Aero-engined cars

Aero-engined cars

The prevailing and growing band of those building aero-engined cars has recalled some more others from the past, proving that more such monsters

roamed the roads from the 1920s onwards than is usually recognised. There was, for instance, the racing Sunbeam into which Warwick Wright had a vee-eight-cylinder Sunbeam Sirdar aero-engine installed, with the idea of using this roadgoing two-seater for continental motoring.

This airship engine had side valves beneath detachable valve-caps and it fitted neatly beneath the bonnet of what looked like a very normal car, with spare wheel on the o/s running board. It was a six-litre 80 x 150 mm engine similar to the 50 hp Crusader vee-eight aero engine Coatalen put into a standard 24 hp Sunbeam for CA Bird to drive at Shelsley Walsh in 1913, and was completed just in time, driven to the hill, and was second fastest, in 58.4s. The chassis was, in fact, one of the Indianapolis Sunbeams, but as the Wolverhampton company built cars for six of these 500-mile races, from 1913 to 1921, it is impossible to determine which was used. The huge engine developed 200 bhp/ 2200 rpm, at which speed the car was doing 100 mph, yet it was said to be able to pick up from 25 mph in top gear and to be generally "gloriously docile". The fourspeed racing gearbox, back-axle and road springs were retained, as they were sturdy enough to take aero-engine torque and power. The only admitted shortcoming was the very restricted clearance between the oil-pump casing and the ground. This was a

problem which most of those using aeropower in cars got over by replanning lubrication systems to draw lubricant from a tank mounted at chassis level. By 1923 this Warwick Wright Sunbeam was for sale for £1000.

I am also reminded that a friend used to tell me of an old Napier with a Rolls-Royce aero engine residing at a Northamptonshire garage at about the same time, and which was not, I think, the R-R Falcon-powered Napier in which Lt Col HG Henderson used to deport himself here and on the continent. Even earlier, an avid schoolboy reader of the motor papers, I seem to recall that The Motor had a brief description of an aeroengine which had been installed in a Buick chassis. Even at that age, I thought this seemed perhaps too flimsy a frame for such a power implant. Nor should we overlook the Hall Scott-engined car which the late Lord Donegal, editor of The Sherlock Holmes Journal for a time, ran when he was at Oxford. Apart from these aerocars of the early between-wars period, such formidable monsters are now being built again. The latest of which rumours concerns the possibility of a Curtiss engine, as used so successfully by Mark Walker in his Monarch Special, being put into a preI 914 Renault chassis, driving through a four-speed Lorraine Dietrich gearbox and cooled maybe by a Hispano-Suiza radiator. W B