The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

Lee Root

Added to museum: 12/2/09

February 4, 1919—June 1, 2000

A man who built beautiful engines and enjoyed hearing them run

Lee Root is seen at a model engineering show getting ready to fire up his Corvette V8 engine at one of the PRIME shows in Oregon.


Initially this page will be somewhat short on information about Lee himself. It has been difficult to find family or friends who can submit a biography on him. However, those who attended model engineering shows where Lee was there to run his engines will recall the joy with which he showed them off. To him, engines were meant to be run, and the louder the better. Looking a little like a pink-cheeked Santa Claus, he would get a big smile on his face whenever he started one up.

Lee's 1/4 scale Corvette engine always attracted a crowd when he would fire it up. (Click on photo to view larger image.)

Lee was born in Russia in 1919 and immigrated to the United States as a young man, settling in the Seattle area, graduating from West Seattle High School. In 1985 he moved to Redmond with his wife Rose who preceded him death in 1988. At the time of his death in 2000 Lee was working as production manager for Blaser Die Casting in Seattle. Lee was associated with Chrysler, Ford and General Motors as a historian and technical model builder. His work earned him two championships with the Pacific Rim International Model Engineering (PRIME) Club at their shows held in Eugene, Oregon.

Lee produced no drawings for the engines he built. He worked strictly from his imagination, so unfortunately no plans are available for his engines.

Engine collector Paul Knapp was a friend of Lee's and now has Lee's engines in his collection. Paul will be providing some recollections of working with Lee. They will be published here as soon as they are received. If anyone else has photos or recollections of Lee and his work, please contact the museum. Four of Lee's engines—the Corvette V8, the fuel injected DOHC in-line four, the Model A Ford in-line four and the 7-cylinder radial—are now on display in the Craftsmanship Museum in Vista, CA as part of Paul's engine collection.

Photos, videos and stories sought

If you have any personal stories about Lee,  photos of Lee at a model show or video of any of his engines running, please contact to have them included in this page.

Articles on Lee Root

Chevy Power magazine did a 5-page article on Lee and the miniature Chevy V-8 back in May, 1978. Dick LaFayette was the author. CLICK HERE for the lower resolution PDF version (663 Kb) or CLICK HERE for the high quality version PDF file (12.16 MB). Our thanks to Randall Brauer for finding and scanning the old article for us.


Here are several examples of Lee Root's work:

(Click photos for larger images.)

Corvette V8 in 1/4 scale (Right side)

Lee machined 7075 aircraft-grade aluminum to produce the crankcase, heads, rods and pistons. No castings were used. The cylinder liners are cast iron, and the crankshaft and cam are heat-treated 4340 steel. He used a full-size Corvette cam to derive the cam profiles.

Top view of Corvette V8 shows the carburetor setup.

Construction of the scale rocker arms proved to be the greatest challenge, although Lee conceded that the carburetor and electronic ignition were problem areas as well.

Another top view from the other side of the V8.

Lee developed an electronic balancer to balance the engine, and preliminary tests showed the engine to exceed 10,000 RPM. Several months later more extensive testing displayed the engine would turn at a little over 18,000 RPM.

The left side of the V8 Corvette engine, originally designed and built in the 1980's.

Lee testing the dual overhead cam four-cylinder engine on a dyno. Lee called this engine the "Root Special." It was developed to test a miniature electronic throttle body fuel injection he was working on in the 1980's.

Top and right side of the DOHC 4 which measures about 11" long..

The water cooled racing engine has a bore of .875" and a stroke of .750" for a total displacement of 1.8 cubic inches. It burns gasoline for fuel and utilizes pressure lubrication and is fired by a spark ignition.

Right side of the DOHC 4.

The engine was machined entirely from 7075 aluminum bar stock and utilizes no castings. Some parts were sand or bead blasted to get the look of a casting, however. The aluminum parts have a clear anodized finish to protect them.

Left side of the DOHC 4, originally built by Lee in the 1980's.

Replica of a 1928 Model A Ford engine in 1/4 scale

The engine is machined from 7075 aircraft grade aluminum and clear anodized for color and finish. It is a 4-cylinder, water-cooled, side-valve engine with a 180° crankshaft. "Side-valve" means the valves are located in the crankcase next to the cylinders.

Model A Ford engine.

The engine burns gasoline, has a spark ignition and supports an internal pressurized oil system. No castings were used. All parts are machined from billet stock.

Model A Ford engine (Left side).

Model A Ford engine (Right side).

Model A Ford engine (detail).

Lee's seven-cylinder radial aircraft engine. (Left side)

This engine was built about 1975. No castings were used in this engine, and it was ahead of its time when built. In fact, it is more advanced than most radial engines built today.

Seven-cylinder radial aircraft engine. (Right side)

Lee Root's engine is best known for the custom designed miniature Stromberg-type carburetor with an automatic choke and accelerator pump, dry sump lubrication system and electric fuel pump.

The retrospective from Lee's  funeral provided a portrait from several years back.

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