The Adams-Farwell with a Air-Cooled Five Cylinder Rotary Engine - Details & Video
The Adams-Farwell – A Truly Unique Early Motorcar: This very interesting car features a Farwell-designed air-cooled five cylinder rotary engine and was manufactured in Dubuque, Iowa, between 1904 and 1913. Find full coverage on this unique car including a video from Pebble Beach where you can hear and see it run and full details from the Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal of September, 1908, on The Old Motor.
Thanks for posting this piece about the Adams-Farwell. It is the first I knew about a rotary radial engine being applied to an automobile, and it predates the era of rotary radial aircraft engines. I wonder what the gyroscope effect of the rotary engine was on the car's handling. I also wonder if the rotary aircraft engines popular in Europe in the era around WWI had some basis from the Adams=Farwell design. I do know that there was a motorcycle in Europe called the "Megola", which had a rotary radial engine in the front wheel. There seems to have been some popular belief amongst engine designers that the rotary radial engine was a good design, but it is easy to see why the design fell into dis-use. I've been to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome a few times, and had the chance to look at the rotary radial aircraft engines they have in their hangars/museum. It is a design that to me, as an engineer, is not something I'd want to use or depend upon.
At 3500 dollars a copy, per the ad, the Adams Farwell was a rich man's car in those days. At those prices in those days, it is easy to see why the Adams-Farwell was an obscure make and probably made and sold very few cars, even at the height of their production years. I think Adams-Farwell had the makings of some good ideas, but it was Franklin who took air cooled engines of a more conventional design and perfected the design. Franklin's cars sold in larger numbers, and Franklin was in business for a fairly long time as a result. Even after their car making ceased, Franklin continued to produce aircraft engines, some of which were used in early helicopters. Kind of the reverse of Adams-Farwell, where they ceased to produce cars, but the engine concept wound up in WWI aircraft.
The Farwell engine is a unique design in a radial engine. The only other designs I no of that were rotary ( where the engine rotates and not the crank ) were two stroke engines.
The Farwell is a quite simple design for a radial four stroke in that much of the cumbersome valve train of the standard aircraft radial is eliminated.It had only one semi-stationary cam lobe instead of a cam wheel and it's necessary drive train. Also the control of throttling by adjustment of this cam which sequenced valve opening not only controlled the amount of fuel to the engine but varied the length of the compression stroke. This was a very interesting approach to engine speed control for it's time. It also had a pressure lubrication system ( rare for this time period) even if it was the only practical way to do it.
I think two things can be said about the Farwell engine, one, a very talented designer got to build and put into production his dream of what an auto engine should be. and two,that finances will out do dreams of practical men most of the time. The Adams brothers,( his partners ) ceased production of the cars when they found they were making more money building machinery and making gears.
The motor that Langley intended to use in his aircraft in 1902-3 was a rotary designed by Stephen Balmer. Balmer had designed a 3 cylinder rotary and intended to simply scale up the design to a 5 cylinder. This motor failed to make sufficient power and Langleys chief engineer, Charles Manley, redesigned it as a radial.
Originally Posted by Dociron
For the record, the four most common rotary engines which were used in aircraft in WW1 and all produced in large numbers, the Gnome, LeRhone, Clerget and Bentley were all four stroke engines, though the early Gnomes had a distinctly unusual layout with the inlet valve in the crown of the piston.
I have a reprint of the Air Board Technical Notes from 1917 which makes this very clear. The book was produced for "the use of officers, NCOs and men undergoing a course of preliminary instruction in Aero Engines". It makes interesting reading.
Aren't the engines you are speaking about standard radial engines where the crankshaft turns or are they what I've described as "rotary" in my earlier post where the crank is stationary and the cylinders and crankcase rotate? If I remember correctly the Gnome was a typical radial of basic standard design in the sense that the cylinders remained stationary all types of valving aside.
Having been an A&P mechanic I'm well aware of the existence of early radial type engines.What I was trying to say about the Farwell was that his approach to valving was no less unique than Louis Seguin's design for the Gnome. I also feel that the throttling method Farwell was playing with was very interesting.
Please excuse my redefining the use of the word rotary here as I feel it is the simplest way to separate the two styles as long as we keep it with in the context of this thread alone.
The Gnome was a rotary engine. This was done primarily for cooling on aircraft engines,I understand. It also made the airplane capable of very fast maneuvers in 1 direction due to engine torque. The Fokker triplane used a Gnome,for the reason that engines were scarce at the time late in the war. It was not a very powerful engine,but in the short fuselage triplane,(which was dangerous to fly due to instability) it made a formidable opponent which was more maneuverable than its opponents.
Most replica planes use a radial engine. The Warner is a popular old engine. They have an original Gnome monosoupape engine in a museum near Byrd airport in Richmond. It is surprisingly small.
I stand corrected! The Gnome was a rotary engine and a very successful design and a 4 cycle, but it doesn't make Farwell's engine any less unique or worthy of retrospective study into the understanding of engine development.
Sorry I didn't mean to start a P***ing contest and I miss stated myself when it cam to 4 cycle radial engines.
I often wondered whether the Seguin brothers were aware of existence of the Adams Farwell engine when they designed the Gnome. Other than the fact that the cylinders rotate around the crankshaft, the Gnome bears very little resemblance to the Adams Farwell. The Clerget and Bentley are later and more conventional designs, and show more similarities to the Adams Farwell - perhaps there might have been some inspiration there, though I suspect not.
As a former A&P you may be interested in this animation showing how the Gnome works - the Seguin brothers were never conventional!
Animated Engines - Gnome Rotary
If you are interested in the WW1 rotaries there are photos and descriptions of the LeRhone engine here:
Le Rhône - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
and the Clerget engine here:
Clerget aircraft engines - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
And a short U Tube video of starting a Bentley here:
The only other rotary produced in quantity in WW1 was the German Oberursal, which was a copy of the Le Rhone.
If you want to waste a couple of hours there are numerous short videos on U Tube showing restored WW1 aircraft and engines being operated.
Thanks for the links! Very much appreciated.
This should make you drool a bit.... Adams-Farwell - YouTube
I've got an acquaitenence that is in the process of having a buch of Gnome 100's scratch built for some projects.
Does anyone know if the Adams-Farwell was in fact once-through lubrication? A lot of the oil would end up on the "bottoms" (or insides) of pistons, then past rings into the combustion chamber, but much could I suppose be directed to a sump for recycling. You could even have a return drilling in the rod for pressurized oil to the wristpins, and wristpin seals as on 2-stroke Detroit Diesel to recover most of that oil, in a pressurized system.
I suppose power loss from windage at the large radius of the cylinder heads would be substantial, more than that from spinningcrank and rods in a conventional crankcase, probably more than from a cooling fan....but I do like the radical reduction in number of parts and systems. Spinning engine would also have to be shrouded for safety in case of a centrifugal "accident"...that could also reduce windage loss by ducting only enough air to achieve adequate cooling.
Gyro effect would I suppose resist roll and pitch of car, not make turning more difficult since the accel/decel involved in a turn about a vertical axis (yaw) would be a negligible portion of the angular momentum of the engine.
I wonder if anyone has made either part or assembly drawings of the engine,or if originals exist? The man in the video only mentioned sales literature being preserved.
Obviously, I want one.
"I saw the airplanes (several with rotary radials at that time for a standard show) fly at Rhinebeck around 1973 or 4 when Cole Palen was still alive and one of the performers."
On two rides to the Come Home Rally in Springfield, Ma. in the early 80s, we stopped at Rhinebeck. Cole Palen piloted his 1929 New Standard bi-plane when we went for rides both years. The second year, he recognized us at the fence and came over for a visit, remembering our old scooters. As a plane flew overhead, he excused himself, as he wanted to greet that WWI era plane on landing. Only two known to exist and this one just arriving from Washington State! Now, thats dedication.
Amazing car! as stated previously rotary engines were highly popular and successful during the WW1 era. They went the way of the Dodo once Mr. Bentley developed his very successful radial engine which used aluminum heads etc. Many rotary's in post war years were converted to radials. In practice the rotary engine was smooth if difficult to control - throttling the engine was accomplished by interrupting the juice to selected spark plugs. This was known as blipping. It was a careful art because the selected cylinders if "shut-off" too long would allow raw fuel to collect in the crankcase which often caused fires. As mentioned the LeRhone and Gnome engines were a mainstay of the allied cause and prized by the germans as being more reliable than their Oberursel design which powered such notable planes as the Fokker DR1 AND DVIII. In hindsight this was an excellent engine but did not get along well with the low quality synthetic lubricant the Germans used to replace castor oil. Another very interesting design was the Siemen's-Halske rotary. This was a very powerful geared design were the prop rotated in one direction while the cylinders spun in another.
Here is a link to Vintage Aviator in New Zealand which is reproducing the Oberursel design: Oberursel Reproduction | The Vintage Aviator
Terry, Thanks for all the interesting details.....Hope you are all settled in at your new place
Originally Posted by Terry Harper
Originally Posted by Terry Harper
I am pretty sure W.O. Bentley designed only rotary aero engines, no radial types.
I have not heard of any rotary engines being converted to radial - was this something tried by home-made aircraft builders after WW1? It sounds very unlikely to work.
Peter thank you for the correction - my memory was faulty.
Though the excellent Bentley BR1/2 rotary witch successfully utilized cast iron sleeved alum. cylinders and alum. pistons paved the way for the modern radial. In regards to the conversions
some may have been do-it-yourself while most I believe were provided as complete conversions - all were post war. There was a brief article on such in WW1 Aero (April 1988?).
Another engine of interest though not a rotary was the water cooled Salmson radial.
Edit: Here is a example of a conversion offered by the Quick Airmotor Co. of Witchita Kansas circa 1927. This one is a 80 hp LeRone.
According to the source: "They fabricated a new aluminum intake housing, which moved the intake pipes behind the original case for carbureted intake. Since the cylinders were no longer spinning for cooling, crude air baffles were welded to the original cylinder heads." Another provider of such conversions is listed as Tips & Smith.
Some of you who posted here might find this article about L.A.W Motors Corp Rotary engine made in Providence RI.
In the article they also refer to an article in Machinery July 1908 on the Adams Farwell aeronautic engine .
I didn’t check to see if that issue is available on archive.org or not.
I was scrolling through a Volume of Machinery and noticed an article with a comparison chart of various Aeronautical Engines from 1913 that includes several of the makers mentioned in other posts above .
Article starts here.