Sunday, March 25, 2007

Britain's Lost Engines - The first Jaguar V6

When the ink was dry on the 1968 merger which created, for better or worse, British Leyland, the company was left with a plethora of engines, some relatively new, some ancient and some still under development. The process of rationalising the range was painfully slow, and we had to wait until 1978 for the first new engines, the Austin-Morris O-Series four, and the Rover sixes to appear.
A few opportunities slipped the net, usually for reasons of internal politics rather than technical feasibility. One such was the V6 based on the Jaguar V12. Given the nature of the V12, a 'half-length' engine would have designed itself, and would have been a far better power unit for the lower-end XJ6 than the woeful 2.8 litre XK.

Surprisingly, it was engineering conservatism which seems to have prevented the original Jaguar V6 from being produced. Jeff Daniels' "Jaguar - The Engineering Story" records "at that time V6s were thin on the ground, and those that existed were not, if one excepts* Lancia's pioneering masterpiece for the Aurelia, particularly inspiring". 5ivegears suspects snobbery too - what's good enough for a Zephyr or Capri had no place under the bonnet of a Jag. (If that isn't irony...)

The V6 wouldn't have solved the problem of replacing the XK, but it have been put into production at very little cost in capital or development time and would have given much needed employment to the chronically under-utilised V12 production equipment.
The V6 could have had applications in other BL products. This alone might have given the men at Browns Lane reason enough to keep the cupboard locked - Jeff Daniels' excellent book also states, referring to the adopton of the 77mm Rover gearbox for the XJ Series III that "From Jaguar's point of view this must have been the only worthwhile thing that ever came out of British Leyland".

*5ivegears would also except the various Ferrari Dino V6s made in 60 and 120 degree configurations.

Britain's lost engines - The Rover K3

Seeing a picture of a Rover KV6 cylinder head, it occured to me that this was the top half of a great unrealised engine. Mentioning the idea elicited a reminder that a three cylinder version of the K-Series powered the Mini Spiritual concept car shown by Rover at the 1997 Geneva Show, in this case mounted horizontally at the rear of the car.
Had it been launched at the same time as the four cylinder K-series engines, a high-efficiency three would have added interest to the 1990 Metro relaunch, and a 1250cc 12 valve K3 would have been a far more interesting and effective offering than the poverty spec 1100 and 1400cc K-Series in the R3 Rover 200/25.

Given the likely a cost saving over the four, it could be used to provide a higher level of sophistication - four valves per cylinder, injection instead of a carburettor in the early engines. There's also the possiblility of a 1350cc 120bhp K3-VVC, which would deliver more power than the 1.4 litre fours in the Metro, with a very different character.
Rover could even have been used with an-end on gearbox in the Mini, rather than prolonging the life of the A-Series for one low volume product.
The bottom end would have needed some work - uneven cylinder numbers are hard on crankshafts and bearings, and some kind of balancer shaft would have been a good idea. If Rover ever took the idea seriously, there was already some three-cylinder experience available within the company from the 1982 ECV3 project pictured above.

Inspired and Informed

Austin Allegro and Ogle SX1000

The Ogle, built from 1962 to 1963 was a Mini-based sports coupe. The firm, bereft of its founder David Ogle, went on to greater things including the Reliant Scimitar GTE and Raleigh Chopper.

The similarity in parts, such as the grille, side window shapes and "buttressed" front wings is uncanny but, I suspect, coincidental. The Allegro's designer was well capable of creating original shapes, as was amply demonstrated in the 1975 Leyland Princess and Triumph TR7.

The Jowett Javelin - Yorkshire's heroic lost cause
In 1947 the conservative Bradford car and van manufacturer launched their Javelin, a medium sized saloon with an extraordinary degree of technical innovation. The car featured an 1.5 litre alloy-blocked overhead-valve flat-four engine with hydraulic tappets, streamlined bodywork inspired by contemporary American designs, and all round torsion bar suspension. All of this was possibly just too much for a small regional company whose core engine, a primitive flat twin last used in their Bradford van had the later distinction of remaining in continuous production, little changed, for 47 years.
The corporate dyspepsia was evident soon after the Javelin's launch with MD and Javelin champion Charles Reilly leaving in 1948, and Gerald Palmer took a post in the Nuffield Group's design office the following year.
Gerald Palmer’s contributions to the Nuffield group from 1949-1955, the Riley Pathfinder/Wolseley 6/90 and MG Magnette /Wolseley 6/90 suggests that he was denied the creative freedom of his Jowett years.
Early engine and gearbox problems, and the resulting consumer distrust led to the Javelin never achieving its sales targets. The car underwent a number of engineering revisions and its integrity was demonstrated by a number of motor sport successes, including an outright win in the 1953 International Tulip Rally.

Perhaps the Jowett can now be seen as Yorkshire's equivalent of the NSU Ro80, another car form a small regional car maufacturer who had world-beating ambitions, withoout the depth of resources to see them through. Javelin production ended in 1953 with just over 23,000 produced.

An honourable departure
Jowett ceased to exist as a vehicle manufacturer in 1955, their owners selling the factory to International Harvester, and continuing in business as a supplier to the aircraft industry. Far from launching Jowett into the big time, the Javelin’s mechanical complexity and manufacturing cost were seen as its downfall.
The decision to abandon car manufacturing, preserve jobs, and provide parts support for past products seems as courageous as the one Jowett made to put the Javelin into production. Better far to exit solvent, and with a continuing committment to past customers, than to die by badge-engineering.

An Italian Jowett? not quite...

A near-contemporary of the Jowett Javelin was the Cemsa Caproni, designed by Antonio Fessia for the Italian aircraft manufacturer. The plan to move into car manufacture was abandoned not long after production started, and only two examples are thought to survive.

The similarities to the Jowett are clear, flat four engine and conspicuously aerodynamic coachwork, although the Cemsa had front-wheel drive, and an engine capacity of only 1100cc.

We may lament that Cesma never had the opportunity to become Italy's Saab or Bristol, but at least the Caproni’s designer had the opportunity to use the experience later in his career, as it provided the template for the design of Lancia Flavia launched in 1961, by which time Professor Fessia was head of the Turin manufacturer's Central Technical Office.