Industry mourns American Diesel Corp. founder

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Bob Smith, who founded American Diesel Corp. in 1981 and was known as the developer of the Ford Lehman marine engine, died Tuesday in Stuart, Fla. He was 79.

Smith started the diesel engine manufacturing company in Virginia after leaving Lehman Power, where he had been managing director. Smith’s son Brian runs the company today.

Smith joined the Marine Trawler Owners Association in 1990, the year the group was founded. He gave presentations at rendezvous on the care and maintenance of diesel engines.

“He will be remembered for his engine room seminars and the general boating knowledge he unselfishly imparted to all of us in MTOA newsletters over the year, at rendezvous all around the country or on the other end of the telephone,” association member Jim Bertch said. “Whenever one of us had an engine problem, Bob was available to help.”

Smith was a regular contributor to the association’s magazine. When the group’s first formal board of directors was formed in 1993, he served as deputy director of engineering. Smith was elected president of the Marine Trawler Owners Association in 1996.

“Bob became president of MTOA at a time we were in some turmoil and steered us toward becoming the finest boating organization in the country,” Bertch said.  “As a later president, I quickly appreciated the good sense and dedication that he showed.

Smith was director of propulsion engineering at the time of his death.

Bertch said Smith “helped the Pacific Northwest group get organized and enabled them to recruit members at the Seattle TrawlerFest booth he rented. He continued to promote MTOA at many boating shows, where he appeared as the foremost diesel guru.”

Smith received the Superior Service Award for his work on the group’s newsletter, Rendezvous, and membership support.

A few years ago, Smith received the association’s Life Achievement Award, which is given for highly distinguished service or achievement of lasting significance for the association during an extended period.


3 comments on “Industry mourns American Diesel Corp. founder

  1. Tom Pride, Marlow Marine

    Bob was an old friend who first advised me on diesel engines in 1983. His knowledge, clarity and assistance were always appreciated. Bob was able to quickly drill down to the real problems, be they technical or operational, and enjoyed helping everyone. I will miss him.

  2. Frederic W Mueller

    I met Bob at the first Trawler Fest – the early days of PassageMaker.

    Such a gentleman – and so knowledgeable.

    Gail and Brian are in my thoughts – as well as Bob will continue to be every time I cruise with Luna Maris (GB 36) or change fluids (and the pernicious Simms pump).

    Fred Mueller

  3. Garrett &Jean Mulder

    We were so saddened to read of Bobs passing. As a former MTOA officer and organizer of several Great Lakes Rendezvous, Bob was also the highlight of the gathering. His engine room seminars were not to be missed. His sense of humor was great and yet he was a gentle giant who was just a phone call away.

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