Universal Atomic 4 and Atomic Stevedore

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Atomic 4

The Universal Atomic 4 is a four-cylinder, 64.46 cubic inch (sometimes shown as 65 cubic inch), 30 horsepower (22 kW) gasoline engine produced by the Universal Motor Company between 1947 and 1984 for use as auxiliary power on sailboats. Over 40,000 of the engines were produced during that time, with an estimated 20,000 still in use today. This “workhorse” engine dominated the expanding sailboat market starting in the 1960’s, and between the years of 1965 and 1975 they were installed on up to 80% of new sailboats in the 25∼40 foot (7.6∼12 meter) range. Their longevity and reliability is proven by the fact that thousands of sailors still depend on this engine.

The Atomic Stevedore model was a detuned, slightly slower revving 18.5 horsepower engine derived from the more powerful 30hp Atomic 4 model. Both models were identical in most ways. The Atomic Stevedore was initially developed and marketed for Canadian lifeboat service.

History and Lineage

The Atomic 4 is descended from an earlier Universal Motor Company design called the Utility Four, which was used extensively in World War II by the United States Navy and allies to power the lifeboats for the ships, barges, and tankers of many navies and merchant marine fleets. The Utility Four model was displaced by the Atomic 4 in 1947.

Differences Between Early and Late Models

Most parts are interchangeable between early and late model engines. However, a few parts (particularly some of those used in fuel, ignition, and cooling systems) are unique to early or late models.

If you have an original engine from the mid-seventies or later, with an oil fill tube over the flywheel housing in front of the engine, you can be reasonably sure that your engine will require all late model parts.

If your engine does not have an oil fill tube over the flywheel housing, it may require a mix of late and early model parts. You will therefore need the following information before ordering:

1. To order ignition parts (including the “Ignitor”), you will need to know if your distributor was manufactured by Delco (used on late model engines), or by Prestolite (used on early model engines). Prestolite distributors are distinctively smaller in size, and their condensers are mounted on the outside of the distributor housing.

2. To order cooling system parts, you will need to know if your engine has a thermostat housing (a small dome-shaped casting) located on the front corner of the head, nearest the starter. This thermostat housing would indicate that your engine has a late model cooling system.

3. To order carburetor parts, you will need to know if your carburetor is made of aluminum or cast iron. Aluminum carburetors were used on late model engines. All carburetors were manufactured by Zenith or Bendix, so the manufacturer does not help in determining your carburetor vintage.

4. To order gaskets, you will need to know (1) and (2) above, plus the shape of your transmission cover. Late model engines used a square cover, and early model engines used a rectangular cover with a curved top (“tombstone-shaped”).

5. Late model (Delco) starter ring gears have slightly smaller teeth than early model Prestolite ring gears.  For this reason, Prestolite and Delco starters cannot be exchanged between early and late model engines unless the ring gear (or entire flywheel) is changed with them. In addition, late model ring gears have a slightly larger diameter than early models, so when moving a late model flywheel to an early model engine, either a late model housing will also have to be moved along with the flywheel or the six (6) small boss areas the inside of an early model flywheel housing will have to be ground down.  These boss areas are for the 1/4-20 bolts that hold the flywheel cover on, and they will have to be ground down almost to the bolt holes themselves.

From MoyerMarine.com.

Engine Features

Top End: The Atomic 4 engine is a type of side-valve design, referred to as an “L-Head” engine by Universal and commonly called a “Flat Head” engine. It has all the intake and exhaust valves located in the cylinder block beside the cylinders rather then in the cylinder head as in the case of a valve-in-head, over-head-valve engine. The Atomic 4 valve train consists of four intake valves and four exhaust valves, eight valve return springs and eight tappets. This is much simpler then valve-in-head engines which need rocker arms, push rods, and a large and heavy “ported” head.

From Wikipedia.

Like most side-valve type engines, the Atomic 4 has a low compression ratio. While it would undoubtedly produce more power if “Intake Air Charged”, a supercharger/turbocharger is NOT recommended because of the Atomic 4’s somewhat “Weak-Bottom-End” described next.

Bottom End: Unlike most 4-cylinder inline engines, the Atomic 4 crankshaft has only two crankshaft main bearings, one in the front and one in the rear (see crankshaft above). Instead of a main bearing in the middle (between #2 & #3 connecting rod journals) the crankshaft has just a counterweight that helps the crankshaft maintain its stability. Because of this engine’s low compression ratio, low power output, and relatively low operating RPM, it does not develop very high loading of the crankshaft bearings and therefore normally never needed more than two crankshaft main bearings like other 4-cylinder inline marine engines. However, the lack of support for the middle of the crankshaft does make the Atomic 4 a poor candidate to “soup-up” for high performance service such as competition racing. Even in normal service, the Atomic 4 crankshaft can flex and even break when under high rotational, gyroscopic and/or inertial loads from the pistons, rods, crankshaft and flywheel such as the case when a small vessel attains high speed in choppy water.

Lubrication: The Atomic 4 engine was equipped with pressurized lubrication to all crankshaft bearings (note the oil feed holes drilled into the crankshaft above). Unfortunately, it lacked an oil filter which would seem to be a worthwhile addition considering that the integral transmission runs in the engine lubricating oil and generates additional wear metals in the oil. A bypass type oil filter can easily be fitted to this engine. Some new engine blocks from “aftermarket” sources like Moyer Marine are machined to be fitted with full-flow type oil filters.

Cooling: Most Atomic 4 engines originally lacked fresh water cooling. The standard raw water cooling system caused cylinder block, cylinder head and exhaust manifold casting breaches especially in salt water from simple “rust-thru” which has resulted in far too many Atomic 4’s being thrown away due to the resulting internal damage. Engines run in salt water would undoubtedly benefit from being fitted with a fresh water cooling system. Freeze damage resulting from a lack of proper winterization has also taken it’s toll of these engines. Fortunately, new engine blocks, cylinder heads and exhaust manifolds have become available from “aftermarket” sources like Moyer Marine.

Atomic 4 Head – Shows salt water flooding of engine.

Exhaust: The Atomic 4 was fitted with a 1 1/4” pipe thread plate at the end of the exhaust manifold for the engine installer to design and fit a proper exhaust system for the particular vessel. The exhaust system could be a “dry” system or a “wet” system depending on the preference. Unfortunately, many exhaust systems were not designed and/or installed according to “Best Practices”, and consequently failed, often with disastrous results. Make sure that your engine’s exhaust is properly designed and installed before it fails.

Atomic 4 Exhaust with poorly designed mixing elbow.

The engine’s exhaust system is one of the vessel’s systems that requires vigilant attention, however it is often the most neglected. Exhaust system components deteriorate rapidly. Make sure that your engine’s exhaust system is in good condition before it fails.

Toxic fumes, flooding bilges, flooded engines, and vessel fires are just a few of the serious, and sometimes fatal consequences of failed exhaust systems.

Loyal Following

Considering that very few of these engines have suffered failure from any inherent weakness, such as a manufacturer’s design deficiency, manufacturing fault, or defect in materials, its no wonder that this tough little motor has outlasted many of it’s critics and has gained a fiercely loyal following which can be ultimately attributed to it’s rugged simplicity and strength in numbers.


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Specifications For Universal Atomic 4 and Stevedore
4-Stroke Cycle Gasoline (Petrol) Marine Engines

TABLE KEY:
BASE ENGINE: Manufacturer/Vendor & Model of Base Engine followed by Specifications.
^ CYL: Cylinder Orientation & Configuration – (Dash w/no spaces) Number of Cylinders: (example: “V-8”)
^ ^ Cylinder Orientation: No Code = u… = Upright (Vertical).
^ ^ Cylinder Configuration: I = In-Line.
^ BORE & STROKE: …mm = Millimeters. …in = …” = Inches.
^ DISPLACEMENT = Swept Volume: …cc = Cubic Centimeters (cm³). …L = Liters. …ci = Cubic Inches (in³).
MODEL RATINGS: Base Engine Model, Vendor Rating Code, Duty Ratings, Power Ratings, etc.
^ A-F: Aspiration-Fueling: Intake Air uncharged or charged – Petrol or Diesel Fueling.
^ ^ Aspiration: N = Naturally Aspirated. T = Turbocharged.
^ ^ Petrol Fueling: C = Carbureted.
^ DR = Duty Ratings: See the Engine Duty Ratings Description at the end of the Table.
^ ^ ♦♦ = Highest Power Rating from Data Sources.
^ POWER: kW = Kilowatts. HP = Horsepower. HP = Brake Horsepower. MHP = Metric Horsepower.
^ RPM = Power Ratings @ Revolutions Per Minute.
^ YEARS: Beginning∼Ending. YYYY usually = Model Year. MM/YY = actual Month/Year.
^ DS = Data Source: Click DS Link to view DS. ♦♦♦ = Summary of Data Compiled from Multiple Sources.
^ ^ DS’s 1st Letter = Vendor’s 1st Letter (U = Universal). Wi = Wikipedia.
^ ^ DS’s 2nd Letter:  …d = Directory. …w = Webpage. …c = Catalog. …b = Brochure. …s = SpecSheet.
Data: ⊗ = Data Not Available from Data Source. ¿… = …? = Data Unconfirmed/in Question.

Clicking a Model Link in the table will open a new window displaying our webpage containing details about that model. Clicking a Vendor Link will open a new window displaying our webpage containing details about that vendor and their products.

HOW TO READ THIS TABLE

Each line displays the data available from the identified Data Source (DS). The data is displayed according to the Table Key above. Clicking on the Data Source Link will open a new window displaying our webpage for that Data Source. Data Sources include Catalogs, Brochures, SpecSheets, OpManuals, Parts Catalogs Shop Manuals and Articles. The Triple Diamond "♦♦♦" = Summary of data compiled from multiple Data Sources.

Keep in mind that Data can be inaccurate in the source material. We do not correct these errors in the table, however we do point them out in the "NOTES" when we find them. Also remember that in a few cases the source material may be illegible. We try to obtain the best source material available. If you wish to point out an error or you can help us obtain good source materials, please let us know via email To: Editor♥EverythingAboutBoats.org (Replace "♥" with "@")

BASE ENGINE:
UNIVERSAL CYL BORE STROKE DISPLACEMENT
Atomic 4 I-4 2 9/16 in* 3 1/8 in 64.46 ci**
MODEL RATINGS:
UNIVERSAL A-F DR kW HP MHP RPM YEARS DS
Atomic 4 N-C ♦♦ 22 30 3500 1947∼1984 ♦♦♦
^ N-C 7.3 1000 ⊗∼⊗ Ub
^ N-C 11.9 1500 ⊗∼⊗ Ub
^ N-C 16.2 2000 ⊗∼⊗ Ub
^ N-C 20 2500 ⊗∼⊗ Ub
^ N-C 25 3000 ⊗∼⊗ Ub
^ N-C 30 3500 ⊗∼⊗ Ub
^ N-C 22 30 1947∼1984 Uh
^ N-C 5 600 1949∼1984 Wi
^ N-C 7.3 1000 1949∼1984 Wi
^ N-C 11.9 1500 1949∼1984 Wi
^ N-C 16.2 2000 1949∼1984 Wi
^ N-C 20 2500 1949∼1984 Wi
^ N-C 25 3000 1949∼1984 Wi
^ N-C 30 3500 1949∼1984 Wi

NOTES: *The Universal  brochure erroneously reports the engine’s cylinder bore as 2 9/15 in.
**Sometimes shown as 65 ci (rounded up).

BASE ENGINE:
UNIVERSAL CYL BORE STROKE DISPLACEMENT
Atomic Stevedore I-4 2 9/16 in* 3 1/8 in 64.46 ci**
MODEL RATINGS:
UNIVERSAL A-F DR kW HP MHP RPM YEARS DS
Atomic Stevedore*** N-C ♦♦ 13.5 18.5 3000 1975?∼1984 ♦♦♦
^ N-C 7 1000 ⊗∼⊗ Ub
^ N-C 11 1500 ⊗∼⊗ Ub
^ N-C 14.5 2000 ⊗∼⊗ Ub
^ N-C 17 2500 ⊗∼⊗ Ub
^ N-C 13.5 18.5 3000 ⊗∼⊗ Ub
^ N-C 13.5 18.5 3000 1975?∼1984 Uh

NOTES: *The Universal  brochure erroneously reports the engine’s cylinder bore as 2 9/15 in.
**Sometimes shown as 65 ci (rounded up).
***The Atomic Stevedore model was a detuned, slightly slower revving 18.5 horsepower engine derived from the more powerful 30hp Atomic 4 model. Both models were basically identical. The Atomic Stevedore was initially developed and marketed for Canadian lifeboat service.

Atomic Stevedore: Model UJ – 5101 (direct drive) / UJR – 5102 (2:1 reduction gear) / UJVD – 5103 (V drive, 1:1, 1.29:1, 1.67:1, 2:1 reduction gear options).  Available as Automatic. Model UJS – 5111 (direct drive), Model UJSR – 5112 (reduction drive), Model UJVD – 5113 (V drive),

GENERAL INFORMATION – Atomic Four:
L-Head. Compression Ratio: 6.3:1.
Engine Rotation: Counter-clockwise from flywheel end.
Firing Order: 1-2-4-3 (no. 1 on flywheel end).
Reduction Gear Ratio: 2.04:1 or direct 1:1 drive.
Maximum Operating Angle: ~15 degrees.
Fuel: regular leaded gasoline (will function on unleaded fuel with precautions).
Lubrication Oil: SAE 30.

If you can help us add information, specifications, data sources, etc. that we lack,
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Universal Motor Company
Engine Duty Ratings

Marine:
C = Continuous: Power available continuously.
I = Intermittent: Power available for 1 hour out of 8 hours with low annual hours.
Cm = Commercial.
Pc = Pleasure Craft.


Product Documentation

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DS = Data Source for Engine Specifications.

DOCUMENTATION TYPE:
DOCUMENT TITLE – Products (Notes) — Creator – Source DS
Catalogs and Brochures: ↓c/b↓
Vendor Catalog – Products (Notes) — Creator – Source –c–
Universal Atomic 4 & Stevedore Auxiliary Sailboat Engines (800101) — Westerbeke
^ Includes Specifications‚ Installation Dimensions‚ and Price List.
Ads: (Print Advertisements) ↓a↓
Vendor Ads – Products (Notes) — Creator – Source –a–
AdVids: (Advertisement Videos) ↓av↓
Vendor AdVids – Products (Notes) — Creator – Source –av–
SpecSheets: (Specification Sheets‚ Data Sheets‚ FactSheets) ↓s↓
Included in Universal Atomic 4 & Stevedore Brochure above.
Charts and Graphs: (Power & Torque Curves) ↓g↓
Vendor Chart/Graph – Products (Notes) — Creator – Source –g–
Pictures: ↓x↓
Vendor Picture (View) – Products (Notes) — Creator – Source –x–
Press Releases: (by Date: = YYMMDD) ↓pr↓
Vendor Press Release (DATE) – Products (Notes) — Creator – Source –pr–
Model History: ↓h↓
Westerbeke Propulsion Model History — Westerbeke
Serial Number Guides: (Date of Manufacture‚ Date Codes‚ etc) ↓#↓
Vendor Serial Number Guide – Products (Notes) — Creator – Source –#–
Installation Instructions: ↓i↓
Westerbeke Installation Manual – Marine Engines & Generators – Diesel and Gasoline — Westerbeke
Installation Drawings with Dimensions: ↓d↓
Included in Universal Atomic 4 & Stevedore Brochure above.
OpManuals: (Owner's/Operator's Handbooks/Manuals) ↓o↓
Universal Atomic 4 Operation and Maintenance Manual P/N 200156 80 pages — Westerbeke
Universal Atomic 4 Owners & Service Manual — Moyer Marine.
Universal Atomic 4 Owner and Service ManualL-36.
universal Atomic 4 Owners ManualL-36.
universal Atomic 4 Transmission ManualL-36.
Parts Catalogs: (with Exploded Views & Parts Lists) ↓p↓
Universal Atomic Four Parts List P/N 200150 — Westerbeke
Universal Atomic 4 Parts ListWesterbeke (From Moyer Marine).
Universal Atomic 4 Parts ManualL-36.
Parts Bulletins: (by Date: YYMMDD) ↓pb↓
Universal Superseded Parts List (August 2017)Universal
Shop Manuals: (Repair/Service/Technical/Workshop Manuals) ↓m↓
MMI Universal Atomic 4 Service and Overhaul Manual — Moyer Marine.
Atomic 4 Owner and Service ManualL-36.
Atomic 4 Transmission ManualL-36.
Wiring Diagrams: ↓w↓
Vendor Wiring Diagram – Products (Notes) — Creator – Source –w–
TechVids: (Technical Videos: Service Training‚ etc.) ↓v↓
Vendor TechVids (DATE) – Products (Notes) — Creator – Source –v–
Service Bulletins: (by Date: YYMMDD) ↓sb↓
Westerbeke SB#242 (040824) – Mfr Date Code — Westerbeke.
Westerbeke SB#227 (031027) – 180 Degree Thermostat Kit PN# 200468 — Westerbeke.
Westerbeke SB#238 (030228) – Fuel Pump Inlet Filter Part Number 048076 — Westerbeke.
Westerbeke SB#223 (960515) – Cylinder Head Gasket PN# 263776 — Westerbeke.
Westerbeke SB#155 (850621) – Keyswitch — Westerbeke.
Westerbeke SB#136 (840209) – Shift Lever — Westerbeke.
Westerbeke SB#125 (830814) – Oil Pressure Switches — Westerbeke.
Product Recalls: ↓r↓
Vendor Recall – Products (Notes) — Creator – Source –r–
Other Documentation: ↓?↓
Vendor ? – Products (Notes) — Creator – Source –?–

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DS = Data Source code

MEDIA TYPE:
TITLE : Subtitle — Creators (Authors‚ Editors‚ Illustrators‚+) – Source (Publishers‚+) DS
Articles:
Atomic 4 Basics by Tom Averne — 48° North
Forum Posts:
Atomic 4 Serial Numbers by Year
Tech Tips:
From Foley Engines:
^ 34: Atomic 4 Carburetors and Pumps
^ 52: Solid State Ignition Kits
From Moyer Marine:
^ Do I have an Early or Late Model Atomic 4?
^ Panoramic Views of an Atomic 4
^ Carburetor Internal Pressure Regulation
^ Fuel-Related Engine Shutdowns
^ Water Jacket Side Plate – Some Comments
^ Erratic Oil Pressure
^ Understanding the Atomic 4 oil system
^ Elevated exhaust system back pressure
^ The Kaminsky Modification
^ Best features of early and late model engines.
^ Specialized tools we find essential
^ Accessory drive repair and modification
^ Critical items during rebuild
^ Late model carburetor tidbit
^ Understanding the late model bypass cooling system
^ FACET fuel pump failures
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
From Moyer Marine: (by Category)
^ Do I have an Early or Late Model Atomic 4?
^ General Information
^ Ignition System
^ Fuel System
^ Oil System
^ Cooling System
^ Accessory Drive
^ Reversing Gear
^ Exhaust System
^ Propellers
Books:
Title – + (Notes) — Creator – Source
Magazines:
Moyer Marine's Online Atomic 4 Newsletters — Moyer Marine
^ Spring 2010:
^ ^ Exhaust issues
^ ^ Oil Change Issues
^ ^ Spring Commissioning
^ Summer 2010:
^ ^ Impeller issues
^ ^ Oil pump basics
^ ^ Engine Inspection Checklist
^ ^ Synthetic Oil and Wet Clutch Slippage
^ Winter 2010:
^ ^ "Are you operating in a vacuum"?
^ ^ Tartan 30 and 34 standpipe mufflers
^ ^ 10 things you really don't want to do
^ Spring 2011:
^ ^ Preventative Maintenance Program
^ Fall 2011:
^ ^ Troubleshooting Concepts
^ ^ Fall Manifold Special!
^ ^ Setting your belt tension just got easier
^ ^ New split hub prop shaft couplings
^ Spring 2012:
^ ^ Springtime startup issues
^ ^ Suggested Spare Parts and Tools for Cruising
^ Winter 2014:
^ ^ Sudden and unexpected shutdowns
^ Winter 2017:
^ ^ Introduction to induction
^ Winter 2018:
^ ^ Understanding the Atomic 4 oil system
^ July 2018:
^ ^ Understanding the Atomic 4 late model cooling bypass system
^ Special Announcement:
^ ^ New Atomic 4 Blocks!
Videos:
Title – + (Notes) — Creator – Source
Websites:
Title – + (Notes) — Creator – Source

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FROM old-sailer: Atomic 4 Serial Numbers by Year
A little history…
I have managed to find myself a lovely old 30 ft C&C sailboat. (I love the old boats and not interested in the new ones at all) Of course it has the venerable Atomic4 in it and I copied down the serial and model and sent it to Don to see if he could tell me the age, when made etc. He replied telling me what he could about my little girl that she’s one of the last late model units made but he also told me he has never seen any log of the serial numbers relative to year of manufacture. Sooooo….. I went hunting.
Here’s what I have come up with so far assembled from a number of web sites that have bits and pieces of information on the engine. I found one web site that had all kinds of info. and it’s the basis for the list here and then I added other info from other sites I came across adding to it. I simply offer it here for the benefit of all interested in this great old engine.

Circa 1949: Serial #?
Zenith series 61-M2AE7 cast iron carburetor with adjustable main jet.
Dole thermostat.
Auto-lite ignition.
Fairbanks Morse magneto (optional).
Auto-lite 6 volt starter.
Auto-lite 6 volt generator.
Prestolite distributor (1Gw60032E1X).
Bronze gear water pump.
Old style heat exchanger kit (optional).
5 unit control panel with mechanical tachometer, mechanical oil pressure gauge, mechanical Water temperature gauge

Circa 1962: Serial #?
Jabsco rubber impellor water pump (available as a replacement).
Prestolite 12 volt starter.
Leece Neville 12 volt alternator (optional).

Circa 1963: Serial #68____
Prestolite 12 volt generator.
Auto-lite 15 amp 12 volt generator (optional).
Delco Remy 24 amp 12 volt generator (optional).
Prestolite 35 amp 12 volt alternator (optional).
Prestolite 40 amp 12 volt alternator (optional).

Circa 1964: Serial #71____
Ongaro – Teleflex electric control panel with electric tachometer (optional), electric oil pressure gauge, electric water temperature gauge.

Circa 1965: Serial #77____
“Old” Sherwood (7 end cover screws) rubber impellor water pump.

Circa 1967: Serial #79476
New style cylinder head with thermost housing.
Holley thermostat.
New style Sendure heat exchanger kit (optional).
Medallion 6 unit control panel with electric tachometer (optional), electric oil pressure gauge, Electric water temperature gauge.

Circa 1967: Serial #170509
Zenith series 68-7 alumininum alloy carburetor with fixed main jet.
Delco Remy distributor (#1112446 – 2G11/6C16/3HI8).
Delco Remy 070FLX 12 volt coil.
Delco Remy 1107679starter and new ring gear to fit.
Larger flywheel housing to fit new ring gear.
Motorola 35 amp 12 volt alternator.
Motorola 51 amp 12 volt alternator (optional).
Oberdorfer model 202M3 rubber impellor water pump (fitted to most engines).

Circa 1967: Serial #171514
External valve chamber oil line no longer fitted.

Circa 1968: Serial #174340
Oberdorfer model 202M3 water pump standard.

Circa 1969: Serial #174802
New style valves (stamped “Eaton” or “Etn”).

Circa 1969: Serial #175503
New transmission housing, oil fill moved to front.

Circa 1970: Serial #176500
Valve guide inner diameter revised to .3145 – .3150 in (new valve guide/valve stem clearance specification of .003 – .004 in to prevent valves sticking in guides).

Circa 1972: Serial #178801
Paragon marine gear updated with new outer plate combined with pressure plate, and new wider metric gear carrier ball bearing.

Circa 1975: Serial #192787
New style deep flywheel housing and flat sheet metal cover.

Circa 1977: Serial #198___
New style electric instrument panel (electric tachometer optional).

Circa 1979: Serial #202987
Mechanical fuel pump replaced with Facet electric fuel pump and low oil pressure shut-off switch.

Circa 1980: Serial #204___
Production stopped (sales continued to 1984).