You probably take for granted the fact that you can jump into your ride and, for the most part, just twist a key to be on your way. Of course that hasn’t always been the case. We’ve previously discussed the purpose of and the dangers inherent to the hand crank method of starting a car, and coming up soon we’ll provide you with everything you’ve always wanted to know about chokes, but were afraid to ask. You know something that I’m afraid of? Getting too close to a moving airplane propeller, that’s what. It’s one of those irrational fears I have, like accidentally swallowing spiders when I sleep, but it has led me to be pretty impressed by those guys who can grab a prop with both hands and swing it into motion without at the same time being turned into chop suey dixie style. Because of my aversion to rotating meat cleavers it had never occurred to me that it took a lot of effort to fire up an old airplane engine, especially a long-dormant 9-cylinder radial on a cold winter’s day. The following series of videos – sort of a mini-series bringing the past into the present, like Downton Abbey, only with an airplane instead of a house full of impossibly vapid Brits – demonstrates all of the steps, and potential pitfalls of firing up a radial engine that has sat dormant for a number of months. The plane is a 1941 Boeing Stearman, a bi-plane that was first introduced in 1934 by Stearman, and which was used primarily as a trainer by the USAAF and USN during WWII. The engine here is a Pratt & Whitney R-985, a popular later retrofit, sort of a way to hot-rod the plane. The 985 indicates the overall displacement, 985-cubic inches, which are allocated across the nine cylinders. Making the most of that massive displacement, the engine is also supercharged, giving it 450 horsepower. That’s an impressive mill, and also impressive are all the steps involved in bringing it to life. Check out this series of videos showing the how-to, and be glad that you don’t have to take such steps on your car even after it has sat unused all winter.
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