This Year’s Automobiles

Influence of the Liberty Motor on Automobile Motors

April 1 1919

This Year’s Automobiles

Influence of the Liberty Motor on Automobile Motors

April 1 1919

This Year’s Automobiles

Influence of the Liberty Motor on Automobile Motors

IS it possible to use the design of the liberty motor with its immense horse-power for automobile motors? Such is the subject of discussion in an article in Collier’s, by Lucian Cary, which treats also of French, British and American automobile design.

The writer says in part:

Just after the armistice was signed I overheard in a subway train a prophecy about this year’s automobiles.

Said one strap hanger: “I suppose

now they’ll be using these Liberty engines for automobiles.”

Said the other strap hanger: “Sure,

every car’ll have to have a Liberty motor.”

Of course when you think twice about it you perceive the absurdity of fitting an ordinary car with a motor that develops some four hundred and fifty horse-power. A Liberty motor under full load uses from thirty-five to forty gallons of gasoline an hour. A Liberty motor is ten times as powerful as the average automobile motor. No touring car could possibly use so much power. If that much power were turned loose in a touring car, something would have to break. All the world’s speed records might be broken first, but after that— Would there be premonitory cracks about the time you passed two miles a

minute or would everything go up in one tremendous bang as you approached three miles a minute? If the fenders held, they would certainly lift the car aloft on the air.

But there is something in the idea that the design of the Liberty motor might be borrowed for automobile motors. It will be borrowed. Or rather, it will be adapted. It is not feasible to make a precise copy of the Liberty motor on a small scale.

Anybody who compares British, Italian, French, German and American cars will see the man behind the engineer and the nation behind the man. An automobile is really an expression of nationality as well as an expression of applied knowledge. How else can you explain the striking differences in the cars produced by different nations? Nowadays technical knowledge is universal.

In a sense American cars are less distinctive than foreign cars. The American public is insatiable. We have every kind of car (save one) and everything in a car. The moment a European designer turns up something desirable, our manufacturers borrow it, or adapt it, or improve on it. European manufacturers are somewhat slower to borrow improvements from us because their public is less insistent. Thus an English automobile paper that has just come to hand seriously questions whether or not the British manufacturer will furnish electric starters on his after-the-war models. Imagine that discussion in America, where for years all cars except those in which cost has been cut to the last minimum have had self-starters as a matter of course. But the complete-to-the-lastword character of American cars is really no more striking than their power. British and French and German designers have always built a few powerful cars. But the average foreign car as used in foreign countries is about half as powerful as the average American car.

During the war I saw in an English technical journal a critical but appreciative description of an Italian light car. Though the engine was only half the size of a Ford engine and the car was very small, it was high-grade, costing nearly $1,500 before the war (the one type of car referred to above that we do not produce in America).

The next month there was an equally critical and rather more appreciative description of an American car. The car in question is one of high-grade, but by no means either the largest or most expensive type of car manufactured in America, its price was then less than $2.500. The English expert noted with interest and frequently with enthusiasm the differences between American and British practice. But the thing that impressed him most was the amount of car the purchaser got for his money—the amount of material and the amount of fine workmanship.

I might go on, pointing out the uncommon skill with which the leading Italian designers have made the lines of their motor cars express the idea of sturdiness and speed at the same time. Or the constantly increasing “snappiness” of American design. Or the French insistence on long-stroke motors. But I want to get back to the question of adapting airplane engine practice to automobiles.

When you consider copying the Liberty motor for automobiles you are at once struck with the fact that the cost has been run ’way up and the weight ’way down. The cost factor is multiplied by the weight factor. The light weight means short life—short, that is, for an automobile. It would be quite stupid to sacrifice length of life in gaining light weight to any such degree in designing an automobile motor for commercial manufacture.

Just the same there are features of Liberty motor design which are bound to be adapted to automobiles. The valves are in the head. This gives the best possible shape for the combustion chamber and thus increases the efficiency of the explosive charge. Top valves have long been popular in this country, much more popular than in England, and those American designers who have avoided them have done so only in order

to gain the slightly superior quietness of the L or T head engine.

Another distinctive feature of the Liberty engine is the built-up cylinder. The typical automobile motor of the day has cylinders and water jackets of cast iron. Sometimes the whole block of cylinders and water jackets is cast in one piece; sometimes the cylinders are cast in pairs; sometimes they are cast singly.

The cylinders of the Liberty motor are separate units—steel cylinders with light steel water jackets. These builtup cylinders are more expensive than cast-iron cylinders; but they are much lighter in weight; there are also some slight advantages in steel as a lining foxcylinders. It is xiot at all unlikely that makers of large and expensive cars will adopt the built-up cylinder, but its advantages in small cars seems doubtful.

The aluminum piston, already a common featux-e of American design, has px-obably come to stay. Aluminum pistons x-educe reciprocatixxg weight. If you stop to think how fast the pistoxxs in a high-speed engine shoot back and forth, coming to two complete stops huxxdreds of times a second, you will realize how desirable it is to make pistons as light as possible, reducing vibration and the strain on the mechanism. Aluminum has other advantages; for one, its superiority in conducting heat. The cooler the piston the less oil is burned and the less cai*bon is deposited in the cylinder.

But, genex-ally speaking, the design, construction, and materials of the Liberty motor can be much more freely copied by the makers of big and expensive cars than by makers of medium or low-priced cars.

Changes in automobile design are bound to come slowly, however. It will be a year or two K“r*ore manufacturers can take full a¿ V xge of the knowledge gained in V__»^Aane work and in

their experimental rooms during the war. The members of the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce voted against holding the National Automobile Show this year on this very account. There wasn’t time to bring out anythiixg new. The New York and Chicago dealers’ shows will no doubt present a number of interesting things, but these are likely to be minor refinements rather than serious changes. The real revelation will hardly come before next winter, if then.

The fact is that automobile manufacturers are going to be busy meeting the demand for cars this spring and summer.

The whole elaborate process of suspending one of our largest industries and teaching us to do without its product was all but complete when Gex-many surrendered. The next day the equally elaborate process of putting this industry back into its old relation to American prosperity was begun. It was rather a tense period—that. All the elaborate connections by which the small streams of an industry unite with the great streams were broken. Organizations built up over years had been gradually disrupted ; arrangements for materials, parts, accessories were discontinued; factories were tooted up for the production of something else. The more completely a manufacturer had turned his plant over to war work the greater his difficulties in returning to his old peace time production.

Shattered in the middle of November, the automobile industry was actively recovering oix the first of December; now it is proceeding under a pressux-e it has never known before to meet the spring demand.

By April most manufacturers hope to be making as many cars as they ever made and to be farther behind with their orders. The rate of production will in I all probability increase for a year or two before it catches up with the demand, so nearly dammed up last fall and now opening in full flood.

After next winter we xxxay see even greater changes in the automobile than the mere adaptation of the Libex-ty motor.

The search for a cheaper fuel than gasoline continues. Kerosene will certainly be widely used unless a still cheaper fuel is made possible by a new kind of engine before the public is thor-

oughly sold to kerosene. Engines using heavy oils, costing less than a quarter as much as gasoline, and requiring no ignition system, have already been produced experimentally. And though these engines are too heavy for auto-

mobiles and wanting in the necessary flexibility, there is excellent reason for expecting within a very few years an engine that will do everything the present gasoline motor will do at a fraction of the cost.