The 600 hp Hall-Scott V12-powered Kenworth may have been the most powerful factory-built truck of its time (1951), but this home-built job with a WW2 surplus Allison V12 has it beat—by over 100%—with some 1400 hp, depending on the exact version used. And why not? They were dirt cheap at the time, selling for $350 new and $200 rebuilt.
Undoubtedly this was somewhere out in inter mountain West, where the distances were great, the mountains tall, the roads wide open. Time does always equal money in the trucking business. Of course fuel costs money too…
Here’s another view, but it’s not all that clear.
It took me a minute to figure out what the donor truck was: a Federal. Looks like they lengthened the frame and hood and opened up the sides some. Those Allisons generate a ferocious amount of heat.
There’s no doubt that a surplus Allison was a lot cheaper than a Hall-Scott V12. But just how long it lasted is another story…
Related reading: 1951 Kenworth With 600 hp 2180 Cubic Inch Hall-Scott V12 – The Most Powerful Factory-Built Road Truck Of Its Time
Could this be the origins of the term “crate engine”? $350, that is just unreal. I will take two please! Even adjusted for inflation, that’s a smokin deal. Just a tick under 5K is what my calculator came up with using 1946 as starting year.
I wonder if anyone tried a Ford GAA V-8 in a truck. They put out about 500 horsepower from 1100 cubic inches. There were probably as many surplus tanks as fighter planes.
Sterling built a few prototypes for the military during WWII which were completed after the war. Here is one of them – the T26E1 furnished with Ford GAA V8 engine. All of the 16 tires were powered. Both the front dual tandem unit and the rear were chain driven. Note that the chassis weight was 55,900 lbs. Big turning radius as well – 41.5 feet.
They also built one prototype with a Ford GAC V12 (model T35).
Paul Niedermeyer – thanks for another interesting truck article!
The truck was a Sterling from c1946-1949. See attached spec sheet.
I wonder if the Brits did Merlin transplants.
There was the Thornycroft Antar, which used a V-8 based on the Merlin.
Bob, I image the Merlin was a 60° engine so as to minimize the frontal area of the aircraft in which it was used.
Was the V8 derived from it also 60°? That, of course, leads to weirdness w.r.t. uneven spacing in the firing order. Gah!
If so, they were doing an inverse GM – I’m thinking of lopped-off Small Block V8s which were the basis for the 90° 3.8 and 4.3 V6s.
The engine was the Rolls-Royce Meteorite, it was developed for tanks. No idea if it was a 60 degree V, though I imagine it was. GM developed a 60 degree V-8 off of the GMC V-6 truck engine. It had a balance shaft in the crankcase.
A few Allison V-1710 made their way into LeTourneau earthmoving equipment, all or most converted to run on (lots of) propane.
I was told these engines were somewhat hard to sell surplus after the war, which accounts for their low price. No civilian aircraft used the Allison, and due to the number of dissimilar metals in the engine they had to be completely disassembled to recycle. The labor costs were too high to make recycling profitable.
A lot of those ended up in Unlimited Hydroplanes (along with Merlins), until the 80s when helicopter turbines (“Jet Boats”) took over. For $350 each new, I can see why.
They did indeed –
Another great history lesson you can’t get anywhere else .
@ justy :
And it’s all _FREE_ too ! =8-) .
Holy hell. Adjusted for inflation, the original cost for one of these engines is $161k….
There has been much talk of valuable machinery left in Afghanistan recently. This article illustrates just what war surplus is worth.
Actually it illustrates what no bid crony contracts are all about but I digress….
Unfortunately, the truck could only be used as a tanker, and as that was just its own fuel tank, it did not catch on.
Prof Paul, may I ask you what you meant by the “how long it lasted” comment? Is it that an aero engine isn’t designed for a long life – I don’t really know what ‘long life’ means in that context – or that a truck just the wrong sort of load on such a design?
That was a bit of a throw-away line, but airplane engines like the Allison, which were supercharged and made lots of power for their displacement, were of course quite highly stressed. Which is why the number of operating hours before mandatory rebuilds was fairly limited.
I really have no idea how an Allison would do in other applications, like trucking. If the boost were kept down, and the throttle not so much so, then it might have had a decent service life.
The Hall-Scott engines were designed for very long life in their applications. It was not uncommon to have them go a million miles with only top end (valves, piston rings, etc.) work. There’s some ads by H-S with detailed services required by one or more operators over a million miles. Somehow I don’t see an Allison coming quite close to that.
But it was probably a blast while it lasted!
Very true. In the P-38 Lightning the Allison’s had turbochargers on them as well. Got pretty close to one H.P. per cubic inch.
I doubt this creation ever really ran. The builders would have to find the correct engine with a stub shaft (no propeller reduction gear) and in the right rotation. Then they would have to fabricate a flywheel and clutch strong enough to handle 1000+ horsepower, as well as find a transmission, driveshaft, and rear axle. Plumb in a big radiator and oil cooler, plus an electric fan, which probably would need to be 28 volts. Make an air cleaner and plumb that to the carb. Fabricate exhaust manifolds and some sort of muffler. Make a throttle linkage and mixture control. They could probably find surplus engine gauges and fuel pumps. Don’t forget these engines used high octane fuel and high viscosity oil, and lots of it.
Nothing is impossible if you throw enough money and time at it, but this could never begin to pay off.
Allisons were found in a number of dragsters and other street-based one-offs. I think you’re underestimating the ingenuity of mechanics back then. The comment with these pictures at an old truck forum indicates it was in service.
Allison-etta, my favorite economy car swap, ingenuity unbridled. If it had a set of wings, well I know it could fly.
Allison, Merlin they ate all in same category and huge, putting them in anything thry were not meant for was always a huge undertaking, this is a perfect example from down under