The History of the Petter Engine
Brothers Ernest and Percy Petter revolutionize England with horizontal, single-acting, high-speed steam engines and the horseless carriage Petter engine.
The Brothers Petter - Twins Sir Ernest, left, and Percival "Percy" Petter co-founded the engine manufacturing division of their father's company and were instrumental in its operation until their deaths in the mid 1950s.
The Petter Oil Engine story began in 1894 with twin brothers Ernest and Percy Petter,who were employed in the family business of James B. Petter & Sons, ironmongers of Yeovil, Somerset, England. The family owned a foundry and engineering works in Yeovil, to which an application for work was made by a Ben Jacobs. A versatile and clever young engineer and designer, Jacobs was hired by the Petters and thus began a partnership interested in designing and building engines.
Initially, a batch of horizontal, single-acting, high-speed steam engines were produced, called the "Yoevil" engine, but an article in "The Boy's Own" paper, which appeared under the heading of "Model Gas Engine," inspired the trio of young designers and engineers to look at the possibility of designing their own gas engine.
Jacobs then designed his first gas engine for Petter; it was intended to drive a "horseless carriage." Further design changes simplified the vaporizing set-up, which improved the engine's performance and made it suitable for industrial and agricultural use as well. Production thus began of 1 hp and 2-1/2 hp horizontal oil engines started by heating an ignition tube projecting from the hot bulb.
In 1901, a limited company was formed, titled James B. Petter & Sons Ltd., and production got underway of the redesigned engine in sizes from 1-1/4 hp to 22 hp.
In 1902, competition increased from Fairbanks Morse's "Jack of all Trades" vertical T.V.O. engines, so Petter responded with another redesign, which produced a cheaper engine called the "Handyman," offered in five sizes. When this engine was first shown publicly in 1903 at the Royal Bath and West Agricultural Show, a U.S. firm negotiated the wholesale rights and ordered 400 engines.
The original "horseless carriage" Petter engine later was rebuilt and presented to the British Engineering Museum, London, where is remains on display today.
In 1910, Petter Ltd. became a public company, and in 1911, James B. Petter died. The twins came into their own, launching a new vertical range of two-stroke engines - semi-diesel - called the V range and sized from 10 to 200 hp the same year. In 1912, they came out with the M-type model VF 5/6 hp petro-paraffin engines.
Space was now at a premium in the old Petter foundry, so a new foundry, called the Westland Works, was built in Westland, which gave the firm the ability to turn out 1,500 engines a year.
During World War I at Westland Works, the aircraft division was formed, taking over a portion of the workspace. The production of 4-stroke engines ceased, but 2-stroke engines continued to be produced, and in 1917, the 2-1/2 hp M-type model VA petro-paraffin engine and the M-type model VC 8 hp were developed.
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