L. Gardner and Sons

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L. Gardner and Sons Ltd was a British builder of diesel engines for stationary, marine, road and rail applications. The company was founded in Hulme Manchester England in 1868. They started building engines around 1895. The firm of L. Gardner & Sons ceased engine production in the mid-1990s.


File:X-24 submarine engine.jpg
The Gardner engine of X24

About 1868 Lawrence Gardner set up as a sewing machine maker in Upper Duke Street, Stretford Road, Hulme, Manchester. He died in 1890, but the business was continued by his sons under the name L. Gardner & Sons Ltd.

Gas and diesel engines[edit]

From about 1895 the company was building gas engines and, in 1899 it moved into Barton Hall Engine Works, Patricroft, Manchester.

In 1903 it became a limited company, L Gardner and Sons Ltd. Norris and Henty Ltd, of London, were appointed as sales agents.

Diesel engine production began in around 1903. In 1912 a new sales subsidiary, Norris, Henty and Gardners Ltd, was formed.

During World War I (1914–1918) the company made munitions and parts for heavy guns and engines for tanks.

Automotive engines[edit]

During the 1920s there was rapid development in the design of diesel engines. In 1929 a Gardner "4L2" marine engine was fitted into a Lancia bus. This conversion was successful and prompted Gardner to introduce the "LW" series of diesel engines, designed especially for road vehicles but later modified and supplied as a marine engines with factory-fitted bilge pumps.

During the 1930s a number of LW-series engines (usually 4LWs, but occasionally 6LWs) were installed in large luxury cars including Lagondas, Bentleys and Rolls-Royces. The Gardner engine's reliability and economy (tests showed that even a two-ton Bentley could achieve 30 miles per gallon of fuel while having a top speed of 80 mph), coupled to its remarkable refinement and smooth running abilities, made it the only suitable compression-ignition engine at the time

During World War II (1939–1945) Gardner's war work consisted mainly of building diesel engines of their own design. Their 4LK bus engines were also used as the main powerplant in the Royal Navy's X class and XE class midget submarines.[1]

Post-war diesels[edit]

After the war the 'LW' diesel engine continued to be built in large numbers for lorries and buses and was later supplemented by the more modern 'LX'.In the mid-sixties, the LW range was upgraded to develop 20 bhp per cylinder, and known as LW20. The 6LX was upgraded in 1967 from 150 bhp @1700rpm to 180 bhp @1850rpm. an 8-cylinder version was developed which developed 240 bhp @ 1850rpm, and was said to be the smoothest running automotive diesel ever built. The larger '6L3' and '8L3' engines were used in railway locomotives, such as British Rail Class 01 and British Rail Class 04 and also in vessels of up to 120 feet such as MV Havengore, and the famous maxi yachts Condor and Condor of Bermuda, S.Y. Crescent and others.

Takeover and decline[edit]

In the summer of 1986, after months of denials, Perkins Engines purchased Gardner to complement their line of lighter diesel engines.[2]

L. Gardner and Sons ceased production of new engines in the early 1990s. The introduction of emissions regulations for road-going Gardner diesels would have required the development of significantly modified or totally new engine designs, and in the marine market there was a shift away from big, low-speed, high-torque engines such as Gardners towards adapted high-speed automotive turbodiesels.

Restorers and parts suppliers[edit]

Two spin-off firms from the original company are still in existence: Gardner Marine Diesels[3] overhauls, re-manufactures and installs a wide range of marine-spec Gardners and both they and Walsh Engineering [4] supply genuine Gardner engine parts for all types of Gardner engines worldwide.

Another firm, Marine Power Services.[5] specialise in the restoration and marinisation of Gardners for the inland waterways and the manufacture of component castings incl LW range exhaust, intake and water manifolds. Another firm, Gardner Enthusiast Ltd, manufactures piston rings, engine valves and major engine castings, including marine manifolds for the 8LXB. Gardner Enthusiast Ltd also supply engine castings to Gardner Parts Ltd.[6]

Gardner Engines[edit]

Gardner 4LK, 60 hp @ 1700 RPM, Natural 4-cylinder diesel, Cylinder Capacity: 3,800cc
Gardner 4LW, 75 hp @ 1700 RPM, Natural 4-cylinder diesel, Cylinder Capacity: 5,580cc
Gardner 5LW, 85 hp (later 94 hp) @ 1700 RPM, Natural 5-cylinder diesel, Cylinder Capacity: 7,000cc
Gardner 6LW 102 hp (later 112 hp) @ 1700 RPM, Natural 6-cylinder diesel, Cylinder Capacity: 8,370cc
Gardner 6LX, 150 hp @ 1700 RPM, Natural 6-cylinder diesel, Cylinder Capacity: 10,450cc
Gardner 6LXB, 180 hp @ 1850 RPM, Natural 6-cylinder diesel, Cylinder Capacity: 10,450cc
Gardner 8LXB, 240 hp @ 1850 RPM, Natural 8-cylinder diesel, Cylinder Capacity: 13,933cc


Engines used in Buses[edit]

Gardner 4LK, Dennis Ace, Mace, Albion Victor (pre-War), Bedford SB, Bristol SC4LK

Gardner 4LW, Guy Arab (pre-war Single Deck) Atkinson L644, Bristol L4G, Bristol LS4G,

Gardner 5LW, Bristol GO5G, K5G, KS5G, KSW5G, L5G, LL5G, LWL5G, LD5G, FS5G, Daimler COG5, CCG5, CVG5, Guy Arab, Leyland Titan TD1-7(repower)

Gardner 6LXB, Leyland Gearbox, Leyland Titan TNLXB2RRSP,Park Royal. London Regional Transport T1-T250

Gardner 6LXB, Leyland Gearbox, Leyland Titan TNLXB2RR,Leyland. London Regional Transport T251-1125

Gardner 6LXB, Voith DIWA851, Dennis Dominator 9.4m, Duple Metsec W29, Kowloon Motor Bus DM1-DM40

Gardner 6LXB, Voith DIWA851, Dennis Jubilant, Walter Aexander, Duple Metsec, Kowloon Motor Bus N5-N364

Gardner 6LXB, Voith DIWA851, Leyland Victory-2, Walter Alexander CB, China Motor Bus LV1-LV167

Gardner 6LX, Leyland Gearbox, Guy Victory-2, BUSAF, Kowloon Motor Bus G1-G4

Gardner 6LXB, Voith DIWA851, Leyland Victory-2, Walter Alexander KB, Kowloon Motor Bus G5-G544

Gardner 6LXB, Voith DIWA851, MCW Metrobus DR102, MCW Apollo MkII, Kowloon Motor Bus M1-M20,M22,M23,M25-M29,M31-M44,M47-M57,M59,M60,M62,M65-M70,M73,M78-M88


The Anson Engine Museum has an extensive collection of historic Gardner engines.


  1. http://www.gardnerengineforum.co.uk/Web%20PDF%20Versions/Newsletter%2011.pdf
  2. Barden, Paul, ed. (June 1986). "Truckmonth: Perkins snaps up Gardner". TRUCK. London, UK: FF Publishing Ltd: 31. 
  3. Gardner Marine Diesels
  4. Walsh Engineering
  5. http://www.marinepowerservices.co.uk Engine restorers and parts manufacturer
  6. http://www.gardner-enthusiast.com parts manufacturer


  • Smith, Donald H., The Modern Diesel, pp 151–154, published by Iliffe & Sons, London, 13th edition 1959

Further reading[edit]

  • L. Gardner & Sons Limited: Legendary Engineering Excellence by Graham Edge (ISBN 1902356160)