Category Archives: Aircraft Engines

Mathis Vega 42 front

Mathis Vega 42-Cylinder Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

Émile E. C. Mathis was a French automobile dealer who began manufacturing cars under his own name in 1910. Mathis was based in Strasbourg, which was part of Germany at the time. The Mathis automobile began to achieve success just before World War I. After the start of the war, Émile was conscripted into the German Army. Because of his knowledge of automobiles, the Germans sent Émile on a mission to Switzerland to purchase trucks and other supplies. Émile was given a substantial amount of money for the transaction, and he took the opportunity to desert the Germany Army and keep the funds. When Germany was defeated, Émile returned to his automobile company in Strasbourg, which was then in French territory near the German border, and resumed production.

Mathis Vega 42 front

The high-performance, 42-cylinder Mathis Vega aircraft engine. Note the camshaft-driven distributors attached to the front of each cylinder bank.

In 1937, the Mathis company began designing aircraft engines. A new company division, the Société Mathis Aviation (Mathis Aviation Company), was founded with offices in Paris and factories in Strasbourg and Gennevilliers. These were mostly the same facilities as the automobile business, with auto development out of Strasbourg and aircraft engine development centered in Gennevilliers, near Paris. Raymond Georges was the technical director in charge of the aircraft engines. The Mathis company started their involvement in aircraft engines with the rather ambitious Vega.

The Mathis Vega was a 42-cylinder inline radial aircraft engine. The liquid-cooled engine had seven cylinder banks, each with six cylinders. The cylinder banks had an integral cylinder head and were made from aluminum. Steel cylinder barrels were screwed into the cylinder bank. Each cylinder had one intake valve and one sodium-cooled exhaust valve. A single overhead camshaft actuated the valves for each cylinder bank. The camshafts were driven from the front of the engine. Camshaft-driven distributors mounted to the front of each cylinder bank fired the two spark plugs in each cylinder. The spark plugs were positioned on opposite sides of the cylinder. The two-piece crankcase was made from aluminum.

Mathis Vega 42 side

The Vega was a relatively compact engine. Note the exhaust port spacing on the cylinder banks. Presumably, different exhaust manifolds would be designed based on how the engine was installed in an aircraft.

At the front of the engine was a planetary gear reduction that turned the propeller shaft at .42 times crankshaft speed. At the rear of the engine was a single-speed and single-stage supercharger that turned at 5.53 times crankshaft speed. A single, two-barrel, downdraft carburetor fed fuel into the supercharger. Seven intake manifolds extended from the supercharger housing to feed the air/fuel mixture to the left side of each cylinder bank. Individual exhaust stacks were mounted to the right side of each cylinder bank. Attached to the back of the supercharger housing was a coolant water pump with seven outlets, one for each cylinder bank.

The Vega had a 4.92 in (125 mm) bore and a 4.53 in (115 mm) stroke. The 42-cylinder engine displaced 3,617 cu in (59.3 L) and had a compression ratio of 6.5. The Vega was 42.1 in (1.07 m) in diameter and 59.8 in (1.52 m) long. The first Vega was known as the 42A, and the engine was first run in 1938. The 42A produced 2,300 hp (1,715 kW) at 3,000 rpm and weighed 2,756 lb (1,250 kg). Reportedly, two examples were built as well as a full-scale model. It is not clear how much testing was undertaken, but some sources indicate the engine was flown 100 hours in a test bed during 1939. Unfortunately, details of the engine’s testing and the aircraft in which it was fitted have not been found.

An improved version, the 42B, was under development when the Germans invaded in May 1940. The Vega engine program was evacuated from Gennevilliers and hidden in the Pyrenees mountains in southern France for the duration of the war. Believing that the Germans would not have forgotten his desertion and miss-appropriation of funds during World War I, Émile fled to the United States in 1940. Émile offered the Vega engine to the US Military in October 1942, but no action was taken.

Mathis Vega 42 rear

Rear view of the Vega displays the intake manifolds, single carburetor, and the seven-outlet water pump. On paper, the Vega was a light and powerful engine, but no details have been found regarding its reliability.

After World War II, Émile returned to France, and work resumed on the Vega engine. The 42B was updated as the 42E (42E00). In all likelihood, the 42B and the 42E were the same engine; an example was exhibited in Paris, France in 1945. The Vega 42E produced 2,800 hp (2,088 kW) at 3,200 rpm with 8.5 psi (.59 bar) of boost for takeoff. The engine was rated for 2,300 hp (1,715 kW) at 3,000 rpm at 6,562 ft (2,000 m) and 1,700 hp (1,268 kW) at 2,500 rpm at 13,123 ft (4,000 m). The engine weighed 2,601 lb (1,180 kg).

The design of an enlarged Vega engine was initiated in 1942. Originally designated 42D, the larger engine was later renamed Vesta. The 42-cylinder Vesta was equipped with a two-speed supercharger that rotated 3.6 times crankshaft speed in low gear and 5.7 times crankshaft speed in high gear. The engine had a .44 gear reduction and utilized direct fuel injection. The Vesta had a 6.22 in (158 mm) bore, a 5.71 in (145 mm) stroke, and a displacement of 7,287 cu in (119.4 L). The engine had a takeoff rating of 5,000 hp (3,728 kW) at 2,800 rpm with 8.5 psi (.59 bar) of boost and a normal rating of over 4,000 hp (2,983 kW). The Vesta was 52.0 in (1.32 m) in diameter and weighed 4,519 lb (2,050 kg).

Like many other large engines built toward the end of World War II, the Vega failed to find an application, and the Vesta was never built. Mathis continued work on aircraft engines and produced a number of different air-cooled engines for general aviation. The design of these smaller engines was initiated during the war, and every attempt was made to maximize the number of interchangeable parts between the smaller engines. Some of the material for the smaller engines was liberated “scrap” provided by the Germans and intended for German projects. However, the general aviation engines were not made in great numbers, and production ceased in the early 1950s. No parts of the Vega engines are known to have survived.

Mathis Vega 42 R Georges

Raymond Georges overlooks the Vega engine mounted on a test stand in 1939. The pipes above the Vega are taking hot water from the engine.

Les Moteurs a Pistons Aeronautiques Francais Tome 2 by Alfred Bodemer and Robert Laugier (1987)
Aircraft Engines of the World 1946 by Paul H. Wilkinson (1946)
L’aviation Francaise de Bombardement et de Renseignement (1918/1940) by Raymond Danel and Jean Cuny (1980)
“The Mathis 42E 00” Flight (6 September 1945)

Studebaker’s XH-9350 and Their Involvement with Other Aircraft Engines

By William Pearce

Before the United States entered World War II, the Army Air Corps conceptualized a large aircraft engine for which fuel efficiency was the paramount concern. It was believed that such an engine could power bombers from North America to attack targets in Europe, a tactic that would be needed if the United Kingdom were to fall. This engine project was known as MX-232, and Studebaker was tasked with its development. After years of testing and development, the MX-232 program produced the Studebaker XH-9350 engine design.

Although a complete XH-9350 engine was not built, Studebaker’s XH-9350 and Their Involvement with Other Aircraft Engines details the development of the MX-232 program and the XH-9350 design. In addition, the book covers Studebaker’s work with other aircraft engines: the power plant for the Waterman Arrowbile, their licensed production of the Wright R-1820 radial engine during World War II, and their licensed production of the General Electric J47 jet engine during the Korean War.


1. Studebaker History
2. Waldo Waterman and the Arrowbile
3. Studebaker-Built Wright R-1820 Cyclone
4. XH-9350 in Context
5. XH-9350 in Development
6. XH-9350 in Perspective
7. Studebaker-Built GE J47 Turbojet
Appendix: MX-232 / XH-9350 Documents

$19.99 USD
8.5 in x 11 in
214 pages (222 total page count)
Over 185 images, drawings, and tables, and over 75,000 words
ISBN 978-0-9850353-1-0

Studebaker’s XH-9350 and Their Involvement with Other Aircraft Engines is available at If you wish to purchase the book with a check, please contact us for arrangements.

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Hitachi Nakajima Ha-51 side

Hitachi/Nakajima [Ha-51] 22-Cylinder Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

In December 1942, the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) sought a new radial aircraft engine capable of more than 2,500 hp (1,864 kW). At the time, the most powerful Japanese production engines produced around 1,900 hp (1,417 kW). The new engine was given the IJA designation Ha-51 and was later assigned the joint Japanese Army and Navy designation [Ha-51]. However, the Imperial Japanese Navy did not show any interest in the engine.

Hitachi Nakajima Ha-51 side

The 22-cylinder Hitachi/Nakajima [Ha-51] engine had a general similarity to the Nakajima [Ha-45]. Note the cooling fan on the front of the engine and the dense nature of the cylinder positioning.

Some sources state that Nakajima was tasked to develop the new [Ha-51] engine, while other sources contend that Hitachi was in charge of the engine from the start. Both Nakajima and Hitachi had produced previous engines with the same bore and stroke as the [Ha-51]. However, the [Ha-51] shares some characteristics, such as fan-assisted air cooling, with other Nakajima engines. Regardless, development of the [Ha-51] was eventually centered at the Hitachi Aircraft Company (Hitachi Kikuki KK) plant in Tachikawa, near Tokyo, Japan. The Hitachi Aircraft Company was formed in 1939 when the Tokyo Gas & Electric Industry Company (Tokyo Gasu Denki Kogyo KK, or Gasuden for short) merged with the Hitachi Manufacturing Company.

The [Ha-51] was a 22-cylinder, two-row radial engine. Its configuration of 11-cylinders in each of two rows was only common with two other engines: the Mitsubishi A21 / Ha-50 and the Wright R-4090. Although the three engines were developed around the same time, it is not believed that any one influenced the others. Moving from nine cylinders in each row to 11 was a logical step for producing more power without increasing a radial engine’s length. The tradeoff was accepting the increased frontal area of the engine and additional strain on the crankpins.

The engine’s three-piece crankcase was made of steel and split vertically along the cylinder center line. The crankcase bolted together via internal fasteners located between the cylinder mounting pads. The cylinders consisted of an aluminum head screwed and shrunk onto a steel barrel. Each cylinder had one intake valve and one exhaust valve. The valves were inclined at a relatively narrow angle of around 62 degrees. The intake and exhaust ports for each cylinder faced the rear of the engine. The cylinders had a compression ratio of 6.8. The second row of cylinders was staggered behind the first row. Only a very narrow gap existed between the front cylinders to enable cooling air to the rear cylinders. Baffles were used to direct the flow of cooling air.

Hitachi Nakajima Ha-51 drawing

Drawing of the [Ha-51] with details of the cylinder intake and exhaust valves. The angle between the intake and exhaust valves was fairly narrow for a radial engine, a necessity to fit 11 cylinders around the engine while keeping its diameter as small as possible.

A single-stage, two-speed supercharger was mounted to the rear of the [Ha-51]. The supercharger’s impeller was 13 in (330 mm) in diameter and turned at 6.67 times crankshaft speed in low gear and 10.0 times crankshaft speed in high gear. Fuel was fed into the supercharger by a carburetor. At the front of the engine was a planetary gear reduction that used spur gears to turn the propeller at .42 times crankshaft speed. A cooling fan driven from the front of the gear reduction was intended to keep engine temperatures within limits once the [Ha-51] was installed in a close-fitting cowling.

The [Ha-51]’s fan-assisted cooling system was originally developed for the 1,900 hp (1,417 kW) Nakajima [Ha-45] Homare engine, which gives some credence to Nakajima being involved with the [Ha-51]. The [Ha-45] and the [Ha-51] also had the same bore and stroke. Nearly all Gasuden/Hitachi radial engines had a single row of nine-cylinders and produced no more than 500 hp (373 kW). Developing a two-row, 22-cylinder, 2,500 hp (1,864 kW) engine would be a significant jump for Hitachi, but much less so for Nakajima.

The [Ha-51] had a 5.12 in (130 mm) bore and a 5.91 in (150 mm) stroke. Its total displacement was 2,673 cu in (43.8 L). The engine had an initial rating of 2,450 hp (1,827 kW) at 3,000 rpm and 8.7 psi (.60 bar) of boost for takeoff, and 1,950 hp (1,454 kW) at 3,000 rpm with 7.7 psi (.53 bar) of boost at 26,247 ft (8,000 m). However, planned development would increase the [Ha-51]’s output up to 3,000 hp (2,237 kW). The engine was 49.4 in (1.26 m) in diameter, 78.7 in (2.00 m) long, and weighed 2,205 lb (1,000 kg).

Construction of the first [Ha-51] prototype was started in March 1944. Testing of the completed engine revealed high oil consumption and issues with bearing seizures between the crankpins and master rods. The gear reduction and cooling fan drive experienced failures, and difficulty with the supercharger led to broken impellers. Due to these issues, the engine was unable to pass a 100-hour endurance test. Three [Ha-51] engines and parts for a fourth had been built when the prototypes were damaged during a US bombing raid on the factory at Tachikawa in April 1945. Combined with the current state of the war, the setback caused by the air raid signaled the end of the [Ha-51] project. When US troops inspected the Tachikawa plant in late 1945, they found the three damaged and partially constructed [Ha-51] engines. One engine was mostly complete but lacked its supercharger section. Reportedly, this engine was reassembled by order of the US military, but no further information regarding its disposition has been found. All [Ha-51] engines were later scrapped, and no parts for them are known to exist.

Hitachi Nakajima Ha-51 rear

Rear view of a [Ha-51] engine as found by US troops at Hitachi’s Tachikawa plant. The engine was fairly complete, with the exception of the supercharger and accessory section. This engine was reportedly reassembled at the request of the US military.

Japanese Aero-Engines 1910–1945 by Mike Goodwin and Peter Starkings (2017)
“The Radial 22 Cylinder Engine “HA51” and Genealogic Survey of the Gas-Den Aero-Engine” by Takashi Suzuki, Kenichi Kaki, Toyohiro Takahashi, and Masayoshi Nakanishi Transactions of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers (Part C) Vol. 74, No. 746 (October 2008)
“Hitachi Aircraft Company” The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Corporation Report No. VII (February 1947)ハ51_(エンジン)

Mitsubishi Ha-50 campns

Mitsubishi A21 / Ha-50 22-Cylinder Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was Japan’s largest aircraft engine producer and had developed a number of reliable and powerful engines. During 1942, Mitsubishi investigated a 3,000 hp (2,237 kW) engine design. Given the designation A19, the radial engine design had four rows of seven cylinders. The A19 had a 5.51 in (140 mm) bore and a 6.30 in (160 mm) stroke. This gave the 28-cylinder engine a displacement of 4,208 cu in (69.0 L). However, in the spring of 1943, Mitsubishi engineers concluded after extensive testing that the rear rows of the engine would not have enough airflow for sufficient cooling. The A19 was never built.

Mitsubishi Ha-50 campns

Although in a sorry state, the Mitsubishi A21 / Ha-50 preserved at the Museum of Aviation Science in Narita, Japan gives valuable insight into a lost generation of Japanese aircraft engines and 22-cylinder aircraft engines. Nearly all of the non-steel components have rotted away. ( image)

To solve the cooling issues, Mitsubishi turned to a two-row radial engine design with 11-cylinders per row. The new engine carried the Mitsubishi designation A21. The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) approved of the engine design and instructed Mitsubishi to proceed with construction. The A21 was given the IJA designation Ha-50. Many sources state the engine was later assigned the joint Japanese Army and Navy designation [Ha-50]. However, [Ha-52] would have been more fitting for the engine’s configuration, and the [Ha-50] designation may be the result of confusion with the IJA’s Ha-50 designation. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) was not involved with the engine’s development.

At the time, Mitsubishi was already developing an 18-cylinder radial based on their 14-cylinder [Ha-32] Kasei engine. To speed development of the Ha-50, Mitsubishi decided to continue the practice of adding additional Kasei-type cylinders to a new crankcase. The resulting air-cooled, 22-cylinder, two-row, radial configuration was common with only two other engines: the Hitachi/Nakajima [Ha-51] and the Wright R-4090. Using two rows of 11 cylinders kept the engine short and relatively simple compared to a four-row configuration. The two-row configuration also enabled a rather straightforward engine cooling operation without resorting to complex baffles. However, the large number of cylinders in each row increased the engine’s frontal area and caused greater stresses on the crankshaft’s crankpins.

Mitsubishi Ha-50 side

The Ha-50 had a substantial amount of space between the first and second cylinder rows. Note the pistons frozen in their cylinders. (Rob Mawhinney image via the Aircraft Engine Historical Society)

The Ha-50 used a three-piece, steel crankcase that was split vertically along the cylinder center line and secured via internal fasteners. Aluminum alloy housings were used for the gear reduction and the supercharger. Each cylinder was secured to the crankcase by 16 studs. The cylinders were formed with a cast aluminum head screwed and shrunk onto a steel barrel. Relatively thin fins were cut into the steel cylinder barrels to aid cooling. Each cylinder had one intake valve and one exhaust valve. The intake and exhaust ports for each cylinder faced toward the rear of the engine. The cylinders had a compression ratio of 6.7. Following the typical two-row radial configuration, the second row of cylinders was staggered behind the first row. Ample space existed between the cylinders in the front row for cooling air to reach the cylinders in the rear row. A fairly large space existed between the front and rear cylinder rows, perhaps signifying a rather robust center crankshaft support.

Two-stage supercharging was used in the form of a remote turbosupercharger for the first stage and a gear-driven, two-speed supercharger for the second stage. However, the test engines had only the gear-driven supercharger, which turned at 7.36 times crankshaft speed in low gear and 10.22 times crankshaft speed in high gear. The Ha-50 used fuel injection, and water-injection was available to further boost power. At the front of the engine was a planetary gear reduction that turned the propeller at .412 times crankshaft speed. Some sources state that contra-rotating propellers were to be used, but only a single propeller shaft was provided on the initial engines. A cooling fan was driven from the front of the gear reduction.

Mitsubishi Ha-50 cylinders

Left—An Ha-50 aluminum cylinder head still attached to the cylinder barrel. Note the valve in the intake port. Right—Detailed view of a cylinder barrel illustrates the cooling fins cut into its middle and the threaded portion at the top for cylinder head attachment. (Rob Mawhinney images via the Aircraft Engine Historical Society)

The Ha-50 had a 5.91 in (150 mm) bore and a 6.69 in (170 mm) stroke. Its total displacement was 4,033 cu in (66.1 L). The engine had a takeoff rating of 3,100 hp (2,312 kW) at 2,600 rpm and 8.7 psi (.60 bar) of boost. Normal ratings for the engine were 2,700 hp (2,013 kW) at 4,921 ft (1,500 m) and 2,240 hp (1,670 kW) at 32,808 ft (10,000 m). The normal ratings were achieved at an engine speed of 2,500 rpm and with 5.8 psi (.40 bar) of boost. The Ha-50 was 56.9 in (1.45 m) in diameter, 94.5 in (2.40 m) long, and weighed 3,395 lb (1,540 kg).

Mitsubishi Ha-50 front

Front view of the Ha-50 illustrates the ample space between the front-row cylinders, enabling air to reach the rear-row cylinders. Note the single rotation propeller shaft. (Rob Mawhinney image via the Aircraft Engine Historical Society)

Construction of the Ha-50 started in April 1943, and the first engine was completed in 1944. Engine testing began immediately, and severe vibrations were encountered that reportedly shook one engine apart on the test stand. Some sources indicate the Ha-50 was an optional power plant for the Kawanishi TB, a four-engine transoceanic bomber ordered by the IJA. The Kawanishi TB was a smaller and lighter competitor to the Nakajima Fugaku, which had become exclusively an IJN project. Six Ha-50 engines were ordered for the Kawanishi TB, but the bomber project was cancelled before any aircraft were built. Three of the Ha-50 engines were finished, but their operational issues and the cancelling of the Kawanishi TB resulted in the Ha-50 engine project being abandoned. Two of the engines were damaged in a bombing raid, but the surviving Ha-50 reportedly achieved 3,200 hp (2,386 kW) in July 1945.

The three Ha-50 engines were thought to have been destroyed at the end of World War II and before the arrival of US forces. However, one Ha-50 engine was discovered in November 1984 during expansion work at the Haneda Airport (Tokyo International Airport). Some sources indicate the surviving engine was found by US forces shortly after the war and delivered to Haneda Airport for later shipment to the United States. Apparently, plans changed, and the engine was subsequently bulldozed into a pit and covered with dirt. The discovered Ha-50 was in an advanced state of decay, but it was recovered, and efforts were made to preserve the engine and prevent its continued deterioration. The engine’s condition was stabilized, and it was put on display at the Museum of Aviation Science in Narita, Japan. The surviving Ha-50 is the sole example of any 22-cylinder aircraft engine.

Mitsubishi Ha-50 rear

The supercharger and accessory case completely rotted off the Ha-50 during its near 40-year interment. Note the threads cut into the top of the steel cylinder barrels. (Rob Mawhinney image via the Aircraft Engine Historical Society)

Japanese Aero-Engines 1910–1945 by Mike Goodwin and Peter Starkings (2017)
The History of Mitsubishi Aero-Engines 1915–1945 by Hisamitsu Matsuoka (2005)ハ50_(エンジン)

Packard X-2775 front

Packard X-2775 24-Cylinder Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

In late 1926, Lt. Alford Joseph Williams approached the Packard Motor Car Company (Packard) regarding a high-power engine for a special aircraft project. Williams was an officer in the United States Navy and believed that air racing contributed directly to the development of front-line fighter aircraft. The United States had won the Schneider Trophy two out of the last three races, and another win would mean permanent retention of the trophy for the US. However, the US government was no longer interested in supporting a Schneider team.

Packard X-2775 front

The original Packard X-2775 (1A-2775) was a direct-drive engine installed in the Kirkham-Williams Racer. A housing extended the propeller shaft to better streamline the engine. Two mounting pads were integral with the crankcase, and a third was part of the timing gear cover at the rear of the engine. Note the vertical intake in the center of the upper Vee.

Williams was assembling a group of investors to fund the design and construction of a private racer to participate in the Schneider contest. In addition, the US Navy was willing to indirectly support the efforts of a private entry. With the Navy willing to cover the development of the engine, Packard agreed to build a powerful engine for Williams’ Schneider racer. On 9 February 1927, the US government officially announced that it would not be sending a team to compete in the 1927 Schneider race, held in Venice, Italy. On 24 March 1927, it was announced that a private group of patriotic sportsmen had formed the Mercury Flying Corporation (MFC) to build a racer for the Schneider Trophy contest that would be piloted by Williams. The aircraft was built by the Kirkham Products Corporation and was known as the Kirkham-Williams Racer.

Packard had started the initial design work on the engine shortly after agreeing to its construction, even though a contract had not been issued. Once the Navy had the funds, Contract No. 3224 was issued to cover the engine’s cost. To speed development of the powerful engine, Packard combined components of two proven V-1500 engines to create a new 24-cylinder engine. The new engine was designated the Packard 1A-2775, but it was also commonly referred to by its Navy designation of X-2775.

Packard X-2775 case drive rod crank

The X-2775’s hexagonal, barrel-type crankcase, timing gear drive and housing, connecting rods, and crankshaft. Note the walls inside of the crankcase, and the crankshaft’s large cheeks that acted as main journals.

The Packard X-2775 was designed by Lionel Melville Woolson. The engine was arranged in an X configuration, with four banks of six cylinders. The upper and lower banks retained the 60-degree bank angle of the V-1500. This left 120-degree bank angles on the sides of the engine. As many V-1500 components were used as possible, including pistons, the basic valve gear, and the induction system. At the front of the X-2775, the propeller shaft ran in an extended housing and was coupled directly to the crankshaft, without any gear reduction. The extended housing allowed for a more streamlined engine installation.

A single-piece, cast aluminum, hexagonal, barrel-type crankcase was used. Two engine mounting pads were provided on each side of the crankcase, and a third pad was incorporated into the side of the timing gear housing, which mounted to the rear of the engine. The crankcase was designed to support landing gear or floats connected to the forwardmost engine mounting pad. Seven integrally cast partitions were provided inside the crankcase. The partitions were hollow at their center and were used to support the crankshaft. The seven single-piece main bearings were made of Babbitt-lined steel rings, shrunk into the crankcase’s partitions, and retained by screws from the outer side of the flanged partition. The partitions had a series of holes around their periphery that allowed for the internal flow of oil as well as enabled assembly of the engine’s connecting rods.

Packard X-2775 manifold and valve spring

Upper image is the valve port arrangement that was integral with the valve and camshaft housing. The drawing includes the ports to circulate hot exhaust gases around the intake manifold to ensure fuel vaporization. The lower image is the unique valve spring arrangement designed by Lionel Woolson. Helically-twisted guides (left) held the seven small springs (center) to make the complete spring set (right).

The crankshaft was positioned about 1.5 in (38 mm) above the crankcase’s centerline and had six crankpins. The crankshaft’s cheeks acted as main journals. The cheeks were perfectly circular and were 7.75 in (197 mm) in diameter. This design increased the main bearing surface area to support the engine’s power but kept the crankshaft the same overall length as the crankshaft used on the V-1500 engine. A longer crankshaft would result in a longer and heavier engine, as well as necessitating the design and manufacture of new valve housings and camshafts. At 161 lb (73 kg), the crankshaft was around twice the weight of the crankshaft used in the V-1500 engine. The X-2775’s crankshaft was inserted through the center of the crankcase for assembly.

Each connecting rod assembly was made up of a master rod and three articulated rods. The end cap, with its two bosses for the articulating rods, was attached to the master rod by four studs. The articulated rods had forked ends that connected to the blade bosses on the master rod. The forked end of each articulated rod was tapped and secured to the master rod by a threaded rod pin. Once assembled, two bolts passed through the connecting rod assembly to further secure its two halves and also secured the pins of the articulated rods. To accommodate the crankshaft being approximately 1.5 in (38 mm) above center in the crankcase, the lower articulated rods were 1.5 in (38 mm) longer than the other rods. When the engine was viewed from the rear, the master rods were attached to pistons in the upper left cylinder bank.

Packard X-2775 section

Sectional view of the X-2775 engine. The engine mount is depicted on the left, and the landing gear or float mount is on the right. Note the spark plug position. The revised engine had provisions for four spark plugs—two on each side of the cylinder.

Individual steel cylinders of welded construction with welded-on steel water jackets were mounted to the crankcase via 10 studs. The cylinder’s combustion chamber had machined valve ports and was welded to the top of the cylinder barrel. Five studs protruded above each cylinder’s combustion chamber and were used to secure the cast aluminum valve and camshaft housing. Each bank of six cylinders had a single valve and camshaft housing.

Each cylinder had two intake and two exhaust valves. The valves were arranged so that one intake and one exhaust valve were on the Vee side of the cylinder, and the pairing was duplicated on the other side of the cylinder. The valve and camshaft housing collected the exhaust gases from two adjacent cylinders and expelled it out one of three exhaust ports. The valve and camshaft housing also had an integral intake manifold that fed three cylinders. The valves for each cylinder bank were actuated by a single overhead camshaft driven by an inclined shaft at the rear of the engine. The two inclined shafts for each Vee engine section were driven by a vertical shaft geared to the crankshaft. The lower vertical shaft was extended to drive one fuel, one water, and four oil pumps. The shafts were enclosed in the timing gear housing that mounted to the back of the engine. The valve covers of the lower cylinders also formed sumps for engine oil collection. Oil was circulated through various passageways in addition to the hollow crankshaft and hollow camshaft. The exhaust valve had a hollow stem for oil cooling.

The valve springs were designed by Woolson and were a unique design. Rather than the valve stem passing through the center of one or two valve springs, a set of seven smaller springs encircled the valve stem. Each of the seven springs was mounted on a guide, and the set was contained in a special retainer. The seven spring guides were given a slight helical twist. The special valve spring set distributed the spring load evenly around the valve stem, reduced the likelihood of a valve failure due to a spring breaking, prevented valve springs from setting, and also rotated the valve during engine operation. The valve rotation was one revolution for about every 40 revolutions of the crankshaft.

Packard X-2775 front and back

Front and rear views of the original X-2775 illustrate that the engine was narrow but rather tall. The ring around the propeller shaft was a fixed attachment point for the engine cowling.

Each cylinder’s combustion chamber had a flat roof with a spark plug on each side of the cylinder. The spark plugs were fired by a battery-powered ignition system via four distributors driven at the rear of the engine. Two distributors were positioned behind each 60-degree cylinder bank Vee. In each cylinder, one spark plug was fired by an upper distributor, and one spark plug was fired by a lower distributor. Separate induction systems were positioned in the upper and lower cylinder Vees. Each system consisted of a central inlet that branched into a forward and rear section. Each section had a carburetor and fed six cylinders. This gave the engine a total of four carburetors—two in each upper and lower vee. Control rods linked the carburetors to the distributors so that ignition timing was altered with throttle position. A port in the valve and camshaft housing fed exhaust gases through a jacket surrounding the manifold to which the carburetor mounted. The exhaust gases heated the intake manifold to better vaporize the incoming fuel charge.

Packard’s V-1500 engine had a 5.375 in (137 mm) bore and a 5.5 in (140 mm) stroke. The X-2775 had the same 5.375 in (137 mm) bore, but the stroke was shortened to 5.0 in (127 mm). However, the three articulated connecting rods had a slightly longer stroke of 5.125 in (130 mm). Each of the six cylinders served by a master rod had a displacement of 113.5 cu in (1.86 L), and each of the 18 cylinders served by an articulated rod had a displacement of 116.3 cu in (1.91 L). The total displacement for the engine was 2,774 cu in (45.5 L). The X-2775 produced a maximum of 1,250 hp (932 kW) at 2,780 rpm and was rated for 1,200 hp (895 kW) at 2,600 rpm. At 2,000 rpm, the engine had an output of 800 hp (597 kW). The X-2775 was 77.5 in (1.97 m) long, 28.3 in wide (.72 m), and 45.2 in (1.15 m) tall. The weight of the initial X-2775 was 1,402 lb (636 kg).

Packard X-2775 no 2 supercharged

The second X-2775 incorporated a Roots-type supercharger driven from the propeller shaft. Difficulty was encountered with fuel metering since the carburetors were positioned on the pressure side of the supercharger. The supercharged engine was never installed in an aircraft.

The X-2775 engine was completed in June 1927 and subsequently passed an acceptance test, which involved the engine running continuously at full throttle for one hour. Williams was involved with testing the X-2775 at Packard to gain experience with its operation. The engine was then shipped out for installation in the Kirkham-Williams Racer, which was finished in late July. The racer and the X-2775 made their first flight on 25 August. Despite achieving speeds around 270 mph (435 km/h), the racer had issues that could not be resolved in time for the Schneider Trophy contest, scheduled to start on 23 September. The Kirkham-Williams Racer was subsequently converted to a land plane, and Williams flew the aircraft over a 3 km (1.9 mi) course unofficially timed at 322.42 mph (518.88 km/h) on 6 November 1927. However, that speed was with the wind, and Williams later stated that the true speed was around 287 mph (462 km/h). Higher speeds had been anticipated. The aircraft was then shipped to the Navy Aircraft Factory (NAF) at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Around late June 1927, rumors indicated that the Schneider competition would be faster than the Kirkham-Williams Racer. As a result, the Navy added a second X-2775 engine to its existing contract with Packard. The second engine incorporated a supercharger for increased power output. In the span of 10 weeks, Packard had designed, constructed, and tested the new engine. The second X-2775 engine was, again, direct drive. However, the propeller shaft also drove a Roots-style supercharger with three rotors (impellers). A central rotor was coaxial with the propeller shaft, and it interacted with an upper and lower rotor that supplied forced induction to the respective upper and lower cylinder banks. For the upper Vee, air was brought in the right side of the supercharger housing and exited the left side, flowing into a manifold routed between the upper cylinder banks. For the lower Vee, the flow was reversed—entering the left side of the supercharger and exiting the right. The supercharged X-2775 weighed around 1,635 lb (742 kg).

Because of the very tight development schedule, the rotors were given generous clearances. This reduced the amount of boost the supercharger generated to only 3.78 psi (.26 bar), which increased the X-2775’s output to 1,300 hp (696 kW) at 2,700 rpm. Tighter rotor tolerances would yield 4.72 psi (.33 bar) of boost and 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) at 2,700 rpm. However, it is not known if improved rotors were ever built. Although completed around August 1927, the supercharged engine was never installed in the Kirkham-Williams Racer.

Packard X-2775 NASM left

The first X-2775 engine was reworked with a propeller gear reduction, new cylinders, new valve housings, and a new induction system. This engine was installed in the Williams Mercury Racer. (NASM image)

The Navy felt that adding a propeller gear reduction to the engine would be more beneficial than the supercharger. To this end, the unsupercharged engine was removed from the Kirkham-Williams Racer as the aircraft was disassembled in the NAF around early 1928. The engine was returned to Packard for modifications. A new aircraft, the Williams Mercury Racer, was to be built, and the first X-2775 engine with the new gear reduction and other modifications would power the machine.

A planetary (epicyclic) gear reduction was built by the Allison Engineering Company in Indianapolis, Indiana. This gear reduction mounted to the front of the engine and turned the propeller at .677 crankshaft speed. Other modifications to the X-2775 included using cylinders and valve housings from an inverted 3A-1500 (the latest V-1500) engine and revising the induction and ignition systems.

The new cylinders increased the engine’s compression (most likely to 7.0 to 1) and had provisions for two spark plugs on both sides of the cylinder. Still, only two spark plugs were used, with one on each side of the cylinder. The new induction was a ram-air system with inlets right behind the propeller. The air flowed into a manifold located deep in the cylinder bank’s Vee. Two groups of two carburetors were mounted to the manifold. Each carburetor distributed the air/fuel mixture to a short manifold that fed three cylinders. The revised ignition system used two magnetos and did away with battery power. The magnetos were mounted to the rear of the engine and driven from the main timing gear. The improved X-2775 was occasionally referred to as the 2A-2775, but it mostly retained the same 1A-2775 Packard designation of its original configuration. The geared X-2775 produced 1,300 hp (969 kW) at 2,700 rpm and weighed around 1,513 lb (686 kg). The gear reduction added about 3 in (76 mm) to the engine, resulting in an overall length of 80.5 in (2.04 m). The width was unchanged at 28.3 in (.72 m), but the revised induction system reduced the engine height slightly to 43.25 in (1.10 m).

Packard X-2775 NASM front

The revised X-2775 took advantage of ram-air induction. Intakes directly behind the Williams Mercury Racer’s spinner fed air into manifolds at the base of the cylinder Vees. Note the spark plugs on both sides of the cylinders. (NASM image)

The updated X-2775 engine was installed in the Williams Mercury Racer in July 1929. In early August, flight testing was attempted on Chesapeake Bay near the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. While the aircraft was recorded at 106 mph (171 km/h) on the water, it could not lift off. The Williams Mercury Racer was known to be overweight, and there were questions about its float design. The trouble with the racer caused it to be withdrawn from the Schneider Trophy contest, scheduled to start on 6 September in Calshot, England. Later, it was found that the Williams Mercury Racer was some 880 lb (399 kg), or 21%, overweight. Some additional work was done on the aircraft, but no further attempts at flight were made.

Of the original X-2775, Woolson stated that the engine ran for some 30 hours, and at no time was mechanical trouble experienced or any adjustments made. Williams made some comments about the X-2775 losing power, but he otherwise seemed satisfied with the engine and did not report any specific issues. Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics David S. Ingalls did not make any negative comments about the engine, but he said Commander Ralph Downs Weyerbacher of the NAF felt that the engine was not satisfactory. However, the basis for Weyerbacher’s opinion has not been found.

There were essentially no X-2775 test engines. Only two engines were made, and the second engine was never installed in any aircraft. The very first X-2775 built was installed in the Kirkham-Williams Racer, and the majority of the issues encounter seemed to come from the aircraft, and not the engine. This scenario repeated itself two years later with the Williams Mercury Racer. The X-2775 did not have any issues propelling the updated racer at over 100 mph (161 km/h) on the surface of the water, but it was the aircraft that was overweight and unable to take flight. If the engine were significantly flawed, it would not have survived its time in the Kirkham-Williams Racer, have been subsequently modified, and then installed in the Williams Mercury Racer. This same engine, Serial No. 1, was preserved and is in storage at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Packard offered to build additional X-2775 engines for anyone willing to spend $35,000, but no orders were placed. In the late 1930s, Packard investigated building an updated X-2775 as the 2A-2775. The 2A-2775 was listed as a supercharged engine that produced 1,900 hp (1,417 kW) at 2,800 rpm and weighed 1,722 lb (781 kg). Some sources indicate the engine was built, although no pictures or test data have been found.

Packard X-2775 NASM top

Top view of the X-2775 illustrates the two sets of two carburetors, with each carburetor attached to a manifold for three cylinders. The intake manifold can be seen running under the carburetors. (NASM image)

“The Packard X 24-Cylinder 1500-Hp. Water-Cooled Aircraft Engine” by L. M. Woolson S.A.E. Transactions 1928 Part II. (1928)
“Internal Combustion Engine” US patent 1,889,583 by Lionel M, Woolson (granted 29 November 1932)
“Valve-Operating Mechanism” US patent 1,695,726 by Lionel M, Woolson (granted 18 December 1928)
“Lieut. Alford J. Williams, Jr.—Fast Pursuit and Bombing Planes” Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Naval Affairs, United States Senate, Seventy-first Congress, second session, on S. Res. 235 (8, 9, and 10 April 1930)
“Packard “X” Type Aircraft Engine is Largest in World” Automotive Industries (8 October 1927)
Master Motor Builders by Robert J. Neal (2000)
Packards at Speed by Robert J. Neal (1995)
Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft 1929 by C. G. Gray (1929)