Rolls Royce Merlin Engine Documentary

(Harvey Ferris) #1

I dutifully log my hours on my treadmill (most days) which has allowed me to reach deep into the offerings on YouTube. This one popped up this morning. Apparently produced after WWII but documenting the wartime effort, I found this documentary to give a pretty good sense of the production techniques involved in mass producing this engine. What’s the Jaguar connection? Well, it’s a little weak but I suspect that most of the production steps shown in the film (except the supercharger stuff) probably directly relate to how they would have manufactured the XK engine series. I wrote an article recently for my blog that talked about sandcast parts versus diecast parts and sure enough, they went into a fair amount of detail about this subject. And a lot more. So if you’ve got 28 minutes to spare, check it out.
And trust me, not a robot in sight :slight_smile:

(Karl) #2

There is a very reputable Jag rebuild shop in Seattle. Been here, for decades, and the guys are older than me. ( dirt)
According to the owner Sayer was instrumental in gathering engineers at the Rolls Merlin plant, and designed the XK engine on the side during the war. Not too hard to believe, considering the design was so advanced, and survived so long.

(Dzia) #3

Unfortunately it wouldn’t load for me. I worked at a museum that had a Spitfire with the Rolls V12. I believe the hurricane had the Merlin if memory serves.

What was interesting about the Rolls is that it had to lugs cast into the block about the size of two hockey pucks stacked on top of each other.

When removing the engine ( a flyable aircraft) the British manuals directed a web strap with loops on each end to lift the engine. All of us mechanics thought it nuts to try such a thing on a very expensive engine.

After extended discussion, we tried the book instructions. We attached a strap and used a fork lift to provide the lift. Stunningly, once the engine mount bolts were removed the engine and prop balanced perfectly. I was impressed with the engineering that went into this assembly.

After a very pricey rebuild we used the same procedure to install the engine. It was quite rewarding to do the first turn and mag checks. It still gives me goosebumps when I think of the immense power of this machine.


(Robin O'Connor) #4

It was while they were on air raid duty at night that a lot f the work on the XK engine was done.
The film takes me back to when I was doing my apprenticeship, we drop forged the halves of the pliers in rows of overhead powered drop forging hammers, damn noisy and only across the way from the toolroom and cutter grinding rooms.

(ronbros) #5

a lot of the RR Merlin 1650s were made in USA Packard motor company!

U-tube it .

(Doug) #6

Malcolm Sayer was involved with the design of the XK engine? Not his field nor was he there at the time.

(Robin O'Connor) #7

True, I believe it was Walter Haynes doing the design work, Malcolm Sayer was the designer for the ‘E’ bodywork.

(Karl) #8

Didn’t say it was Malcolm. I heard he was instrumental in assembling the engineers to the project.

(Robin O'Connor) #9

Post withdrawn…

(Karl) #10

At any rate, just heresay as far as I know.

As a Seattle native the only real sport when I was a kid was hydro racing on lake Washington. All Rolls Merlin and Allisons in those days. Open cockpits. No other sound like it.

(David Ahlers) #11

Old unlimited hydroplane racing in the 80’s was the loudest noise I’ve ever heard!
Half a dozen boats, over boosted on nitrous, dicing for advantage at a timed start. 1600+ each. WOW!

(Mark ) #12

Yes, a license built version of the Merlin. This same engine is what made the Mustang the legendary plane it is after it replaced the Allison unit.
Jay Leno has one .
Good stuff Harvey, thanks.


(Karl) #13

This was late 50s through the seventies. Used to sit on the logboom around the east side of the course. It was deafening. I think they were supercharged. The drivers weren’t even in seatbelts. They wanted to not go down with the ship.

(Peter Crespin) #14

Sayer was miles away at the Bristol Aircraft factory or in the Middle East learning aerodynamic math.

By coincidence the first proof of July-August’s JJ came for checking today. It includes a short story about the British and American Merlins not having interchangeable spare parts. The reason was that the Americans used an inch (IIRC) that differed at the sixth decimal place. This was enough that if the tolerances built up one version leaked and the other tightened up.

William Heynes, Walter Hassan and William Lyons were the key XK engine decision-makers during fire watch design sessions. Long rods were in vogue, as were high included valve angles and non-squish hemi chambers.

(Dennismo) #15

Bill Knudsen, who led the US Military production effort asked Edsel Ford if the Ford company would accept a contract to produce Merlin Engines under license in the USA for both US and British consumption.

Edsel said yes. Buit when Henry Ford found out, he vetoed the deal saying there was not way Ford would manufacture for another country - even if an ally.

Knudsen then took the contract to the Packard company and I think well over 80,000 engines were manufactured by packard.

1 Like
(69 FHC ) #16

Don’t forget Claude Bailey, and Harry Weslake consulting on the breathing. Maybe not the decision makers, but they provided significant input, or so I’ve read.

(Karl) #17

Maybe he is getting older and confused lyons with Sayers…or maybe I am!!

(Harvey Ferris) #18

I’m pleased to see that my post has garnered so much enthusiasm and nostalgia. That said, when I watch the movie footage taken at these old plants, I can’t help but cringe at the noise, the heat, the heavy lifting, the same task being performed hour after hour day after day. It’s amazing those folks survived. Including Robin and his stint with a drop forge! Much credit goes to the factory workers of this era. Men and women, as noted in the documentary!

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(Karl) #19

Men that would and could defend the world.

(Robin O'Connor) #20

I was thankfully spared any time in the forging side, but spent months in different departments and also with different companies on a transfer system where the other apprentices would experience different manufacturing environments. It was a really good system.