Category Archives: Technical Features

The Klaxon Horn – The X-Ray of Sound

  • kl1           What appears to be the first Klaxon Horn introduced during 1908

After recently viewing advertisements showing a number of the different models of Klaxon horns that were available in the early to mid-1930s, it appeared that tracing the origin of the horn back to its roots could prove to be interesting. The oldest reference to the device to be found was from early in 1908, it was also learned that Klaxon called it The X-Ray of Sound. The photo above shows one of the cable-driven horns installed on a Stoddard-Dayton. Note the pull-chain hanging from the steering column used to actuate it. 

  • kl2      kl3      kl4
  • Details of the Klaxon Horn found in automobile periodicals during 1908.

The left-hand illustration above shows the wheel that was driven by the engine flywheel after it was actuated by the pull-chain; it in turn drove a flexible cable that connected to the bottom of the horn unit. The center image above is an article found in The Automobile, February 6, 1908, issue describing its construction and use. The right-hand illustration above shows the cam wheel, which while spinning and repeatedly striking the anvil mounted in the center of the heat-treated vanadium steel diaphragm, caused it to produce the distinctive sound.

An article in the May 1908 Automobile Trade Journal where the two illustrations above originate from credits Miller Reese Hutchison as being the inventor. Hutchison had earlier worked with the telephone and other electrical devices that also used a diaphragm to create sound, you can see patents for many of his inventions here. The manufacturing was handled by the Lovell-McConnell Mfg. Co. of Newark, New Jersey.

  • kl5
  •                         From an advertisement in The Motor, June 1909.

The May 1908 Motor magazine shows a small illustration of the electrical version of the horn having the same general appearance as the unit seen here with the exception of it having a smaller electrical motor. By 1909, the motor-driven Klaxon seen above had taken on its familiar shape that it retained for a number of years. Depending on the model, it sold for between $30 to $40.

  • kl9
  •                An advertisement in “The Automobile”, December 30, 1909.

By December of 1909, Lovell-McConnell had introduced a lower-cost version seen above called the Klaxonet. In viewing the Klaxon patents it appears the company also moved quickly to file and patent more of Hutchison’s designs along with those of other inventors in a move to capture the market. In May of 1912, the company also filed a patent for a design by Hutchison for an electric vibrating type of horn. This type of unit would soon become the modern electric horn that was produced for decades.

At some point, the Lovell-McConnell Company was bought out by the Delco Company in Anderson, Indiana, and the design and production may have been moved there. The advertisement below found in the April 1932 Automobile Trade Journal, shows one of the last of the externally mounted horns that soon went out of fashion. By the mid-1930s, most automotive horns ended up enclosed within the bodywork or under the hood.


Posted in Auto photos 1885 - 1920, Technical Features | Tagged , , , , , , , |

Finley Robinson Porter’s Horizontally Opposed Dual Four Cylinder Engines

  • frp1
  •          Plan-view of the horizontally opposed dual four-cylinder engines.

Horizontally-opposed dual four-cylinder engines with common rotary valves, certainly is a mouthful. But that is exactly what Finley Robinson Porter had finished designing only a little over a year after he left Mercer, as the Chief Engineer where he designed the legendary T-head Raceabout. This pair of engines was intended for aircraft use, and each was to be equipped with a propellor. At this point, it is unknown if this project ever went past the drawing stage, but it certainly is interesting to study his work.

We were fortunate to be able to talk with Porter’s Great Granddaughter recently and learned of this concept and its drawings. After studying them we are amazed by the vision that this man had and his ability to be able to see this concept through to its final design and drawings. It came right on the heels of the exceptional F.R.P. car he designed and built with a s.o.h.c. 454-c.i.d. four-cylinder engine that was right on the cutting edge at the time.

  • frp2
  • Sectional views of the end and center of the engines.

Just above at the top is a cross-sectioned end view of a pair of cylinders, and it shows one of the rotary valves located top and bottom on ball bearings. The intake charge enters the valve at (2) on the middle bottom and exhausts out of the top of it. The valve supply chamber (4) communicates with the feed (1) from the intake manifold and has opposed cylinder supply ports (6 and 7 –  see photo at the top of the post) opening through the face of the valve.

The exhaust chamber (5) communicates with the upwardly extended tubular portion (2) that also has opposed exhaust ports (8 and 9 – see photo at the top of the post) opening through the face of the valve. The rotary valve is tapered and is smaller at the bottom than at the top. The fuel supply for the cylinders is drawn in through the bottom of the valve, and the exhaust gases are discharged through the top of the valve.

  • frp4
  • Detail views of the gear drives, a valve and the combustion chamber.

The two detail photos above show more of the construction. The left-hand drawing shows the intermediate gear (48) that is driven by a gear on the two joined-driveshafts (38). It in turn drives shaft (46) that operates the four rotary valves and gear and shaft (55) that drives the magneto on the left (52) and the water pump on the right (53). The right-hand drawing shows the details of the gears (49 and 50) that turn the rotary valve and also shows the combustion chamber. The updraft intake manifold (70) can be seen in the bottom center photo.

Posted in Out Of The Box, Technical Features | Tagged , , , |

The Packard Patents – A Graveyard of Automotive Designs From the Past

  • pack3
  • A 1919 overhead cam design by H.D. Church, a Packard Engineer

One of the most enjoyable parts of researching for The Old Motor articles is uncovering important forgotten automotive designs from the past. The other day we stumbled on to a large number of patents assigned to the Packard Motor Car Co. Many of them originated from within, but many were apparently designs Packard bought from the inventor and had them patent the design in the name of the Motor Car Co.

The drawing above shows a 1919 s.o.h.c. design by H.D. Church, who was Packard’s Chief Truck Designer. The Company had been involved with other o.h.c. designs at the time including the Packard Liberty engine, the 299 Packard engine and the 905 Packard. Church’s 1919 Packard overhead cam design may have been the first design for the automaker to use what Church called, a valve operating sleeve. This inverted cup (part no. 2), did away with all side thrust from the cam on the valve assembly.

You can learn more about this era including Ralph De Palma’s involvement with Packard and the racing car between 1914 and 1923 in an article by Gary Doyle at Packards International. The racing car engines were tied together with the aircraft designs because Packard engineer Jesse G. Vincent knew that it was easier to develop them in a racing car  on land rather than it was in the air. 

  • pack4     pack1      pack5
  • OHC cam design, 1918 – Railcar design, 1918 – A rotary valve design, 1911

Three more designs that caught our eye can be seen left to right above: Another 1918 s.o.h.c. design also by H.D. Church; a 1918 design by F.H. Dewey for converting a Packard Truck into a railcar, and a 1911 design by M. Tibbetts for a double overhead rotary valve design.

  • pack2
  •                       1903 Packard walking-beam engine patent drawing

Having been involved with Duesenberg walking-beam racing engines, finding the first application of this design to an internal combustion engine has always been of interest. The earliest reference to this concept we have found so far are these 1903 patent drawings above and below for one of the designs by none other than J.W. Packard.

The design is seen below for a two-up, two-down engine with bolt-on crankshaft counterweights. The unusual linkage designs seen above were intended for governing engine speed. You can learn more about this walking-beam engine here, and many more Packard patents here.


1 Comment
Posted in Auto photos 1885 - 1920, Technical Features | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |