Ford Will Manufacture Rolls-Royce Engine

Washington (Aviation Bureau) — The Ford Motor Company has contracted to build 3,000 Rolls-Royce Merlin engines for the United States and 6,000 for the British government. The deal was made by William S Knudsen, industrial production member of the National Defense Commission. Congress was about to appropriate $43,000,000 for the US 3,000 units as this was written.

Mr Ford, probably Edsel, is said to have convinced Knudsen that he can build 1,000 engines a month, or nearly 50 a day. The job is unusually difficult because the Merlin is more or less hand made and will have to be changed for mass production. This is the first result of the Morgenthau-Mead-Knudsen engine standardization program. If Ford can deliver he will have removed one of the biggest single obstacles to rapid air power expansion for the British and for this country.

When the defense program brought expansion plans directly under the government, with Secretary Morgenthau directing, these moves became more open. Morgenthau held frequent "informal" talks with representatives of General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Packard, and Studebaker.

In these conferences, the Secretary learned that General Motors is already deep in the field through its ownership of Allison engines, substantial holdings of North American, and its newly formed Aeroproducts Division for which it has bought Engineering Projects, Inc, propeller manufacturer. Packard, which devoted itself in the last war to Liberty Engines, now has a high speed marine engine (used for torpedo boats) which it is believed could be redesigned for aircraft.

Transfer of the program from Morgenthau to William S Knudsen, defense commission specialist on production, is not expected to change the plans much, but it makes more certain than ever that Detroit thinking will be in the picture.

Another factor is the plan to liberalize tolerances of military engines, which would simplify the problems of new producers.

This excerpt is taken from the "Aviation Manufacturing" column in the July, 1940, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 39, no 7, p 82.