Lister type D stationary petrol engine

Lister D engine spec plate



It’s arrived! I’m now the proud owner of a Lister type D Stationary Engine. The engine was manufactured in 1938. It was designed to run on paraffin but, according to the previous owner, it will run happily all day long on stale petrol. The modification incudes, amongst other things, fitting a vaporiser block which brings the inlet and exhaust manifolds away from the block by a couple of inches and vapourises the fuel using heat from the exhaust. However, there’s no two way tap or extra fuel tank.

Lister type D stationary engine
Serial No: 145725
Spec: 23D2HR
HP: 2
RPM: 1000

The letter R at the end of the spec type stands for reverse. This engine runs anti-clockwise, when looking at the flywheel. Below are the first two photos of the beast. There’s a fair amount of rust here and there but nothing too serious. It’s not been used for quite a few years but it’s not seized and, surprisingly, the oil looks pretty good. Before attempting to start the engine, I’ll drain the oil and flush out any muck, fill with fresh oil, fit a new spark plug, strip and clean the carburetor… Quite a lot to do.

There appears to be shed loads of rust on the timing chain and sprockets. There’s no point in trying to clean up the old chain so I’ve ordered a new one. I’ve also ordered a new filter and fuel pipe as the old assembly looks rather knackered. I don’t think the fuel line and filter are original as all the engines I’ve seen use a copper fuel pipe.  I was rather concerned about the condition of the big end bearing so I removed the crank case door and had a look. I could detect no play at all between the crank shaft and connecting rod, which was a relief.

Initial tests on the magneto coil show that the secondary may be open circuit. This is a pain as they are very expensive… around £100 for the magneto assembly. I’m hoping that it’s a corroded connection but, if not, I’ll have to wire up an external ignition coil and a small lead-acid 12 volt battery to run the engine. It will do for now, and produce a stronger spark, but I want to keep the engine original so I’ll replace the magneto coil if I have to.


Just picked up a trolley for the engine.  Nicely built and very sturdy! Which it needs to be as the engine weighs around 298lbs. That’s around 21 stones!

Trolley for Lister D engine


And interesting discovery. Most Lister D engines run in a clockwise direction, looking at the flywheel. This one has been modified to run anticlockwise. To reverse an engine, a new starting handle and dog, for the handle to engage, are needed. Also, a reverse magneto must be fitted and the carburetor and exhaust have to be swapped round. On my reverse engine, it would appear that the carb and exhaust have been fitted the wrong way round. By the way, the inlet and exhaust valves are identical.

The engine is fitted with a vapouriser block to enable paraffin to be used instead of petrol. I’ve now discovered that the vapouriser block reverses the ports. In other words, it swaps over the exhaust and inlet channels. This is fine but, obviously, the carb and exhaust pipe also need to be swapped. If the engine has been modified for reverse running, the carb and exhaust need to be swapped round. Now I’m confusing myself! Conclusion: the carb and exhaust have been fitted correctly for reverse running and paraffin fuel.

Pictured below is the vapouriser block, indicated by the red arrow. It channels the inlet through the hot exhaust jacket to vapourise the fuel. This is a factory modification, not a bodge.

Lister D engine vapouriser block

The Carburetor.

The Carburetor, shown below, will need some serious cleaning. There’s a fair amount of rust to contend with but, with some care and patience, all should be well. I’ve managed to remove the mixture control, centre photo, and free up the throttle butterfly, which was completely seized. I certainly won’t be running the engine for some time yet. My brother-in-law kindly spent a considerable amount of time removing the three air plate retaining screws on the inlet manifold, one had to be drilled out. I use the word ‘manifold’ incorrectly as it’s just one inlet pipe. I can now remove the rust from all parts and reassemble the unit.


Below left is the exhaust pipe and silencer. Luckily, beneath the paint, I’ve discovered that the silencer is stainless steel. A drop of Nitromors worked wonders. The other two photos show the petrol tank. It’s rusty, both inside and out, but I don’t think there are any holes in the metal. I’ll need to use a bottle of rust removing liquid for the inside. A wire brush will be fine for the outside before painting.


The Lister D Story

A friend has just sent me this book: The Lister D Story 1926 – 1964. Full of illustrations and well written, it’s going to be very useful during the engine restoration. I’ve already discovered a great deal from the book. However, I can find no reference to the stainless steel exhaust silencer fitted to my engine. Was it something that someone added which had nothing to do with the Lister engine? I really don’t know. I can’t find any reference to the engine’s cubic capacity, which is a shame. Perhaps someone knows?



With the help of my brother-in-law, and after a lot of heaving, the engine is now on the trolley. I can now move the engine around which will make it easier to work on. The engine isn’t yet bolted to the trolley but I don’t think it will go anywhere. You can now see the magneto and the governor linkage in the first two photos. The third shows the crankcase door removed. The next job, after bolting the engine to the trolley, will be to wash out the muck in the crankcase with paraffin and refill the engine with Golden Film SAE30 oil. The crankcase door can then be fitted, with a new gasket, and attention moved to the rusty governor linkage.

There’s still a lot of work to do on the engine but, as much as I want to see it running, half the fun is the restoration process. I’m leaving painting to last just in case I need to take the head off. I can’t see that it will be necessary but you never know. Just arrived, paint hand cleaner, rust remover.


The carburetor and inlet manifold have been stripped and cleaned. Below is the first coat of Mid Brunswick Green enamel paint on the manifold. The stainless steel nuts and bolts have arrived so the engine is now mounted securely on the trolley. I only needed four but they come in packs of five. The far right photo shows what I initially thought to be the petrol on/off tap. It is a fuel tap, but it’s for draining fuel. It would appear that there is no fuel on/off tap on the engine. I’ll have to add one at some stage. I’m wondering whether the tap was to drain the float chamber of paraffin before switching to petrol and starting the engine. Once running, a three way tap would then be set to paraffin. My engine doesn’t have the small petrol container or three way tap. I think this was introduced later, so that would explain it. The previous owner said that it would run all day long on stale petrol so I’m hoping he’s right.


Left hand photo, the crank case door stripped, cleaned and ready for painting. Second photo, painted mid Brunswick green. Right hand photo, the brass plates back in situ. I know they aren’t straight, but that’s how they were.

The Magneto.

The magneto has a problem, there’s no spark. Unfortunately, the secondary (high voltage) winding is open circuit. As a temporary measure, I could use a car ignition coil and small 12 volt lead acid battery connected to the original points and condenser. At least that would get the engine running. Wait! I’ve located a decent magneto, and it works!

Type of fuel.

I’ve just discovered that my Lister type D engine was designed to run on unleaded petrol. Leaded fuel was introduced much later, for lubrication purposes. So, lead replacement petrol (LRP) shouldn’t be used as it doesn’t burn correctly. Also, checking the specifications, it would appear that my engine didn’t have the small petrol container and three way fuel tap for starting purposes. Neither did it have the dual fuel tank for petrol and paraffin. Someone has removed these items, which is a shame. I’ll be running it on stale petrol, as the previous owner did.

Water Jacket and Rockers.

Apart from copious amounts of rust in the water jacket, there are cobwebs in the rocker box! Once I’ve drained the sump, I’ll flush out the cobwebs and sludge with paraffin.


I’m about to start some serious painting. A little more rubbing down and the fuel tank will be ready to take the red oxide primer. I’m hoping that, before long, I can refit the carb, exhaust pipe, fuel tank, magneto… I’m getting there!


I’ve just taken delivery of a pulley, see photo below. Thanks, Graeme. The engine will now have the large (flywheel) pulley and the smaller one to drive a generator.


At long last, I’m back on the engine. Below are photos of the fuel tank and brackets plus water jacket cover and rocker box cover. All painted with Hammerite Red Oxide Primer. The right hand photo shows the covers in place. The next step will be to paint everything in the correct Mid Brunswick Green enamel.

Oil and start of assembly: 30/6/22

Flushing out the old oil with paraffin is a messing job!

A discovery: 2/7/22

I knew that this engine was designed to run on petrol or paraffin. But there’s no starter fuel tank or two way fuel tap. The photo below shows a bracket with a hole in it. I’ve often wondered what its purpose was.  I now believe it’s for mounting the small starter petrol tank. There must also have been a two way fuel tap, petrol or paraffin. I reckon someone did away with the small tank and two way tap and ran the engine on petrol only. My only concern is that, in photos I’ve seen of other engines, the bracket on mine is in the wrong place.

Lister D engine starter fuel tank bracket

Drying in the sun: 3/7/22

The enamel paint dries far quicker in the sun. I find it remains sticky for quite a few days if left in the cool shade.

Lister D engine enamel paint drying