Continental XI-1430

Continental XI-1430

I-1430-9 in the National Museum of the United States Air Force
Type Piston aircraft engine
Manufacturer Continental Motors
First run 1939
Major applications Lockheed XP-49
McDonnell XP-67
Number built 23

The Continental XI-1430 Hyper engine (often identified as the IV-1430) was a liquid-cooled aircraft engine developed in the United States by a partnership between the US Army Air Corps and Continental Motors. It was the "official" result of the USAAC's hyper engine efforts that started in 1932, but never entered widespread production as it was not better than other available engines when it finally matured. In 1939, the I-1430-3 was designated as the engine to power the Curtiss XP-55, an extremely radical (for the time) pusher-engine fighter design that would not reach production.[1]



In the late 1920s Harry Ricardo wrote a paper on the sleeve valve design that led to the USAAC's hyper engine efforts. He claimed that the 1 hp/in³ goal was impossible to achieve with poppet valve type engines. The USAAC engineering team at Wright Field decided to test this claim by beating it. The I-1430 was the result of an experimental effort at Wright Field to build a high-power cylinder using conventional poppet valves. The engineers, led by Sam Heron, used a variety of techniques to raise the allowable RPM, which was the key to increased power without requiring a larger engine.[2]

The USAAC was interested in very large bomber designs, and were most interested in engines that could be buried in the wings in order to improve streamlining.[1] From this requirement they designed a 12-cylinder horizontally opposed engine using twelve separate "hyper" cylinders. Although this sort of arrangement, with entirely separate cylinders from each other and the crankcase, was common for liquid-cooled Central Powers World War I-era inline-6 aviation engines, as in the German Mercedes D.III of nearly two decades earlier, it had fallen from use in favor of engines featuring a cylinder block that combined the cylinders and the crankcase, leading to much stiffer engines, that were better able to handle increased power.[3]

The USAAC proposed an engine of about 1200 cubic inches (20 L), hoping the engine's smaller size would lead to reduced drag and hence improved range. By 1932, the USAAC's encouraging efforts led the Army to sign a development contract with Continental Motors Company for the continued development of the engine design. The contract limited Continental's role to construction and testing, leaving the actual engineering development to the Army.[2]

A second cylinder was added to Hyper No. 1 to make a horizontal-opposed engine for evaluation of an opposed-piston 12-cylinder engine. After running the modified engine with different combinations of cylinder bore and stroke, it was found that the high coolant temperatures required to maintain the required output was impractical. A third high-performance single-cylinder engine was then constructed with lower operating parameters. This one-cylinder engine was designated "Hyper No. 2", and became the test bed for developing the cylinders that would become the Continental O-1430 ("O" for "opposed") engine. It would require a ten year development period which changed the layout to first an upright V-12 engine and later, an inverted V-12 engine, before becoming reliable enough to consider for full production as the Continental I-1430 in 1943.[2]

During development, interest in the "buried engine" concept faded. Improvements in conventional streamlining, notably the NACA cowling, eliminated the need for a buried engine for improved performance. Additionally, with bomber designs like the B-17, using radial engines for power, starting to enter production, the need for new bomber designs became less pressing and the Army turned its attention to new pursuit models. For this role the O-1430 was not terribly useful, so Continental modified the basic design into a V-12, and then into an inverted-V-12, the I-1430, in the same basic format that the German Luftwaffe of World War II would use in their own, significantly larger displacement Daimler-Benz DB 601 and Junkers Jumo 211 liquid-cooled inverted V-12 engines, with each type built in the thousands.[2]


The I-1430 featured cylinders with "hemispherical" combustion chambers and two sodium cooled exhaust valves. Although it retained the separate cylinders, the change to a V-layout allowed the individual cylinder heads to be cast as a single piece. Mounted at either end, a Y-shaped plate provided stiffness, while containing the camshaft drives. Continental built the first I-1430 engine in 1938 and successfully tested it in 1939.[1] At the time it was an extremely competitive design, offering at least 1,300 hp (970 kW) from a 23 liter displacement; the contemporary Rolls-Royce Merlin offered about 1,000 hp (700 kW) from 27 l displacement, while the Daimler-Benz DB 601 offered slightly more power at 1,100 hp (820 kW), but was much larger, at 33 l displacement.

Had the I-1430 been able to enter production then, it would have been a "winner", but for reasons that are not well recorded historically, the Hyper engine took a long time to mature. It was not until 1943 that the 1,600 hp (1,190 kW) IV-1430 was tested extensively in the Lockheed XP-49, a modified version of the P-38 Lightning.[1] It was also to be used in the production version of the Bell XP-76, which was canceled before production began.[1] In 1944 it was also tested in the McDonnell XP-67.[1]

Interest in the design had largely disappeared by then; piston engines with the same power or greater ratings were widely available, the Merlin for example had improved tremendously and was offering at least 1,500 hp (1,120 kW), and the military and aircraft builders were already starting to focus on jet engines.

Only twenty-three I-1430 series engines were delivered, later redesignated the XI-1430 to indicate the purely experimental use.[4]

Specifications (I-1430-1)

Data from American Secret Pusher Fighters of World War II"; Balzer, Gerald H. Specialty Press,2008

General characteristics

  • Type: 12-cylinder, liquid-cooled, inverted Vee
  • Bore: 5.0 in
  • Stroke: 4.62 in
  • Displacement: 1,430 in³
  • Dry weight: 1,615 lb


  • Valvetrain: Overhead cam with 4 valves per cylinder
  • Supercharger: Gear driven centrifugal
  • Cooling system: liquid, 50% Glycol, 50% water


  • Power output: 1,600 hp at 3,200 rpm

See also

Related lists



  1. ^ a b c d e f Balzer p 28
  2. ^ a b c d White p 375
  3. ^ Neal p 36
  4. ^ National Museum of the USAF, I-1430 fact sheet


  • Balzer, Gerald (2008). Secret American Pusher Engine Fighters of World War II. Minnesota, USA: Specialty Press. ISBN 13-978-1-58007-125-3. 
  • Gunston, Bill (1986). World Encyclopedia of Aero Engines. Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens. pp. 47–48. 
  • White, Graham (1995). Allied Aircraft Piston Engines of World War II. Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc.. pp. 375–378. 
  • Neal, Robert J.; Packard as an Aero Engine Builder - Spark-Ignition Engines: 1923-1939 Torque Meter Vol. 7 No. 3 Summer 2008 at Aircraft Engine Historical Society

External links

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