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America’s Highest Priced Motor Designed by Julian S. Brown


Updated – In Michael Lamm’s recent article: 1925 Julian Sports Coupe – The Beetle’s Granddaddy he made mention of Julian S.Brown’s “America’s Highest Priced Motor.” It was designed in the 1912-’13 period and publicized by his newly formed Julian Motor Company. Not much is known about the offering that apparently failed in the highly competitive pre-World War One marketplace for engines.

Updated photos and information covering an earlier Julian Brown 660 c.i. T-head engine at the bottom of the article.

Before researching it, the engine appeared to be a six-cylinder L-head with a removable cover on top of a one-piece cylinder block. Below the Bosch ZR6 Magneto is a water pump driven by a vertical shaft and gearing. A lever on the front of the timing gear cover operated a compression release used for starting with a hand crank. It moved the camshaft forward and at the same time kept the exhaust valves open. After the engine started, it was released.

Julian S. Brown's “America’s Highest Priced Motor.”

  •                                 The advertisement in its entirety in the “Horseless Age” January, 1913.

Curiosity about this engine lead to finding two advertisements for it, and one reference in the Motor magazine mentioning that “it utilized a very unusual valve gear.” A couple of announcements about the forming of the Julian Motor Company to manufacture it and three patents issued to Brown during this period also surfaced.


  •           The”Horseless Age” February 1913 announcement of its appearance at the Chicago Show.

After the discovery of one of Brown’s patent applications, and its three drawings, filed on April, 18, 1913, the mystery of the engine’s unique combustion chamber and construction was uncovered.

Brown described the valve and port layout in his patent: “This invention relates to internal combustion engines and particularly to the arrangement of the inlet and exhaust ports and valves; as it consists in the combinations and constructions. The invention further comprises the arrangement of the valves whereby they are actuated by a single camshaft. This construction is particularly advantageous in that the exhaust valve is arranged to be cooled by the incoming charge.”


  •                         One of two versions showing the valve gear, lifters and camshaft for the engine.

In this patent drawing, it can be seen how the intake charge entered the engine. Starting at the carburetor #6, it traveled up the intake port #7, through valve # 8 when open, then passed over exhaust valve #5 and down into the cylinder #3. After combustion, exhaust valve #5 opened, and the spent gasses passed out through the exhaust port.

This design featured an angled exhaust valve and lifter. Two drawbacks (common at the time) are the uncooled valve port plugs and spark plug. There also was no provision for coolant to pass between the siamese valve seats that would lead to them distorting when at full running temperature. It like the T-head also used a combustion chamber with more surface area than the L-head, which in turn passed more heat into the cooling system.


  •           The second drawing shows another version of the engine with exposed valves and camshaft.

The second patent application drawing was much the same as that shown in the first proposal. A different arrangement for the ports, a vertical exhaust valve, and a passage for directing coolant between the two valves was used. Also of note is a rocking cam follower that actuated both valves.


  •                                               View of a cylinder and valve placements in relation to it.

An overhead view shows one of the advantages that this engine shared with the T-head design. Both allowed for the use of larger valves than was possible with the side-by-side arrangement of the L-head. It is not known if a running version of this engine was ever built and tested or if, it in fact, a display engine made an appearance at the Chicago Auto show.

Brown next designed and filed a patent for two versions of a sophisticated rotary valve engine on Dec. 3, 1913, which was granted on Nov. 29, 1916. No other references were found that related to it.  Apparently he then went back to the drawing board and worked on the design of the unique 1925 Julian Sports Coupe with its six-cylinder radial engine.

If any of our readers can find more information, photos or advertisements that pertain to Brown’s “Highest Priced Motor,” or his rotary valve engine please send us a comment.


Thanks to researcher Ariejan Bos we have an earlier Julian Brown engine to share with you. The Horseless Age published an article in its September 11, 1912, issue about an exceptional 660 c.i. 100 h.p. T-head engine the Julian Motor Co. constructed. Full details can be found (below) covering the engine and its accessories.

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One response to “America’s Highest Priced Motor Designed by Julian S. Brown

  1. Maybe it was just the advertising, ‘America’s Highest Priced Motor” sounds more like a warning than an endoursement.

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