Small four stroke petrol engines like the Sunshine were used to drive a wide range of machines on Australian farms through much of the twentieth century: chaff-cutters, saws, pumps, lighting and shearing plants, milking machines and cream separators. They removed much of the drudgery of labour on farms before they were supplanted by electric motors; even then, engines were used on properties not connected to the electricity grid or at locations not served by a farm's power supply. Small petrol engines were also used in garages and workshops and by bush fire brigades.
The engine was made by HV McKay Massey Harris, which resulted from a merger between Australian firm HV McKay and Canadian firm Massey Harris. At one time Hugh Victor McKay's Sunshine Harvester Works was the largest factory in Australia, but to ensure the company's survival through the Great Depression it merged with the Canadian firm in 1930. The engine was made in 1940, during World War 2, when the aim of Australian manufacturing shifted from meeting domestic needs to serving the war effort, but engines were so essential to both spheres that their production continued.
The Sundial is fitted with twin flywheels, making it a compact and convenient power source as either wheel could double as a drive wheel. Its connecting rod, crankshaft and flywheel spokes are covered, a safety measure that was not standard at the time. These engines were advertised as simple, dependable, low in price and cheap to run. They had the additional advantage that a bolt-on kit was made by the manufacturer to convert them to run on kerosene.
Debbie Rudder, Curator, and Noel Svensson, Powerhouse Volunteer, 2013