Russell Sutton’s Amazing 9 Cylinder Radial Engine is Alive and Well and Running Strong

Russell Sutton's radial start up and run

Russell Sutton's radial start up and run

Way back in 2008, we showed you the very early stages of Russell Sutton's engine project. Using the top ends from 9 Honda XR600 engines, he's built himself a 9 cylinder radial destined for use in an airboat. It's been a long journey, and if you've been here for a while, you'll recall he had a bit of a setback when, during the initial start up, the engine ran briefly then quit, the victim of failing cylinder liners leading to broken connecting rods. Not pretty, but Russell didn't let that stop him at all, a quick tear down to analyze what happened and then back to work.

In this video, Russell shows us the result of his rebuild. In place of the six foot 3 bladed prop that will eventually be mounted, he has a water cooled disc brake to load the engine, and after starting it and letting it warm up, he gradually adds the load and the engine leans into it without a whimper, it sounds strong. It's smooth at the higher rpms, and when he later throttles back, it settles into that beautiful idle you'll recognize if you've ever been around radials, you can just imagine what this little beauty will do when he has it mounted on the boat swinging a nice prop. The 600 rpm idle brings to mind images of a biplane taxiing on the runway, pilot wearing the de rigeur goggles and silk scarf, about to lock the brakes for a run-up and mag check before takeoff. The sound of a radial does that, good stuff. Russell mentions in the video that when the prop is mounted for a real load, the engine will sound even better.

The internal pieces are gorgeous with lots of visual mechanical complexity and it gives you some idea of what Russell has done here. I love this engine and the entire project. Ingenuity, skill and amazing persistence all coming together in what is now a superb engine. Excellent! I wonder what the guys over at Honda think about this repurposing of their 600 single.

The new video is below, but be warned, it is long at about 14 minutes, but well worth your time if you appreciate projects like this. Check it out!


  1. Medicated Steve says

    lol That thing sounds extremely sexy! Wonder if this will bring back open cockpit biplanes?

    • Russell sutton says

      We may get to find out Bill. I E-mailed Honda Australia and asked them to contact japan regarding the effects of LPG on the top ends. My prediction is that they may offer advice but they are usually every conservative with comments.
      I am as interrested as you are to know what they might think.
      If they have somthing to say I will post it


  2. Mean Monkey says

    Here’s an idea that will entertain those Honda engineers. I’ve got this 1998 Civic w/ 250K miles on the clock and we’ll mount Russell’s engine w/ a pusher propeller in the trunk. It will replace the worn-out drivetrain and scare the living H3LL out of any tailgators.

    It is a beautiful engine, Russell. Can’t wait to see your airboat.

  3. chickenflaps says

    I’ve been watching this from the beginning. To get through the liner break up is fantastic to see. This is a truly heroic project. Inspirational. I look forward to seeing it in the future.

  4. Paulinator says

    I have a little engine project that fits in one hand (and in my desk drawer). It has a design flaw that needs resolution. Following a project of this magnitude as it overcomes hurdles and nears completion is inspiring.

  5. StephanP says

    Great to see Russel overcome the setbacks, so many times times the spirit is broken after such a failure, but not this time. Congratulations!

  6. B50 Jim says

    Of all the projects we’ve seen on The Kneeslider, Russel’s ranks right near the top. In terms of initiative, ingenuity, good back-yard engineering and perseverance in the face of disaster, his radial is a true achievement! Nothing sounds like a big radial.

    Too bad it’s “only” going in an air boat — Medicated Steve has the right idea; it belongs under the cowling of an open-cockpit biplane. Maybe Russel will get a pilot’s license….

    • Russell Sutton says

      I have decided to build another engine so the chances of this one actually getting on board an airboat is now pretty slim. I have hugely enjoyed the experience of building this engine. Since they are hugely expensive to build as well I don’t see an airboat in the equation now. Another long term project is the go and so I have started buying Motorcycle engine parts in the US for a 14 Cyl twin row Radial displacing about 12 liters. A real bruiser! It is a serious challenge. I said a seven and Ian drysdale said no, it should be a 14. And with his backing how could I not take the bait!
      So the nine will be a running display engine well into the furture.
      Thanks B50 Jim for your comments and to all of you out there who have added their comments about my radial over the years. I always enjoy reading them.
      Cheers Russell

  7. Ken K says

    First time I’ve seen this. Wow!! What a beautiful piece of engineering.
    Certainly a long way from the mk1 Escort with the SU mod. :)
    Good to see Kiwis still doin’ it. All the best for the future of the
    project Russell.

  8. says

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