More on Van Blerck and His Engines

| July/August 1994

Van Blerck engine

End views of Van Blerck engine.

5120 Belcrest Ave. Bakersfield, California 93309-4705

In the September 1993 issue of GEM appeared 'The Career of Joseph Van Blerck' by the late Max F. Homfeld. This excellent article ended with a request from Mr. Homfeld for further information about Van Blerck and his engines. Recently, while seeking information about an obscure little engine in Glenn D. Angle's, Airplane Engine Encyclopedia, Otterbein Press, Dayton, Ohio 1921, 1 ran across the Van Blerck airplane engine of 1914-1915.

According to Mr. Angle, 'The Van Blerck Engine Company of Monroe, Michigan, constructed experimentally, two types of airplane engines during 1914 and 1915. The cylinders were separately machined from steel forgings and fitted with spun-copper water jackets; single inlet and exhaust valves, situated in the cylinder head, being operated by means of push rods and rockers. The crankcase was of steel construction, opposite cylinders in the Vee being staggered so as to permit the use of side by side connecting rods. The connecting rods had tubular sections, and the pistons were made from cast iron. Lubrication was of the pressure-feed type.

'The eight-cylinder water-cooled Vee type of 4.5 inch bore, 5.5 inch stroke, and 699.76 cubic inch total displacement, was rated 135 HP at 1600 RPM. The weight was said to be 420 lbs., or 3.11 lbs. per rated HP. The mixture was supplied by two carburetors, and the ignition by two four-spark magnetos.

'A twelve-cylinder water-cooled Vee type, employing the same cylinders and having a total displacement of 1049.64 cubic inch, was said to develop 185 HP at 1400 RPM and 200 HP at 1600 RPM. The same general form of construction was employed throughout. The ignition was supplied by two twelve cylinder magnetos, and the weight was claimed to be 600 lbs., or 3 lbs. per rated HP at 1600 RPM.'

Mr. Angle is not too clear in his description of the ignition system of the Vee-eight, but since the cylinder construction was the same in both engines, we can assume that there were two spark plugs per cylinder. Not mentioned in the description, but apparent in the illustration, is the completely open valve gear push-rods, rockers, valve springs, etc. In this and other features, Joe Van Blerck's airplane engine design was roughly equal to the products of many other small manufacturers hoping to cash in on the almost unlimited demand engendered by WW-1, triggered in Sarajevo in June, 1914.