60 Years of the same Engel motor: if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it

By Josh Leonard 6 Min Read

If we set aside the Cuban Missile Crisis and President John F. Kennedy’s unfortunate assassination, we can all agree that the 1960s were a cracker of a decade. Wartime recovery was nearly complete, food rationing was becoming a thing of the past, and Pirate Radio had us making boats rock. Meanwhile, unruly teenagers were liberating their parents’ old clothes and creating their own version of fashion. You could even nab yourself an International Scout for just over two grand; what a time to be alive! 


Amidst the cultural revolutions and geopolitical dramas, the 1960s witnessed impressive technological breakthroughs. From life-saving implantable pacemakers to the transformative light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which went on to revolutionise driving lights, inventions of that era deserve a standing ovation. But there’s one invention that demands more than just a mention—a true hero of the outdoors—the Engel portable fridge.

“If fridges had secret identities, Engel’s would undoubtedly be Superman.”

Just as teenagers liberated their parents’ forgotten fabric, this portable fridge liberated campers, road trippers, and adventurers from the clutches of warm Tin Diesels and rotten snags. It was a game-changer that transformed the way Aussies embraced the great outdoors, surviving every inch of abuse we threw at it and emerging victorious.

The “frost” impression: solid as a block of ice

Let’s be real here when it comes to portable fridges: nothing beats the toughness and reliability of an Engel. Now, before you hit the “contact us” tab and accuse me of a sales pitch, let me address this: I’m impartial, and this isn’t hearsay—it’s a straight-up fact. Engel’s fridges are tougher than “The Beast,” the armoured vehicle that protects US presidents from things that go bang. And give Toyota’s reputation for reliability a serious case of imposter syndrome.


Engel MRFT514

There are still OG Engel MRFT514s out there, chilling beers as their adventurous owners traverse the country. I’ve seen them with my own eyes, and what blows my mind isn’t that they’re still kicking after 60 years worth of stinking hot summers; it’s that they’re just as efficient as their modern-day counterparts. 

Engel is a legend in reliability

If fridges had secret identities, Engel’s would undoubtedly be Superman. Their legendary reputation for strength and dependability rests on one thing: the powerful Sawafuji Swing Motor. Which, to my knowledge, was never actually utilised to drive a swing, despite the fact that doing so would have been pretty epic. Each and every Engel fridge-freezer contains this chef-d’oeuvre of Japanese engineering, which only has one moving part. 

Sure, winning the “Fewest Moving Parts” award at the Engineering Oscars is an accolade in and of itself. And it doesn’t take a genius to work out that having fewer shifting pieces means less chance of failure, but what makes the Sawafuji Motor so special is that it keeps your beers cold even at 30-degree angles and handles rough corrugated tracks like a boss, making it just as at home on Gunshot as it is on the Gibb River Road, all while frugally sipping at your 12-volt supply like a barn mouse drinking from the Caspian Sea. 

At home on vertical slopes and vertically integrated

While other manufacturers cobble together their products from a motley crew of suppliers, assembling a portable fridge with a mishmash of parts instead of building one, Engel takes a different approach. Sawafuji is vertically integrated, meaning they don’t just make the motor—they make every single component within it. Giving Engel an unparalleled advantage, as they’re intimately involved in the design and manufacturing process and have been for the past six decades.

Just like an Engel fridge, the motor hasn’t demanded much maintenance over the years. Testament to their forward thinking and commitment at the time, little has needed updating. It’s safe to say the motor that makes these fridges so iconic was more than 60 years ahead of its time when it was born. This has given Engel more time to focus on introducing a versatile range of equally reliable products to the market, like their upright fridges and generators

Raising a toast

As we celebrate 60 years of chilled-out companionship, the future looks even cooler for Engel. With advancements in technology—not that Engel needs them—and an ever-growing thirst for outback adventurers, this enduring fridge will continue to evolve. We don’t know exactly what tomorrow holds, but one thing is certain: Engel will remain at least six decades ahead of the pack, setting the standard for innovation and reliability when it comes to portable fridges.

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