The Hvid Patent.
I wonder if it was called "Groundhog Day" back then.  February 2nd, 1912 and Rasmus Martin Hvid files a patent application detailing an Oil Injection Device for oil engines.  Although the self-igniting concept was not new having been introduced by Diesel in the mid 1890's, the Hvid patent has left an indelible mark upon the American industrial transportation scene.  This patent and several others by Hvid serve as the basis for a unique engine that reportedly can be run on any liquid that can be pumped and will burn.  Oh, by the way, Hvid is pronounced: "VEED"
Hercules had been manufacturing kerosene engines of its own name as well as for Sears & Roebuck under the Economy name for a couple of years beginning in 1915.1  After a couple years, the rising cost of the refined fuel caused Sears to discontinue the Economy kerosene hit and miss version and began to market the Thermoil as a low operating cost engine.1  The first attempt at this, the Model T, was a disaster.  Much like GM's attempt to turn a standard 350 gas engine into a diesel, Sears and Hercules soon discovered that just beefing up a gas engine wouldn't cut the mustard. Wayne Grenning's 2.5 hp "T"
Model "T"'s were noted for mechanical failures and certainly did little to endear the oil-burners to their owners.  According to research by Glenn Karch, Sears did not offer Thermoils in either the 1918 or early 1919 catalogs.  I'm sure that blowing heads off engines may have had something to do with it.  But fortunately for us, perseverance and rising fuel costs, kept the potential market for an oil-burner a lucrative one that Sears wanted to fill. Hercules went back to the drawing board and in the fall of 1919 offered the Model U Thermoil in the 6 and 8 hp size.2  Other sizes (1 ½, 3 hp) followed in 1920 manufactured by a name then little known in engine circles: Clessie Cummins.  Cummins operated a machine shop that handled overflow work for Hercules. Eventually this became a sufficiently attractive venture and the Cummins Engine Company was formed. It is the same Cummins name that you find powering many heavy duty tractor rigs today. At the time though they were small potatoes and the lackluster sales of the Thermoil models they built nearly pushed them out of business. Not surprisingly, the Cummins company website lays the issue at feet of the Sears guarantee of satisfaction noting that many engines were purchased and used for a season and then returned for a refund.3  It's all in which side of the fence you're on.  The Model UA Thermoils continued to be offered up until 1926 when Sears pulled the plug on them.4 Hercules continued to Market them directly as the "Hercules Diesel Oil Engine until 1929 when they too ceased production.4

Glenn Karch published an extensive history on the history of the Hercules engines in 1989. It includes a chapter on the Thermoil which is the source for much of the information in these pages. If you are interested in the Thermoil or the Hercules engines, I heartily recommend you purchase one of the books.

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References this Page:

1. A History of Hercules Engines, Glenn Karch, 1989, page 14
2. A History of Hercules Engines, Glenn Karch, 1989, page 44
4. Cummins website,
3. A History of Hercules Engines, Glenn Karch, 1989, page 46

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