Aircraft Engine Historical Society Members Only

Packard-Built Merlins
Part 1: Converting the Foundry, Extensive Adoption of Conveyor Systems,
Sub-division Into 14 Units

This article first appeared in the Volume 5, Number 61 (November, 1943) issue of Aircraft Production magazine, and is presented here through the kind permission of Flight International. Thanks also to Bruce Vander Mark for furnishing volumes of Aircraft Production for scanning.



When, in 1940, Henry Ford refused a proposal for his American factories to manufacture Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, Lord Beaverbrook approached the Packard Company and offered them an initial order of 6,000 engines. Britain was prepared to pay for the necessary new plant and provide the machine tools. The offer was accepted and within a year production of parts was in full swing on 9,000 engines, 6,000 for the R.A.F. and 3,000 for the U.S. Air Corps, a tribute to the versatility and initiative of the company. Actually, the order has been considerably increased in the interim.

The first assignment was for the new 27-litre Merlin 28, which differed from current types only in that it had a two-piece cylinder block which considerably simplified production. This design was prepared, and the prototype engines tested by British engineers but as the American factory was “starting from scratch” it was easier and quicker for Packards to commence production on what was the latest version. Resident engineers from the Derby works in England collaborated with the Packard factory from the outset.

Packards are now building the later Merlin 61, that is, the two-speed two-stage supercharged engine, which, in conjunction with the use of a four-blade airscrew, enables operational altitudes in excess of 40,000 feet. When fitted to the P51 Mustang in the U.S.A., it increased the ceiling of that machine by considerably over two miles. This latest engine is entirely British in conception and aircraft fitted with it were flying in this country in July, 1941. Types now powered with the Packard-built Merlin engines include the Curtiss Warhawk, Canadian-built Mosquito, Lancaster and the Hurricane, as well as the Mustang already mentioned.

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