Lear Vapordyne steam car.

Image

First of all to tell the story of this car would take a book along with some serious research.  What more or less happened is as follows.  It all started at Indianapolis where in May 1967 the STP gas turbine car, driven by Parnelli Jones, almost won the race.  A British gas turbine fellow named Ken Wallis had been brought over to work on that car in Torrance, California.  Several turbine cars were entered the next year including the Shelby turbine, also with Wallis in the act, and there is a long story about why they did not run.  After that Ken Wallis was at loose ends and he wanted to win at Indy and the best way he figured out how to win was to cheat by having some other kind of power plant than an IC engine.  Ken met up with Bill Lear, who was likewise at loose ends after selling his Lear Jet stock  to Gates Rubber April 1967 and leaving the board April 1969 and it was a match made in heaven.  Neither one knew anything about steam or had any inclination to doing any serious steam research.

The deltic engine in this car was designed from scratch by Richard Moser who went to work for Lear September 2, 1968.  When he went up to Reno to work at the old Stead Air force base, there were two people: Lear and Wallis, kneeling on the floor with three circles, representing the crankshafts, drawn on a sheet of paper, full sized.  Moser designed the engine from there.  We can only assume that Wallis was influenced by the big Napier delta diesel engines the British were using in torpedo boats at the time.  The diesel was a powerful and compact engine that worked well with the two-cycle diesel system because of the way the two-cycle diesel scavenged.  There was no real purpose to use that design in a steam engine, although there were some clever aspects.

A lot of resources were thrown into the project and in six months there was a working engine with three cranks and twelve pistons.  Bore was 2.52” and the connecting rods were knife and fork to get the cylinders all on the same plane.  Mean Effective Pressure calculations were made so the engine was designed for 500 horsepower.  The valving was done by a rotary valve in the middle of everything made with three parts so cutoff could be adjusted.  Modern gas turbine seals were used having been copied from a Pratt and Whitney helicopter turbine.  The best part of the story is that Lear ordered the turbine engine from P & W and took it apart to study how the seals were made and did not pay for it.  After a while P & W started to harass him about the engine so he packed all of the pieces in a box and shipped it back to them.  The stories just go on.

Of even greater interest is the fact that the Napier Delta engine had two crankshafts rotating one direction and the third one counter-rotating.  No one told Moser about this important fact and so he had all three rotating the same way.   He did careful calculations with the three crankshafts made at each of the 360 degrees in a complete circle and got things to more or less work.  The pistons did not meet in the middle every time, but they did not hit each other either.

The steam generator was pure genius.  It was designed by Seifi Ghasemi, a recent Stanford PhD graduate in fluidics and a native of Iran where his family was on good terms with the Shah.  Seifi started work January 1, 1969 and began building the boiler in March and  had a running steam generator in May that would make steam for a 700 hp engine and would fit in a car.  Lear patented Seifi’s design and put his own name on it.

Patent Number: 3,812,826

Lear Vapordyne Patent Page

There are many more good stories about what went on.  Cal Tinkham tells me that no one working for Lear had ever seen a steam engine let alone operated one.  He would drive Harrah’s Doble over there once a week and give Lear a ride.  Actually some people had worked with steam because a couple of them had worked on the McCullough project in the early 1950’s and they knew what they were doing.  They brought in Peter Scott-Brown who worked for a while before telling Lear the truth about something or the other.  After that experience Peter often said that Lear was the smartest person who had ever fired him.

Two things caused the Vapordyne steam car to quietly die.  One was that someone finally took a look at the car and it was apparent that whoever had designed the condenser had dropped a decimal point. The condenser needed to be ten times larger to even begin to condense the steam produced.  The other thing happened during engine testing on a dynamometer one weekend when Moser was gone.  Lear was insistent on using regular automobile oil and so they went to Sears, got some oil, tightened up the clearances and ran the engine until is seized.  Lear was not a methodical person and so the whole deltic engine was shoved aside and a turbine was started.

Lear was not trying to make a good steam engine or to save the world.  He was trying to make 500 hp and win at Indy because of the MEP issues with high pressure, high temperature steam, one can get twice the horsepower per cubic inch as that of an IC engine, naturally aspirated.  Indy had cubic inch limitations on the engines.  It all started with Ken Wallis trying to get around the rules.

Image

About these ads
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Lear Vapordyne steam car.

  1. Michele Brognoli says:

    L’ idea di Lear adesso sarebe più attuale che mai, anche percè la caldaia potrebbe unzionare con qualsiasi combustibile, anche olio di semidi mais esausto dalle fritture

    • tkimmel3 says:

      L ‘idea of ​​Lear sarebe now more relevant than ever, even it take to get the boiler could unzionare with any fuel, including corn oil semidi exhausted from Fries Dear Michele Brognoli, While I can read French and Spanish I cannot read this very well. We did the machine translation into Italian and that comes closer. There are two responses: first of all when dealing with a steam engine any fuel that burns is a source of energy and French Fry oil, of whichever source, is good and can be burned easiest in a Babington Burner. When using steam one uses whichever fuel is the least expensive. As for the Lear steam work, that is a much longer story. There is a patent for a steam generator under Bill Lear’s name, although Seifi Ghasemi is the true inventor and it is a very good design because it is a mono-tube boiler. There are many other possible steam generators and the main goal is to find one that is safe, which is what a monotube is. Thanks for the inquiry. Tom Kimmel

  2. Michele Brognoli says:

    About 3 years ago I built a 1:43 scale model of the plastic Vapordyne to see the ‘ effect using the wheels of a model of Hachette, then I tried to power it using a remote-controlled toy car China as a base, not moving too heavy .
    The ‘ Last summer I was trying to build a minicaldaia in alcohol for a model ship and I thought to build a 1:12 scale radio controlled Vapordyne using steam as the propulsion system , the boiler in copper and brass welded flame was formed by a part in bundles ( 5 tubes ) and a part monotubolar , and the combustion was maintained by a fan for PC that pushed inside air , a worm sent inside coal dust that burned together with the ‘ alcohol.
    The boiler worked fine , except that I had closed the ‘ steam outlet without turning off the burner , so it exploded.
    These tests I’ve done in anticipation of my project on a Piaggio Vespa steam , where I will keep only the original frame and chassis , and I’ll use vegetable oil and alcohol as fuel.

    • tkimmel3 says:

      February 18, 2014 Dear Michele Brognoli, It is not clear to me what you are referring to when you say ‘Vapordyne’. That was the word Bill Lear used for his six cylinder Deltic engine copied from the British Napier diesel naval engine. There are many possible steam engine designs and this is not one of the better ones. Usually a more conventional piston, cylinder, connecting rod and crankshaft works the best. That said any work in steam is a good idea. When making small steam power plants the most experience comes from the British tether boat people. Their website is on a wire . There are books on the subject; Experimental Flash Steam being the better one. The idea of make a steam powered Vespa is one of the best ideas ever. I suggest first of all making the right sized power plant all laid out on a large board–here we call that ‘bread boarding’–and make certain that all of the parts work with the engine running under a load before trying to pack it all together in the scooter. Keep us informed on your work with the Vespa, it sounds very interesting. Over here the better small steam power plant is a monotube steam generator set up with a water level control and a LaMont circulating pump. Tom Kimmel

  3. Robert says:

    can we not start to harness other ways of generating the steam or the explosive power required?…use cheap electric to run some form of pumped up microwave to instantaneously “boil” treated water so that it explodes ?…..random I know and probably completely unfeasible..but all the articles I have read point to trying to do something in a more efficient tradtitional manner (ie boiler tubes etc and plain old water)….where is the star trek moment…:-)

    • tkimmel3 says:

      February 25, 2014 Dear Robert, I appreciate your interest in steam power. We, who have studied it for a long time, are comfortable with monotube and LaMont steam generators and we think they are the better method of making steam. The idea of using microwaves to boil water has its appeal, however the law of conservation of energy works against that idea. Also microwave power comes from electricity and the electricity usually from batteries and if a person has a battery full of electricity it is much better to use that electricity to operate an electric motor than it is to use it to make heat, to make steam, to make rotary power, to make electricity, to run a motor. About 5% of the original power comes out the other end of this cycle. The beauty of steam power is that any fuel can be used (burned as it were, oxidized) to make heat, or solar power can make the heat, and it is this heat that makes mechanical power. There is a lot of work yet to do to design and develop a nice reliable small steam power plant, however, a new way to make steam is not needed. Keep on thinking and learning and thanks for participating on this chat room. Tom Kimmel

  4. Dan White says:

    Now that Jay Leno has some free time maybe he would get into finding the Vapordyne and restore it. Make an interesting green car project if he ran it on hydrogen. If he used a Tesla Turbine that would really put the freak on!

    • tkimmel3 says:

      March 3, 2014 Dear Dan White, To begin with Leno has had a large crew working in his garage on cars and motorcycles so it was not his free time that was the issue. Secondly, his interest in cars or other vehicles involves something that someone made that he can drive on the road, so he is not, in my opinion, interested in just any vehicle. Secondly, the Vapordyne that Ken Wallis had made to run at Indy, is in a collection owned by a fellow who likes to collect CART, Indy, and other specialized race vehicles. The vehicle is missing its Deltic engine which was last seen being donated to a shop class at a Reno High School and is now lost in the mists of time. There was an intrinsic problem with the Vapordyne besides the engine being unproven and untested. That was the condenser which was missing a decimal point and thus too small by an order of magnitude. I am not certain where the boiler went, although it was a very good one as it was designed by Seifi Ghasemi, a fresh Stanford PhD in fluidics. Thirdly, the problem with hydrogen as a fuel is energy density and there is not enough room in the Vapordyne for that large a fuel tank, even if liquid hydrogen is used. The traditional hydrocarbons such as kerosene have about as much energy density as any fuel. Thirdly, the Tesla turbine is greatly over-rated. It has about 20% mechanical efficiency although with superheated steam it would doubtless be in the single digits. A good piston and cylinder traditional IC engine design, when used as a steam engine, has about 85% mechanical efficiency. A Tesla is also dangerous because the discs are weakened by the exhaust holes punched near the center of them, thus weakening the disc right where the greatest stresses are located. If the disc comes apart at speed, meaning in the 50,000 rpm range, there will be a lot of shrapnel. That all said; there are many good steam engine designs floating around and good steam generators and there is a crying need for an investment of capital in doing the engineering development work so that when the time comes that someone is interested in a good high powered steam engine there will be one available. Keep up the steam interest and the learning. Tom Kimmel

  5. Dan White says:

    What you think of using steam power as the prime mover in the Mobius , the car being built in Kenya by Mobius Moters? They seem to want to build as much of the car in house as they can so would steam engine be a good idea for such a project?

    • tkimmel3 says:

      March 14, 2014 Dear Dan W., Mobile steam power is ideal for all third world countries. The reason is because of both the expense and the logistics of petroleum fuel. Steam can be produced using any type of bio-fuel. In fact it will greatly improve the ecology by making wood a valuable product; hence trees and shrubs will be planted or grass types of plants planted to be used as fuel. Modern monotube steam generators do not take long, less than five minutes at tops, to warm up. It will take a little longer to get a good fire going, but usually road trips are planned in advance and so a fire can be started a few minutes before leaving. As far as top speed of a vehicle is required; the roads are usually so bad that 25 mph is all that can be achieved. Mobius Motors is a good basic vehicle design. It is not optimized, as designed, for wood fired steam power. The reason is that a larger fuel storage area and a good condenser need to be designed into the vehicle, meaning that something more like a pickup truck body style would be preferable. However, the basic tube frame and suspension and drive train can be used. Another advantage of a steam powered Mobius would be the ability to use it in the evenings as an electric generator for either lights or more importantly for charging cell phones in remote areas. The steam engine can be put into neutral and a generator clutched in to the pto and the existing burner, boiler, and condenser is already in place for power generation. The issue of bio-fuels is one that will solve itself as time goes on. For an example, in Pacific islands whole coconuts would make a good fuel source; merely throw a dozen into a barrel and light them up. The better fuels are the ones that involve the least processing and the least logistics. The ideal is to burn all of the plastic bags, garbage, old tires, and sewage waste, in the burner; all something that will take more development. The only problem is that at this time we only have good steam engine designs. We do not have any mass produced and well-tested steam engines, although the Strath Steam V-2 steam engines are nearly fully developed and they can be used as the model engine. Tom Kimmel

      • Dan says:

        There was a Dr W. A. Dorner with a cool design for an all in one steam engine /condenser “power pack” for automotive use, (U.S. Patents 3613368, 3850147, 4009576 ). Did anybody do anything with his tech. that you know of? Maybe it could be used in a “Vapordyne II” ?

  6. Dan White says:

    If you Google ” Saw Blade Turbine” and scroll down to the Steam Power in One Package you see a neat old article from 1972 about a steam engine condenser power unit that DuPont had built for testing. What happend to this idea? Think this tech could be used in a Vapordyne II?

    • tkimmel3 says:

      March 16, 2014 Dear Dan White, The spelling is Dr. Doerner and he was working for DuPont and it was mostly ORC, organic rankine cycle, meaning that a lot of Freon or whatever replaced Freon was being used. The work was done from 1971 through 1978, or at least that is when the patents were issued. It appears that only studies were done and that no hardware was ever made. At least we know nothing about it. Here are the patents: 3590786 3613368 3648456 3702534 3690302 3769796 3772878 3774393 3744246 3773106 3852366 3850147 3863454 3866668 3950950 3962874 4009576 4070862 The whole idea of rotating boiler and rotating condensers has some appeal until you start to look at sealing things so they do not leak. Of course with Freon the molecules are so large that they do not leak easily like steam does. If you get enough rotating mass you can run into some clever precession problems when driving around corners. Also rotary steam engines are one of those chimeras that always appeal to all new steam people. Rotary engines are always rejected by all experienced steam people. There is a lesson there someplace somewhere if you can figure it out. The point to be made is that we do not need something exotic and needing a great deal of engineering development work in order to make a steam car. We can just use what has been done, such as the SES Dodge Monaco steam car. The boiler was very compact in that one, and because the requirements were for it to be compact there were large pressure drops, both air side and water side, that impacted efficiency but at least solved the problem. One does not need a rotary anything in order to get air and water to flow through it. Fans and centrifugal pumps do a good job of moving fluids around with all of the important heat exchanger parts sitting still bolted down to something solid. As an inventor myself i am sentimental about new and strange ideas, however, as a person who is trying to get people to spend their time doing good steam development with positive results I need to be more conventional. Also we do not like organic fluids. Thermokinetics starting in 1960 did some really good work with freon and they were the only ones to develop that into something practical. We all like water as the working fluid. Tom Kimmel

  7. Back To Your Workstations says:

    I just picked up a small 1 hp reciprocating steam engine from one of the ex-Lear mechanical engineers who is located in Lebanon, OR. He had this very small engine which he said was made in the labs at Lear Motors to test the steam fluid sources – he mentioned they were using DowTherm as the steam source, not water. The engine is quite nice – well-machined, tight tolerances. I’ve yet to run it on air, but it looks like a perfect addition to my collection. He mentioned the Delta engine design, but we didn’t go into it at length as I needed to get back on the road.

    • tkimmel3 says:

      May 12, 2014 Dear JTodd, Thank you for the Lear information. I have put together a little printed brochure that has all of the Lear engine information that i can find including photos of the rotary valve parts that Richard Moser still has from the Deltic engine. If you are interested at all I will mail this packet to you for your interest. You can send your mailing address to me at my personal email: georgethomaskimmel@gmail.com As for using Dowtherm, from what I know that is a liquid with both low vapor pressure and high boiling point. Thus it is often considered for moving heat around, but not as the working fluid. At one time Lear researched every possible liquid, mostly the Freons, to use instead of water. Everyone new to steam goes through that same process and it is always a complete dead end. The advantage of using Dowtherm is because one can limit the maximum temperature before running the Freon through the heat exchanger. When Freon is overheated two really bad things happen: it disintegrates and is no longer usable and it disintegrates into phosgene which will kill people. That was the Mustard Gas used during WWI. These days lithium salts are being considered for the same purpose and to get the heat from the fire to the water. There are many subtle advantages to doing that. As for adding the single cylinder Lear engine to your collection, I would mimic your comments: “It looks like a perfect addition to my collection.” Keep me informed. Also if you can get in contact with your Lear engineer again please repeat my offer of the Lear information and photos. I am trying to collect as much of that story as possible. As you may imagine, these were all engineers and because they were engineers they never thought of preserving history by writing anything down. They probably did not consider either history or writing as being important. That is where I come in. Thanks again for this information. Tom Kimmel

  8. Kevin Keel says:

    Hi, Tom. I have a question for you.

    I am a hobbyist blacksmith, and I have an interest in steam power too. In blacksmithing, you will have something known as a ‘slack tub’, used to cool metal that is hot to either temper it or make it safe to handle. Historically, water was used, but now primarily oil is used – because of the higher boiling point of oil, it doesn’t shock high carbon steels as water would. An alternative to both is water with a high salt content – as that, allegedly, does not have as high a boiling point as water, though it is still lower than oil.

    The point im trying to make is this:
    When you boil salt water, the salt does not evaporate, only the water. Yet the salted water has a higher boiling point. Now, if you were to have a stock of saline water in a boiler, boiled it and extracted the water from the boiler as steam, and the steam lead to a condenser of water that also has salt, could it produce a more efficient engine?

    Its a novice question, I know, but id like to think it has a little merit. If salt water has a higher boiling point, the water would cool quicker, right?

    • tkimmel3 says:

      Dear Kevin Keel, It will take a while for me to think of all of the implications of this idea. However, here are a few quick responses. Several people have come up with the idea of using Glauber’s Salts as some kind of a steam buffer. In other words, what one does is heat up a big tub of glauber’s salts, which are some kinds of lithium chlorides, a low melting point solid, and that is kind of a buffer. Steam is generated by a few coils in the tub of molten salts. There is a much more efficient liquid to liquid heat conduction and it is much safer as there is much less material under pressure. The salts do not have vapor pressure making the main heat exchange, the difficult one from a gas to a liquid, being done at no pressure. Therefore all of the heat exchange surfaces can be done with thin sheet metal. However, you were looking at changing the boiling point of water with additional chemicals in an attempt to gain a little here and there. The first issue has to do with corrosion. Therefore, one would want to look at the type of salt used. NaCl is not a good idea there. Some people have thought of using Dowtherm, a high boiling point/low vapor pressure chemical as a carrier of heat from one place to another in the boiler. It almost has a use although the properties are not quite optimal. Other people have tried to put alcohol as some type of anti-freeze into the water in the boiler. This does not work for long because of the different boiling points. It ends up being a distiller. Now then, back to the salt water: it appears to me that because the steam will always be pure distilled water, and that is what is being used in the steam engine to expand and do work, that nothing thermodynamically will be gained by boiling salt water. Condensing is always a big issue with mobile steam power plants. Here, again, I will have to think a long time before figuring out any advantage of changing the condensing temperature. There are steam cycles that use ammonia mixed with water as the fluid. That is too complex for me to handle. Thanks for the interest in steam power and I hope this gets people to thinking about all of the subtle variables that affect steam power. Tom Kimmel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s