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A Gargantuan Engine: “There Is Just No Substitute For Cubic Inches”

“There is no substitute for cubic inches” is an old saying that equates to the larger the cubic inch displacement an engine is, the more power and torque it will produce. Between 1900 and 1912, it was the common way to generate more horsepower because the methods of achieving more of it were still being developed at the time.

Henry Charles Brasier was employed as an engineer at the French automaker Mors and designed the Firm’s Grand Prix racing cars until 1901. In 1902 Georges Richard and Brasier formed Richard-Brasier in 1902 to construct automobiles. The pair split in 1905, and the name was shortened to Brasier (1905-’30). In addition to passenger and racing cars, Brasier also constructed airplane and large racing boat engines as a way to further develop his motors and support the Company.

Large Brassier Engine & Small 25 h.p. engine

  • Henry Charles Brasier with the enormous 1381 c.i. 200 h.p. 16-valve F-head four-cylinder engine. In front of it in stark contrast is one of the small 25 h.p.Brasier four-cylinder L-head production engines.

Thanks to contributor Ariejan Bos we know the specs of this Brasier boat engine constructed by the French automaker. An advertisement in the magazine “L’Illustration” dated September 28, 1912, states that this 22.5 liters 1381 c.i. 200 h.p. motor was suited for use in yachts, and also for powering electric generators and pumps. The bore and stroke are 6.102 x 11.811-inches (155 X 300 mm), and the price was 20,000 Francs (20,198 dollars.)

The small horizontal lever visible above the timing gear chest actuates the compression release which utilizes a second set of lobes on the exhaust camshaft to keep the valves open for starting. The chain and sprocket reduction ratio between the starting crank handle and the crankshaft also eased turning the monster engine over. Note the early use of a velocity stack on the carburetor to increase airflow.

Images of this engine were found by Marc Tudeau in a group of pictures of the 1910 Brasier-Despujols racing boat in the French National Museum Archives. French boat racing power plants of the period were limited in size just as some French auto racing sanctioning bodies accomplished it by limiting only the bore size of the engines. If it was used as a racing boat engine, the long-stroke helped to produce more power and torque and stay within the rules.


9 responses to “A Gargantuan Engine: “There Is Just No Substitute For Cubic Inches”

  1. What a wonderful beast! Sitting in my shop is a 1,090 cubic inch (18 liter) Wisconsin T-head.
    Thankfully it came from the factory with a starter – though mine is missing! If you happen to
    know where I could find a Leece-Neville 404-M I sure would like to know!

    In regards the generator speed. The max RPM for my particular motor is 1, 200 rpm. The generator
    is driven off a spur gear via the exhaust cam. The generator is a Leece-Neville 468-G (long since missing
    as well).

    Again, what a wonderful post!

  2. Currency conversions and purchasing value comparisons can be difficult.

    This one is easier in that in 1912 both the French franc and the US dollar were pegged to gold.

    One French Franc (1912) = 0.290 grams of gold.

    One US Dollar (1912) = “23.22 grains of pure gold” = 1.50 grams of gold.

    So in 1912 FIVE French Francs bought approximately ONE US Dollar.

    I’ll leave the current purchasing value analysis of $4,000 US Dollars in 1912 to others.

  3. For the guys that like BIG ENGINES there is a 1907 Snow engine being restored to running condition in Buckley, Michigan courtesy of the Buckley Old Engine Show. It produces 1,100 horsepower at 95 RPM! There is more information and pictures on the Buckley Engine Show web site. If Northern Michigan fits in your summer plans you won’t be disappointed if you decide to attend the show. It is always the 3rd week in August starting Thursday and ending Sunday. Maybe see you there!

  4. Looking at the cylinder spacing & what appear to be individual sumps for each connecting rod to dip into, I wonder does that have a five bearing crankshaft?
    Cast a new set of cylinder blocks with a 200mm bore & larger valves, use two of those neat looking carburettors, with aluminium pistons you might get 1200 rpm & you’d have a 2300 c.i. engine that would possibly deliver 375~400 hp..
    Just a thought…

  5. If you notice the compression release only kept one valve per cylinder open, the little engine has the very typical French look to it of course.

  6. The Lycoming XR-7755 was the largest piston aircraft engine ever built in the U.S., 36 cylinders displacing 127 liters for 5,000 hp.

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