Skoda might be known today for its well-engineered family cars, but did you know that it used to build powerful aircraft engines, too? A new exhibit at the Skoda Museum in Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic has a new attraction that will intrigue visitors in the form of a 24.4-liter L&K Lorraine-Dietrich 450 motor from an aeroplane.
Loaned from the National Technical Museum in Prague, this twelve-cylinder engine with its enormous 24.4-liter capacity produces 450 hp. The cylinders of this 1926 motor are configured in an innovative ‘W’ shape to make the large engine as compact as possible. The Czechoslovak Ministry of Defence were so impressed with the quality back in period, that they ordered 50 for the airforce.
Skoda's history stretches back to 1895 and shows its founders to be talented in more than just building automobiles. Václav Klement and Václav Laurin were also well known for their motorbikes and bicycles produced under the original company name of Laurin & Klement.
The aircraft engine side of the business was pioneering as in 1909 it was one of the very few businesses manufacturing them. That side of the business began in the early 1900s when the first airman in the Czech Republic used a modified L&K automobile engine in his plane.
While only achieving short hops, it was something that sparked the development of bespoke aircraft motors by the two Václavs. The first truly successful flight in the region, by Otto Hieronimus, used L&K’s first purpose-built engine for aviation.
Automobile manufacturing slowed while the nation rebuilt after the First World War, so L&K focused on aircraft engines of which they were now well known for. Under the L&K Lorraine-Dietrich banner, engineers built two aeroplane powerplants via a French license that yielded 400 hp eight-cylinder and 450 hp twelve-cylinder units.
These engines were used in many Czech aircraft, but also planes from Lithuania and Turkey. One example even completed an endurance flight from the Czech Republic to Japan in 1927 in a Letov Š-16.
The Skoda Museum details the entire history of Skoda and its talented founders — now with the addition of this fascinating engine. Last year it received over 273,811 visitors from all over the world.
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