Liberty L-12: Wikis


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See also Liberty L-8 for the eight-cylinder prototype & Lincoln Liberty engine
Liberty L-12-1

The Liberty L-12 was a 27 litre (1,649 cubic inch) water-cooled 45° V-12 aircraft engine of 400 horsepower (300 kilowatts) designed both for a high power-to-weight ratio and for ease of mass production.



In May 1917, one month after the US had declared war on Germany, a Federal task force known as the Aircraft Production Board summoned top engine designers Jesse Vincent (of Packard of Detroit) and E.J. Hall (of the Hall-Scott Motor Co. of Berkeley, California,) to Washington D.C. They were given the task of designing as rapidly as possible an aircraft engine that would rival if not surpass those of Great Britain, France, and Germany. The Board specified that the engine would have a high power-to-weight ratio and be adaptable to mass production. The Board brought Vincent and Hall together on 29 May 1917 at the Willard Hotel in Washington, where the two were asked to stay until they produced a set of basic blueprints. After just five days, Vincent and Hall left the Willard with a completed design for the new engine.[1]

In July 1917, an eight-cylinder prototype assembled by Packard's Detroit plant arrived in Washington for testing, and in August, the 12-cylinder version was tested and approved. That fall, the War Department placed an order for 22,500 Liberty engines, dividing the contract between the automobile and engine manufacturers Buick, Ford, Cadillac, Lincoln, Marmon, Nordyke, and Packard. Hall-Scott in California was considered too small to receive a production order. Manufacturing by multiple different factories was facilitated by its modular design.[2] Cadillac was asked to produce Liberty engines but William Durant was a pacifist who did not want General Motors facilities to be used for producing war material. This led to Henry Leland leaving Cadillac to form the Lincoln company to make Liberty engines. However, Durant later changed his mind and both Cadillac and Buick produced the engines.[3]

Ford was asked to supply cylinders for the new engine, and rapidly developed an improved technique for cutting and pressing steel which resulted in cylinder production rising from 151 per day to over 2,000, Ford eventually manufacturing all 433,826 cylinders produced, and 3,950 complete engines.[4] Lincoln constructed a new plant in record time, devoted entirely to Liberty engine production, and assembled 2,000 engines in 12 months. By the time of the Armistice with Germany, the various companies had produced 13,574 Liberty engines, attaining a production rate of 150 engines per day. Production continued after the war, for a total of 20,478 engines built between July 4, 1917 and 1919.[5]


The Liberty L-12 was a modular design where four or six cylinders could be used in one or two banks. A single overhead camshaft for each cylinder bank operated two valves per cylinder, in a similar manner to the inline six-cylinder German Mercedes D.III engine. Dry weight was 844 lb (383 kg). Two examples of a six-cylinder version, the Liberty L-6, were produced but not procured by the Army. Both were destroyed by Dr. William Christmas testing his so-called "Christmas Bullet" fighter.




An inverted Liberty 12-A was referred to as the V-1650 and was produced up to 1926 by Packard — the exact same designation was later applied, due to identical displacement, to the World War II Packard-built Rolls-Royce Merlin.[6]

Nuffield Liberty

Major Henry H. Arnold with the first Liberty V12 engine completed

The Nuffield Liberty tank engine was produced in World War II by the UK car manufacturer Nuffield. It was a 27-L (1,649 in³) engine with an output of 340 hp (250 kW), which was inadequate, and it suffered numerous problems with cooling and reliability.[7] It was replaced in later British tanks by the Rolls Royce Meteor, based on their Merlin aero engine.

Allison VG-1410

The Allison VG-1410 was an Air cooled Inverted Liberty L-12, with a geared super-charger and Allison epicyclic propeller reduction gear and reduced capacity.[8]

Liberty L-6

A 6-cylinder version of the liberty:- a single bank of cylinders.

Liberty L-8

An 8-cylinder V engine using Liberty cylinders in banks of four at 90o.


Tank applications

  • Mark VIII (tank) Anglo-American or Liberty WWI tank
  • BT-2 & BT-5 Soviet interwar tank (at least one reconditioned Liberty was installed in a BT-5)see external link
  • Cruiser Mk III British WWII Tank
  • Cruiser Mk IV British WWII Tank
  • Crusader tank British WWII Tank
  • Centaur Tank, an early version of the Cromwell British WWII Tank

Anglo-American or Liberty Tank

The Anglo-American or Liberty Mark VIII tank was designed in 1917-18. The American version used an adaption of the Liberty V-12 engine of 300 hp (220 kW), designed to use pig iron rather than steel. 100 tanks were manufactured at the Rock Island Arsenal in 1919-20, too late for World War I. They were eventually sold to Canada for training in 1940, except for two that have been preserved.

Specifications (Liberty L-12)

General characteristics

  • Type: 12-cylinder liquid-cooled Vee piston aircraft engine
  • Bore: 5 in (127 mm)
  • Stroke: 7 in (177.8 mm)
  • Displacement: 1,649.3 in³ (27 L)
  • Dry weight: 845 lb (383 kg)


  • Valvetrain: One intake and one exhaust valves per cylinder operated via a single overhead camshaft per cylinder bank
  • Cooling system: Liquid-cooled


See also



  1. ^ Trout, Steven (2006). Cather Studies Vol. 6: History, Memory, and War. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 275–276. ISBN 0803294646.  
  2. ^ Yenne, Bill (2006). The American Aircraft Factory in World War II. Zenith Imprint. pp. 15–17. ISBN 0760323003.  
  3. ^ Weiss, H. Eugene (2003). Chrysler, Ford, Durant, and Sloan. McFarland. p. 45. ISBN 0786416114.  
  4. ^ O'Callaghan, Timothy J. (2002). The Aviation Legacy of Henry & Edsel Ford. Wayne State University Press. pp. 163–164. ISBN 1928623018.  
  5. ^ Anderson, John David (2002). The Airplane: A History of Its Technology. AIAA. p. 157. ISBN 1563475251.  
  6. ^ Gunston, Bill (1986). World Encyclopaedia of Aero Engines. Patrick Stephens. p. 106. ISBN 085059717X.  
  7. ^ Foreman-Peck, James; Sue Bowden, Alan McKinley (1995). The British Motor Industry. Manchester University Press. p. 87. ISBN 0719026121.  
  8. ^

9. Bradford, Francis H. Hall-Scott: The Untold Story of a Great American Engine Manufacturer

External links


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