Vee’s for Victory! The Story of the Allison V-1710 Aircraft Engine, 1929-1948, by Daniel D. Whitney, Schiffer Publications, Atglen, Pa., 1998, $59.95.
This beautifully researched and illustrated book also happens to be wonderfully written. Daniel Whitney combines strong narrative with anecdotal material and embellishes it with technical information presented in a way that is clear and understandable. There are pictures, charts or tables on virtually every one of the 472 pages. A casual glance at Whitney’s sources confirms the excellence of his research.
The book’s chronological format gives one a thorough grounding in the Allison Engine Company and its predecessors. Whitney details the production of such diverse products as marine engines, air-cooled Libertys and dirigible engines.
The company that ultimately produced engines for the P-38, P-39 and P-40 got its start in 1904, when James A. Allison joined with Carl G. Fisher and Percy C. Avery to form the Concentrated Acetylene Company. When World War I began, the Allison Experimental Company received orders for parts for the Liberty engine. By 1921 the firm had become the Allison Engineering Company. After Allison’s death in 1928, the concern was purchased by the Fisher Brothers and then acquired by General Motors in 1929.
The V-1710 story is grounded in the series of engines Allison built before General Motors decided to consider an airplane engine program in 1929. Norman Gilman and his team of engineers began work in May 1929 to create a 12-cylinder, high-temperature, liquid-cooled engine capable of producing 1,000 horsepower. The initial designation was VG-1710. The first quantity order for engines did not come until 1939–10 years after the project began–and it was for only 969 engines.
After extensive and rigorous testing, the Allison engine was finally committed to flight on December 14, 1936, in a Consolidated A-11A modified by Bell Aircraft. From that point on, it flew in a variety of aircraft, including the exotic Bell X/YFM-1 Airacuda and the Smiling Jack-sharp Curtiss P-37.
The Allison was the engine of choice for the dramatic Lockheed XP-38 Lightning. It was soon adopted by Bell for the equally radical XP-39 and by Curtiss for the workhorse P-40. Wallace-Martin Aircraft Company chose the engine for their handsome Vultee P-66-like NF-2 shipboard fighter.
Vee’s for Victory! follows the step-by-step development of the Allison during World War II. Whitney also introduces the V-3420, the “double-Allison” used in the XB-39 (modified B-29), XP-58 and the infamous Fisher XP-75.
This is a superb work that belongs in every aviation library. Whitney delves deeply into both the engineering rationale and the manufacturing requirements of the Allison engine to provide a totally different perspective on this famous power plant.
Walter J. Boyne