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Diesel powered Packard?


Guest Robin Coleman

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Guest Robin Coleman

Surfing the internet a minute ago I ran across a history on the development of the diesel engine. Diesel engines are a particular interest of mine, for I was formally educated as a diesel mechanic and spent my entire life running locomotives. It said the first use of a diesel to power a passenger car was the 1930 Cummins powered Packard. Anyone here ever heard of or seen one of these? Are there any specifications to be had? How many were built? Are there any photographs of such a vehicle and are there any examples around today?:confused:

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Guest Robin Coleman

I should have looked a little more before posting this question. I have answered some of it myself. The Cummins history page shows a photo of an open touring diesel powered Packard, and gives a manufacture date of June, 1929. There is no onther information other than the car was driven to a car show then and in 600 miles, used $1.38 of fuel. Below is a link....

Clessie Lyle Cummins and Cummins Diesel Engines

This link to the history of the Cummins Company is in and of itself a fascinating bit of reading material.

Edited by Robin Coleman (see edit history)
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Guest Robin Coleman

Mr. Peterson...I assumed the car was the diesel powered version. You are correct, and now that I think about it, I believe it is unlikely the diesel Packard was ever placed into production. There was probably only the one built and it is more than likely long gone. That's a tragedy. What a collector's car that would be!

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While there was mention of a Duesenberg in the article, I'm surprized there was no mention about the Auburn powered by Cummins that was to be driven from New York to the west coast by C. L. Cummins, maybe I just missed it. The year was said to be 1934 according to the article, so the Auburn would have been an early '35, it's not a '34. Interesting that no company would insure. This snippet is from one of those wonderful old Fawcett 75 cent paper-bounds from the '50's, entitled The Old Car Book, by John Bentley.

post-54604-143138281048_thumb.jpg

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There were 2 completely different lines of Packard diesel experiments. One was a Packard car with Cummins diesel engine built by Cummins for testing and publicity purposes. The other was a diesel aircraft engine built by Packard.

Cummins built 2 or 3 cars using Packards as a base. They also installed engines in Auburns and these may be the first production diesel cars offered for sale in America.

The Cummins experiments led to the building of many diesel powered trucks, buses and tractors but the diesel powered car did not catch on for many years.

The diesel airplane never did make production although it is an intriguing thought experiment to visualize fleets of Packard diesel powered, radial engine DC3s filling the skies.

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Guest MetalFlake

The horrible accidents in the early days of aviation, with fabric covered aircraft and gasoline, got Packard thinking about diesel aircraft engines - since diesel fuel is so much harder to get burning. It dosnt vaporize easily like gasoline does - thus in a spill, isn't much of a fire hazzard.

Packard actually did start limited production of a series of diesel aircraft motors, and pursued the concept way beyond the experimental stage - in fact, it actually got at least one version "certified" ( meaning a Certificate Of Airworthiness ) .

In one of the Packard books, there is a photograph in the late 20's showing a bunch of German engineers at the Packard plant, going over the motor. I understand the Germans borrowed or stole the concept, and did fly some diesel-powered aircraft based on the Packard design. Whether they paid royalties, i dont know.

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About 1949 when I was approaching 10, a movie was shown at the school I attended about the Cummins project that was raced at Indianapolis in maybe 1932-33. Can't recall much about the movie but it seems to me there was some footage of an Auburn running a Cummins diesel. Also seem to remember Studebaker being involved. Wish my memory was better but 60 years is a long time and the quality of the movie may have not been great to begin with. Would be interesting to see it again.

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There was a lot of interest in aviation diesels back then. The English government built an airship with diesel power in about 1930. It was supposed to run on diesel fuel and hydrogen from the gas bags, the loss of weight caused by burning the fuel would be balanced by the loss of lift from burning the hydrogen. Also they were planning an airline to the hotter countries of the Empire and they felt diesel would be safer in the hot climates of India and Africa.

The designers embodied a lot of advanced ideas that didn't work. The whole story is laid out in a book called R101 by Nevil Shute. The same book was published in the US with the title Slide Rule.

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It was a Cummins powered Auburn chassis race car that ran the full distance at Indianapolis on around $5 worth of fuel. Exact details are between "Five Hundred Miles to Go", which was an official history of the Speedway circa 1960, and Don Butler's book on Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg.

Earliest Diesel engine for a car was much earlier than that. I have a magazine reference to Peugeot with this in 1922-3. It wouldhave been very crude, inefficient, and smokey. AEC was a builder of their own buses, and they ran a very black exhaust until Rickardo did extensive laboratory research to design a turbulence pre-combustion chamber head which made their buses socially acceptable.

Packard aircraft diesel engine that was the responsibility of Lionel Woolson. It was nearing production reality when he unfortunately lost his life flying one in bad weather. The engine itself was an aircoled radial, of 9 cylinders if I remember correctly.

Another aircraft diesel engine contemporay with the Packard which was produced for useful purpose was the Guiberson. It was also an aircooled radial, which as adapted for the Stuart M3 Light Tank produced 250hp at 2250 rpm with 14 to 1 compression ratio. Unusually for a diesel engine the combustion chamber was shallow hemispherical with inclined valves. Displacement was a little over 20 litres. The Guiberson would pull a couple of gears higher than the 7 cylinder Continental .I still have a couple of unused cam rings, with only 4 lobes to operate 18 valves, and four ramps to operated the 9 separate injector pumps.

The war time diesel trucks we saw here were mostly Cummins or Hercules powered. My father had a tandem drive Diamond T pulling a low loader. I understand maximum velocity was about 28mph, uphill or down , loaded or empty.

The big Cummins in the Federals was doubtless similarly like a railways cup of tea, big and weak. I have a 6x6 one of these in the yard which was used to carry a log-loading crane in the bush. I recently gave it to a friend, because I want to restore my cars rather than a truck.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Pretty good article in the club magazin, Volume 33.no 5 Sept / Oct 1969

Spells it out pretty well....Chessie Cummins was promoting his product through Indy racing and this stunt with a used 1930 or so Packard.

Back cover has nice Peter Helk painting of 2 historic Cummins Diesel racers at indy..pic has cumins corp. copyright....

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"Note the extremely shallow cooling fins on the barrels, no fins on the head and lack of any shrouding or other air direction. The coil in the front is still a mystery to me, could it be an oil-cooler?"

Could it be an oil cooled design? Some aircraft motorcycle and car engines experimented with oil cooling at the time.

If it was oil cooled the cylinders and heads would have coolant jackets like a water cooled engine but the engine's lubricating oil would circulate through them. The spiral coil would be the oil cooler.

English inventor Granville Bradshaw was an exponent of oil cooling. He designed oil cooled aircraft, car and motorcycle engines in this time period.

Note the resemblance between the engine pictured in this Wikipedia article and the Packard.

Granville Bradshaw - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bradshaw's motorcycle engine.

1925 OK-Bradshaw 350 - The Real Classic Bike Guide - RealClassic.co.uk

The aircraft diesel radial would be well suited to oil cooling since a diesel disperses less heat than a gas engine, while it runs best at elevated temperatures. Oil cooling would maintain a higher and more even temp while the "wide open to the breeze" design would eliminate the need for a large radiator.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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Hi All......

When we visited the Citizens Motorcar Company, Americas Packard Museum, in Dayton Ohio they had a diesel aircraft engine on display.

Was told this was an experiment by Packard that never reached production.

Very interesting place to visit.

Frank

Here a lot of literature out there for sale that show the Diesel Power Airplane radial engines Packard was developing for the Army. (no Air force back then)

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