The Big Car Database


Picture: 1933 Continental Beacon Credit: Hemmings 

Continental Motors Company was an American manufacturer of internal combustion engines.

The company produced engines as a supplier to many independent manufacturers of automobiles, tractors, trucks, and stationary equipment (such as pumps, generators, and industrial machinery drives) from the 1900s through the 1960s. Continental Motors also produced Continental-branded automobiles in 1932–1933. The Continental Aircraft Engine Company was formed in 1929 to develop and produce its aircraft engines, and would become the core business of Continental Motors, Inc.

Throughout the 1920s, thousands of independent auto companies emerged as automobiles became not only more affordable and popular, but also more necessary to an increasingly mobile population. The vast majority of the independents produced assembled cars, built with parts from this supplier and parts from that supplier, capped with a fancy badge.

Continental Motors, however, had the largest slice of that pie by far--one study claimed 90 percent of the independent automakers of the 1920s used Continental's Red Seal engines.

Company history

In 1905, Continental Motors was born with the introduction of a four-cylinder, four stroke cycle L-head engine operated by a single camshaft. 1906 Type "O" 45 horsepower (34 kW) engine was developed to power aircraft. 1929 A-70 radial, seven-cylinder engine was introduced. 170 hp @ 2000 rpm 4.625x4.625 = 543.91cuin (8.91L)

In August 1929, the Continental Motors Company formed the Continental Aircraft Engine Company as a subsidiary to develop and produce its aircraft engines.

Continental Motors entered into the production of automobiles rather indirectly. Continental was the producer of automobile engines for numerous independent automobile companies in the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s, including Durant Motors Corporation which used the engines in its Star, Durant, Flint and Rugby model lines. Following the 1931 collapse of Durant, a group having interest in Durant Motors began assembling their own cars, the De Vaux-Hall Motors Company, using the Durant body dies, in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Oakland, California and under the De Vaux brand name. When De Vaux-Hall collapsed in 1932, unable to pay creditors, Continental Motors assumed automobile assembly and marketed the vehicles under the Continental-De Vaux brand name for the balance of the 1932 model year.

Continental Motors introduced a completely new line of Continental-branded automobiles for 1933. These cars were not based upon the 1931 De Vaux, a product of the De Vaux-Hall, which had been using body dies left over from the former Durant produced by Durant Motors until 1930.

The 1933 Continentals were marketed in three model ranges: the largest and most expensive was the six-cylinder Ace, next was a smaller six called the Flyer and also the low-priced four-cylinder Beacon. The 1933 Beacon roadster was the lowest price full-size car offered for sale in the United States in the 1930s, costing only $US335. None of these met with success in the depression era economy. At this same time, Dominion Motors Ltd. of Canada was building the same Flyer and Beacon cars under arrangement with Continental for sale in Canadian market, and importing the larger Ace models. Dominion then converted to building Reo brand trucks. The Ace and Flyer models were discontinued at the close of the 1933 model year. Finding that its cars were unprofitable, Continental stopped assembling even Beacon automobiles during 1934.

Kaiser, working with a Continental-designed engine, introduced USA's first mass produced OHC inline six-cylinder engine. It debuted in Kaiser-owned Jeep Corporation vehicles in the mid-1960s. However, Stutz built both single and dual overhead cam inline six-cylinder engines in, respectively, the late 1920s and early 1930s (sohc) and the early 1930s (dohc). Moreover, these were fitted in Stutz production cars (though their numbers were comparatively small).

Particular models of John Deere tractors are currently being supplied by Continental since the ownership transfer to Korea, as stated on the tractor's engine identification plate.

Automobiles that used Continental engines

The following automobile companies used Continental engines:

  • Abbott-Detroit
  • Ace
  • Ambassador
  • Anderson
  • Apperson
  • Auburn
  • Bantam Reconnaissance Car(Y112 4 cyl. first Jeep during World War II)
  • Barley
  • Bay State
  • Beggs
  • Benham
  • Bendix
  • Birmingham
  • Blackhawk
  • Bour-Davis
  • Bush
  • Cardway
  • Case
  • Checker (pre-1965)
  • Colby
  • Columbia
  • Comet
  • Continental (see above)
  • Corbitt
  • Crawford
  • Dagmar
  • Darling
  • Davis
  • Detroiter
  • De Vaux
  • Diana
  • Dodge
  • DuPont
  • Durant Motors, including:
    • Durant
    • Eagle
    • Flint
    • Star
  • Economy
  • Elcar
  • Empire
  • Enger
  • Erskine
  • Ferris
  • Ghent
  • Graham-Paige
    • Graham
  • Hanson
  • Hertz
  • Hollier
  • Howard
  • Howmet TX (turbine race car)
  • Hudson
  • Huffman
  • Imperial
  • Indian
  • Jewett
  • Jones
  • Jordan
  • Kaiser-Frazer, including
    • Allstate
    • Frazer
    • Henry J
    • Kaiser
    • Willys (after 1953)
  • Keller
  • Kent
  • Kenworthy
  • Kleiber
  • Kline Kar
  • Lambert
  • Leach
  • Lexington
    • Howard
  • Liberty
  • Littlemac
  • Locomobile
  • Luverne
  • Marendaz
  • Marion-Handley
  • Martin
  • Merit
  • Meteor
  • Metropolitan
  • Monitor
  • Moon
  • Morris Cowley
  • Morris (manf'd under licence)
  • National
  • Noma
  • Norwalk
  • O'Connor
  • Ogren
  • Overland
  • Owen Magnetic
  • Paige
  • Pan-American
  • Paterson
  • Pathfinder
  • Peerless
  • Piedmont
  • Playboy
  • Reo
    • Wolverine
  • ReVere
  • Roamer
  • Rock Falls
  • Romer
  • Ruxton
  • Saxon
  • Sayers
  • Scripps-Booth
  • Severin
  • S&M
  • Stanwood
  • Stephens
  • Thorne
  • Velie
  • Vogue
  • Walker
  • Washington
  • Wasp
  • Westcott
  • Windsor
  • Woods
  • Yellow

Trucks and buses that used Continental engines

  • AM General (medium and heavy trucks for military use)
  • Biederman
  • Brockway
  • Commerce
  • Corbitt
  • Denby
  • Divco
  • Federal
  • GMC
  • Indiana
  • McKeen bus for Minneapolis (only 2)
  • Menominee
  • Minerva
  • Moreland
  • Reo
  • Sterling
  • Wachusett

Tractors that used Continental engines

Some models used Continental engines for only part of their production lifespan; others used them exclusively.

  • Allis-Chalmers Model 6-12
  • Allis-Chalmers Model G
  • Allis-Chalmers Model U
  • Case Model VC
  • Ferguson TO-35
  • International 350 and Farmall 350 diesels
  • Massey-Harris M-H-81
  • Massey Harris Pony
  • Massey Harris 33 and 333 diesels
  • Oliver Super 44
  • Some Silver King tractors

US military vehicles that used Continental engines


Continental built many engines for the US military, some by license, and many of unusual type.

Inline: several conventional gasoline I6s were built for trucks, the COA331 (licensed from REO), 6602, 22R, and AO895 (also used in some armored vehicles). Later the M-A-N licensed multifuel LDS427, LD465 and turbocharged LDT465 were developed, also for use in trucks.

Radial: in the late 1930s 7 and 9 cylinder air cooled radial aircraft engines were adapted for use in armored vehicles. The W670 and R975 were considered very reliable by the British in North Africa, but were not developed further.

Opposed: just after WWII an air cooled O6 was developed for armored vehicles. All were supercharged, AOS895-3 models had carburetors, -5 models had fuel injection with no increase in power, but greater fuel mileage.

V type: in the early 1950s an air cooled V12 engine was introduced for armored vehicles. Later the AVSI-1790 was developed into the AVDS-1790 diesel version, which was often retro-fitted to earlier vehicles.


(Vehicles often change engines during production and/or service life)

  • Trucks
    • BRC ½ ton (227 kg) 4x4
    • M35 series 2 ½ ton (2268 kg) 6x6
    • M54 series 5 ton (4536 kg) 6x6
    • G116 10 ton (9272 kg) 6x6
    • M249 and 250 tractors 4x4
      (for “Atomic Cannon”)
  • Gun motor carriages and tractors
    • M5 13 ton (11793 kg) tractor
    • M7 105mm howitzer
    • M8 16 ton (14515 kg) tractor
    • M12 155mm gun
    • M18 76mm AT gun
    • M40 155mm gun
    • M42 40mm (x2) AA gun
    • M43 8 in (203 mm) howitzer
    • M44 155mm howitzer
    • M52 105mm howitzer
    • M53 155mm gun
    • M55 8 in (203 mm) howitzer
  • Landing vehicles and carriers
    • LVT(A)(1), (2), and (A)(2)
    • LVT (4), (A)(4), and (A)(5)
    • LVPT 5
    • M75 Armored personnel carrier
    • M76 1 ½ ton (1361 kg) carrier
  • Tanks
    • M3 light (37mm gun)
    • M3 medium (75mm gun)
    • M4 medium (75mm/76mm gun)
    • M41 light (76mm gun)
    • M47 medium (90mm gun)
    • M48 medium (90mm/105mm gun)
    • M60 medium (105mm gun)
    • M103 heavy (120mm gun)
  • Armored recovery vehicles
    (tank chassis / winch capacity)
    • M31(M3 / 60,000 lb (27,000 kg))
    • M32 (M4 / 60,000 lb (27,000 kg))
    • M51 (M103 / 90,000 lb (41,000 kg))
    • M88 (M48 / 90,000 lb (41,000 kg))


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