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Where did all the Liberty engines go?

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Joined: 13 Jul 2003
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2003 18:33    Post subject: Where did all the Liberty engines go? Reply with quote

That was the question asked on another forum.
I'd say the answer to the heading of this thread is: Russia..
When I was seriously collecting early engines I'd research where they all went. who bought them up (in quantities) from the government auctions, who sold the WWI engines and parts in all the aero magazine classifeds at the time etc etc.
(Horace Dodge bought about 800 Curtiss OX-5 engines. He planned to convert them all to boat use, but only converted a portion of them. Speedboats were all the rage-as much or more than airplanes. Later a big batch of these went to another speculator, I forget, now))
About 1922 the magazines have long, specific reports detailing the numbers and amounts paid for exported aero engines. About that time, the Russian government purchased just about every Liberty engine they could lay their hands on from every major surplus dealer and repository. It has been years since I read those reports but the numbers of engines they bought was staggering. The prices were not.. If you look at all the classified ads in the aero magazines, you'll notice the number of surplus Liberty engines for sale ads, decline sharply at that time. Aside from that, the Gar Wood and Vimalert companies converted many of the other remaining Liberties to marine use with transmissions and marine drive units. Someone once asked me to go partners with them in the 1980s to look in the waters off the New Jersey docks. He had found reports of the Vimalert warehouses clearing their warehouse for space and pushing unused, surplus Liberty engines, still in their original crates, off the ends of the docks in large numbers. He also mentioned the name of another port warehouse where they pushed a whole loade of rotaries off the end of the docks...In New York City, my father witnessed auto scrapyard owners who had an operation where they would open original factory crates and hoist Brand new, surplus Liberty engines up on a crane and drop them onto a huge steel plate on the ground. Then about ten low-paid workers would scramble around and pick out the aluminum pieces and separate the other metals, as well. He said you could stand there and watch them do it all day long!
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Joined: 13 Jul 2003
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Location: carefree AZ.

PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2003 17:45    Post subject: Liberty engines Where abouts?? Reply with quote

I under stand the British put the Liberty V-12 back into limited production
in 1939 for a short while.. To power up thier Tanks ,till they could get some thing more modern, Some might still exist,
Who knows?? Bob Havemann
Bob Havemann, The Wrenchmann
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2003 19:39    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is an interesting, but erratic book on the Liberty, it's development and use, in the Smithsonian Annals of Flight books series.
It is Volume 1 # 3 in the series and is inexpensive and not hard to find.
I think you would enjoy it. I say "erratic because the same book lists the cost/price of a Liberty at $4,000, $6,000, $6,500, and $7,000. It compares it to a later Curtiss D-12 that cost $8,000, while the Curtiss D-12 book in the series lists the price of That engine, as up to $23,500.. As to the question of "Where did all the Liberty engines, go." it isn't very clear in that area either. It has charts with post war sales and stocks but lists no sales prior to 1928. And there were huge govt. surplus sales in 1919 and later, for which I have the original auction sales catalogues that once belonged to famous aero wheeler-dealer, Karl Ort. These auction catalogues list page after page of groups of Liberty engines in each lot-many of the lot descriptions listing all the serial numbers and manufacturers of the engines in each lot.
I don't see any mention of Russian licensed production, but they do report a New York World Telegram newspaper article of 24 Feb. 1941, reporting "Liberty Motors built in 1918 are now driving Russian tanks against the Germans." The Liberty WAS built under license in 1938 By the British firm Nuffield Machanisation for the Cruiser tank Mk.III (A.13). Estimated production was 600 units. As far as the Liberty 6, we had one of the (only) 52 produced and traded it to the Smithsonian (They did not have one at the time) for two Curtiss OX-6 engines in the late 1960's. We had seven Libery V-12s. Sold one with 30 hours on it to the RAF Museum circa 1987 (I belive they put it in their DH.9a and took out the original engine-which I think was all shot up, to put on display, next to the plane, at the time. Sold our last and best one (the one I always kept for our own collection) to a man who said he was buying it to donate to the US Air Force Museum for a restoration/replica of a DH.4 project, circa 1996/8, along with a huge DH. fuel tank that some Vermont farmer had used for fifty years as a water tank in the attic of his barn..(NO corrosion or damage-amazingly-but it was SOME job getting that thing down the ladder from a barn attic!) Cole Palen used to have seven Liberty engines. (We traded for ONE of them that he drove down to us on a trailer made out of old bed frames, behind his wonderful HUGE-finned 59 Cadillac. Those were the days...
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Location: Washington State

PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2003 15:27    Post subject: Liberty engines Reply with quote

In answer to jGertier and Bob Havermann way back in their July post, Yes, a lot of surplus engines went to Russia in the 1922-24 era. What material I have found seems to indicate perhaps 1000-2000. They put the Liberty in production in their own plants and built about 6000. They were not license-built but unauthorized copies. I doubt if the U. S. cared, but were not asked. The Russians used these engines in both aircraft and, later, in tanks. Aircraft use stopped in the mid 1930s, about the time tank use started. The tanks continued in use into WW II.
Also the British built, with permission but without license or royalties, about 10000 in the 1938-42 era for tank use.
I would love to have a photocopy of the surplus sales catalogs mentioned with numbers etc. As you may know, I am currently writing a History of the Liberty Engine.
The Smithsonian book written by Dickey is really not that bad, as far as it goes. It does have some drawbacks, such as no index and a little confusion, as mentioned, and it does have a few errors here and there, but currently it is the most extensive work in print on the Liberty. I hope to end that claim some time in 2004.

Bob Neal
Mr. Neal published books on both Packard and Liberty engines. He died on 20 February 2015.
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