Vintage Ohlsson & Rice O&R engines

Irwin Ohlsson (Irv) and Harry Rice were model gas engine builders.

Irv Ohlsson

After graduation, Irv went to work for Douglas Aircraft. His first love was model flying, however, and he soon left Douglas to open a model shop of his own in Los Angeles. He had come up with a good design for an engine and wanted to go into production. He contacted machinist friend Harry Rice and got a quote for the tooling for the first run of his new engines. The cost would be 2600 USD, which was a lot of money at the time. Irv borrowed $1300 from his mother from his dad's insurance money and got friend Frank Bertelli to borrow 1300 USD from his parents to finance the first run of engines. They assembled and test ran each engine in their shop. This engine sold for 16.50 USD, which was about a week's pay for the average worker in those days. Many boys now recall saving their every penny for a long time to buy that engine for their model airplane. The Ohlsson Mini was known as the 'Gold Seal' and had a displacement of .56 cubic inches, forged rods, a 1-piece head and cylinder to prevent leakage and produced about 5 pounds of thrust with a 14" prop at 7000 RPM.

By 1941 Irv Ohlsson had teamed up with Harry Rice, and the firm of Ohlsson & Rice were producing a '.19', a '.23' and a '.60' that were very popular.

No other engines at the time combined the reliability, ease of maintenance, simplicity of operation and unlimited life of the Ohlsson & Rice model engines. The Second World War put a temporary hold on their success, however, as all manufacturing facilities were turned over to military production. By the time the war shut down their production, they had produced about 75,000 engines.

As soon as the war was over, O&R got back into production. Even with a shortage of needed materials and machines somewhat worn out by 3-shift a day wartime production use, they jumped back into a market that had a seemingly endless demand for their products. Modelers were hungry to get back into flying, and O&R took advantage of the market by buying the machinery needed to meet the huge demand. By the end of 1947 their production had risen to almost a thousand engines per working day.

When glow engines started to become popular at the end of the 1940s, Ohlsson & Rice were ready with their own designs. One of the problems with glow plug engines was the availability of the right fuel, so they began manufacturing their own fuel for both glow and ignition engines. They also started producing metal-bodied model race cars (tether cars, see below), propellers and a series of O&R glow plugs.

Ohlsson & Rice tether cars: Standard of the Model World

Ohlsson Rice tether car

Ohllson & Rice tether cars were first made in 1946. The first models had solid rear brake drums, 10 air vent slots in the seat, open air front grill, external hand brake lever, windshield, manual fuel pump, 4 nerf bars or radius rods, and plated front axle. The cars were fitted with a .23 or .29 Ohlsson Rice engine. The easiest way to tell their plane engines from the car engines was the exhaust port. The cars have a straight cut exhaust and the planes had an angled cut port. However they are interchangeable except to be estetically correct. Basic colors included black, white, red, yellow and blue. The .29 engine were available in either spark ignition models or with a glow plug. In the beginning Irv Ohlsson and Harry Rice had trouble with their engines and discovered a lot of the problems were due to inferior fuel sources. To rectify this they started to manufacture their own Nitro Glow fuel. This seemed to cure their engine problems. The later models in the 1950s went to a closed front grill, hollow brake drums, 1 air vent slot in seat, no windshield and a smaller .049 engine. The last of the midget racers were made in 1959.


Ohlsson Rice value and price guide

What's your Ohlsson Rice worth in 2021? Here are some recently sold items.

Item Title Date Price
early 50 s ohlsson rice mite gas powered tether car w Early 50 S Ohlsson Rice Mite Gas Powered Tether Car W 07/2021 £445.84
ohlsson rice engine min i pump model 600 1967 Ohlsson Rice Engine Min I Pump Model 600 1967 09/2021 £365.44
ohlsson rice o e engine fan Ohlsson Rice O E Engine Fan 07/2021 £100.00
1945 ohlsson rice o r 23 model airplane engine in box w 1945 Ohlsson Rice O R 23 Model Airplane Engine In Box W 09/2021 £41.57
1940 s ohlsson rice o r 60 model airplane engine 1940 S Ohlsson Rice O R 60 Model Airplane Engine 09/2021 £19.01
no pictureSee all sold items on eBay for more prices12/2021£-.--

Ohlsson Rice forum

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Comments (13)
Jim - May 29, 2021
Do you know what is the correct motor for the O&R tether car or can you direct me to a site that would know? I have an engine in mine but no piston and the motor itself seems small. Thanks, Jim
Hi Jim, there are some Facebook groups dedicated to O&R, best to ask there.
John - February 15, 2021
Hello out there. Inquiring as to value of my original car? Have had for maybe 60+ years.
Pics upon request. Has original box but 1 end is missing. Balance of box is tattered. No engine. Has original pull string with handle and attachment to car.
Sorry for the late reply! No idea about value. There is also a huge tether car collectors group on FB, so you could also try there.
Paul - December 13, 2020
Have gas tank as well. Would like to sell. Oh ya never been used mint.

Jim - November 13, 2020
Need help with a O&R 29 powered mite car. The drive wheel attaches to the axle but it free wheels on the crankshaft. Is there a part missing that connects the axle wheel to the crankshaft? The wheel also freewheels on the axle. So even if the axle were to be 'fixed to the crank, it still would not drive the wheel.
Sorry, I'm not an technical expert. There are some dedicated Tether Car groups on Facebook with collectors, maybe you could ask there as well. Any reply I get I'll forward of course.
Philip - October 18, 2020
I just bought a Ohlsson and Rice tether car. I would like to get running. What engines would work best?
That's a killer car, what a beauty! Probably needs a Ohlsson Rice .23 or Ohlsson Rice .29. Best is to ask the experts in for example this Facebook group.
John - August 4, 2020
Really enjoyed reading this information. Thank you for taking the time to put it all together. Loved the comment below:) My Mom gave my stuff away when I joined the Coast Guard as well--good memories. John--Canada
Thanks for your story John :-) !
William - July 16, 2020
I have a complete setup for a Ohlsen 60 my Father built around 14 to 16 yrs old (1946 or so?) I have new spark plug, condenser, points are fine the motor was broke in and then pickled to be finished later which never happenned. I am in Nipomo California and would like to get with some one who can guide me to finishing his project though some parts have dried up and need replacing. Can you help me?
Hi William, I can't help you with this, but maybe you can find the right people on this forum:
Alan - March 18, 2019
Can you still get parts for these. I now have my dads car and the tires for sure are rotted.
Take a look here: Ohlson Rice tires.
Glenn - January 27, 2019
Mine was yellow. Mom gave all my model stuff away when I joined the Coast Guard.
That's too bad. Hope you still have good memories!
Dave - January 16, 2019
HelloI bought a Ohllson Rice teather car at a garage sale all i have is the body. dont know they year or or where to begin to buy parts but would like it if anyone could help me or did i just buy a big paper weight thank you for your time
Well, it sure would be a nice looking paper weight :-) You could also ask and post pics on this forum.
John - September 24, 2018
Hi, Can you tell me how the drive system works please? The wheel turns freely and I think it works by torque multiplication through the planetry gears, is that correct?
I have no idea, sounds about right though!
Robert - June 12, 2018
An internet search got me to a catalog, and I have a 1949 OHLSSON
Keith - November 5, 2017
Value of o r motor model number 053216. Type 121
Sorry, I have no idea... You can click in the link at the bottom of the text above to find out the value of O&R engines in general.