It is no secret that here at the Hill Climb we like BIG engines and we are delighted to have an original 1924 Napier Lion, one of the most powerful aero engines of its day, demonstrating its power at this year’s event.
The Napier Lion is a 12-cylinder 'broad arrow' W12 configuration aircraft engine built by David Napier & Son from early in the First World War until the 1930s. After building a series of unreliable aero engines to the designs supplied by other companies, Napier decided it was time to design his own, a high power, lightweight, 12cylinder engine and this new advanced design was so successful it remained in production long after many of its contemporaries had stopped production.
The 24 litre, 450 horsepower engine soon became the most powerful engine available and between the world wars, it powered over 160 different aircraft types. This success was soon noticed, and it wasn’t long before a racing version was created which broke many world height, airspeed and distance records in aircraft and boats, in 1933 a highly tuned Lion delivered 1,375hp for a water speed record of 100mph.
The Lion engines also powered many of Sir Malcolm Campbell's land speed record breakers including a record of over 250mph in 1932 and John Cobb's 394mph Railton Mobil Special in 1947.
The 1930s saw the production of bigger, more powerful engines which the Lion could no longer compete with and whilst there are no Napier Lion engines flying today they can still be seen fitted in several racing cars.
Make sure you see the Napier Lion Engine in action at this year’s event.