It is 18 months since Warbirds Online last visited Peter Brooke at Historical Aircraft Engines in Brisbane Queensland to examine the fantastic work he is doing on the restoration of the Bristol Hercules engines to be utilized in the restoration of the Historic Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Beaufighter project as well as some other HARS related projects.
The workshop and all its contents have relocated to another location in Brisbane with a modern spacious work space and dedicated areas for cleaning, storage, workshop and most importantly a clean engine assembly area. Peter has taken the opportunity to fit out the space exactly as he requires with separate areas for each stage in the rebuild process and for storage. The workshop is a credit to Peter and his professional attitude to the serious job of engine rebuilding. There aren’t too many places in the modern world which have the facilities or knowledge to undertake the complex task of rebuilding these huge radial engines.
At the time of our latest visit two of the Bristol Hercules were situated in their very large stands, reduced to their core assemblies awaiting further dismantling prior to the actual rebuilding of the Beaufighter destined units. The sheer size of a Hercules is a sight to behold in its own right. They are big powerful brutes of power plants. They are also however, very complex and difficult to rebuild. The sleeve valve design is a brilliant invention but it requires great skill to rebuild and maintain. The sleeve valves themselves for example cannot be more than 3 thousands of an inch out of round to be serviceable and that is quite an ask in a 70 plus year old engine.
Peter is confident that he has sufficient parts and equipment to rebuild the HARS engines and it is a matter of time to get the job done.
We were also interested to note that the very rare 3 blade prop shafts for the Beaufighter were now on hand for the Hercules rebuild. Ralph Cusack of ASAP Spares and DAP/Bristol Beaufort restorer was able to furnish Peter with a number of serviceable units for the Hercules rebuilds – one less extinct item located! Propeller blades will have to be manufactured for these but there are a number of options for this task being considered at present.
One other particularly interesting project under way is the rebuilding of 3 x Jacobs R-775 A2, 7 cylinder 12.4 L 300 bhp air-cooled radial engines from the replica of the famous record breaking Southern Cross Fokker FV11B of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. These engines required a full rebuild as the replica rebuild itself takes place at HARS Albion Park facility. The engines are generally in good overall condition and have been fully stripped down in preparation for the painstaking rebuild. As with any radial engine project some components will have to be renewed, but sufficient parts are in hand to accomplish this job. It was quite a sight to see the rows of cylinders arranged on the storage racks awaiting their turn in line. They have been meticulously cleaned and restored ready for reassembly and to the untrained eye look like new parts. The Jacobs was chosen by the replica builders as a more practical engine and approximates the look and performance of the 220 Hp Wright Whirlwind radial engines fitted to the original Southern Cross.
The last of the 3 engine types in the workshop currently being rebuilt was a P&W 985 for the HARS Boeing Stearman project. This engine has been on the aircraft for some time and has required a complete strip down and rebuild to as new condition. The engine is on its stand in the assembly area and it’s a beautiful site. The components look as though they are newly manufactured with not a speck of dust or dirt in sight. This engine will have a fairly rapid rebuild and be on its way to Albion Park in the not too distant future and back on the Stearman.
We were also fascinated during our tour of the workshop to see the fantastic work done on the acquisition, rebuilding and restoration of long neglected machinery and equipment. New machines used to bore cylinders and machine surfaces aren’t available or are prohibitively expensive so Peter salvages and restores the high quality machines of the past and puts them back to work again. Far better than at the scrappers or sitting silent in a museum.
Lastly, we have an appeal for our readers who have seen or know of any parts whatever of Bristol Hercules engine of whatever model to come forward with information – it would be greatly appreciated in fact for information on any Beaufighter parts at all. Following our last story several more Hercules engines were discovered by our readers and we hope for more success this time.
Also there is a shortage of Carburetors for the early engines so anybody who has knowledge of one of these would be welcome indeed to get in touch. Please see the attached photo of a very used sample carburetor so you can see what is needed.
Warbirds Online will continue to follow these fantastic projects and at regular intervals will report on the progress of the restorations.
We wish to thank Peter Brooke and Historical Aircraft Engines for their help in allowing us to report on their work. There can’t be a single Warbird enthusiast who can’t wait to see a Beaufighter fly again in Australia.
© John Parker 2016