Perkins 4.236 – a global phenomenon that broke new ground

The first Perkins 4.236 engine came off the production line in August 1964. More than 70,000 were made in its first three years, with production growing to over 60,000 a year in the UK alone between 1969 and 1984. Worldwide production, through licensees, saw sales soar to even greater heights in its later years. The 4.236 cemented Perkins position as a leading player in the agricultural market, which it continued to dominate for the next 30 years.

The 4.236 – along with its 6 cylinder equivalent the 6.354 – was a logical progression from the iconic P-Series engine, which had established the company’s worldwide reputation as a manufacturer of reliable, efficient and innovative diesel engines.

By learning from past mistakes, addressing changing customer needs – such as a demand for more cost-effective engines – and introducing the latest developments in technology, the engine caught the imagination of a generation of Perkins customers.

The 6.354, which had appeared three years earlier, was initially targeted at the larger truck market, but the 4.236 was ideal for smaller trucks, generators, forklifts and tractors.

The engine, rated at 80 hp at 2800 rpm, powered tractors and other agricultural and industrial machines for Massey Ferguson, Clark, Manitou, JCB, Landini and Vermeer to name a few. It built on our reputation for quality, reliability and flexibility to establish Perkins as the leading provider of diesel engines for the agricultural sector.

Perkins 4.236

Later derivatives

The name 4.236, was formed from the number of cylinders (4), followed by the total displacement of the engine in cubic inches (236). There were turbo versions of the 4.236 available for all applications, except Marine. Later derivatives – the 4.248, 4.224, 4.212 and 4.204 – were designed with different capacities to suit particular customer needs.

Our 4.236 tractor engines showed real innovation. They were capable of being used with a balancer, which smoothed out vibrations in the machine they were powering. We also offered two versions of the engine block, which was a bold step forward, increasing the adaptability and applicability for our customers.

Other versions were produced using petrol and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) instead of diesel for various industrial machines, particularly forklift trucks.

Direct injection

With the 4.236, Perkins research engineers introduced direct injection technology to our engines for the first time. The 4.236 followed the 6.354 in introducing direct injection into the Perkins range on both on/off highway engines, being the first 4 cylinder direct injection engine offered for on-highway use. The first direct injection engine offered by Perkins was the 4.270D introduced in 1957 but was limited to off-highway use. This reflected a growing trend for the technology across the industry. Where Perkins broke new ground was in developing a more cost-effective engine, which used technology such as machined induction ports and use of the C.A.V. DPA fuel injection pump.

With direct injection, fuel was injected directly into each cylinder through multi-hole injector assemblies. Indirect injection, on the other hand, saw fuel injected into a pre-chamber, rather than direct to the cylinder.

This change brought better cold weather starting and greatly improved fuel economy, and has dominated diesel engine design ever since.


The 4.236 is one of the engines that has built the Perkins reputation all over the world. Our engineers and designers started with a classic tried and tested product, the P-Series, and brought the latest technology to improve and develop it for the new age. Imagination, innovation and technical excellence built a new classic on the foundations of what had gone before.

Over the next 30 years, the engine we originally produced was adapted and developed to meet the specific requirements of individual applications. We listened to the ideas of customers, clients and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) about the ways in which they wanted the engine to develop. New adaptations were incorporated into the original to maintain its position as a worldwide leader. That is the Perkins way.

In the late 1980s, the 4.236 was gradually superseded by the 1000 Series. Over the course of its lifetime our Peterborough site alone made more than two million 4.236 family engines. And with millions of 4.236s and its derivatives still performing reliably for our customers worldwide, it deserves its proud place in engine history.