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1919 Duesenberg Model H: V-16 Aircraft Engine - Amazing!

Amazing Duesenberg Model H engine designed for aircraft use

3 valves per cylinder and lots of springs!

(7 pix) 

 The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is housed in a building in Auburn, Indiana that was once the national headquarters for the company.  It’s a world class museum with an extensive display of cars, including a very large number of essentially perfect examples of the work done by the company in the 20’s and 30’s.  If you care about great design and the kind of work that made America great, this museum is a must see.  I’m fortunate that it’s only about an hour from where I live, which means I go about once a year.

 In addition to all the wonderful cars, there’s a couple very interesting pieces of aviation there too.  The one that boggles my mind is pictured here.  It’s the Duesenberg Model H: a V-16 (yep, 16 rather massive cylinders) in a liquid cooled engine designed for airplane use that makes 800+ horsepower… first built in 1919!  Hello, that’s like World War l times.  In fact that’s the reason this engine was being built, to be used in the war effort.  As it turned out, four prototypes where built, but the war ended in 1919 and development was stopped.  

 I admit that I’m not the most knowledgeable about all the world’s engines, but the ingenuity, design, and quality of the Model H appear to be simply amazing.  The thing is pretty huge, as in 3,393 cubic inches huge, but the beautifully compact design really seems to stand out.  As the close up pictures show, it’s remarkably well thought out, especially for the time period.


 The info display next to the engine has this to say about the Model H:

 During World War 1, Fred and Augie Duesenberg were awarded a contract by the U.S. government to develop an aircraft engine that was larger and more powerful than anything being produced.  They spent much of 1918 on the design and construction of four prototype engines.  The first engine was not completed until 1919. 

 Three valves per cylinder were operated by rocker arms located in the V of the engine.  There was a single intake valve located over a pair of exhaust valves for each of the sixteen cylinders.  This ingenious layout would allow the incoming air to cool the exhaust valves, while the exhaust valves would heat the incoming air for better combustion. 

 The cylinders were constructed of separate pieces of pressed steel forming the head and water jackets attached to a cast barrel.  The whole assembly was welded into one piece.  The engines were originally equipped with an air starter, battery and magneto ignition and four carburetors. 

 With the end of World War 1, the contract for further development was dropped and no airplane was produced to hold this giant Duesenberg engine.

 Engine:  Duesenberg Model H

 Type: V-16, Three Valves Per Cylinder Aircraft Engine

 Bore: 6 Inches

 Stroke:  7-1/2 Inches

 Displacement:  3,393 Cubic Inches

 Rated Horsepower: 800+ at 1,800 RPM

 Carburetors: Four carburetors were specified for this engine

 Donated By: Dee and Georgia Howard, San Antonio, Texas


 The picture above shows one of the four prototype engines in a test facility with a really big prop attached to it.  It would sure be cool to know what kind of aircraft design was specifically in mind for the Model H.  I’ve not found a lot of info about the engine online, tho I plan to keep looking.  If anyone knows more about it, please share it in the comments area or send me an email.

 I do know it’s an amazing piece of work and it’s simply stunning to see in person.  I highly recommend if you’re anywhere near Auburn, Indiana (about 15 miles north of Fort Wayne) stop by the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, it’s a fantastic destination!


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Reader Comments (7)

This engine is very interesting indeed. However, there's one thing bugging me. Where would they put this huge engine. It was supposed to be fitted to a fighter, but even the Sopwith Camel, with a substantially smaller engine sometimes twisted out of control because of the insane amounts of torque the engine produced for the time. Also, since the airframe for fighter at the time was mainly constructed using wood, wouldn't the engine just punch a hole in the airplane and fall like a bomb?

Another Duesenberg V16 on display at the Air & Space Museum shown here.

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJust flying by

Too bad it such a small number built I want one it would be wonderfully unique engine in a car

November 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterI want one for rod

Certainly too big for any airplane in existance or on the drawing board at the time, but I don't have any trouble picturing two of these behemoths powering a US Navy sub chaser of the period, or four of these beasts propelling a rigid airship!

April 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterScott Andrews

I noticed that the engine had been donated by Dee Howard and his wife. I worked for Dee in San Antonio in 85 and 86 on a Boeing 747-300 for the King of Arabia.

December 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Blankinchip

I noticed that the engine had been donated by Dee Howard and his wife. I worked for Dee in San Antonio in 85 and 86 on a Boeing 747-300 for the King of Arabia.

December 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Blankinchip

Uh , yeah , you better pack a lunch waiting for one to plug in to your speedster , Daddoo ! And "Bucks" as Louis Armstrong said : " .........deeeee bucks. Burrrucks , bucks , bucks , bucks , bucks. I mean money , mama". Whereabouts of all 4 accounted for ? I blindly stumbled across one in private hands about 20 years ago. Lived in a machine shop in So. Cal. where I stopped by to talk about the owners V16 Cadillac. Anyone have any more recent info whatsoever about these sweet sixteens ? - CC

October 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCadillac Car

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