Rolls-Royce R

Rolls-Royce R

The Rolls-Royce 'R' was a racing aero engine. Developed from the Buzzard it was a 36.7 litre V12. There were 19 made between 1929 and 1934. It was capable of producing over convert|2500|hp|abbr=on and weighed 774 kg. It was used for Schneider Trophy seaplane racing and for land and water speed record attempts.

Rolls-Royce practice was to use odd serial numbers for engines which rotated anticlockwise when viewed from the front; all "R" engines conformed to this practice.

Engines produced

The First configuration drawing of the "Racing H" engine based on the Buzzard (itself a 5:6 scaled Kestrel) was sent to R. J. Mitchell of Supermarine on 3 July 1928 to proceed with the new S6 Schneider Trophy seaplane layout. The previous year's S5 had used the Napier Lion engine.

Note - all serial numbers are odd. This was Rolls Royce convention when the propeller rotated anticlockwise when viewed from the front.

There was no R13; Rolls Royce never used 13 in any of their numberings. It is unclear where the funding come from for these extra "post Schneider" engines, or if they were made up from spares from the "Schneider Trophy engine" development engines.

Fate of engines

One of these (R11) went into the "in-house" Buzzard MS development. Two (R17, R19) were built for Sir Henry Seagrave's water speed record boat "Miss England II". Eleven were used for the Schneider Trophy planes and development. However, some of these then went on to other users.

Malcolm Campbell, and later his son Donald, used R engines from 1932 till 1950. In 1932, Campbell states, "I was fortunate in procuring a special R.R. Schneider Trophy engine" for the land speed record car to replace his Napier Lion. He was lent this engine, either R25 or R31, by Rolls Royce. By February 1933 the car had been rebuilt for the larger engine and was running again at Daytona. In late 1933 he bought engine R37 from Rolls-Royce, and had also been lent R17 and R19 by Lord Wakefield and R39 by Rolls Royce. He then lent R17 to George Eyston. Once he had achieved convert|300|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on, Malcolm Campbell "provisionally retired" from land speed record attempts.

In late 1935 he decided to tackle the water speed record. At that point he had available two Napier Lions and one Rolls Royce R Engine, and it was decided to use the R Engine which was installed in Bluebird K3. During trials on Loch Lomond in June 1937 the engine, R37, was "slightly damaged... because of trouble with the circulating water system".

By August 1937 Bluebird was taken to Lake Maggiore and "the modified [circulation] system worked perfectly with a second engine". This was R39. R39 was then used in 1939 in Bluebird K4. In 1947 Campbell unsuccessfully converted K4 to jet power. After Campbell's death in 1948 his effects were auctioned. His son, Campbell, had bought K4 for a nominal sum as well as the 1935 record car. He also purchased an R engine back from a car dealer, and reinstalled it in K4.

Attempts on the record were made in 1949 and 1950. In 1950 the R37 was "damaged beyond any immediate repair" by overheating. Another attempt was made later in the year, with R39, but K4 was damaged and sank in Coniston Water. It was recovered and broken up on the shore.

During the mid 1930s, George Eyston had taken many speed records up to 48 hour and up to 5000 km in his "Speed of the Wind" car, powered by an unsupercharged Kestrel. In 1937, he built a massive new car, "Thunderbolt", powered by two R engines, to attempt the absolute land speed record. He actually gained the record in November 1937 and again in 1938. At the time of initial construction at Bean Industries in Tipton "the nearside engine ... {was} fitted to the seaplane which won the Schneider Trophy", "i.e.", from "S1595". Besides R25 and R27, he also borrowed R17 from Sir Malcolm Campbell and an option to use R39. From this, it is very clear Rolls Royce extended a great deal of support to both Campbell and Eyston.

According to A.A.Rubbra, a derated version of the R engine was tested in 1933. This was the Griffon. Presumably this was R11 used for "Moderately Supercharged Buzzard" development, which was not proceeded with until much later. There was a new redesigned engine, keeping the R engine bore and stroke called the Griffon I, which ran in the Experimental Department in November 1939. The production version was the Griffon II and went into service in 1942.

Regarding other development work, the National Archive's file AVIA 13/122 contains a proposal from the RAE, dated October and November 1932, to test four engines to destruction. This states there are five available for test purposes, the fifth to be used for a standard type test at high revs.

Speed records

Air Speed Record

In Supermarine S6B in 1931

Land speed record

Sir Malcolm Campbell used a single R engine in "Bluebird" in 1932, 1933, and 1935. George Eyston used a pair of R Engines in "Thunderbolt" in 1937 and 1938.

Water Speed record

Sir Henry Segrave used the same pair of R Engines in "Miss England II" in 1930, Kaye Don in "Miss England II" in 1931 and finally "Miss England III" in 1932. Malcolm Campbell used a single R Engine in "Bluebird K3" in 1937 and K4 in 1939.

urviving engines

The RAF Museum at Hendon has one on display (museum number 65E1139). It came to the museum in November 1965 from RAF Cranwell. According to the museum's records before that, it was with George Eyston, one of "Thunderbolt" #29's record engines. Its data plate says it is R25 under Air Ministry contract number A106961. This makes it the second 1931 race engine delivered to Calshot.

The Science Museum has one which is catalogued as a stand alone item, inventory number 1948-310. This is R27, the second sprint engine for the air speed record attempt, also obtained "via" "Thunderbolt". They also have S6B "S1595" (winner of the 1931 race and the final air speed record plane).

The Filching Manor Motor Museum has R37 in its restoration of the "Bluebird K3" water speed record boat.

These three engines are the only ones listed by the BAPC/RRHT .The Southampton Hall of Aviation's S6A, "N248" (in 1929 race as an S6, spare for 1931 race as S6A) is "empty" and they don't have an R Engine .

The museum Daytona USA has recently restored the original 1935 spec "Bluebird". It was displayed at Goodwood in 2004 where it had long polished exhaust stubs, not flush ones as in the 1930s photographs normally seen.

"Thunderbolt" was destroyed in New Zealand in a fire during an aborted world tour in the early 1940s. At the time it had two "space model" engines, which survived the fire and may still be on display

pecifications (R)

"Data from:" [Lumsden 2003, p.199.] pistonspecs

type=12-cylinder supercharged liquid-cooled 60° Vee aircraft piston engine
bore=6 in (152.4 mm)
stroke=6.6 in (167.6 mm)
displacement=2,239 in³ (36.7 L)
length=100 in (2540 mm)
width=32 in (813 mm)
height=42 in (1067 mm)
weight=1,640 lb (744 kg)
valvetrain=Two intake and two exhaust valves per cylinder with sodium-cooled exhaust valve stems, actuated via an overhead camshaft.
supercharger=Single-speed centrifugal type supercharger
fuelsystem=Four duplex updraft Rolls-Royce/Claudel-Hobson carburettors
oilsystem=Dry sump with one pressure pump and two scavenge pumps
coolingsystem=70% water and 30% ethylene glycol coolant mixture, pressurised
power=2,530 hp at 3,200 rpm
power/weight=1.54 hp/lb




* Author unknown. "The Land Speed Record 1899-1936". Unique Motor Books, Date unknown. ISBN 1-84155-324-7.
* Author unknown. "The Land Speed Record 1937-1961". Unique Motor Books, Date unknown. ISBN 1-84155-325-5.
*Eves, Edward "The Schneider Trophy Story". London: Motorbooks International, 2002. ISBN 0-7603-1118-8. [Note: Data for R1 - R29.]
*Harvey-Bailey, Alec. "Rolls Royce - Hives' Turbulent Barons: Historical Series No 20". The Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation. No ISBN.
* Holter, Steve. "Leap into Legend".Sigma Leisure, 2002. ISBN 1-85058-794-9 [Note: Further data on R1-R29 plus R37 and R39. Many thanks to Steve for additional comments from his research.]
*Kirk, Peter. "Aero engines exhibited & stored in the United Kingdom & Ireland: Part 1". The Rolls Royce Heritage Trust, 2003.
* Lumsden, Alec. "British Piston Engines and their Aircraft". Marlborough, Wiltshire: Airlife Publishing, 2003. ISBN 1-85310-294-6.
* National Archive (UK) file AVIA 13/122
*Phillips-Birt, D. "Famous Speedboats of the World". St. Martin's Press 1959.
* RAF Museum, Hendon, catalogueNote: With thanks to their staff.]
* "Royal Aeronautical Research Committee Reports & Memoranda 1575 - British High Speed Aircraft for the 1931 Schneider Trophy Contest" Thanks to Ralph Pegram]
*Rubbra, A.A. "Rolls-Royce Piston Aero Engines - a designer remembers: Historical Series no 16" :Rolls Royce Heritage Trust, 1990. ISBN 1-87292-200-7
* Southampton Hall of Aviation
*"Supermarine Schneider Seaplanes". "Aeroplane" magazine, October 2001.
* Villa, Leo and Desmond, Kevin. "The World Water Speed Record"
*Winchester, Clarence (editor). "Wonders of World Engineering". The Amalgamated Press Ltd, 1937.

Notes to Bibliography

External Links

* [ Science Museum, London]

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