Tag Archives: Liberty Aircraft engine

The F. R. P. – Finley Robinson Porter’s Masterpiece

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  • The sole surviving F.R.P., a 1915 Touring car can be seen at the Seal Cove Auto Museum on Mount Desert Island, Maine

Finley Robinson Porter left his mark on the automotive world forever with his creation of the sensational T-Head Mercer Raceabout in 1911. That car soon became a legend while chalking up countless wins on the race track. By 1913, Mercer Automobile Co. management knew they would need to design an up-to-date replacement for the T-Head, but choose not to go with Porter’s designs for it. The Trenton, New Jersey company instead hired Eric H. Delling, the former chief engineer for the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. to design the new L-Head Mercer which was introduced in 1915.

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  • Seal Cove Auto Museum F.R.P., photos courtesy of Supercars.net

After leaving Mercer, Porter went to work to build his vision of the ultimate car, which he named the F.R.P. using his initials. And what an exceptional car it came to be, considering that it and the T-Head Mercer before it, had both been designed by a man without any formal engineering training or a degree.

Reading the following specifications and figures and putting them in context with other cars being built at the time, show just how remarkable it was: a 454-c.i.d. four-cylinder engine, vertical shaft-driven s.o.h.c. cylinder head with hemispherical combustion chambers, gun-drilled cam and crankshafts, tubular connecting rods, an output of 100-hp. (listed at 145 brake-hp. in The Motor), construction of chrome vanadium steel, and magnesium-aluminum alloy, 88 mph top speed and a five-thousand dollar chassis price.

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  •  ”The Automobile”, November 12, 1914

Three models were initially announced: the Series A 110-inch w.b chassis, as seen above with a racing body, the Series B with a 130-inch w.b., and the 140-inch w.b. Series C.

It was an outstanding achievement at the time, but in spite of having designed the ultimate American car, Porter was unable to move forward due to lack of finding the financial backing necessary to begin production; in addition, introducing the car only a few months after the start of World War I and the threat of possible involvement by the United States came at the worst possible time.

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  • Full details of the F.R.P.,”The Automobile”, November 12, 1914

David Gooding has reported in his excellent article on the F.R.P. in Automobile Quarterly Vol. 31 No. 34, that supplies and parts for forty chassis’ were initially ordered. Exactly how many were built at the Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York facility, may have only amounted to somewhere between five and ten. Coachwork for the cars could have been built by any of a number of fine builders in the Tri-state region specializing in such work.

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  • “The Automobile”, November 12, 1914

With the involvement of the U.S. in World War I, the government took over the F.R.P. facility for its use during the conflict. Porter with his engineering talents spent the war years in Dayton, Ohio, in charge of testing Liberty aircraft engines. After the war he choose not to build any more of the cars, but instead stayed in the aircraft industry, working as chief engineer for the Curtiss Engineering Corp. in Garden City, Long Island.

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  • “The Automobile”, November 12, 1914

There is more to the story, and we will return to it at a later date with the Porter-Knight cars prepared for entry in the 1915 Indianapolis 500. They were equipped with a sleeve-valve racing engines that Porter’s friend John North Willys built. The post-war Porter car built in Bridgeport, Connecticut, will also be covered. It used the remaining parts left over from the F.R.P. and was overseen by Porter’s son Robert Brewster Porter who became the chief engineer for Porter.

If any of our readers can point us to any more information or photos covering the F.R.P., the Porter-Knights and the Porter please let us know.

Posted in Auto photos 1885 - 1920, Pre-War Contemporary Photos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Packard on Land, Sea and Air Worldwide

Before the debut of the first Volvo in 1927, Swedish car buyers were entirely dependent on imports. While they often chose European automobiles, a surprising number of American built cars found their way into their garages. Case in point is this big 1928 Packard 443 convertible sedan with a rarely seen custom body by Norrmalms of Stockholm. Along with the unusual “C” pillar configuration, this car displays the old style drum headlights that would disappear in the succeeding year. A significant number of Swedes preferred U.S. built cars and dealers would continue to import a relatively large percentage of them both before and after World War II.

While not related directly to Packard’s Scandanavian marketing, the article from the September 10, 1927 issue of Automotive Industries seen below describes in great detail some of the mechanical features of the 1928 Packard and relates them to their aircraft engines. As you may know, Packard supplied many excellent powerplants for airplanes in the period immediately preceding and during World War I and this article seeks to capitalize on that reputation.

Photos (above) courtesy of Jerry LettieriThe same images can be found in Hugo Pfau’s book, “The Coachbuilt Packard”, who identified the coach builder. A reference to a book about Swedish coachbuilt Packards can be found here.


Of interest and also published during 1927 is an article (below) all about the very impressive Packard 2775 cubic inch, 1200 horsepower X-24 aircraft engine as shown in the October 8, 1927 issue of Automotive Industries. In it you can see the features of the unique power plant, with its very unusual multiple valve spring configuration. The angled arrangement of the seven springs was said to facilitate valve rotation and the earlier article (above) references this design when discussing the car’s dual spring arrangement .


The unique seven spring angled assembly for each valve of the X-24 engine.

Surplus engines (most notably the Liberty V-12 as seen below) could be had for a song at the end of The Great War and in the late teens and early 1920′s found their way into what were the fastest boats in the world at the time. Such famous craft as the Miss Detroit III (winner of the 1918 and 1919 Gold Cup races at Detroit) and Miss Detroit IV, Gar Wood’s famous Gar Junior, Baby Gar, Miss America and Miss America II employed these mighty motors.


The Packard 4M-2500 engine, used in U.S. Navy PT boats during World War II, was based on the 1925 Liberty aircraft engine as well, once again proving the quality of that initial design so very many years later.

Posted in Auto photos 1921 - 1942 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |