What Is It?

| September/October 1972

Gnome Rotary Airplane Engine

Courtesy of Frank J. Burris, 35640 Avenue F, Yucaipa, California 92399.

R. Dayton Nichols

35640 Avenue F, Zucaipa, California 92399.

This strangest of gas animals appeared at the Early Day Gasoline Engine and Tractor Association festival at Santee, California on 16-17 June this year. Information was to the effect that it had been designed and constructed by Mr. Darwin W. Keys of Dover, Minnesota in 1906. He farmed around Milnor, North Dakota about 1915. After his death, the engine finally came into the hands of Mr. Ed Dotzenrod of 6933 Lime Avenue, Long Beach, Ca. 90805, who has had it in operation a few 'crank-ups.'

What makes this engine so unusual, and might be described as 'Doing it the Hard Way,' is as follows: It may be noted that four cylinders and pistons are involved in the four-stroke-cycle pattern. The cylinders are opposed in pairs, but all four pistons are connected together and work in unison through one boss and wristpin connection to the one connecting rod. The rod then acts in push-pull fashion to the one crank throw. An overhead chain-driven camshaft is seen to drive the four opposed exhaust valves.

What about the intake valves? Well, this is where the real impossibility sets in and is remindful of the Gnome rotary airplane engine. The wristpin is hollow, and through the trombone sliding tube connects to the carburetor, somewhat after the fashion of a cross-head water pump. So the gas mixture is fed from the carburetor through the wristpin to openings to all four pistons which have their respective intake valves located within their heads, much like in refrigeration compressors and again like the Gnome engine. The above description can be followed in Fig. One photo. Figure 2 photo shows the chain driven camshaft and also the low tension distributor to the four buzzer spark coils, similar to the first model T Fords. In fact, it appears that the coils are in fact of that manufacture. Four dripolators, sight feed, lubricated the cylinders, while the rod-crank-end was lubricated by grease cup. It may also be stated that there was no provision, other than air, for cooling this monster.

Now, by today's standards, what might be said of this attack on an engineering problem? Well, the vibration would be quite horrendous, since all pistons fly together. A great loss of gas condensation would result from the long passages from carburetor to cylinders, and severe stuffing box losses would result at the trombone tube joint. Cooling by water could have been provided in follow up to this prototype model. But it appears that Avery and several other manufacturers had a much better approach to the four cylinder gas engine design problem. One can say, however, that very difficult fitting problems must have been surmounted in the mechanical turnout of this engine, and a great deal of labor and brainwork went into its conception. While this may be a 'one-of-a-kind', it can take its place in the hall of fame among a myriad of other mechanical monstrosities in this , gallery--some of the worst of which appeared in the railroad field. It all reflects the glory of the Good Old Days, when a fellow could embark on any sort of idea which might arrest his imagination. And we are very happy for having witnessed those days!

Does anyone know what make and year this truck is? Some say a Lozier, some say a White. If you know, please write me.