Monday, November 4, 2013

The Moline-Knight: "Wrecker of World Records"

One of the many interesting, early-American engine designs represented in our museum sits in our 1914 Moline-Knight Model MK-50 seven-passenger touring car (#4674). The man behind it, Charles Y. Knight, was so annoyed by the noisy valves on his 1900 Knox that he decided to design a quieter engine. 

Daimler-Knight sleeve valve engine
Rather than the popular poppet valve design, Knight's engine used a sleeve as the inlet and exhaust valve. It reduced noise so much that he called it the "Silent Knight" engine. He licensed the technology to different automakers, including Daimler, Mercedes, Willys-Overland, and Moline. You can read more about the Knight engine here and see an animation of how it works here.

The high-quality Moline-Knight was less expensive than other Knight-engined cars and the only one to feature thermo-syphon cooling. It also carried the first American sleeve-valve engine with its cylinders cast en bloc. In a 1913 test a Moline-Knight engine ran a remarkable 337 hours non-stop at wide-open throttle without any adjustments, setting a world endurance record. The company claimed the test demonstration the "incomparable superiority of the Moline-Knight's engine over the poppet-valve design," and led them to advertise the car as a "Wrecker of World's Records."

I often wish that our cars could talk, as we usually have little information about their
Parker Wickham
histories. Our Moline-Knight, however, is one of those rare cars that came with a nice stack of paperwork, including some original sales literature. Its known history starts in 1966, when William Hoffman of New York purchased it from a widow. Hoffman wrote that the car had been jacked up in an old garage covered with junk for 35 years. It was in original condition and complete, except that the clock and one of the jump seats was missing. Apparently the tires disintegrated when he towed it home.

Hoffman spent several years restoring the Moline-Knight, but before it was finished he sold it to noted collector Henry Austin Clark for his Long Island Museum. The car remained in partially restored condition until Clark sold it in 1979 to J. Parker Wickham of Mattituck, New York. Wickham finished restoring the car and painted it bright aqua in the mid-1990s. We in turn purchased the Moline-Knight, along with a significant portion of Wickham's collection, in 2007.

We had the Moline-Knight repainted and the seats re-upholstered before it was shipped to Alaska in late 2009. Willy says, "This is a very large car, and is not for the faint of heart, as it drives like a large, almost truck-like car. The Knight engine has plenty of power to push the heavy 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) car along at a comfortable 45 mph (72 km/hr)."

The next time you are in the museum, ask one of the docents to show you the Knight engine display we have in the shop.

Coming to Fairbanks to see the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and other area attractions? Support the museum by staying at one of the Fountainhead Hotels. All guests receive half-price admission to the museum!


  1. most interesting, hope one day to have an Alvis

  2. I would love to see that engine display.

  3. I have a 1914 Moline Knight that I inherited form my father and it looks nothing like this one has big spoked tires it has curved front window glass it has chauffeur seat up front on the side that pulls down, would love to find out more about this model I have.

    1. JMartin - while many Moline-Knights came with wooden-spoked tires, I'm not aware of any that had curved windshields. They company came out with a limousine in 1915 -- I wonder if that is what you have? We would love to have you send us a photo (to info@ I would also recommend that you join the WOKR Registry and see if they can provide you with more information. Good luck!


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