Bourke designed his engine to fulfill the five desirable attributes for an efficient internal combustion engine laid down by de Rochas a century ago


Bourke Engines contradict typical design, they use detonation as a means of extracting more energy from each pound of fuel


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Bourke Shows His Engine

Story and Picture by Bob Lipman

"Let them worry about my engine. I'm just concentrating on having a good time." Russell Bourke said in his Pengrove home.

The famous inventor of the Bourke engine, which has never been marketed to its full capability, has assured the title of honorary mayor of Pengrove and he and his wife Lois are taking life easy - no longer worrying about losing rights to an engine he said could have given him untold wealth.

Now it's running engines for youngsters, fixing mechanical items for friends and tinkering with radio and phonographic equipment, while Lois adds to her collection of more than 9,000 record selections.

A national magazine has asked Bourke to bring it up to date on his engine, but he said there is nothing to write about. "I had an idea for many years and saw it develop into the ideal engine. It was perfect, but circumstances played too strong a part against it," he exclaimed.


The Bourke one-stroke engine has cooperative pistons which are connected to one rigid connecting rod that shuttles through an oil filled sealed crankcase. There are only two moving parts in the engine – the piston connection rod and the crankshaft. All other parts found in the conventional engine have been discarded.

In 1918, while teaching engine maintenance in the Air Force Service Mechanics School at Kelly Field, Tex. He became impressed with the idea that the four cycles used in engines was all wrong.

After the war, the depression forced him to delay his plans until 1932 when he made his first working model. The engine passed the Air Corps tests, was recommended to the engineering department in Washing D.C., but got lost in red tape.

As it was coming before capital bureaucrats, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and a freeze order came out to produce only things already in production.

For the remainder of the war, Bourke worked at Mare Island.

His wife developed a crippling arthritis which also delayed the way of the engine. Hearing of an Oregon doctor who could help Lois, the couple moved to Wheeler where they stayed seven years. Russell went into land development and soon decided to retire.

They returned to this area in 1961 and he was induced to build a large engine. A group of investors entered the scene and by the time a few years had passed, Bourke had lost rights to the engine.

The patents ran out in1957. The machinery is still sitting in a factory, unused, Bourke stated. Anyone can manufacture it now.

Why hasn't it been developed? "That's simple. It will run on any fuel with a hydrocarbon base, needs no repair and the oil in it is good for life," Bourke said.

He indicated this would be a blow to repair, parts and gaoline industries.

His motors would run everything from a motorboat to an airplane. Bourke still has the original engine he first built and has a host of parts and machinery in a garage.

"There's no smell, smoke, noise or vibration when my motor is in operation."


Bourke said a representative from Porche in Germany visited him recently and made sketches of the engine, showing that some people are still interested.

Another achievement, little known, was Bourke's development of a slipper bearing. He said the reasons that many gets blew up in the early days was the bearing was shot and resulted in the rest of the engine exploding.

He developed a bearing which would not break, one used in his engine, but it was copied by a major company, although he never received any compensation, and again his project gave him little monetary benefit.

"I've had to re-evaluate things. I find it's not so important to worry about the fame and glory I could have obtained. I have everything I want and the rest of my life with be devoted to my wife and having an enjoyable life."


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