Cerlist Diesel

Cerlist Diesel inc. was incorporated in North Carolina March 26, 1956 as the sole producer of loop-scavenged two-cycle diesel engines.  The name Cerlist is a combination of names of two of the men responsible for the company's formation.  Mr. Peter H. Cerf (the founder) and Dr. Hans List, inventor of the loop-scavenged diesel engine.  Dr. List founded of the Institute for Combustion Engines in Graz, Austria.  Engines of similar design had already been in production in Europe since the early fifties by Ford, Alfa Romeo, Jenbacher-Werk and others.  The Cerlist engines differ by their larger size, conversion of measurements to American units as well as incorporation of standard American parts already in production (bearings etc).

As the patents for the engine were controlled by the Anstalt fur Verbrennungsmotoren (AVL) and the Anstalt fur Motorenbau und Konstruktionen (AMOK), Cerlist Diesel was to operate under license to AVL and AMOK.  On April 17, 1956 Cerlist became the sole licensee for production of Dr. List's loop-scavenged two cycle diesel in North America, as well as non-exclusive rights in the South American market. 

At the time of the company's formation, the proposed assembly plant was to be 10,000 sq. ft. and have a single shift of 30 and a capacity of 1,500-2,000 engines annually.

Cerlist's initial production line was to consist of five engine models producing 25hp per cylinder:

Engine Type: Power
(normally aspirated)
2 cylinder in-line 50 horsepower
3 cylinder in-line 75 horsepower
4 cylinder V-type 100 horsepower
6 cylinder V-type 150 horsepower
8 cylinder V-type 200 horsepower

On November 13, 1956 a conference was held in the Pentagon for the purpose of familiarizing the US Military with the plans of Cerlist Diesel was held.  Several letters between Cerlist executives, Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC) and various offices in the Department of Defense spanning October and November 1956 suggest this to be the first such meeting between Cerlist and the military.  In attendance were engineers or other representatives from all four branches of the military,  secretaries to both Senator William Kerr Scott (D-NC) and Senator Sam J Ervin, Jr., The President of Cerlist Diesel (M. Bickford Long), The founder and Executive Vice President of Cerlist Diesel (Peter H. Cerf) and well as Dr. Hans List.

Supercharging was predicted to add 25% more horsepower to the eight cylinder giving it 250.  The published horsepower rating for the 3 cylinder model as delivered in the military versions of the Forward Control Jeeps is 85 horsepower (a 13% increase). 

The only engine to see service in the Jeeps was the 3 cylinder version.  The other models saw service as stationary power plants to run generators and pumps.  Model 3 engines modified for marine service are denoted by the letter 'M' in the serial number (ex. 3M instead of 3C)

Model  2:


Model  3:

Model  4:


Parts interchangeability of the engine line was maximized by sharing many of the major parts such as the heads, pistons and connecting rods across the entire line.  Other items such as the exhaust manifolds would be shared by the inline 3 and V-6 models and between the 2 cyl and 4 cyl models as well.

Cold War Concerns:

In a two page Letter dated January 23, 1957 James F. Latham expresses concern for the safety of Dr. List and his associates in Austria and their concerns regarding interruption of their research efforts by the Russians.  Reportedly, the Russians sought Dr. List for some time after WWII to due to his reputation in the field and his position as the head of small diesel engine development for the German Army From 1941-1945.  Mr. Latham closes the letter expressing the desire of Cerlist Diesel to arrange for Immediate travel for Dr. List and the six scientists that Dr. List feels most instrumental to continuation their research not only for Cerlist Diesel, but for the interests of other American manufacturers currently using the institute's resources.  A letter of confirmation dated February 15, 1957 from Cerlist's attorneys to Senator Ervin confirms the Defense Department's full cooperation.

The Fate of Cerlist Diesel

There is very little information about Cerlist Diesel operations in the 196Os.  However, from plates riveted to the Cerlist engines supplied in FC trucks, it is known that Cerlist was producing the model 3C in Burlington, NC at least through 1964.

Peter Cerf remembers rough production figures for Cerlist Diesel engines as follows:

Model Production Notes
3 about 8000 only 300-400 of these were marine versions
2,4,6 about 2000 combined figure
8 0 did not see production

Cerlist ceased operation as an independent manufacturer some time in the late 60's (date unknown) after receiving an order from the USMC for an additional 3,000 model 3 engines.  Due to a lack of operating funds, Cerlist was unable to meet the order and went bankrupt.

Waukesha Motor Co., a Wisconsin based company specializing in production of stationary engines, acquired Cerlist Diesel Inc.   Cerlist continued operation as a subsidiary (Cerlist Engine Div.) and was relocated to Clinton, IA.    The data plates on these later engines have the following information:  Cerlist Engine Div., Waukesha Motor Co. Clinton, IA., Engine Model, S/N, and Date of manufacture.  Although the 1956 prospectus envisioned as serving all markets for commercial diesel engines from trucking to marine use, by the end of the '60s there seems to be little demand for the engines outside the USMC except perhaps for use as stationary power for pumps and generators.

It is unknown how long Waukesha Motor Co. kept the Cerlist plant in IA, or when the division was disbanded.  It seems unlikely that production under Waukesha was ever very high.  Waukesha itself though is still in operation to this day as a division of Dresser industries, but even eleven years ago had no parts information on the Cerlist engines as noted by a letter to another FC enthusiast dated August 23, 1994.

In an effort to determine the rate of production and time the move from NC to IA took place I am keeping track of Cerlist serial numbers and mfg. dates as well as those for the military FCs.  So far I know of the following engines / dates.

Model: Serial Number: Date of Manufacture: Plant:
3 C 3000215 5-25-64 Burlington, NC
3 C 3000544 2/16/68 Clinton, IA
3 CYL 3000556 11/3/69 Clinton, IA

Notice the later Clinton plant units are stretched pretty far apart.  Thirteen model 3C engines were produced in a span of 627 days, or one engine about every 48 days.


This page last updated by David Berg 7/02/2005

New Updates - February 2011

These documents and manual came from Dan DeVries (Glow Plug specs) and Dan Horenberger (Cerlist Diesel Manual).  As more and more information surfaces on these extremely rare Military vehicles rest assured that they will be cataloged on these pages for future references. 

Many thanks for sharing this material with the FC public guys!

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Drawn: 10/2/67

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