An Entertaining & Informative Vintage Automobile Internet Magazine

There is Nothing New Under the Sun – The OHV Six-Twelve


Updated – The Enger Motor Car Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, built its first machine, a two-cylinder high wheeler in 1909. The following year a moderately priced conventional four-cylinder touring car was offered, and this model continued with minor changes through 1914.

Enger received quite a bit of attention in the press in 1915 when it introduced a 227.3 c.i. V-12 at the same time Packard did. The 60-degree twelve-cylinder engine featured pushrod actuated rocker arms and overhead valves operated by a silent chain-driven camshaft located in the middle of the V between the two sets of cylinders.


  • The lead image and diagram above -“The Automobile” September 9, 1916.

Update – At the bottom of the post is a patent found by reader TinIndian of a device operated by an electrical solenoid which could have replaced the mechanical operation shown above. It was patented by E.L. Jones and assigned to Enger.

A year later in 1916 the “Twin-Unit Twelve” was introduced with a unique feature – a shaft and lever mounted on the steering column deactivated one bank of cylinders. When placed in action by the operator, a camshaft above the rocker arms pressed down and opened all of the exhaust valves relieving compression. At the same time, a simple rod and set of levers closed a butterfly valve in the intake manifold cutting off the gas and air mixture resulting in better fuel economy. But it was not enough to save Enger, as the Company folded the following year after financial difficulties and the death of Frank Enger, who shot and killed himself in his office.

Enger’s system was amazingly simple in operation when compared to a very complex arrangement that accomplished the same thing 65-years later with the 1981 Cadillac V-8-6-4 disaster that was dropped the following year. In 2005 GM and the Eaton Corporation’s new “Displacement on Demand” system became a reality on production vehicles at that time with an average 12% gain in fuel economy.


  • “Automobile Trade Journal” January 1916 listing and illustration of the Enger.
  • .
  • Details and illustration below of the V-12 – The “Horseless Age” August 1916.


  • Below is the US patent for a “Multiple Cylinder Motor” issued to Edward L. Jones of Cincinnati and assigned to a Frank J. Enger. Number 41 in the drawing is an electrical solenoid used to actuate the device. Could this possibly be the first application of this type?


20 responses to “There is Nothing New Under the Sun – The OHV Six-Twelve

  1. Before that huksters were at flea markets selling blank spark plugs to turn off cylinders. Not as easy as working a lever, but probably more reliable than the Cadillac system.

  2. My father and uncle both had a 4 -6-8 caddy. My father’s was junk. My uncle had good luck with his.
    Many makers use that feature now with good success. One of my business trucks has cylinder deactivation.

  3. Check out Janes WWI fighting airplanes and you will find that no new production engine has been designed since, except the NSU rotary.

  4. Interesting to note that Enger used 2, 4, 6 and 12 cylinder engines, but not an 8-cylinder engine. Enger committed suicide in January 1917 because he had been diagnosed with cancer. He gave instruction for the company to continue, but his wife petitioned for receivership, thus ending production.

  5. Does anyone know of surviving examples? A fascinating offering and unheard of by me until now. Thanks for another excellent post.

  6. US Patent Number 1,201,155 “Multiple Cylinder Motor” was issued to a Edward L. Jones of Cincinnati and Assigned to a Frank J. Enger of Cincinnati. Patent applied for May 4, 1916 and issued October 10 1916. (This patent may be found online.)

    The refinancing and expansion of the Enger Motor Car Company were described in the August 25, 1916 number of Automobile Journal, Volume 42 (see page 37). In that article Frank J. Enger is described as president of Enger Motor Car Company and Edward L. Jones the engineer and general manager of the same. (This article may be found online.)

    The patent and drawings explicitly reference the V type six/twelve cylinder as manufactured and sold by Enger Motor Car Company.

    It was a surprise to see the electro-mechanical actuation of the cylinder deactivation mechanism described in the patent. Was this present in the Enger cars sold commercially? I haven’t found any evidence of this yet.

  7. I may be mistaken (it certainly wouldn’t be a first time), but I believe the Sturtevant company developed a car with cylinder deactivation even earlier than this. – around 1908. They also developed an early automatic transmission (1904).

    Sturtevant is still in business in Massachusetts, making industrial processing equipment.

  8. Packard introduced their V12 in April or May of 1915. National introduced their V12 in May of 1915. According to the Third Edition Standard catalog of American Cars 1805 to 1942 Enger introduced their V12 late in 1915.

    Thanks for the excellent post.

    Joh F. Shireman

  9. That is a surprisingly modern looking engine and the displacement is fairly conservative for the time. Wonder what the real output was. Must have been a smooth runner compared to the other offerings out there.

  10. A fellow that I know dis-connected the cylinders running amount reduction feature as he was very happy with V-8 Only performance. re: ENGER’S Sealing the common inlet
    and lifting the exhaust valves on one side of the engine makes sense, but in those carbureted days , I ask: Did this engine also have a dual throat carburetor to KEEP VENTURI velocity and jetting Circuits in the “running
    1/2” engine in correct ratio ? I like the “beehive” valve springs as they MINIMIZE “floating at high speeds — valve spring oscillations!!!

  11. I too have looked for some time for the existence of an Enger Twin Unit Twelve. During this search I was lucky to find and purchase the only known touring car made by Enger, a 1910 Enger 40 5 passenger touring car. My grandfather worked for Enger as a young man, assembling the twin unit twelve engine in their plant in Cincinnati. Enger, according to a small article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, sent 23 cars to Sydney Australia in 1916, and believe it or not, that is the only lead I have ever had on an engine, much less a car. A well known Aussey collector saw one of the engines in Kangaroo Flats Bendingo in 1962 and believed the engine was runnable! I have been unable to contact anyone down under that knows of the whereabouts of this engine.

    • An antique dealer in Australia has an Enger V12 for sale, currently
      He does not know that it is an Enger engine and has mistakenly identified it
      The engine has not moved for years and is missing one cylinder head and most external accessories but it has block, pistons, sump, front chain pulleys, etc
      It would be 1916, as I believe the 1917 model was not exported here. The cylinder head is marked Enger RF 8 24

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *