Saturday, January 28, 2012

Walter Macomber: The Macomber Rotary Engine

While he was employed by the Randsburg Water Company, Walter Macomber invented a rotary engine. He got the first patent on it in 1909, and kept refining it and re-patenting the results.

Back then, rotary engines were regarded as a possible solution to the problem of aerial vibration. The above photo shows pioneer aviator Charlie Walsh aloft in a plane powered by the Macomber Rotary in May 1911 (Dominguez Field near Los Angeles). His passenger is a Los Angeles Herald reporter.

The Macomber Rotary also was used in numerous prototype cars between 1914-1918. (Above: Walter Macomber in the driver's seat with an unidentified passenger, San Diego, 1915.) A factory in Sandusky, Ohio was primed to mass produce Eagle-Macomber motor cars. Macomber even drove an Eagle-Macomber car from Los Angeles to Chicago in Nov.-Dec. 1916 to prove the engine's worthiness.

Above: promotional material, c. 1915. Despite the successful road trip, the engine had several flaws that could not be resolved. By 1918 the factory had closed down. No one knows how many Eagle-Macomber cycle cars and touring cars were actually produced, but the number is likely to be 50 or less.

This is the last installment, for now, of the Macomber story. I am always on the lookout for more information on the subject. If anyone out there knows the whereabouts of an actual car or engine, please contact me!