The following extracts are transcribed from "SAM Speaks", the Journal of the Society of Antique Modellers. Copies were kindly scanned for me by Roy Tiller.

SAM Speaks, September 2001 - Norman Butcher writes: " Does anyone know what happened to the collection of Stanger engines and glass photo negatives? Edgar Westbury had these engines and photos given to him in the hope they could be found a good home. He wrote a piece for ME and approached me. I in turn asked Peter Chinn if he could provide a home but whether or no he agreed I can't remember. I do hope they've survived, there was little interest in vintage stuff in those days. I would have loved to have kept them myself (yes I did have a sense of history then) but at the time was living in a one room flat in Clapham".

SAM Speaks, November 2001 - In reply to the above, Ron Moulton writes: " Re David Stanger, Norman asks the whereabouts of those famous petrol engines. There are three of them, all being carefully maintained by Lt. Cdr. Alwyn Greenhalgh R. N., the official historian of the S.M.A.E.. Alwyn described these for the Aeromodeller Annual of 1969-70 and I photographed them for that feature.

They were the original 1906 four cylinder, four stroke which David Stanger used for the first ever petrol driven model aircraft to fly successfully in 1908. The engine weighed 5.1/2lbs, drove a 28in. propeller at 1,300 rpm. It was followed in 1913 by a twin cylinder engine using similar bore and stroke with a better power/weight ratio. This established a duration record of 52 seconds in April 1914 in a 7 ft. canard biplane at the International Aero Exhibition held at Hendon. A third engine, made in 1925 was the single cylinder 6cc, well ahead of its time. It is hoped that these examples of a pioneer's work will eventually be displayed in a permanent museum in London."

SAM Speaks, January 2002 - The Editor included the following piece. (The accompanying illustrations were copies of figures 6 and 9 in the Engine Collectors' Journal article of 1969):

The Stanger Engines

Gordon Counsell has sent in further information on this subject. "Petrol Engine Topics" by Edgar T. Westbury, in "Model Engineer", 19.8.48, had a heading "Support home industry!" under which, at extreme length, he uses an interwars slogan designed to sell British goods, to criticise those who now bought rather than made, their model engines. His endlessly oblique style tries to hide the absurdity of his position, which is that those entering Power Duration contests should be penalised if their engines weren't made by themselves.

At first he had welcomed the wide availability of model diesels, thinking that their owners would be led on to design and craft their own, improved engines. Now he could see that this was unlikely - "and speaking as a pioneer in the development of model aircraft engines, this has always been a bitter disappointment to me". (He doesn't acknowledge how much his own ATOM design had been outstripped in power, weight and convenience by the postwar commercial motors).

He had encouraged the late-starting British model race car movement because he saw that the pioneers were making their own bits and pieces and even engines. Things had changed, however, and at a recent meeting only two out of 50 cars had home-made engines. Eccentrically, he thought people interested in mechanical hobbies were somehow "lost" to model engineering if they used commercial items. He failed to see that handicapping the latter in comps would just lead to fewer entrants.

As an appendage to his laments, Westbury refers to David Stanger, now at 77, living in retirement in Somerset. He reproduced, very poorly, a photo of nine Stanger engines, though only the pre-1914 examples are dated. Another photo is of a much later 3 cyl. 4-stroke petrol engine, designed for model aircraft, but no details of capacity, etc., are given. Quite understandably, Westbury sees the overcoming of great difficulties by pioneers like Stanger, as a reproach to the modern model engine user.

Ten years later ("M. E.", 23.10.58) Westbury is covering these engines in greater detail. He begins by regretting what he thought was a tendency to undervalue the work of the pioneers of model engine design and construction - Delves-Broughton, Westmoreland, Belvedere Smith, Groves, Noble, Vanner. He reminds his readers that accessories like ignition coils and spark plugs had also to be hand made.

The article was prompted by Stanger's son, Alfred, arranging for Westbury to photograph his late father's engines and look through their files. Not all motors could be dated but there was published evidence that Stanger had made a 120cc four-stroke, double V engine of 1.25hp in 1908. Westbury reproduces a photo of a V-twin which he believed predated this, at least in design, but he gives no figures for capacity or weight. Nor does he make plain whether it was the original 1908 engine or a later development that was used to set up the 51 seconds British record in 1914.

Westbury is equally vague about later engines, showing a 3 cyl. two stroke "of about 15cc" which had appeared at a prewar M.E. Exhibition". Another photo is of a 3 cyl. 4-stroke, also undated. Considering that he had had access to the engines and their files, the article is deplorably short of data though he does describe the fine workmanship.

After another ten years, "Engine of the Month", by Dr. R. E. Nichol, appeared in the "Engine Collectors' Journal", June/July 1969. The author emphasised the DIY nature of model engine making before 1925 and had traced reports of Stanger's 4 cyl. engine back to before 1908, to the "Aero", Nov. 16th 1907. The 7.36 cu. in. engine had a 1.25 in. bore and 1.5 in stroke and weighed 86 ozs. with tank and carburetter but minus ignition. Pushrods operated the overhead exhaust valves, though the inlets were automatic. Crankcase was cast alumin., pistons cast iron with two rings, cylinders were steel (no cooling fins, though they were on the cast iron heads). The carb was gravity feed with a float valve. 1300 rpm was obtained from a 30 x 22 prop, giving 1.5hp. (This appears to be a misprint - the ECJ article quotes 1-1/4 hp, later 1.24hp. - TJH)

As Nichol points out, putting such an engine into a model, no matter how well made, which had no dihedral, was not likely to lead to long flights. Stanger's own account of his activities ("Flight", May 28th 1910) shows a 36 in. pitch prop fitted to this engine, buried within a 8.5ft wing span machine during one of its short flights, quite an achievement in itself.

Manly and Balzner had, of course, flown a powered model in America in 1903, and Ray Arden had used his own engine in a 6ft. model that flew 100 yards in 1908. By 1910 he was making flights of over one mile! By 1914 Stanger had halved his original engine to produce a 3.7 cu. in. V-2 four-stroke with a weight of 42 ozs. It was this engine in fact that was used for the 51 secs record, fitted as a pusher to a high A. R. biplane canard. Wings were 7 x 1 ft. with a 13" gap; elevator 30 x 8 in.; length 4.5ft.; total weight 10.75 lbs.

At the 1914 "Aero Show" at Olympia Stanger exhibited a 20lbs. Bleriot-like monoplane with a 10 x 2 ft. wing. The uncovered, triangular section fuselage was extensively wire braced and carried the original V-4 engine, now fitted with a 30 x 22 in. prop giving 1600rpm. This model did eventually get into the air.

Nichol shows the much later 3 cyl. OHV four-stroke, where both intake and exhaust valves were operated by pushrods. The 15cc three cyl. 2-stroke, looking a lot younger, is also shown.

Click on the links below for further articles on David Stanger, Model Aviator:

Flight - 28th May 1910

Flight - April 25th 1914

Model Aircraft - January 1959

Engine Collectors' Journal - 1969

Aeromodeller Annual 1969-70

BMFA News - August 2012

Can you help?
There are three references in this article which I have yet to trace:

  • "Aero" magazine 16th Nov. 1907
  • "Model Engineer" 19th Aug. 1948
  • "Model Engineer" 23rd Oct. 1958

If you can help me with any of these, please contact me via the "Mail Me" button at the top of this column.