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A Brief History of the Supercharger

You may be wondering, Who first thought of compressing air before sending it to the combustion chamber? Don't run to the library just yet. We'll tell you!

It seems that just before the turn of the century (1900 that is), a German engineer named Gottlieb Daimler (yes, of Daimler Benz, Daimler Chrysler...) obtained a patent for a pump to aid in the delivery of increased amounts of air and fuel to the cylinder, and to aid in the removal of exhaust gasses. He didn't call it a "supercharger" in his patent application, but that's what he was describing - this was the birth of the automotive supercharger. But in order to get to the true beginnings, we have to look ever further back in history.

Gottlieb's automotive supercharger design was modeled after a twin-rotor industrial "air-mover" invented and patented nearly 40 years earlier by Mr. Francis Roots (from Indiana) back in 1860. This technology is the foundation of the roots type "blowers"still used today! Soon after the roots air movers (they were not called compressors because they did not compress air - they only moved it) were used in industrial applications, a German engineer named Krigar invented an air pump that utilized twin rotating shafts that compressed. This technology would go on years later to become the foundation of the Lysholm twin-screw compressor used in today's automotive applications.

Apparently our old friend Gottlieb didn't have much luck in the early stages with his new invention, but the idea inspired French engineer Lois Renault, who patented his own type of supercharger soon after the turn of the century. It wasn't long before superchargers started to show up on American race cars. Lee Chadwick is credited with being one of the first American racers to successfully use a centrifugal supercharger in competitive racing, starting in the Vanderbilt Cup in Long Island, New York in 1908.

Soon thereafter superchargers took to the air as World War I military engineers looked for new ways to make more powerful airplanes. Because airplanes fly at such high altitudes, the internal combustion engines that worked great on the ground, suffered at altitude in the thinner air. Although the technology wasn't successfully used in combat before the war ended, it was clear that superchargers were well on their way to becoming a mainstream power adding device.

Meanwhile, back in Germany, Mercedes was hard at work trying to make old Gottlieb's supercharger work. By 1921 they found success and released a glimpse of the first production supercharged vehicle utilizing a roots-type supercharger. Mercedes went on to manufacture several supercharged models with great success in the following years.

In the racing scene, supercharged cars were finding more and more success. By 1924, superchargers made their way to the Indy 500. Around the world, racers in Mercedes, Fiats, Bugattis, Alfa Romeos, Buicks, and MGs began using superchargers to help them to the victory circle. Mercedes found great success with their supercharged Grand Prix cars, while Harry Miller's supercharged Indy cars dominated at the Brickyard.

In the mid 1930's Robert Paxton McCulloch started McCulloch Engineering Company and began manufacturing superchargers as the first large American commercial supercharger manufacturer. They began developing superchargers for use on American passenger cars and hydroplane boats. This was the start of the supercharger industry in America as we know it today.

Then came World War II in 1939, and the Allied forces had an ace up their sleeve in the form of the supercharged Spitfire fighter planes and B-29 SuperFortress bomber. These supercharged planes seemed almost unaffected by the altitude to the delight of Allied pilots and soldiers.

After the war, superchargers took on a new life in the world of racing. Alfa Romeo and British Racing Motors used superchargers on their Grand Prix cars to the horror of the competition before they were eventually outlawed. At Indy, there was no such rule, and centrifugal superchargers howled their way to many victories.

By 1950, McCulloch had formed Paxton Engineering as its own entity, which took over the supercharger development and took on the task of creating an inexpensive supercharger fit for use by the general public. After $700,000 research, and two years of testing, the supercharger was ready for the public in 1953. Initially it worked only on 1950 - 1953 Fords, but by 1954 kits were made for nearly every commercially available 6 and 8 cylinder engine.

The rest is history, as Paxton developed newer and better superchargers until they became a part of life, not only in the world of racing, but also in the street-legal aftermarket world. Today it's hard to keep track of all supercharger brands and models, but that's the way we like it

Thanks to Superchargersonline.com
 

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<Then came World War II in 1939, and the Allied forces had an ace up their sleeve in the form of the supercharged Spitfire fighter planes and B-29 SuperFortress bomber. These supercharged planes seemed almost unaffected by the altitude to the delight of Allied pilots and soldiers.>

-Yeah thats the case in WW2, but later on turbo's became more efficient because they run off the exhaust and are less effected by the atmospheric pressure, so a lot of little turd airplanes, malibu's and cesna's, etc, have turbo's as opposed to superchargers. On cars I prefer superchargers, though I prefer N/A over any type of forced induction, less moving parts and less heat.
 

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VetteZ06 said:
<Then came World War II in 1939, and the Allied forces had an ace up their sleeve in the form of the supercharged Spitfire fighter planes and B-29 SuperFortress bomber. These supercharged planes seemed almost unaffected by the altitude to the delight of Allied pilots and soldiers.>

-Yeah thats the case in WW2, but later on turbo's became more efficient because they run off the exhaust and are less effected by the atmospheric pressure, so a lot of little turd airplanes, malibu's and cesna's, etc, have turbo's as opposed to superchargers. On cars I prefer superchargers, though I prefer N/A over any type of forced induction, less moving parts and less heat.
True, the main benefit of turbo on a prop plane is that the horsepower output is constant irregardless of altitude. Planes without turbo loose horsepower as the gain altitude. For landings and takeoffs at high altitude the turbo can make a pretty big difference in a planes ability to take off and climb.
 
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