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Long Time Gone – A Chadwick Racing Supercharger is Recreated

By Doug Marin:  In 1904 Lee Chadwick bought the remaining parts from the bankrupt Searchmont Automobile Co. and started building a car using his last name. Within three years the company was manufacturing a luxury car with a 707 c.i. six-cylinder engine. The Chadwick six was produced from 1907 through 1915, and there were three versions: The “Model 15”, “16,” and “19”. Each new offering involved numerous upgrades and design changes. Lee Chadwick was always focused on the efficiency of his motors and, in turn, the amount of power produced. Each model had an upgraded set of valves (first sized at 2.125-inch diameter and ending up at 3.0-inch), intake manifold, and carburetor.

  • The lead image – 1908 Giant’s Despair: Haupt’s Winning Chadwick, courtesy of the Helck Family. With this machine, Haupt won the event with a time of  1:38.60 and ended up airborne at the top of the crest at the finish. 

The old adage “race on Sunday and sell on Monday” was common in the 1908-’12 period, and many manufacturers including Chadwick had a “factory racer”. The Company produced a short-wheelbase runabout for $6500.00 in 1908 and praised the 100 m.p.h. speed it was capable of. An owner could drive one to the races, lighten up the car by removing the fenders and lamps, go racing, put the equipment back on the car afterwards and drive it home.

Chadwick Supercharger 1

  • The finished 3-stage compound supercharger housings and the three impellers. This and all images that follow by Doug Marin.

The factory racer was the test bed for the innovations. In an effort to gain more power, Lee Chadwick tried using multiple carburetors that improved performance, but decided that something more productive was needed. He had spent a great deal of time with steel producers, focusing on the heat treatment of steel, while trying make the parts of his automobiles stronger. This experience provided a firsthand vision of how a forge blower intensifies a a coal fire. In addition, across the street from his factory was a company that produced both centrifugal and roots style blowers for farm use – undoubtedly, a visit there gave Mr. Chadwick a pretty good idea of how to make a blower. Within this environment he and his crew put two and two together and the idea was born: Install a blower on the car.

Chadwick Supercharger 2

  • The assembled supercharger, outlet to the carburetor on the top, intake air on the far right.

Chadwick tried, at least, two different superchargers. The first one in 1907, a large single-impeller centrifugal blower was used (it may have come off of one of the forges Lee Chadwick had worked with in the steel mills). This unit was mounted above the flywheel and protruded into the cockpit. It was used on the “Black Bess Racer,” the factory race car which ran at numerous hill climbs, Indianapolis opening day in 1909, Fairmont Park Races in 1908 and 1909, Vanderbilt Cup in 1908, Savannah Cup races in 1908, and many other events. It had a very large bulge in the hood which extended back beyond the firewall. In addition, there is a vertical pipe mounted to the dash – this plumbing is most likely to take care of the occasional backfire explosion!

Chadwick Supercharger3

  • Three quarter view of the drive side of the supercharger.

Since the beginning of antique car collecting, enthusiasts have been seeking for a supercharged Chadwick car or blower unit. Lee Chadwick was still alive in the early 1950s and response to numerous requests; he drew up the three-stage supercharger. At that time, he stated his memory was not what it used to be, and the drawing was as close to the original as he could remember. The late Bill Pollock, who owned two Chadwick’s in the early 1950s, undertook an intensive search, but, in the end was not able to track down any photographs or any other data about the superchargers. As of 2016, no known photo exists.

When I bought my 1909 “Model 16” Chadwick engine and associated parts in 1979, I was able to talk to Joe Parkin Jr. He had driven a Chadwick race car in the 1908 and ’09 races at Fairmont Park, in Philadelphia. He also did not have any photos, but he remembered clearly as to how the unit was mounted on his racing car. He said it produced more power than they could use, and if they hadn’t had so many flat tires, they would have won the races.

Chadwick Supercharger Patterns

  • Wooden foundry patterns for the four aluminum housings that make up the supercharger.

Joe Parkin’s car ran in 1908 and ’09 at Fairmont Park, and probably at other racing events. His car used a later three- stage blower, with smaller impellers that compounded the pressure from one chamber to the next. The blower was mounted under the hood at the right front of the engine. The Parkin car had a smaller bulge in the hood compared to the Black Bess Racer. These two cars, and perhaps a few others Chadwick racers were eventually turned into road cars and later sold.

In 1910, the Chadwick “Model 19” engine was revised again, and a new intake manifold was employed along with three-inch diameter valves and a larger version of a carburetor. Photos of 1910 and later race cars do not display the drive belt or hood bulges, pointing to the probability that they were not supercharged.

Chadwick Supercharger 4

  • Supercharger intake on the far-right center.

In laying out this supercharger for my own car, and the front-mounted under hood location where it will be, Chadwick’s 1953 drawings were the main source of information for this recreation. All of the drive parts were copied and the blower size adjusted so that it would fit under the hood in the correct location. The drawings were then made, and then the necessary wooden patterns, followed by a trip to the foundry for the castings; afterward, the machining operations were conducted. The supercharger is now assembled and has been run on a test bench and puts out quite a bit of pressurized airflow.

Numerous changes will have to be made so that the supercharger can be positioned correctly on the car. The magneto needs to be setup to drive from the back of the exhaust camshaft. The blower pulley and belt drive system will also have to be fitted to the car, and the intake manifold needs some modifications so that the drive shaft clears. Finally, there is the plumbing between the blower and the carburetor that needs to be fabricated and installed. Once running, I expect a number of adjustments will be required, but I am looking forward to the out come.

Look for a follow-up article to this feature next weekend. Learn more about the Chadwick in our earlier articles.

  • The video below by Doug Marin in 2013 shows his 1909 Great Chadwick Six Runabout ready for road testing; he has since completed that and has entered it in a couple of old car events. When time allows the supercharger will be installed and tested, followed by the finishing the rest of the red paintwork.  

21 responses to “Long Time Gone – A Chadwick Racing Supercharger is Recreated

  1. Another fascinating story, and one that begs a few questions:
    -Belt-driven from what drive (what speed does the impeller run? 6/1, etc.?)?
    -Would a 3D printer make the casting mold process more efficient?
    -Straight-blade impellers because the foundry versions were as well?
    -No gaskets between compressor stages, clamped instead of fastened, and bronze bushings; not much heat produced by the compressors?
    Beautiful work, as usual. I look forward to following the progress – vicarious is better than none, right?

    • Dan,

      1. Belt-driven from what drive – By flat belt from the 18″ flywheel to a 2″- 6″ – the exact ratio is not known.

      2. Would a 3D printer make the casting mold process more efficient? – Sure, but Doug likes to do it all the work he can and the cost of 3D can be beyond most hobbyists.

      3. Straight-blade impellers because the foundry versions were as well? – I believe the impellers were machined from billets?

      4. No gaskets between compressor stages, clamped instead of fastened, and bronze bushings. With a well machined surface gaskets may not be needed – A stud is the best choice for this application and it is in tension which is usually desirable – Chadwick’s drawing shows plain bearings, Doug is unsure how they will hold up.

      The article is a bit long and out of necessity there will be a follow-up with more photos and information soon.

  2. Great story, I always enjoy the stories you guys post. This is one of those pieces of history that a lot of us would never know if it weren’t for people like you guys telling it. So thank you for all you do.

  3. Beautiful work on a very beautiful car. The performance aspect is impressive, however, I was wondering what was the valve arrangement on this engine. L, T, F, OHV?

    Finally, Doug should be commended for doing so much of this himself. The supercharger is a gem!

  4. I remember when this project start and how much time was put into planning. To see the Chadwick today and knowing how much work one man put into this dream is amazing. You have all my respect in our talent, drive and skills Doug!

  5. Dare I say? I can hardly believe that it has been about twenty years since I sat at a table with Doug Marin (among others as well) at a Horseless Carriage Club dinner. He and I chatted for some time about his Chadwick project. I was somewhat impressed by his dedication to researching and restoring this not only incredible, but incredibly rare, car.

    Thank you David G for past, present, and future coverage of his project. I have very much enjoyed watching his progress.
    And thank you Doug M for allowing David to cover the progress and supplying the information! I am even more impressed by your accomplishment! It IS an incredible car!

  6. Well, I made reference a few months ago about our family friend from Philadelphia Joe Parkin. I was a young lad when my older sister was his personal nurse after a stay in the hospital. He needed some extended care and hired my sister to live in his home on Broad Street. He was an incredibly interesting man and was a contributing factor of why I went into the automotive field. He told me numerous stories of his racing days and holds a few records documented at the aaca museum in Hershey. Not to tease everyone but I am pretty sure that I have pictures of the Chadwick car. He gave my sister and I a collection of pics and if I don’t have the picture I will ask my sister if she has one. I believe he was not a favorite among the the racing community due to his irritable old man (with his pet monkey) and even in those days he was anti establishment and won races on their own. He also raced Packards and his name is still associated with outstanding Packard restoration and preservation. Let me dig out the old pics to see if I have the Chadwick pictures. I have resourced the giants despairs races and honestly believe that he won the 2nd year and was written out of the history books. I also have pictures of that. If a story should be told, it should be Joe Parkins……………….let me get back to you all. Dave can I send pictures via this website? Or directly to you.

  7. The multi-stage radial air compressor is a well established technology: From the (16) 3,000 H. P. RADIAL Compressors at the Cal Tech. (NASA) Wind Tunnel, which could be valved to make SERIES or PARALLEL combinations — to the Household SERIES “compressor in reverse”:(A tank type Vacuum Cleaner). as to the plain bearings — They do very well , — IF properly oiled, proper clearances, sholder flanges and seals. 1,000+ H.P. dragster engines are FULL of plain bearings.

  8. My grandfather Al Mitchell was a driver for the Chadwick racing team. He often spoke of the races in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. He got out of racing when he started having kids and one of my aunts spoke of trips to a tree in the park that got in his way during one of those races. I specifically remember him saying they would sometimes put a canister of ether in the fuel tank and the boost it provided once it tipped over. (Apparently they only tested the fuel at the beginning of the race.) Another story was about the brakes and a rule change that required front and rear brakes to be linked. He said they never worked right and they would use a wooden pin in the linkage that would give way with the first hard application of the brakes restore the independent front and rear braking system.

  9. Just great to see this project and I have every hope for its success. I’m writing a history of supercharging and of course Chadwick plays a big part in it.

    Thus I hope that if Doug sees this he will get in touch with me because I’d like to use some of his pictures in the book.

    Karl Ludvigsen

    • Karl,
      I will forward to hearing from you. I am not sure how this message board works, but David has my e-mail address also.
      Doug M.

  10. I am currently renovating Lee S Chadwick’s home here in Vermont. I am so facinated by the history. Thank you for preserving this part of his story. I bought the house after a fire and have been putting pieces together for years.

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