An aluminium alloy camshaft cover being poured in the foundry.

THE NAPIER AERO ENGINE IN THE MAKING

D. Napier and Son Ltd. was a British engineering company best known for manufacturing and later designing automotive and aeronautical engines during the first half of the 20th century. One of the company’s most successful engines was the Lion, a 12-cylinder W12 configuration aero engine which was first produced in 1917 and continued to be manufactured into the 1930s.

The Lion was a versatile engine which was used in aircraft, boats and cars. The Lion I (first produced in 1918) generated 450 bhp and the specialised supercharged Lion VIID (first produced in 1928) generated 1350 bhp and powered several land speed records. The Lion was hugely popular and became the mainstay of aircraft engines during the interwar period being fitted to over 150 different civil and military aircraft.

In c.1918 Napier had a series of professional publicity photographs taken showing several stages of the manufacturing process for the Lion engine. These photographs can be viewed in the Napier archive collection held at the IMechE and online in our virtual archive.

Taken at the Napier works in Acton, these photographs provide insight not only into the engine’s manufacture, but also into the setup of the Napier workshop and foundry and the workforce who would have been involved in the day to day manufacturing process at the time. The series of photographs were titled “The Napier Aero Engine In The Making” and we have chosen some of our favourites to showcase here:

An aluminium alloy camshaft cover being poured in the foundry.
An aluminium alloy camshaft cover being poured in the foundry.
A member of the Napier workforce vertical mills an inverted Lion crankcase.
A member of the Napier workforce vertical mills an inverted Lion crankcase.
A member of the Napier workforce boring a Lion cylinder
A member of the Napier workforce boring a Lion cylinder
Two members of the Napier workforce using a horizontal machine tool during the Lion manufacturing process.
Two members of the Napier workforce using a horizontal machine tool during the Lion manufacturing process.
Producing the back axle.
Producing the back axle.
The engine assembly workshop.
The engine assembly workshop.

Archives, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

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