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38 special with Lycoming motor


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am the happy owner of a 1939 buick special. The engine is identical to the ordinary engine used for this model, but the valve cover is marked "Lycoming" (stamped with large letters in the metal). Does anybody know what the heck that could be??

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The Lycoming Manufacturing Company was established in at Williamsport, PA. Originally the company manufactured sewing machines, then bicycles. The company branched out and began manufacturing piston engines for both automotive and marine applications. At one time the company manufactured engines for over 200 models of automobile and 57 individual makes.

One of the company's biggest customer was the Auburn manufacturing company, makers of Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg automobiles. Everett Cord bought Lycoming Manufacturing, and its subsdiary Spencer Heater Company, in 1929 bringing Lycoming into the Cord Empire.

Also in 1929 Lycoming built its first aircraft engine - the radial R-680. To do so, it built a new facility adjacent to its existing Willamsport facility. Tens of thousands of R-680s were built, many going into wartime Stearmans, Travel Airs (Travel Air was also owned by Cord), and Stinson aircraft.

In 1939 Cord consolidated his substantial aviation holdings into a single conglomerate. The conglomerate, The Aviation Corporation (later shortened to AVCO) swallowed up Lycoming as a division. AVCO lasted until 1986 when Textron bought the entire conglomerate, including Lycoming, for approximately $2.5 billion dollars. Henceforth AVCO Lycoming became, first, AVCO Lycoming Textron and then simply Textron Lycoming. Lycoming engine dataplates will read one of "Lycoming Manufacturing Company," "Lycoming-Spencer Manufacturing," "AVCO Lycoming," or "Textron Lycoming" depending on the date of the engine's manufacture.

The late nineteen-thirties and the ninteen forties were periods of intense development at Lycoming. In a move that would give today's MBA-style corporate executives coronaries, Lycoming underwrote two massive engine programs out of its own funds. With more hope than market research, Lycoming spent $500,000 of its own money (over $6,000,000 in 1997 dollars) developing the O-1230 Hyper Engine in hopes of winning a government contract for production. Not content with even that level of ambition, Lycoming spent an even greater sum developing the XR-7755 engine. The XR-7755 was, and is, the largest reciprocating aircraft engine even built.

The U.S. Government built an aircraft engine plant at Stratford, CT during the second World War. It leased operation of that plant to Lycoming who built Wright radial engines under license there. In the 1950s, the plant was converted to produce Anselm Franz's T53 turbine engine. T53s and other Lycoming turbines were produced at the Stratford plant and a facility in Greenville, SC until 1996 when AlliedSignal, which had bought the Lycoming turbine division from Textron in 1995 for roughtly $350 million, closed the plants down. All Lycoming turbine engines, now called AlliedSignal, are being produced at AlliedSignal's Arizona facilities.

Roughly 1,200 people in Connecticut were transferred or fired as a result of the AlliedSignal purchase. The president of the turbine division, an engineer named David Assard, assumed the presidency of Cessna aircraft (also owned by Textron) and then of the Lycoming piston division (which had not been sold to AlliedSignal). Assard replaced salesman Philip Boob who had come to Lycoming in 1986, from Piper Aircraft, as Vice-President of Marketing. Boob had been promoted to president when AVCO was absorbed by Textron.

In the 1970s, Lycoming made significant capital investments in its plant at Williamsport. Primary among them was the installation of a huge, computerized, multi-spindle crankcase milling machine. Occupying half of the (large) building in which it was placed, the machine consists of numerous milling stations. Crankcases ride automated cars between stations as they are finished. Other expenditures included a semi-automated connecting rod line and crankshaft manufacturing equipment.

Employment at Williamsport peaked at nearly 2,000, running three shifts, in the 1970s. However, massive layoffs began in the 1980s as company's business collapsed along with the rest of piston general aviation. Attempts were made to shift some turbine production, from Stratford, to Williamsport. What originally seemed like a good idea, the production of small LTS-101 turbine powerplants at Williamsport, turned into a management and quality control nightmare. The US Coast Guard initiated a severe penalty program against Textron Lycoming as a result of the reliability (or lack thereof) of the LTS-101. Labor problems and the difficulty of merging turbine operations into a piston culture doomed the effort. Nontheless, turbine production soldiered on at Williamsport until 1988 (approximately six years) at which point customer complaints about engine quality forced the LTS-101 to go back to Stratford as well as the South Carolina facility.

In the mid 1980s Lycoming once again showed some of the developmental spunk that so characterized and grew the company during the 1920s/30s/and 40s. It entered into a agreement with John Deere to jointly develop an omnivorous rotary engine - the SCORE engine.

Technology for the SCORE engine was purchased from Curtiss-Wright which, in turn, had licensed the rotary concept from NSU. CW had done little with the technology and, in 1984, shuttered its huge 2,000,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Wood-Ridge New Jersey (CW still exists and still owns the facility but it rents it out to other companies).

Lycoming spent approximately $6,000,000 of its money ($9,000,000 in 1997 dollars) on the SCORE project but abruptly dropped it when Cessna announced it was ceasing small aircraft production (a move precipitated at Cessna after it was bought by General Dynamic. GD had no interest in little planes).

By the late 1980s employment at Williamsport was around 1,000. During the early 1990s employment dropped to around 600. Employment levels continue to drop and the company has set a goal of approximately 300 permanent employees over the next few years. The reciprocating engine plant has gone from Williamsport's number one private employer (after the public sector) to number eight.

As well as hemorraging customers and employees, the company is losing its physical plant. In a move similar to that taken in the 1960s by the once great Curtiss-Wright corporation, Textron decided in the summer of 1994 that Lycoming's future was as a repair facility for the approximately 90,000 Lycoming engines still in service. As such, Textron and Lycoming decided to cease virtually all manufacturing operations at Williamsport and to farm out parts production entirely to subcontractors. This culminated in several huge auctions, the first on December 15, 1995, in which all the plant's major manufacturing equipment was and is to be sold.

The parallel with Curtiss-Wright is powerful and sad. Post war CW was bulging with cash but lost its engineering direction and will when the company was taken over by a number of Wall Street financiers. It continued to exist for the next fifty years but each year saw the company become smaller and smaller. In the early 1990s, one of those Wall Street financiers described CW as "a company going nowhere. Slowly liquidating its physical plant."

Here's an interesting link.

Lycoming Engines

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