The 1916 Curtiss V-4 Is Alive! All 1650 Cubic Inches Of This Vintage V-12 Monster


Last April we ran a feature story about aviation pioneer Glenn H. Curtiss and the rare Curtiss V-4 (V-12) engine that he developed in 1916. (In case you missed it, you can see that story on Woody Boater by Clicking Here)

Approximately 20 years ago, Ken Muscatel purchased one of the two remaining 1916 Curtiss Model V-4 engines known to exist from an antique car museum. The only other example known to exist is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. With the help of fellow Woody Boater and hydroplane enthusiast Ike Kielgass, Ken has now completed the restoration of this the ultra rare Curtis V-4 to be installed in the “Miss Detroit III” replica race boat later this year.

The engine restoration work was entrusted to vintage engine expert Robert Mishko at Rocky Summit Performance in Tennessee. The following is a series of very interesting photos from Robert Mishko’s shop illustrating the Curtiss V-4 during the various stages of this miraculous restoration project, and at the end of this series of photos, is a link to the YouTube video of the Curtiss coming alive for the first time in many, many years – quite possibly 90 years ago.

We have being trying to load the YouTube video directly on the Woody Boater site for the last few days, without success… And finally decided that it couldn’t wait any longer as we wanted to share this historic event with our viewers.

From when it first arrived at Robert Mishko’s shop in Tennessee and they began to disassemble the 100 year old Curtiss engine…


To the reassembly of the Curtiss V-4 including crankshaft, restored block, and original 96 year old connecting rods…


To the reassembly of the pistons and connecting rods…


To the installation of the beautifully restored cylinder liners (jugs), valve train, intake and exhaust components…


To the installation of the Stromberg M-4 carburetors, wiring and magnetos (I think it uses mags not distributors)…


To the final product, ready to be installed in Miss Detroit III… c/w corks in the exhaust pipes…


And finally… The big 1650 Cubic Inch Curtiss V-4 monster is brought back to life by Robert Mishko…

Click Here – It’s worth it… But before you engage the starter button, grab a cold beverage from the icebox, sit back in you favorite easy chair and enjoy the sites and sounds of the 12 cylinder Curtiss Symphony courtesy of Robert Mishko…



11 replies
  1. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Hmmm, they forgot to put on the valve covers, and I didn’t see any catalytic converters on those exhaust pipes. How will it ever pass emissions?

  2. Philip Andrew
    Philip Andrew says:

    Ha, already sent it. Its awesome isnt it. What a terrifying machine. Imagine sitting behind that thing with it backfiring and belching flames.

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      While riding in a highly flamably kite made from balsa wood and linen. A little spark in the wrong place and the propeller becomes a bellows. Yikes!

  3. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    What a magnificent project, and result. Congrats to all involved! Any idea on the power and operating spec’s of this engine, and why was it called a V-4 when it is a V-12? Looks like a 2x scale of an OX-5. Strange that the CID is the same as the slightly later Liberty – wonder if this was some sort of coincidence?

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      The 1454cuin Curtis V-2 made 405 hp at 1650 RPM, so I would guess the V-4 in Miss Detroit III was making more hp and spinning faster after Garwood got done tweaking it.

  4. Texx
    Texx says:

    The standard HP was estimated to be 300-400 when originally designed / proposed for the military, (compared to 90 HP for the earlier OX-5 model) and as noted in the Glenn H. Curtiss story (see link above) Gar Wood was experimenting with increased engine RPM as well as reduced overall weight on the Curtiss V-4 race version.

    Ike Kielgass sent me an e-mail today so say they are estimating that the subject Curtiss V-4 shown in the story will produce approximately 450-500 HP @ 1800 RPM which they hope to confirm at a later date.

    The Model “V’s” were basically an enlarged copy of the Curtiss Model “O” engines, with exposed valve train, push rods, hairpin springs, etc, but with a 5 inch bore and 7 inch stroke.

    No parts interchange, but they look a lot the same. In today’s terms, the Curtiss “OX” was the small block V-8, and the Curtiss “VX” was the big-block.

    Last April – fellow Woody Boater Craig Magnusson provided us with a detailed explaination of the Curtiss series of engines from that period, as well as the Liberty. Here’s the link to that Woody Boater story.

Comments are closed.