View Full Version : Rover V8 engined Chipmunk

26th May 2002, 05:01
Can anybody refreash my memory on this. A brave chap was trying to get the Rover V8 (lovely engine) certified for aircraft usage. This was 10 or more years ago.

The original installation was a direct drive setup so that the V8 was only producing around 110-120 hp at 2,800 or so rpm instead of its more normal 160 hp at 4,500 (approximate figures dulled by time :D). He had plans to fit a belt drive reduction unit in the future but initially was concentrating on getting the engine approved.

The test pilot in Pilot ( the only mag available then) likened the modified Chipmunk to a mini-Spitfire.

The project seems to have faded into the past like the Phillips Speedtwin which is extremely unfortunate.

Flatus Veteranus
26th May 2002, 10:46
Sorry. But I flew a Chippie with a Rover gas turbine (about 100 bhp) in 1965. Basically the same engine they used as an APU in the Vulcan. It flew very well and MOD were interested because at that time Gypsy spares were becoming difficult - problem later solved when main spar fatigue halved the fleet-size. CFS felt (and I agreed with them) that the acceleration from idle rpm in event of a botched landing was too slow. A Continental or Lycoming solution was the most favoured.

Spiney Norman
26th May 2002, 10:58
I've got a hunch that it did fly, but in an Auster. I'll have to do some reading! (Any excuse)!


26th May 2002, 14:47
The gentleman in question was Bill (?) Bonner and the Chippie was G-ARWB. Saw it at Farnborough in probably '78 or '80 and also at Shoreham. Think there was also an article about it in Air Pictorial around then. Seem to recall the name "Sapphire" connected with it and was under the impression that it was based on the Ford Granada engine, though may well be wrong. The Chippie is still around and is Gispy powered once more.

Remember reading about the gas-turbine Auster at Fairoaks, and also Viv Bellamy and his mates at Eastleigh sticking one in a Currie Wot!

28th May 2002, 09:27
Thanks all, it was Bill Bonner and I'm reasonably sure it was the Rover rather than the Ford. The Rover has a (relatively) light ally block vs the very heavy cast iron block of the Ford for pretty much the same hp.

Pity it's reverted to Gypsy power again, it looked very nice with the Rover engine. Because it has been done I would assume that it is now an approved major mod. Got to be cheaper than replacing a Gypsy that's put a rod through the block.

It was Viv Bellamy that put the Rover gas turbine in the Auster as well. From a brief article in the Auster Club mag it performed better than the Wot installation. Must have put big tanks in it though, those Rovers guzzled a lot of Avtur for the 100 or so shaft hp they produced. V. noisy to. Must have been fun to taxi to the pumps and give people the frights when filling up with Avtur instead of 100LL though :D

Hang on though, 85p/litre 100LL, 35p/litre Avtur as long as the consumption is less than 9 imp gal/hour it's a winner. Anybody selling a Rover gas turbine out there!!

28th May 2002, 11:31
I remember in the late 70's one Nigel Brendish had a Chipmunk (G-MUNK) in which he installed a Lycoming 260 GTSO. Took about a foot off the wings too!

Then went to Calais, inverted all the way, from Southend, to set up a new record across the oggin.

A couple of years later he was killed doing hairy aeros over Ipswich airfield in the same aircraft I think.

Come to think of it, the Chippie was a lovely aeroplane.

28th May 2002, 12:39
I'll defer to you superior knowledge on the Rover block! Lovely engine, I had the pleasure of driving several Rovers made in the days of real Motor Cars! Says on the CAA register that it's Gypsy powered these days, assume that it is right.

If you want to "acquire" a Rover Gas Turbine, hide until closing time with your toolbox in the Car Museum at Syon Park - there's a Rover in there with one under the bonnet - or there was twenty years ago!! Dunno what it was rated at...

Nigel Brendish was lost in an Aerobat (G-XUSA) the reasons for the hairy aerobatics is not something I should discuss on an open forum. His Lycoming Chipmunk was G-IDDY which went to the USA. Not sure what happened to G-MUNK, it was destroyed, Gypsy powered though... useful thing the G-INFO database...

Nice aeroplanes, Chippies, my dad learned to fly on them in Kenya, and I got the odd ride in the back!

Gipsy? Gypsy? Let's call the whole thing off!

28th May 2002, 17:27
Thanks for the correction in regard to the aircraft Nigel Brendish was flying when he crashed on the airfield.

I knew Nigel well. He was one of my team in the Leisure Sport days. His demise is in the public domain as per the AIB report. It is a lesson for all, especially as there are many instances of similar ilk.

However, it is sad that it happened at all, but when a life is beset with other ill fortune, as his was, it will normally take a turn for the worse.

28th May 2002, 23:16
InFinRetirement ,

One of those things not always mentioned in the version of the AAIB report I see... I never could understand why it happened, same with the P-63 - I took issue with several people over that. Life's a ****** sometimes... it's too simple to right things off as "Bloody idiot"...



29th May 2002, 09:35
Flatus, you must be one of the very very few who has turbine Chipmunk time in his logbook :cool:

Apparently the Rover engined Auster is being rebuilt, what engine is going to be used I have no idea I'm afraid.

We used to run the single shaft version of the Rover on a test bed in uni many moons ago to learn how to do dyno trials etc. My main memory is that if you had the ciggie in your mouth when trying to light it on the exhaust stack (not tailpipe) your eyebrows singed!
Ingineer last week I couldn't spell it, now I are one :D :D

Back on topic, does anybody know if the Rover V8 was accepted by the CAA as an alternative to the Gypsy(Gipsy, Romany, New Age Traveller ah stuff it!)? :confused:

29th May 2002, 10:25
Re the Gypsy/Gipsy bit, by coincidence I was reading an old copy of Pilot last night (circa 1981!) and there was an article in it by Alan Bramson on the Tiger Moth - he mentions the first Gipsy Moth was powered by the Gypsy 1, then later talks about the Gipsy Major... Ah well... I'll go and make a nice cup of Gipsy Major Rosie Lee I think... The dictionary likes both versions anyway...

Confused of Purley...

29th May 2002, 11:30
Re: Lycoming 'Munks, I'm sure G-IDDY spent a little time at Barton a few years back - dark blue in colour at that time.

Plus, saw Art Scholl in a Lycoming-engined, cut-down 'munk with an Nxxxx reg many years back near Seattle. Had square cut fin/rudder too. Sadly he was lost in an accident too....

Iron City
29th May 2002, 14:12
Is that Rover alloy V-8 the same as the V-8 Rover bought from General Motors in U.S.? If so, had a 1962 Buick Special (it's an automobile, not an airplane) with one. Worked pretty well (the transmission was s*&^, though) but had to be careful with the aluminium alloy block and head and head gasket so they mated together proper and sealed tight. Understand pistons and rings could cause problems if they were too hard because the cylinder bore was chemically treated for hardness, but ended up still aluminium and relatively soft. Half that engine was in smaller GM cars 10 years later and Cosworth tricked one up and got very good power from it. Not sure what the longevity was, though.

Red Spitfire Driver
29th May 2002, 19:58
Rover Engined Chippy - wasn't that conversion done at Portsmouth aerodrome ??

Ahhh nostalgia

29th May 2002, 20:09
Iron City

You're right, the Rover V8 was based on the Buick V8 engine.

30th May 2002, 04:46
It was the Buick 215 cu in engine. The Rover engine had cast steel (?) cylinder liners which cured a lot of the cooling/piston problems. The last one I had was still going strong at 160,000 miles when the body let it down.

In an era of fiddly British engines with CB points, valve adjusments etc, the Rover V8 with it's electronic ignition and hydraulic lifters was a maintenance free wonder. Shame about the fuel consumption though!

30th May 2002, 09:18
Sounds like a candidate for an 'LPG' conversion !

30th May 2002, 09:38
Can you imagine the CAA spec for an LPG tank :eek:

It would probably be able to resist a direct hit from a large nuclear weapon and would therefore be heavier than the aircraft itself :rolleyes:

30th May 2002, 09:52
Agreed ! :D

Iron City
30th May 2002, 15:00
LPG fuel sounds more like an energy density problem than a weight of the tank problem. How much energy per pound (kilo or whatever) of LPG versus 100LL? How much energy per cubic inch (or cc) of LPG at the stored temperature and pressure compared to 100LL or Jet A?

From a weight point of view the tank would likely be heavier and there would need to be pressure regulators and dehumidification for refueling but maybe you wouldn't need a fuel pump (unless you were going to run it in Antarctica or above 20,000 feet) and not sure how you would get a sample from the sumps to see if there was water contamination. Presume LPG powered would mean fuel injected so no carb ice. Land at the nearest caravan park to refuel?

5th Jun 2002, 21:06
Ref the Gipsy/Gypsy debate

My copy of the "DE HAVILLAND GIPSY MOTH" price list dated July 16th 1929 is spelt thus and it refers to the "Gipsy" engine also so the I's have it so to speak


6th Jun 2002, 06:14
And wasn't the Rover V8 engine also related to the Simca Vedette V8 engine? (Think Chrysler owned Simca so guess that's how it ended up with a Buick engine?)

Many moons ago someone down here (Land of Oz) decided to install a Rover V8 in a Piper Pawnee or some similar agricultural aircraft. Don't think he worried about the formalities of certification or even having a pilot's license or engineering qualifications. I think the authorities caught up with him on taxi trials, shortly before his first test flight.......

I also recall a gas turbine engined Rover - think it was in a Museum in London - the Museum of Modern Science?

I also feel the HS65 Argosy had a Rover turbine APU - and it was noisy, thirsty and rather "agricultural"!

Talking of turbine engine installations, many moons ago a Dart was being installed in a P51 Mustang in Canberra but I heard the aircraft never flew, the Dart was removed and the original engine re installed. That was in the days before War Birds were accepted here, the Mustang being the exception - it was civil certified in Australia for commercial flying operations (a civil target towing contract). Mustangs here were Australian built by CAC.

Yes, lovely aircraft the Chippie...... My very first flying lessons were in Chippies. The two at the local aeroclub were sold sometime in the 1960's for a reputed 850 Aussie quid each - Aus$1,700 or around 550 Pommy Quid each in todays money!

6th Jun 2002, 11:13
About Rover etc. engines-
As an old rev head and hot rodder, I'm very familiar with the alloy V8 Rover.
It started life as the Oldsmobile Rocket in 1951. Revolutionary - all alloy, OHV and about 450lb with clutch - Ford V8 of that era SV and 630lb with clutch. Rover used the basic block for years, but its finest moment was when Sir Jack Brabham persuaded Repco (Oz car parts mfrg) to turn it into a 3L F1 engine. They did a pretty good job, JB won 2 F1 world titles and his team mate (Denny Hulme) won 1 in the late 1960s. (I know, most of you readers weren't even a dirty thought then!!!). Leyland (BMC) in Oz used the block in the ill starred P76.
As you can imagine, they were a gift from Heaven to a hot rod builder of the 1960s - they cost the earth, though. Oz mechanics had little idea about care and feeding of all alloy engines so many suffered badly from corrosion due improper coolant.
Now, let me think - what was this thread about!!! ;)

Iron City
6th Jun 2002, 14:19
Believe the Rocket V-8 from Olds was cast iron. The engine in the Buick was all aluminium alloy and as was pointed out the problems were with corrosion (don't think the Yank mechanics were too up on how to deal with the cooling needs either), wear and overheating. Along with some disimilar metal corrosion.

Believe one of the fixes for wear and possibly heat transmission thermal distortion problems was iron sleeves in the cylinders.

Buick does (or did) a lot of the engine development for General Motors in the US (Chevrolet, Cadillac, Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile) and builds the high performance engines (like for Corvettes). GM and Chrysler (or Daimler Chrysler or whatever they are today) are two different animals. GM did own Opel and some other stuff in Europe and of course Holden in Oz.

IF one were going to do a liquid cooled engine for an aircraft application a light alloy block would be a reasonable start. Believe a turbocharger to get max power out of smallest engine would be needed and a really healthy cooling system.

6th Jun 2002, 17:39
All this stuff about the delightful Rover / Buick 215 ci V8 family is music to my ears, as is the exhaust note of that emininetly practical and tunable engine itself. But with regret I must confirm that the one-off Aero Bonner Sapphire engine powering the converted Chipmunk, as written about in Pilot (still have it at home somewhere) was not based on the Rover but a Ford V6 block. It was quite clear in both the text and pictures.

I have no idea why he chose the Ford, since the Rover seems like a more practical starting point, but there it is. However, it was turbocharged, and knocked out some 200 bhp, looked like a mini-Merlin and gave the Chippy a nice pointy nose, with a little radiator underneath like a small version of that on a Hurricane. I'm pretty sure it was G-ARWB.

There may, of course, have been a different Chipmunk conversion at some stage using the Rover / Buick engine, but I've never heard of it.

Anyone know what became of Bill Bonner and his enterprise?

7th Jun 2002, 06:03
Lowtimer I sit corrected (I never stand when typing) :D

Again I was relying on my memory cos my stack of Pilot magazines is at home not where I am right now. I'd forgotten that Mr. Bonner had turbo'd the engine. I do remember that it was direct drive so it was operating at well below the engine's full bhp potential.

With all the advances in gearbox design over the years for Rotax's etc maybe the Bonner Sapphire's time has come. Think how much nicer a C150 would look with a pointy nose. :D :D

Could look nice in the front of an Auster too. Be a damn sight smoother and quieter than my Cirrus :rolleyes:

7th Jun 2002, 12:25

I believe Rover experimented with a number of gas turbine powered cars, both for road and competition use. One was driven by Graham Hill and Richie Ginther at Le Mans in 1963. Seem to recall seeing it at the Heritage Motor Centre situated at Gaydon - a former RAF 'V-Bomber base' - which just about gets this thread back to aviation !! ;)

Then there was the Lotus gas turbine F1 car - I remember seeing it at Oulton Park in the late sixties - woops, drifting off again !! :o

11th Jun 2002, 06:53
mustafagander. Interesting you mention Jack Brabham. Many years ago in the Kingdom of Tonga an old Aussie wander into my office and asked for a job as an aircraft engineer. Most unlikely looking guy for an engineer, but he had a string of Aussie, Kiwi and UK licenses and ratings on everything from lighties to heavy metal.

He was Jack Brabham's older brother, Otto!

14th Jun 2002, 11:13
I believe that there was a Pawnee converted in the early 90's with a Chev 350 all alloy job built by a well renowned marine race engine builder.Looked like a neat conversion,Predator carb,extractors,exhaust all the way to the tailwheel,full electronic ignition etc.I believe also that this A/C may still be plying the paddocks around Port Lincoln way,stand to be corrected though!:cool: :rolleyes: :cool:

Shaggy Sheep Driver
14th Jun 2002, 11:33
There was an article in 'Pilot' years ago about the 'Bonner' Chippy.

Flatus, what's this about main spar fatigue in the Chippy? I wasn't aware that Chippys had suffered *any* fatigue problems. I'm certainly not aware of a 'fatigue life' on our beloved machine's wing?


18th Jun 2002, 13:55
Wild Rovers

There has been some mention of gas turbine powered Rover cars earlier on this thread. For those who have not have seen it before, there is a repeat of a TV programme very early on Friday morning:-

Friday 21 June 2002 - CH4 (UK) 04.20 - 04.50 am BST

Classic British Cars - Wild Rovers: Rover's experiments with jet-powered cars.

18th Jun 2002, 16:31
04:20? blimey, thought getting up to watch Brazil be.. er, get thrashed by Beckham's Boys was going to be bad enough, my bloody video's programmer's had it...