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The Hispano-Suiza V8 Aircraft Engine Designed By Marc Birkigt



The famous Hispano-Suiza water-cooled s.o.h.c. V8 aircraft engine was designed by the legendary Swiss engineer Marc Birkigt. One of these engines was featured in the recent article The Fire-Breathing 1924 Bequet Delage, so a follow-up of its construction is in order. The foundation of the 717.8 c.i. (11.76 liters) engine is the two-piece aluminum crankcase and a five main bearing 180-degree steel crankshaft.

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  •                 The 1918 Simplex Wright-Martin built 180 h.p. Model “E” Hispano-Suiza V-8 engine.

The one-piece aluminum cylinder block and head casting is machined to accept the threaded steel cylinder barrels. The construction provided for a leak free compression seal and water jacket. The s.o.h.c. on each bank of cylinders is driven by a shaft and bevel gear assembly. The connecting rods are of the so-called fork and blade construction. All of these features plus a view of the lower end are shown in the four images below.

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The engine has been reported to be 40% lighter than many other large aircraft units at the time it was introduced in early 1915. It was also the first engine ever to pass the French Military test requiring an engine to run for 50 hours with a wide open throttle. The illustrations on view here (top and bottom) are from a Simplex Wright-Martin, December 1917, 150 h.p. Model “A” instruction manual. The four views just above and the complete engine manual covering all the rest of the interesting details of the Model “E” 180 h.p. Hispano-Suiza engine can be found here.


5 responses to “The Hispano-Suiza V8 Aircraft Engine Designed By Marc Birkigt

  1. The manual for the engine is fascinating (The link is just above the final photograph). On page 88, there is an opportunity for error. The page carefully lays out the coolant mixtures to be used in near-freezing or freezing temperatures, but doesn’t clarify whether the temperatures are Fahrenheit or Celsius. Making the wrong assumption could be disastrous.

  2. an engine can be just as beautiful as the flowing lines of an automobile’s body-in fact,
    I dont think I’ve ever seen an ugly engine.

  3. The manual for the engine is indeed fascinating. On page 31 there is an opportunity for disaster. The page carefully instructs how to clean the heavy shipping oil from the freshly received engine by spraying the engine with gasoline under air pressure!

    “Removing Oil From Outside of Engine.
    Before shipping the Hispano-Suiza Engines, all the steel and aluminum parts are slushed with heavy oil. A spray of gasoline under air pressure will remove this from the engine. If the engine is to be started immediately after washing, keep the magnetos from getting gasoline in them, otherwise there will be danger of fire.”

    Yikes! I can think of a few other ways there might be a danger of fire with this procedure.

  4. Did Simplex Wright Martin build the ‘geared’ version of the Hisso here? If so what was the designation? Any known source of a ‘repro’ parts, or shop manuals, for the geared engine?

    Many thanks!

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