The Napier Lion

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Sir,

I read with great interest your article under the title “I4ow did the Leyland Eight Rate?”, particularly the references to Napiers and A. J. Rowledge. I was a member of the design team working with Mr. Rowledge during the First World War on the design of the Napier Lion aircraft engine and later, on the design of the post-war car.

Mr. Rowledge did not leave Napiers until after design of the new car was completed (see page 29 of W. H. Robotham’s book “Silver Ghosts and Silver Dawn”).

Design work on the post-war car began in 1917 and was completed in 1919 and a chassis was exhibited at the first Olympia Motor Show after the War.

I left D. Napier and Son (as it was called then) in 1919 to go to Palladium Autocars at Putney but corresponded with Rowledge after he joined Rolls-Royce.

My recollections of the details of the car design are now somewhat hazy but I do remember that we had a Hispano-Suiza car engine in the drawing office sometime in 1919. I. personally, was more involved with the Lion aircraft engine.

In my opinion, Rowledge’s design of the Lion engine was a brilliant piece of work giving a very short and compact unit which was later to power the first of the three final victorious Supermarine Schneider Trophy sea-planes.

Incidentally, only the prototype Lion engine had cast monobloc cylinders and it ended by blowing up during a brake test. Later models had steel cylinders with welded water jackets.

It started as a 450 b.h.p. engine but eventually exceeded 1,000 b.h.p. There is one in the Science Museum.

Brandon O. W. Gill,

C. Eng., M.I.Prod.E.

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