Sunday 19 May 2013

Truck turbine pioneer dies

Noel Penny, best known the world over for his pioneering work in the development of truck gas turbine engines, died last Friday at the age of 87.

Penny most notably received recognition as managing director of Leyland Gas Turbines Ltd (LGT); it developed the two-shaft gas turbine engine with regenerative heat exchangers between 1968 and 1974. Prototype vehicles were used by several oil companies for route proving and demonstration.

In the 1960s and 1970s, companies such as Chrysler, Fiat, Ford, General Motors, MAN and Mercedes-Benz were all working to develop gas turbine engines for passenger cars and trucks. The concept proved unsuccessful, largely because of its high fuel economy. It was unable to challenge the specific fuel economy of a diesel.  More recently, Volvo has devoted some development effort to gas turbines for trucks.

After leaving LGT, Penny formed Noel Penny Turbines (NPT) of Siskin Drive, Coventry which designed, built and developed prototype 350bhp gas turbine engines for Caterpillar in Peoria, Illinois for off-highway applications. NPT was also successful for its work in the design and manufacture of small gas turbines for business aircraft.

Penny’s work on gas turbines at Leyland Gas Turbines Ltd grew from the pioneering work of Rover Gas Turbines in Solihull. The small UK company worked with Sir Frank Whittle during World War 2 on jet engines, but when its involvement with Whittle ended in 1943, Rover began to consider gas turbines for road vehicles. After the war, Rover created the world’s first automotive gas turbine car – the Rover JET 1 in 1950, followed by the 100bhp T3 prototype car and the 140bhp T4 car based on the Rover 2000.

Rover also created the Rover-BRM racing car, the first gas turbine car to participate in the 24 hour race at Le Mans in 1965.                                  

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