Fine and Rare Model Engines of Fighter Planes from the First and Second World War for Sale

On Tuesday 20th March, Dreweatts and Bloomsbury Auctions are offering three examples of finely engineered ¼ scale models of early rotary and radial engines used in aeroplanes from both the First and Second World War. Dreweatts’ Transport Sale at Apsley Rd, Bristol encompasses around 300 lots ranging from locomotives, traction engines and boats to related reference books and model engines.

It is however, the three model aero engines from the early days of flying that will set the pulses of international collectors (and institutions) racing. The extraordinary craftsmanship and attention to detail of all three models is superb, each was painstakingly built by a retired English engineer and each is estimated to fetch between £5,000-£7,000.

The first piece in the group and which can justifiably be called an ‘engineering work of art’, is the model of a Clerget 9BF rotary engine designed by Pierre Clerget in 1915 and used to power the Sopwith Camel, the most successful fighter/scout aircraft of WW1. The First World War triggered in considerable development in aero engines in general, but the rotary’s high power to weight ratio resulted in it being extensively used in fighter or ‘Scout’ aircraft, where speed and manoeuvrability were major requirements. Clerget-Blin & Cie was one of three firms which developed rotary engines, the demand reached such levels that they reached a licensing agreement with the British manufacturer Gwynnes Ltd.

Clerget engines were perhaps the best designed and preferred by fighter pilots and their engineers. The 9BF was a nine cylinder rotary engine which was developed in France from 1915, it cost £907 and was first run in 1913. Original full size engines can be seen at the Air Arm Museum RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset. Dreweatts believes that this is the first time a model of a Clerget 9BF rotary engine of 1915 has ever appeared on the market.

The second model in the series is a finely built model of a Bentley BR2 Rotary Engine, designed by the great WO Bentley in 1916/17 at the request of the Admiralty to specially to replace the Clerget and give an engine greater power and reliability. He had been using aluminium pistons in cast iron liners in his car engines and he believed this was the way to go. Clerget used cast iron pistons in very thin-walled steel cylinders. The BR2 was developed from the BR1 and was used to power the Sopwith Snipe and the ground attack version of the snipe, the Sopwith TF-2 Salamander. This amazing overhead valve air-cooled engine consumed around 20 gallons of fuel per hour and 16 pints of oil per hour.

The BR2 was first run in 1916 and a total of 2,567 were built. Examples of the full sized engine are in the Science Museum, London and the Royal Air Force Museum, Cosford. The first ¼ scale model of the Bentley BR2 was built by Lewis Kinleside Blackmore and is currently on display at the Bentley Memorial Building in Oxfordshire; he also published a book on the history and building of this model. It is interesting to note that two years ago Dreweatts sold a similar model to a Japanese collector for £9,200.

The third model and one which will undoubtedly appeal to the US market, is that of an American 18 cylinder radial engine designed by Lee Hodgson and based on the famous Pratt and Whitney Double Wasp R-2800 which powered much of the US fighter fleet, as well as many British planes. Hodgson was a chief engineer at Pratt and Whitney and their engines powered 98% of all transport used by the US military.

These three fine models of aero engines encapsulate early aviation development and each is a work of art in its own right.

For further information please contact: Michael Matthews at Dreweatts, Bristol on tel: 0117 973 7201 or email:

To view the sale catalogue online, please click here.

Dreweatts - 23 January 2012