Perkins Engines

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Perkins Engines Company Limited
Company typeSubsidiary
IndustryMachine industry
Founded1932 (1932)
FounderFrank Perkins
HeadquartersEastfield, Peterborough, England
Area served
ProductsDiesel engines
Gas engines
ParentCaterpillar Inc.

Perkins Engines Company Limited, a subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc. since 1998, is primarily a diesel engine manufacturer for several markets including agricultural, construction, material handling, power generation, and industrial. It was established in Peterborough, England in 1932. Over the years, Perkins has expanded its engine catalogue, producing thousands of different engine specifications including diesel and petrol engines automatives.


High-speed diesel engines[edit]

A 1935 Perkins diesel car engine (Autocar Handbook, 13th ed.)

F. Perkins Limited, established on 7 June 1932, was founded by Frank Perkins and Charles Wallace Chapman, on Queen Street, Peterborough, to design and manufacture high-speed diesel engines.[1] Chapman was the design engineer (technical director) and company secretary and had a ten percent shareholding in the company. He continued working at F. Perkins Limited for more than a decade[2] before re-joining the Royal Navy Reserve,[3] though remaining a consultant to the company. Frank Perkins obtained further initial support from directors Alan J. M. Richardson and George Dodds Perks.[2]

Before Chapman and Perkins, the diesel engine was considered a heavy and slow-revving workhorse, lacking performance. Chapman's concept was the high-speed diesel – an engine that could challenge petrol-driven ones as the primary motor power. The company's first high-speed diesel engine was Perkins' four-cylinder Vixen, which made its debut in 1932. 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,[1] and established a number of licensees for local manufacturing and sale.[4]

Massey Ferguson[edit]

F. Perkins Ltd was purchased by its largest customer, Massey Ferguson, in 1959, with Perkins keeping its separate identity and branding. In 1990, Massey Ferguson took over Dorman Diesels of Stafford merging it with Perkins to form Perkins Engines (Stafford) Ltd. In 1984, Perkins acquired Rolls-Royce Diesels of Shrewsbury, continuing to supply British Rail with engines for its diesel multiple units until the site closed in 2002.[5] In 1986 Perkins acquired L Gardner & Sons to complement their line of lighter diesel engines.[6][7] Gardner exited the truck engine market immediately,[8] although production for the bus, coach and marine markets continued under the Gardner brand. In 1994, the whole of Perkins was bought by LucasVarity,[9] who immediately closed down the Gardner brand and sold off the Barton Hall Motor Works in Patricroft, Eccles, Manchester.[10]

Development continued and Perkins updated its engines to meet stricter emissions rules while developing new engine series for power generation and forklift trucks. Manufacturers such as Dodge, Ford, Grosspal, and Ranquel used Perkins engines in their diesel-driven products for more than two decades. Other manufacturers including GEMA, Araus, Bernardin and Rotania used Perkins impellers for harvesters at length.[11]

Argentina and Perkins Argentina/Pertrak[edit]

Pertrak was founded in 1961 as a licensee of Perkins Engines of England, and was dedicated to the manufacture of engines for pickups, trucks, and tractors. The most productive period for the company was in the 1970s when they produced 200,000 engines. In 2010, the last engine was made in Ferreyra, Córdoba, when the licence was dropped. Throughout this period of almost 40 years, more than 500,000 engines were produced. The factory continues to make engine parts for other makes such as Fiat and Scania.


From the early 1970's onwards Perkins was major supplier to Caterpillar Inc., who was a major customer for Perkins's smaller and mid-sized engines; Caterpillar was a major producer of large diesel engines for stationary and mobile applications.[9] In 1998 Caterpillar Inc bought Perkins from LucasVarity for US$1.325 billion, creating what they claimed was the world's largest diesel engine manufacturer. Perkins now had manufacturing facilities in the United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, China, India, and a joint venture with Ishikawajima-Shibaura-Machinery company in Japan.

On 1 June 2018, Steve Ferguson became President of Perkins Engines, replacing Ramin Younessi, after having worked as the general manager of Caterpillar's Advanced Component Manufacturing Department and overseeing operations at 15 global facilities. Ferguson is a vice-president of Caterpillar.[12]

Discontinued products[edit]

Various Perkins diesel engines have been made for industrial, agricultural, construction, material handling, marine and power generation markets, and Perkins gas-based engines (natural gas, landfill gas, digester gas, bio gas and mine gas) are used for continuous power generation.

Perkins' 4.99 1.6 litre (99 cubic inch) and the P4C engine [192 cubic inch], producing 45 or 60 hp (45 kW), were 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.[13]

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.

Until the 2010s Perkins manufactured engines for JCB,[14] but since then JCB manufactures their own engines.

Perkins Powered Equipment[edit]

Perkins engines are found in a wide range of machinery including tractors, generators, industrial tools, and machinery. While Perkins has customers in many sectors, the main consumer of their engines is Caterpillar, who is also their parent company. Caterpillar has several divisions that consume Perkins engines, the main two being Caterpillar Excavators and Caterpillar Diesel Generators through their subsidiary, F G Wilson. Perkins also has a subsidiary named Perkins Marine, which produces small engines for marine propulsion.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b F. PERKINS LIMITED (Incorporated under the Companies Act, 1929). The Times, 23 July 1951; pg. 9; Issue 52060
  2. ^ a b Z Yaakov Wise, Manchester Papers in Economic and Social History, Number 63, Manchester University, March 2008
  3. ^ Obituary, Mr C. W. Chapman. The Times, 3 December 1979; pg. 14; Issue 60490
  4. ^ "Perkins Heritage Timeline".
  5. ^ "Perkins shuts Shrewsbury engine plant". Farmers Weekly. 3 January 2002. Retrieved 31 August 2023.
  6. ^ Barden, Paul, ed. (June 1986). "Truckmonth: Perkins snaps up Gardner". TRUCK. London, UK: FF Publishing Ltd: 31.
  7. ^ Perkins R/R Commercial Motor 24 March 1984
  8. ^ Barden, Paul, ed. (December 1986). "News: Gardners go up". TRUCK. London, UK: FF Publishing Ltd: 25.
  9. ^ a b The Massey Legacy, by John Farnworth, ISBN 978-0-85236-403-1
  10. ^ Donohue, Simon (9 August 2004). "End of an era for Manchester manufacturer". Manchester Evening News. Archived from the original on 30 September 2016.
  11. ^ Dl, Esteban (11 January 2015). "Camión Argentino: Anexo: Especiales Perkins". (in Spanish).
  13. ^ "Perkins diesel engines and the Perkins Ltd. company". Allpar. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  14. ^ "JCB - Latest News". 31 March 2006. Archived from the original on 31 March 2006. Retrieved 16 June 2019.

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