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Rolls Royce

The First 40 Years 1904-44

Peter Pugh

An enthusiast "raised a laugh" at a scientific club meeting in 1897 when he said he hoped as soon as possible to see the horse 'found only in the hunting field and parks'

Hostility of the horsemen "on more than one occasion I have had the drivers of horse-drawn vehicles slash at me with their whips as I pass down the orad. I have had stones hurled at my head and broken glass bottles deliberately put in my way. In driving through London, one was bombarded with jeers and insults from practically every bus-driver or cab-driver one met, and this bombardment increased ten-fold if a car happened to need adjustment, or should break down at the roadside."

1928 British govt increasingly concerned at progress being made by Italian planes with the encouragement of the bellicose Mussolini. They talked to the R-R engineers who convinced them that they could produce an engine which in the first instance, would win the Schneider Trophy ( a race for seaplanes). But when they summoned the then R-R MD, Basil Johnson, he was extremely negative and defeatist, and begged to be excused from the project. But the govt reps, knowing how keen the R-R engineers were, flew into a rage and ordered R-R to start development. (And Johnson was shortly afterwards pushed into retirement.)

What they developed was a 36 liter V12 engine which produced 825bhp. Then added a double supercharger which took power up to 1850bhp. But that required another 3 Kestrel engines: one to drive the blower to create a 400mpg ram effect, another to blow cold air to cool the sump, and a third to drive a propeller to blow away engine fumes. This last was necessary bc the petrol, Castrol R, was a notoriously powerful laxative.

By 1931 Britain was into the Great Depression, and the govt refused to fund the 100,000 pounds needed to upgrade the engine. But Lady Houston, a former dancing girl who was the widow of a wealthy shipowner, stepped in to pay the money. (She was in a conflict with the govt over death duties, so the gift was a way through that impasse.)

This R engine was the forerunner of the Merlin engine that powered WW2 fighters, and an impt headstart in design. Without the impetus of the Trophy races they would have been developed and race-tested.

During the war Mosquitoes were sent to (neutral) Sweden to pick up ball bearings which were in short supply. For these trips they were painted in BOAC colours and were flown by airline, not RAF, pilots.

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