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The innovative work of automotive pioneer Frederick Lanchester

Professional Engineering

The Pendulum Accelerometer
The Pendulum Accelerometer

Frederick William Lanchester (1868-1946) is well known in automotive circles as an early innovator.

His Pendulum Accelerometer is one of many items he gave to IMechE archive. It was designed and constructed by him, and used by Daimler and Company, for the testing of brakes and accelerators (patented 1890). 

In late 1888, Lanchester worked for the Forward Gas Engine Company. He invented and patented a Pendulum Governor in 1889, to control engine speeds – he received a royalty of ten shillings for each one fitted.

In 1890, Lanchester patented a self-starting device for gas engines. He sold the rights to the Crossley Gas Engine Company. Having resigned in 1893, he designed a four-wheeled vehicle to be driven by a petrol engine, with a 5bhp engine with epicyclic gearbox – giving two forward speeds plus reverse. 

Completed in 1895 (tested 1896), the car lacked power. He designed a new 8hp car with a redesigned epicyclic gearbox, then fitted it to the 1895 car.

A second car with the same engine and transmission, but with Lanchester’s own design of cantilever suspension, was built in 1898. It won a gold medal for design and performance at the Automobile Exhibition and Trials, Richmond. In 1900, this Gold Medal Phaeton was entered for the first Royal Automobile Club 1,000 Miles Trial, completing the course successfully. 

With his brothers, Lanchester launched the Lanchester Engine Company in 1899.


Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
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