "Knockers".


The TS3 was used in the Commer Avenger Marks II, III and IV PSV chassis, and also in a number of Integral models from John C. Beadle and Thomas Harrington Ltd from 1952-63. Initially these were a sales success, as they were more reliable and economical than the then-current diesel-engined variant of the Bedford SB, however the noise produced by the TS3 was not acceptable to tours operators and the higher body mounting compared with the SB required extra work for coachbuilders and made the Avenger more expensive than the Bedford. The last straw was in 1957 when Ford announced a PSV version of its Thames Trader, which could take an identical body to the SB and had a conventional six-cylinder diesel engine (which turned out to be quieter than either the TS3 or the Perkins R6 fitted to the SBO). From 1957 Commer Avenger sales began to dwindle. It's notable that Thomas Harrington Ltd never tooled updated versions of its Crusader body for the Avenger, although that is also perhaps due to the conservatism of the combination's sole customer Southdown Motor Services.



Rootes Group, Commer's parent company, entered into a partnership with Lister to market the engines as industrial stationary engines through a joint company Rootes-Lister Ltd.[8] The venture was not a success for industrial engines, although some were sold as marine engines by Lister Blackstone Marine Ltd. Many of these marine engines survive today.

Rootes Lister Blackstone (3-cylinder 2-stroke) TS3 engine in action. on YouTube

Commer TS4[edit]

The TS4 engine was an enlarged four-cylinder version of the TS3. It ran 1.2 million miles as a pre-production prototype. The project was cancelled after Chrysler bought Rootes in 1968.[9]

Comparable engines[edit]

Sulzer ZG9 [edit]

There are very few similar engines. Opposed-piston diesel engines are rare enough at this size, the rocker lever arrangement was almost unheard of. Probably the only engine using a similar arrangement was the pre-war Sulzer ZG9.[10] This was an opposed-piston engine with a choice of two, three and four cylinders (2ZG9, 3ZG9, 4ZG9); the two-cylinder version developed 120 bhp. Its layout was very similar to the Commer engines, but it used a piston scavenge pump rather than a Roots blower. This was mounted vertically above one rocker, driven by a bellcrank from the main rockers. This engine is sometimes cited as an inspiration for the Commer design.[8]

Data from [10]

General characteristics

  • Type: Two cylinders, four opposed pistons.
  • Bore: 90 mm
  • Stroke: 120 mm


  • Power output: 50 PSe/36,77 kW at 1,500 rpm

See also[edit]

  • Gobron-Brillié - French cars, circa 1900, using opposed pistons driven
  • Junkers Jumo 204 - an opposed-piston aircraft engine of the 1930s
  • Napier Deltic - large multi-bank engine, with crankshafts shared between cylinder banks.
  • Sulzer ZG9 - Swiss-made pre-war engine.
  • Leyland L60 - tank engine, which Tilling-Stevens were involved in the design-of


  1. ^ "Original brochure cover". The Commer 'TS3' Diesel Engine. Precision built by the Rootes Group.
  2. ^ a b "The TS3". Retrieved 2009-01-26. The TS3 was initially designed by Rootes Power Units Chief Engineer Eric W Coy (and under him, designers Bennett and Mileluski) at the Humber plant (Stoke-Aldermore) in 1948. It was designed solely to meet Rootes production planning requirements for an underfloor 105 hp diesel engine for the new forward- control Commer range of heavy trucks.
  3. ^ "Working inside Rootes". Archived from the original on 2010-05-14.
  4. ^ Brian Vogt. "Commer TS3 Truck and Engine at the Greenock Aviation Museum".
  5. ^ "The TS3". Retrieved 2009-01-26. The engine was a direct injection, high-speed diesel engine with three horizontal cylinders, each containing two pistons, facing head-to-head. Each cylinder had specially designed ports to control the inlet of air and outlet of the exhaust which are controlled by the pistons. The pistons that control the inlet ports are known as the air pistons (left-hand side of the engine), the others being the exhaust pistons.
  6. ^ a b c Chapman, C.W. (1956). Modern High-Speed Oil Engines. Vol II (2nd ed.). Caxton. pp. 46–47.
  7. ^ Roots is a different company to Rootes. The blower was actually made by Wade in Birmingham
  8. ^ a b "Rootes-Lister TS3: TS3 Horizontally Opposed Piston Engine Page 1". Archived from the original on 2 May 2016. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  9. ^ "The TS4 Prototype". Retrieved 2009-01-26. All the 14 prototype TS4s were test bed run initially. Eight were then put in trucks for road evaluation before going into production, running up to 1.2 million miles between them, trouble free. They were then pulled out and scrapped on instructions from Chrysler to protect Chrysler’s joint venture in England with Cummins.
  10. ^ a b Chapman, C.W. (1956). Modern High-Speed Oil Engines. Vol I (2nd ed.). Caxton. pp. 222–223.

External links[edit]