Great Gearhead History Video: Men Bet Their Lives On It – Packard Merlin Engines

Great Gearhead History Video: Men Bet Their Lives On It – Packard Merlin Engines

If you like history, specifically history related to one of the greatest engines ever designed and built, the Rolls Royce Merlin this 20-minute film is not to be missed. While the boys at Rolls Royce over in England designed this engine that powered everything from PT boats to P-51 Mustangs, it was the manufacturing might of Packard that built them in the volume needed to help the war effort. The fact was that England was in a precarious situation with attacks happening at a rapid rate and when they weren’t being attacked, the threat was always present. The USA, in comparison was a safe haven and had incredible industrial prowess. Rolls provided the blueprints and Packard provided the finished product…and they did one hell of a job.

The story of how Packard expanded, built 78 dyno cells, and started producing these engines in an amazingly short period of time seems almost impossible today. Along with the story of how the Merlins came to be built by Packard, the video also goes through a fair amount of big piston engine history and talked about the Liberty V12 and other designs that led up to the Merlin.

Everything about this video rules. From the footage of machinists actually making parts to the graphics showing how Packard expanded by hundreds of thousands of square feet to built these mills. All the engines would be run for six hours at full throttle, then torn down, completely rebuilt, and shipped to the front. It gives us chills. This is the best 20 minutes you’ll spend today.


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4 thoughts on “Great Gearhead History Video: Men Bet Their Lives On It – Packard Merlin Engines

  1. Rich V

    The PT boat engine was based on the Packard WWI Liberty aircraft engine as modified by Garwood.

  2. crazy canuck

    Still my favorite aircraft motor , I’ve spent hours in the museum examining them to bad we only have static display motors.

  3. w schettler

    The Packard merlin was also supplied to Canada during wartime for use in Canadian built Lancasters, Mosquitos, Hurricanes, amongst others. My father was in the Royal Canadian Air Force in England, The Packard Merlin was being produced in huge numbers and shortly thereafter, it was determined that there was a requirement for a more powerful engine made by Rolls Royce called the Griffon. Many Packards were used in England with good success. However, certain aircraft that needed the highest horsepower version were made by Rolls Royce as the Packard variants were prone to early engine failures. One of the biggest demands for the Merlin engine was for use in the P 51 Mustang. The Mustang started out using the General Motors built Allison which was woefully under horsepower and extremely unreliable. Once the Merlin was adopted for use, a truly great airplane was born. I appreciate the production of the Packard company in supplying a huge quantity of these engines.

    1. Ralph Abernathy

      Your comments are inaccurate. The Packard V-1650 was a reengineered and improved variant of the British built Rolls Royce Merlin. The Packard engine fixed all of the problems of the Rolls Royce Merlin and was far more reliable than the mostly hand built British version. You cannot get consistent quality from hand built as all craftsman do not perform on the same level. Whereas the American built Packard V-1650 was mass produced on assembly lines using accurate milling and casting machines. The Allison engine was an excellent engine. As a matter of fact the British Air Ministry and the British Purchasing Commission requested the Allison in their initial P-51 Mustang order because nothing could touch it in speed at under 15,000 feet.

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