Ford Merlin Engines?
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August 15th 03, 03:38 AM
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In article ,
Reading a book,Wheels for the World by Douglas Brinkley, Henry Ford, his
company. In it he states that the British government approached Bill
Knudsen with "a dire order for production of the Rolls-Royce Merlin
engine" in 1940.
The Ford Motor Company had previouslr accepted a contract to build
Rolls-Royce engines for French warplanes. The contract never came to
fruition due to the fall of France in June 1940. Henry Ford refused to
buld the engine,"we are not doing business with the British government
or any other government".
Alvin Macauley,president of Packard Motor Company, agreed with Knudsens
request to build the engine.
I always thought that Packard was chosen because of their expertise in
building fine engines. Evidently not?
The story's a little on the complicated side.
Let's not forget that there were Ford affiliates in France and Britain
before the War. In late 1939, the French Ford affiliate was
approached by the French Government to undertake prosuction of Merlin
Engines. The U.S. Ford headquarters dispatched an engineering team to
France to assist with evaluating the production potential. Due to a
number of factors (Production Engineering and design difficulties in
the basic Merlin, and the inability, for a variety of reasons for
French Industry in general to get off the dime) they weren't able to
produce any engines. At about the same time, The Air Ministry
approached British Ford to second-source Merlins. This, in fact, was
done, after much grunting and swearing. (Rolls really didn't know much
about mass production, and the Merlin required a lot of work to build
on a high volume basis.) At about the same time, the British
Purchasing Comission approached Edsel Ford (Henry's son, a pilot an
aviation enthusiast) about producing the Merlin in the U.S. This was
agreed, and Rolls sent copies of the Merlin drawings to
Dearborn. (This wasn't a minor matter. There are a lot of parts in a
Merlin, and duplicating drawings was done by hand.) When old Henry
Ford found out about the agreement, he basically passed down an edict
that Ford would not build anything for a foreign government. (Henry
Ford was a strange combination of organizational insight,
pig-ignorance, and some of the nastiest sides of U.S. Midwestern
values of the time. It's really hard to say if his decision was based
on his affinity for Hitler, an earnest desire to keep the U.S. out of
a European conflict - He'd humiliated himself during the First World
Wat by single-handedly attempting to end it with a shipload of
platitudes. Then too, the fact that it would **** off Roosevelt if he
didn't take the contract probably didn't hurt, either)
Note that this did not preclude British, French,
Australian, or, for that matter, German Ford subsidiaries fron taking
contracts from their governments. This killed the deal, although Ford
was willing to build engines under U.S. contract - this was before
Lend-Lease. Ford decided to proceed with the design of their own 12
cylinder inline aircraft engine. In the event, this was never built,
but the block was cut down to 8 cylinders, and the supercharger
removed, and it became the basis of the Ford GAA engine used in M4A3
and M26 tanks.
The British still were casting about for offshore Merlin production.
Packard, which had an excellent reputation for manufacturing quality
and engineering, and a track record in building large aircraft
engines,(The built a series of big V-12s in the 1920s, derivatives of
which were used through WW 2 to power PT boats) stepped forward, and
convinced Rolls that they could take on the job. Rolls, in fact,
ended up learning wuite a bit about production line design, and
production engineering from Packard, and a number of Merlin
improvements (2-piece engine blocks, improved supercharger drives,
improved bearing technologies, and injection carburetors were Packard
A good source, if you can find it, is "The Merlin at War", by the
Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust.
A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many
bad measures. -- Daniel Webster