Airplanes and Automobiles

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 25

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 25

The airplane the Major photographed, shown on the photograph album page to the left, is believed to be a Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 which flew during and after World War I. The B.E.2 was selected as the standard home-defense airplane. While it performed well beyond the minimum safety standards, the B.E.2 had its drawbacks. The plane lacked maneuverability and the engine had performance issues. When climbing, it could overheat causing pilots to fear using all 90 horsepower.

For the past 100 years, planes and cars have had a very connected history. Early cars reached at most 3,000 rpm, but people wanted more power. Therefore, they began to put airplane engines in cars. Airplane engines were lighter, more powerful and more refined than car engines. 

The first successful combination of a car and an airplane was the “Beast of Turin.” The Beast with 300 horsepower was built to defeat the 125.95 mph land speed record at the time, but never went above 90 miles per hour.

Lead engineer at Sunbeam, Louis Coatalen created the famous airplane and car combination that would eventually become the Sunbeam Mohawk. Coatalen took a 9 liter (552 cubic inch) V-12 Sunbeam airplane engine and mounted it to a Sunbeam car chassis. At Brooklands Course, the Mohawk reached a top speed of 114.45 miles per hour. The design was later sold to Packard Motor Company who used the design to create the first production V-12. Following World War I, development of the airplane engine-in-a-car continued.

Airplanes and Automobiles