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A Chrysler engineer leads us through the Chrysler Museum (II)

This was another one of our engineering firsts, called Floating Power. When they were working at developing the Plymouth, they noticed what we all know: a four cylinder, when idling, was thrashing all over the engine compartment.

Floating Power display

What if, instead of mounting everything down around the pan rail, they put the front mount, as a pivot, very high, … here’s the thing that goes up and is pivoted in the block, and the engine drove nicely. It didn’t improve the idle quality, it just didn’t shake the car as much, and didn’t look as bad.

They used it for years. People loved it.

Floating Power Four engine

Moving on with some of my favorite non-automotive displays, because I’m an engine man:

The Chrysler tank engine for the M4 Sherman tanks

This is our 30 cylinder tank engine. We were asked by the War Department to come up with a 500 horsepower engine that would sit in the back of the brand new M-4 Sherman Tank that we had just developed with the Army, and which was scheduled to get an aircraft type air-cooled radial, only the radial wasn’t tooled.

Chrysler tank engine

Roosevelt wanted to send tanks to the British right away. Chrysler said, “Yeah, we’ll do it,” and it took them a little over six months. There’s five 251 cubic inch, flathead Dodge six cylinder truck engines [total 1253 cid]. The biggest thing was the design and development of the casting, that married everything, it must be huge and heavy.

There’s an awful lot of hand work on that, all the welded manifolding and stuff, and you’ll see that it has five, independent carburetors and five distributors. It has five vibration dampers on the front end of each crank shaft, and on the back, it has a big set of spur gears, each pinion having an overrunning clutch, so if you lose an engine, you don’t hold back the other four. [This particular engine was discovered in Argentina and restored by Chrysler.]

Sherman Tank engine

The government wanted 500 horsepower, and Chrysler asked, “These are 90 horsepower engines, will you accept 450”? They didn’t have much choice, because nobody else took them up on the job. We built 7,500 tanks with that engine in them, plus a huge number of spares. It was just one of the small jobs we did during World War II, and the next one is kind of small, almost insignificant.

tank engine detail: carburetors

The Chrysler-engineered Hemi-head airplane engine

It’s an inverted V16, with two valve, Hemi combustion chambers. Chrysler’s first experience with the hemispherical combustion chamber. If you look at a cutaway of this engine next to one of the 1951 New Yorker Engine, you’d think they were brothers, except these were upside down. Maybe it was so they could mount a couple of cannons in the nose; the Messerschmitts had nose cannons and they were also an inverted V.

crankshaft

This had all the bells and whistles, fork and blade connecting rods and the big gear tower in the middle, driving the camshafts, driving the output shaft, which drove the magnetos back there, and the propeller… there were only about six of them that ever existed. It was purely a development program.

They hit their power target at 2500, with 2200 cubic inches, and that was 1944. We were already having ME262 jets shooting down our bombers, and for all concerned, it was a total waste of further time and money. But Chrysler, being mainly concerned with engineering, paid Republic Aviation to finish their flight test program in the P47. They learned a lot, and a lot of the guys involved in that, went on to greater things.

V16 Thunderbolt Hemi engine

There’s your charge cooler and there’s your compressor; it was designed to have a turbo. General Electric made the turbocharger and they were unwilling or unable to expand their capacity. The Army apparently had first choice of the turbochargers because Navy planes supposedly didn’t have to fly at high altitude. The Army, with a limited supply of turbochargers, gave them to the B-17, the B-24, heavy bombers; and for fighters, the P-47 with the Pratt & Whitney R2800, and P38 with the Allison V-1710.

Everybody that doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about thought the [Rolls Royce] Merlin was the best engine in the War, and that is nonsense! The best engine in the War was the Pratt & Whitney R2800. The Corsair and the Hellcat follows the P47. The Douglas A26, the Martin B26, the Curtis Commando that flew the hump, they all had our R2800s. They’re all great airplanes.

aircraft engine

The Curtis P40 and the Bell P39 were left out in the cold without turbos. They had just one little compressor, like this one, so they weren’t any good above 15,000 feet. The Russians loved them. The Russians were fighting the Germans, the Germans didn’t go high either, until they started trying to shoot down B17s, but that was a development program, too, for them.

The Allison was the outstanding liquid cooled engine of World War II, as far as I’m concerned. The Merlin was a great engine. It was hugely survivable, and was reliable. It ran under huge amounts of boost. The British were the only people that really understood mechanically driven supercharges. They had two stage, which meant two separate compressors with a cooler in between, which is why you call it an intercooler.

If you have one compressor, it’s not an intercooler. It ain’t between anything. It’s a charge cooler. [Which makes the 2.2 Turbo II/III/IV series charge-cooled, not intercooled.]

I was an airplane lover before I came to Detroit to build cars, and once I started working with engines, I got really interested in aircraft engines, because that is as far as piston engines have ever gone. Some of those things were just unbelievable.

You know, everybody tells me on my tours, I spend way too much time here. I guess they’re right.

Go back to the first segment: the Museum, Walter P. Chrysler, Airflow, early Plymouth.

Go to the next segment: Bantam Jeep, DeSoto Six, early Hudson, corporate history, Power Wagon

Museum tour index

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