The Forgotten Conqueror
by Adrian Duncan
Most people seem to remember William the Conqueror who won the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and thus made himself King of England. However, there's another 1066 Conqueror that has been largely forgotten, at least in aeromodelling circles!
In a previous article published on this site in 2004, a limited amount of information was provided regarding the rather obscure British Ten-Sixty-Six range, including some discussion of a number of the 5cc models offered by that manufacturer. The firm's 10cc model known as the Ten-Sixty-Six Conqueror was mentioned but not discussed in depth. Readers wishing to learn more about the Ten-Sixty-Six 5cc models are referred to the earlier article. The present text will focus on the 10cc Conqueror.
In stating that this British racing engine has tended to be overlooked, we have to admit that we're guilty as charged ourselves—despite its mention in the earlier article, we forgot to include it as part of the domestic competition in our subsequent write-up on the Nordec 10cc motors! But we're not alone here—even the usually comprehensive Peter Chinn overlooked the Conqueror in his retrospective on classic racing engines entitled Exit the Racing Engine? which appeared in the March 1956 issue of Model Aircraft magazine—the only British-made racing units mentioned in that article were those from Nordec, Rowell and ETA. So we're in very good company!
Since the publication of the initial article on the Ten-Sixty-Six range on this site, a great deal of new information regarding the manufacturers themselves has become available on the outstanding On the Wireweb-site dedicated to tethered model car and hydroplane racing.
This site is an absolute gold-mine of information on tethered car and hydroplane racing past and present. Some of the engineering that goes into these models and the engines that power them is quite remarkable, and any MEN reader will find something of interest there. Highly recommended! I‘m deeply grateful to On The Wire's Hugh Blowers, who is probably the world's leading authority on Ten-Sixty-Six and was most generous in providing information and images as well as reading my draft text to keep me on the right track.
In addition, Hugh was kind enough to provide me with my own copy of his very detailed write-up on the life and times of Ten-Sixty-Six founder G. I. Hastings and the products of the company. The pooling of information in this manner between two groups of researchers who are approaching the same subject from different angles can only be beneficial both to the researchers involved and to their readers. I'm proud to include Hugh among my valued friends and colleagues.
I also wish to pay tribute to my friend and colleague Alan Strutt of Somerset, England, from whom I acquired the pristine example of the Conqueror which appears in this article and who was kind enough to provide me with some of the available background information regarding this rare and hitherto rather obscure motor. Finally, I'm most grateful for the invaluable assistance of my friend Kevin Richards, who responded to a number of requests for information during the preparation of this article. Thanks, mates!
Having acknowledged the very considerable assistance provided to me by the above gentlemen, I must emphasize that the responsibility for any errors or omissions in the following texts rests with me and me alone.
Quite apart from the availability of a huge amount of new information from the above sources, the arrival of a more or less unused Conqueror Mk I built from a kit to a very good standard has allowed us to delve into the engine and describe it more fully for the record. For these reasons, it appears to us that a further article on the Ten-Sixty-Six range in general and the Conqueror in particular is well justified.
As its title suggests, the present article will focus primarily on the Ten-Sixty-Six Conqueror engine itself. However, the Conqueror was just one of an amazing range of products offered by the company. Readers wishing to know more about the full scope of the Ten-Sixty-Six venture are strongly urged to consult the highly informative On The Wire web site mentioned earlier. There's far more on that site than we intend to present here!
For convenience, we will begin by summarizing the history of the Ten-Sixty-Six company before discussing the Conqueror in detail.
The main reason why the Conqueror and its manufacturer appear to have been almost completely overlooked by today's predominantly aero-minded model engine aficionados is the fact that the company concerned was very much focused on the production of engines and accessories for tethered model car racing, with a subsidiary interest in tethered hydroplane racing. Their involvement with model aircraft appears to have been entirely peripheral to their other interests.
It's often forgotten by today's aeronautically-inclined enthusiasts that between them model car racing and tethered hydroplane racing rivalled aeromodelling in popularity among early post WW2 British power modellers, paralleling the similar situation in the USA. At that time, I/C powered car racing in particular enjoyed a level of support which was only to be regained many years later with the refinement of radio-controlled I/C powered car racing during the past 25 years or so.
Oddly enough, it was the advent of WW2 that triggered the growth of interest in I/C-powered model car racing in Britain. During that unhappy period, the flying of I/C-engined model aircraft was officially banned. However, the operation of model I/C engines for other purposes was not prohibited—rather strange in view of the severe rationing of petrol which prevailed at the time. The effect of this was to ground a sizeable number of perfectly serviceable model aero engines, leaving a group of frustrated power modellers very much open to alternative suggestions for use of these engines.
Aeromodeller publisher D. A. Russell was not slow to recognize this pent-up frustration, and in September 1942 the magazine featured the first of a series of articles promoting the use of model aero engines to power model racing cars. A set of rules was also established for the use of such cars in competition. The ensuing inaugural competition was well supported, the winner being Gerry Buck. This and subsequent successes led Russell to go one step further in late 1944 by establishing the British Model Car Club.
During this period, British enthusiasts necessarily had to work with chassis, accessories and in some cases engines of their own making, since no such items were commercially available during the war years. Some of the resulting engines were extremely competitive—Hugh Blowers tells us that Gerry Buck's rather crudely-constructed Hornet-influenced design remained one of the engines to beat for some years after the conclusion of the war.
Following the conclusion of hostilities, model car racing experienced a huge upsurge of interest in Britain, with new clubs and tracks appearing almost on a weekly basis. This activity in turn drew the attention of commercial interests to the hobby, and firms supplying goods related to model car racing quickly began to appear. At the peak of the model car boom, it's estimated that there were over 50 such firms in existence in Britain! The growth of the hobby was also sufficiently rapid to promote the establishment of Model Cars magazine, which published its first issue in September 1946.
The Ten-Sixty-Six venture was one of the pioneering British commercial model car initiatives, being founded in late 1945 by then 38-year old Geoffrey I. Hastings. Hugh Blowers' painstaking research has revealed that Hastings was a highly enigmatic figure who appears to have led something of a double life while at the same time avoiding having his photo taken wherever possible! For reasons which remain obscure, he generally conducted his private affairs under the name of Geoffrey Prescott, using his legal name of Hastings only when required to do so in connection with his business or legal interests. Hugh's investigations leave no doubt that Geoffrey Prescott and Geoffrey Hastings were one and the same person. Some measure of skulduggery seem to be implied here ...for most of us, one name suffices!
From the outset, the activities of the Ten-Sixty-Six company were primarily centred upon the field of model car racing, although they were also involved with tethered hydroplanes. They traded under the name Ten-Sixty-Six Products, using a registered trade-mark which featured the term "MODENGE" along with the "1066 Products" identification. The company's head office was located at 26 Battenhall Road in Worcester, England, although a number of early advertisements give the address as 90 Pimlico Road, Pimlico, London. It seems likely that this was an address of convenience, as was a short-lived registered office location at Selly Oak, Birmingham.
A certain amount of light work such as fettling of the castings, assembly and packing was evidently carried out at the Battenhall Road premises in a workshop located in an outbuilding at the rear of the terrace. However, much of the actual production work was undertaken at an entirely different location at Cinderford, Gloucestershire, by a separate company called W. E. Salter Die Casting Ltd., which was founded at around the same time by Hastings in partnership with a toolmaker by the name of Bill Salter.
Hastings seems to have pursued a rather lavish lifestyle, which is somewhat at odds with the fact that for much of his life he appears to have had no visible sources of income—handy when the tax man came to call! However, he apparently had quite a way with the ladies, and the establishment of both the Ten-Sixty-Six and Salter companies was evidently financed for the most part by a wealthy lady friend named Millicent Bennett who owned both the office and manufacturing premises. No prizes for guessing the source of inspiration for the company name!
The advertised range of items was quite extensive—apart from the model engines themselves, a complete line of parts and accessories required to build and operate tethered model racing cars was also produced. In addition, there were two model car kits as well as a tethered racing hydroplane kit. These products were initially sold through dealers, but as of March 1948 the company took to selling directly to the public from its Worcester premises.
The model engines offered by the company included the Falcon 5cc side-port model (their initial design), the Hawk 5cc RRV model featuring a screw-in cast-iron cylinder, the Arrow 5cc RRV model which was a development of the Hawk, featuring a separate aluminium cylinder attached by 4 screws and our main subject, the Conqueror 10cc RRV model. The company also flirted with a 10cc version of the sideport Falcon, which was briefly advertised alongside the 5cc Falcon. However, surviving examples of this model appear to be akin to hen's teeth these days—I've never encountered one. There was also an early mention of a 15cc version, but there's currently no evidence that this variant ever actually existed.
The company took its development work very seriously, to the extent of establishing and maintaining its own private track at Ambrose Farm in the suburbs of Worcester for testing and development purposes. The design of the Ten-Sixty-Six engines was strongly influenced by the fact that Hastings was a close friend of the legendary Edgar T. Westbury. In fact, it appears that a primary motivation for the establishment of Ten-Sixty-Six Products was Hastings' wish to capitalize on Westbury's design concepts. There's no mistaking the Westbury influence upon many of the engine designs offered by the company.
With the sole exception of the 5cc Hawk RRV model, all Ten-Sixty-Six engines were available in kit form for home building. The kits were generally fairly basic, consisting of plans, rough castings, materials and fastenings. The attached illustration of a surviving Conqueror kit which turned up in 2004 is representative of the company's products. It took a fair amount of skilled model engineering work to complete an engine from these kits. One of the most challenging components was of course the crankshaft, and completed crankshafts were sold separately for those who preferred to side-step this particular challenge.
This venture was clearly a labor of love for Hastings—whatever his other failings, he appears to have been a genuine enthusiast. He was quite energetic in promoting the company, placing regular advertisements in specialist publications (notably Model Engineer, Model Cars and Model Car News) from early 1946 to mid 1950 extolling the virtues of the company's various products in fulsome terms. Interestingly enough, the first few advertisements, in which the introduction of the Falcon series in 5cc, 10cc and 15cc models was highlighted, were taken out under the name of GI Hastings of 26 Battenhall Road, Worcester, with no mention of Ten-Sixty-Six Products. Subsequent advertisements all used the Ten-Sixty-Six name.
In 1948 Hastings introduced a trophy costing more than £200 (not, I hasten to add, paid for with his own money!) together with a complex set of rules to encourage development of home-built model racing cars using British products. John Oliver was among those who featured in the results for 1948 and 1949, which were to be the only years during which the event was run. It's an often-overlooked fact that Oliver's chief interest in the early days was in model car racing—indeed, his famous Tiger 2.5 cc model began life as a purpose-built car engine.
The reasons why the Conqueror and its smaller relatives never achieved the profile of some of their competitors in aeromodelling circles should now be readily apparent. The company maintained an unswerving focus upon model car racing along with a subsidiary interest in tethered hydroplane racing, to the point that they do not appear to have advertised in the aeromodelling media of the day. Indeed, I have found no instance of their engines even being the subject of commentary in those media. Hastings' promotional activities in the aeromodelling field appear to have been confined to the sponsorship of a few aeromodelling events.
As a result, most of the aeromodelling fraternity remained in ignorance of the very existence of the Ten-Sixty-Six engines. It's a little hard to understand the company's deliberate restriction of their potential customer base in this way, since their engines were perfectly suitable for model aircraft use and might well have achieved some level of consumer acceptance in that field.
Another issue that probably had an adverse effect upon the company's fortunes was the fact that the very ambitious production program implied by the wide range of products on offer proved in the event to be impossible to maintain, at least initially. As a result, shipments to dealers were greatly compromised and the company frequently failed to meet delivery expectations. This situation seems to have reached a head in late 1947, when available inventory had become essentially non-existent and there was nothing to send out to the dealers. It was apparently only the ongoing financial support of Millicent Bennett that kept the company afloat during this period. By April of 1948 Hastings had seemingly resolved many of the supply problems, but there's little doubt that the company's reputation must have suffered in the interim. It was likely a loss of dealer confidence arising from this period that led to the company beginning to sell direct to the public at this time.
An additional impediment to the achievement of wider success was the fact that for the most part the engines were offered as kits for home construction rather than as complete factory-built units. This meant that a significant level of mechanical capability was required to complete them. Accordingly, they appealed primarily to the Motor Boys of the 1940's rather than the mainstream aeromodellers who mostly lacked the facilities to construct engines from plans, castings and basic materials. Given the choice, most aeromodellers would understandably opt for one of the factory-made units from other companies which were becoming increasingly available and affordable at the time.
Recognizing this, the Ten-Sixty-Six company directed their main advertising efforts toward the precision craftsman fraternity. Our painstaking Editor Ron Chernich undertook a scan through the advertisements in the Model Engineer from 1946 through 1950. He found that Ten-Sixty-Six Products ads appeared regularly every couple of months, always in the front advertising section, all the way up to the final placement in July 1950. However, despite the unquestionably enthusiastic and sincere efforts made by Hastings to promote his venture, the company was clearly struggling as the 1940's drew to a close.
It was probably a combination of reasons rather than any single cause which led to the development of this unhappy situation. Apart from the early supply difficulties, the primary factor was likely the focus of the company upon the costly and technically-demanding sport of model car racing, to the virtual exclusion of all other interests. It can't be denied that model car racing at this level was an extremely expensive business by late 1940's standards. By the time a customer could bring a competitive 10cc car to the starting line, for example, his investment in that single model might well be on the wrong side of £40, a small fortune in those days, being equivalent to several thousand dollars in today's money.
At a time in Britain when a man earning £8 a week was considered well-off, this represented a major impediment to widespread participation in the sport. In effect, the pursuit of model car racing at a competitive level had become an activity open only to those having the right combination of money and technical ability. Naturally, such individuals were very much in a minority—Rowell 60 designer Wilf Rowell estimated in 1950 that there were only a "few hundred" serious participants in model car racing at that time. He was probably not far wrong.
By contrast, once one owned an engine the additional financial outlay and technical expertise required to create a suitable model aircraft were relatively minimal. Moreover, one could easily use the same engine in a number of models, even on the same day. Aeromodelling thus remained a far more accessible branch of the power modelling hobby, and the relative numbers of participants increasingly reflected this. Ten-Sixty-Six might have achieved considerably greater success if they had catered to this market also, rather than focusing upon cars. In particular, the development of a diesel model for aircraft use might have done much to enhance their profile.
A further challenge was the increased competition faced by Ten-Sixty-Six as time went by. As of late 1945 when the company was founded, there was little competition since the post-war model car boom was only just getting started in Britain. Indeed, Ten-Sixty-Six Products were among the pioneers in the field. However, by 1950 there were around 50 firms supplying the needs of British model car racing enthusiasts, some of them competing for the very same turf occupied by Ten-Sixty-Six Products. Rowell Motors of Dundee, North Downs Engineering of Whytleafe in Surrey and ZN Motors of Willsden in London come immediately to mind, and there were others.
Quite apart from this, there was also the inescapable fact that the engines simply weren't good enough—the results sheets from the period make this abundantly clear. Edgar Westbury was at heart a designer of the 1930's, whereas by the late 1940's the mantle of racing engine design leadership had passed across the Atlantic to the likes of Tom Dooling, Dick McCoy and Ray Snow. To compete successfully in the 10cc class, the possession of a Dooling, McCoy or Hornet was essential regardless of whether one was involved with tethered hydros, cars or speed control-line aircraft. The plain fact was that none of the British 10cc racing engines could complete on level terms with any of the leading American models—the Rowell 60 came closest but still fell short. Things were no different in the 5cc class, although the British ETA 29 which appeared in 1949 was quickly developed into a serious contender which could challenge the American products. Ten-Sixty-Six simply wasn't in the running in either class in performance terms.
The same was true of Ten-Sixty-Six's approach to the design of their model cars and accessories. Their competitors Rowell and ZN both continued the development of their car designs through hands-on competition experience at the highest levels, manufacturing cars and components that reflected current US trends. By contrast, Ten-Sixty-Six never embraced the out-and-out racing market and thus failed to develop competitive designs.
To make matters even worse, by 1950 the tethered model car racing boom had peaked and was already beginning the fairly rapid slide from prominence which would see it virtually disappear in Britain by 1955. So the various firms were competing for their share of a steadily-decreasing market that was never all that large in the first place.
As a result of all the above factors, the Ten-Sixty-Six venture failed to sustain the level of commercial success required to justify its continuation. Indeed, it's pretty clear that the company had never at any time come close to being financially sustainable, having been kept afloat as long as it was purely through the ongoing injection of capital by Millicent Bennett. This could not continue indefinitely, the inevitable result being that the company was wound up in the first half of 1950. Hugh Blowers reports that the final advertisement in Model Car News appeared in January 1950, while the last-ever Model Engineer placement was published in the July 1950 issue.
Production had greatly outstripped sales over the life of the company, and a great deal of inventory remained unsold when it ceased trading. Some retailers were still advertising a range of Ten-Sixty-Six items a decade later and new kits and parts still show up periodically today.
The operations of WE Salter Die Casting Ltd. at Cinderford were continued until late 1953, when that company too went into voluntary liquidation. The circumstances surrounding the winding-up of this company reflected little credit upon Hastings' business ethics, since it transpired that he had made highly questionable use of his position as a Director and was pursued for the return of a substantial quantity of improperly allocated funds. One of the suppliers who was caught up in the fall-out from this venture commented for the record that he had "... a very poor opinion of Mr. Hastings' business methods". Enough said, we think.
Hastings seems to have somehow survived this episode and continued to live in easy circumstances with Millicent Bennett at a new address in Falmouth. Although Millicent must have lost many thousands of pounds on the Ten-Sixty-Six venture, she stuck loyally with Hastings regardless, going on to support him in a sport-fishing charter venture based on Looe in Cornwall. However, Hastings did not live long to enjoy Millicent's continuing favors, being killed in a motor vehicle accident in 1957 at the age of fifty.
The 10cc Conqueror—Background and Development
We must now return to 1948, at which time interest in model car racing and tethered hydroplane racing in Britain remained high, along with a growing interest in C/L speed flying. The 10cc class was among the Blue Riband categories in all three branches of the hobby, causing several British manufacturers to decided more or less simultaneously in 1948 to enter the "prestige" field of 10cc model racing engine production. The North Downs Engineering Company of Whytleafe, Surrey, launched their Nordec 60 series which included both car and aero versions of their McCoy-inspired 10cc offering. Rowell Motors Ltd. of Dundee, Scotland released their Rowell 60 model which was primarily designed for model car use, while our subject company, Ten-Sixty-Six Products Ltd., added the 10cc Conqueror to their already-established range.
It's interesting to observe that all three of the above-mentioned designs appear to have been inspired by a genuine passion for the modelling hobby on the part of their instigators. The Ten-Sixty-Six and Rowell ventures were unquestionably both established at the outset as a result of their respective founders' passionate interest in model car racing. By contrast, the makers of the Nordec were already well-established in the full-sized automotive business and thus had no economic incentive whatsoever for entering the relatively limited field of big-bore model racing engines. Although we do not know the name(s) of the individual(s) responsible, it's a reasonable inference that the creation of the Nordec too was driven by passion rather than by economic incentives. A pleasing thought—there's far too little genuine passion around today ...
It's a little-known fact that there was nearly a fourth British 10cc racing engine contender at this time! Speaking to Jim Woodside many years later, Ted Martin, designer of the AMCO engines from Chester, recalled looking over the British opposition in late 1948 and making a strong pitch to the Directors of the Anchor Motor Co. for the development of a 10cc AMCO racing engine with which to take them on. Perhaps wisely in view of the limited market together with the emerging competition, the Directors vetoed the idea, leaving Ted to focus attention upon the development of the very successful AMCO 3.5 series. There's little doubt that in commercial terms this was a far more productive use of Ted's time, but it's intriguing to contemplate the level of competition which a Martin-designed 10cc racing engine might have offered to the other three competing models ...
The 10cc Conqueror which is our main subject was initially developed in its Mk I form during 1948, with both spark ignition and glow-plug ignition models being offered. The illustrated example is a Mk I spark ignition unit. This model was very much McCoy-influenced, although it retained some Westbury characteristics along with a measure of highly original thinking, as we shall see.
The price of the basic kit for the Mk I Conqueror was a very reasonable £2 17s 6d, but the purchaser then had a lot of skilled work to do! The Conqueror was also made available as a factory-produced ready-to-run unit at a cost of £8 5s 0d for the spark ignition version and £8 2s 6d for the glow-plug version. These prices are interesting in that the cost of the factory-built Conqueror significantly undercut that of the competing Nordec and Rowell 10cc models. This led to the Conqueror being fairly widely adopted by clubman car racers. However, the engine seems never to have become anywhere near as popular in aeromodelling circles as its Nordec rival. It appears in fact that most of them were sold in kit form to model engineering types with a primary interest outside of aeromodelling.
The performance shortcomings of the Mk I Conqueror soon became sufficiently obvious that at some point during 1949 a revised Mk II version was developed. This featured an enlarged bypass passage, doubtless influenced by the then recently-introduced and far more powerful McCoy 60 Series 20. It was otherwise more or less identical to its Mk I predecessor. I have no information regarding the effect which this modification had on performance, but a modest increase would be a logical expectation.
It appears that later in 1949 the development of a Mk IV version was contemplated. A number of glow-plug examples of the engine appeared at that time with downdraft carburettors a la Dooling, albeit allied to Mk II crankcases. The backplates in question were stamped "Mk IV"—one wonders what became of the implied Mk III model! The venturi used with this backplate had a significantly larger throat diameter than that used on the Mk I and Mk II models.
It's possible that the Mk IV backplate was offered as an upgrade for existing Mk II engines. However, Hugh Blowers advises that at least 4 crankcases are known to exist which have further enlarged bypass passages and larger-diameter cooling fins. It's possible that this crankcase allied to the downdraft backplate was intended to be the "real" Mk IV version of the Conqueror. Such an engine would almost certainly have had a considerably enhanced performance.
The downdraft Mk IV backplate seems to imply that the later development of the Conqueror was far more influenced by Dooling than by McCoy or Westbury. A further indication of this is the fact that a one-off prototype bulge-bypass model of the Conqueror was reportedly tested just prior to the Company going out of business.
Factory-built examples of the Conqueror may be recognized by the fact that they are serial-numbered. Oddly enough, the factory-built Mk I engines were numbered beginning at 500, while the Mk II models started at 200... go figure! Hugh Blowers reports that the highest Mk I serial number encountered to date is 644, while the corresponding figure for the Mk II is 285. Clearly the numbers actually manufactured by Ten-Sixty-Six Products Ltd. (as opposed to being sold in kit form) were quite low.
Interestingly enough, Hugh's records show that home-constructed Mk I and Mk II Conquerors appear to exist today in very comparable numbers. My own illustrated Mk I example bears no serial number and hence must have been constructed from a kit. It is a credit to its unknown builder.
The main issue with engines which were predominantly home-built from kits is that there tended to be quite a wide variation in quality given the differing levels of skill possessed by their builders. My friend and colleague Alan Strutt tells me that he has handled a number of examples of the Conqueror over the years. According to Alan, they have almost without exception been very poor in the compression department. The rings and liner blanks were supplied by the well-established firm of Wellworthy, who certainly knew their business. However, the liners were supplied as simple billets of centrifugally-cast iron which had to be machined from scratch by the individual builders, who also had to machine the pistons from raw castings to achieve a fit with both the liners and the rings. Mistakes on their part could certainly account for some of Alan's observations. In addition, the tendency towards poor compression may have been due simply to the engines being basically clapped out (car engines ingest a lot of dust, and the revs attained at start-up can be pretty spectacular!). Whatever the case, the illustrated little-run example is an exception to this rule, having quite acceptable compression despite not having been fully run in and the rings bedded down. It is in fact extremely well-fitted throughout.
Hugh Blowers recalls that the Conqueror was an excellent "clubman's" engine which was quite widely used to power cars in the 10cc class, also seeing service in the field of tethered hydroplanes. Those that were well-built apparently gave quite good service, although they were never competitive in purely performance terms. It seems that no-one ever got around to actually testing the Conqueror to see how it performed by comparison with its Rowell and Nordec rivals. Based upon the contemporary results sheets, the Rowell at least was undoubtedly a superior performer, although neither the Rowell nor the Nordec worked well in hydroplane service and the Nordec was an indifferent performer in cars also. Presumably the Conqueror's substantially lower selling price was a major factor in the attainment of such sales success as the engine achieved.
The engines were intended for spur gear mounting and were never supplied with a clutch. Oddly enough, neither of the Ten-Sixty-Six clutch units will fit a Conqueror (!?), although Rowell, ZN and Nordec all made clutches which would fit the rival 10cc model. Conversion of the Conqueror from car to aircraft use was a very simple matter, involving nothing more than the fitting of a Nordec-style bobbin prop driver and sleeve nut in place of the flywheel and spur gearing. My own illustrated Mk I engine was equipped in this manner as received.
I am presently aware of only one reference which confirms that the Conqueror was recognized in its day as a model aero engine as opposed to being merely a car unit. This was the inclusion of the Conqueror (and its 5cc relative the Hawk) in Ron Warring's April 1951 table of data on the world's documented model aero engines produced during the period 1948—early 1951. This table was published in Model Aircraft and was re-printed in Vic Smeed's much later publication Flying Models—Favourites of the Fifties (Argus Books, 1988). The Rowell 60 was another 10cc racing engine primarily intended for car use which occasionally appeared in model aircraft service despite its rather excessive weight for that purpose and thus warranted inclusion in Warring's table along with the Nordec. Interestingly, the Oliver engines were not included, clearly being seen solely as purpose-built car engines during this period. How times were to change!
Some readers may be surprised to see Ron Warring contributing to Model Aircraft on the subject of model engines. Most of us associate Peter Chinn with the engine articles in that publication and remember Warring as the engine tester and commentator for the rival Aeromodeller magazine. It's true that Warring had started work with Aeromodeller magazine while still a teenager, but it seems that he was unable to get along with the owner of that publication at the time, D. A. Russell. For this reason, Warring greatly reduced his involvement with Aeromodeller and instead became a regular contributor to the rival Model Aircraft magazine while still contributing to Aeromodeller on occasion. It was only in 1952 after Russell severed his connection with Aeromodeller that Warring returned as the replacement engine tester for the departing Lawrence Sparey.
With the above background in mind, we can now turn to a detailed examination of a representative product of the Ten-Sixty-Six company—the 10cc Conqueror Mk I spark ignition model.
The Mk I Conqueror—Detailed Description
In presenting a description of this engine for MEN readers, we need to state at the outset that we are necessarily speaking about a single example of an engine that was predominantly sold in kit form. Accordingly, significant variations may be expected between different examples, both in terms of construction details and quality of workmanship. Wherever possible, I have tried with the valued help of Hugh Blowers to point out details of my example which appear to depart from the "official" design of the engine.
As one might expect for a 10cc racing engine dating from 1948, the Conqueror is a fairly conventional design of its day which displays a considerable degree of McCoy influence. Like the rival British-made 10cc Nordec R10 reviewed elsewhere, the design of the spark-ignition version of the Conqueror appears to have been significantly influenced by that of the 1946-48 black-case version of the highly successful McCoy 60 Red Head racing engine, although hints of the Westbury touch remain in evidence as well if one looks closely. As of 1948 the McCoy was in full-scale production by the Duro-Matic Products Company of Hollywood, California and had established itself as a design to be reckoned with in the highly competitive performance fields of control line speed and model car racing. Its influence upon other contemporary designers is thus quite understandable.
Bore and stroke of the Conqueror are essentially identical to those shared by the McCoy, the Rowell and the Nordec at 0.937" and 0.875" respectively for a displacement of 9.90 cc (.604 cu. in.). The stroke is identical and the bore is only three-thousandths of an inch smaller. This may in fact be merely incidental—in all likelihood the bore and stroke were intended to be nominally identical.
The timing of the engine is a bit weird—the transfer and exhaust periods are very conservative for a racing engine, while the induction timing is extremely aggressive. The exhaust opens quite late at 62 degrees before bottom dead centre for a total opening period of only 124 degrees. The transfer is timed even more timidly, opening at 51 degrees before bottom dead centre for a total opening period of 102 degrees and a blow-down period of some 11 degrees. There is also a very small period of sub-piston induction extending approximately 10 degrees each side of top dead centre. Hugh Blowers notes that none of the factory-built engines of which he is aware exhibit this latter feature, implying that it is due either to construction inaccuracies or to the builder's own ideas regarding set-up of the motor.
These figures appear calculated to produce good torque at moderate rpm, which may have been a desirable trait in engines intended primarily for car and hydroplane racing use. By contrast, the disc valve begins to open at a fairly conventional 45 degrees after bottom dead centre but then remains open until 60 degrees after top dead centre for a total opening period of 195 degrees! I would have thought that with the cylinder timing employed a somewhat earlier closure without the sub-piston induction would have yielded better results...
Again, a degree of builder intervention is implied here, since Hugh Blowers advises that the above figures do not correspond to those of any of his factory-built examples. In fact, the instructions for building the engine from a kit specified a relatively conservative timing for the disc, which the builder was then advised to progressively open out until "optimum performance" was achieved. Based on this advice, it's only to be expected that different examples of these engines may exhibit wide variations in their induction timing.
The specified compression ratio of the spark ignition Conqueror is unusually high for the period, being cited as 13:1, although a volumetric measurement of my own example gives a figure of 12:1—still pretty high, and the engine certainly feels like it when flipped over! It's clear from this figure that the Conqueror was intended to operate on a pretty high-octane fuel. Indeed, reference to the manufacturer's instructions confirms that the engine was intended for operation on methanol-based fuels, even in spark ignition form. The rival Rowell 60, which was also intended primarily for car racing, and the American-made Orr-Tornado 65 were the only other contemporary racing engines to approach this figure, sporting compression ratios of 12:1 and 12.5:1 respectively. The Rowell was specifically intended for methanol operation, while the Orr-Tornado was designed for operation on either methanol or a methanol-benzol mixture.
The Nordec was also specified by the makers as a methanol-fuelled engine, but had to manage on a compression ratio of a mere 10:1, while the McCoy was set at 9.5:1. These somewhat lower compression ratios presumably allowed for operation on high-octane gasoline if desired, at least in their spark-ignition form. They are also more appropriate for operation on glow-plug ignition, particularly if a proportion of nitro-methane were to be added to the fuel—the absence of direct control over ignition timing would make me most hesitant to try to run a Conqueror leaned-out on glow-plug unless steps were first taken to lower the compression ratio somewhat. It's possible that the glow-plug versions of the Conqueror did in fact have lower compression ratios, otherwise pre-ignition might well have become a serious problem.
Reported weight of the Conqueror as given by Warring was 15 ounces. The illustrated example weighs in at 15.8 ounces, a more or less typical figure for a 10cc spark ignition racing engine of the period. One of Hugh Blowers' factory Mk I models with plug, prop driver and nut weighs 15.25 ounces, indicating that individual construction approaches could significantly affect the final weight of the engine. Warring may well have been referring to the presumably lighter glow-plug model.
OK, let's take a closer look at this engine. On first acquaintance, the Conqueror presents itself as a well-proportioned and entirely conventional racing engine of its day, featuring the usual combination of rear disc valve induction, surface jet needle valve assembly, detachable front and rear crankcase covers, twin ball-race crankshaft, bobbin prop driver with sleeve nut for prop attachment, cross-flow loop scavenging and a lightweight ringed alloy piston. This was pretty much the standard racing engine formula of the period.
This example of the engine immediately impresses one as being constructed to an extremely high standard. There's no trace of play in any of the bearings, for example. Compression seal is not perfect but is very good for a little-run engine which has not had the opportunity to bed down the rings. Base compression is outstanding.
All of the cast components used in the engine are produced by die-casting in DTD 24 casting alloy. A noteworthy feature of the main casting is the attention that has been paid to ensuring adequate strength. The mounting lugs are provided with heavy gussets on their upper surfaces, and the case thickness is greater above the lugs than it is below—the material thickness below the lugs is relieved somewhat, although bands of full-thickness material are left in place at the ends where the front and rear covers attach. A close examination of the case reveals that the engine bears no marks of identification whatsoever, nor is there any sign of a serial number.
So much for what can be learned from an external examination of the engine. To learn more, we have to take it apart. The first stage in doing this is the removal of the cast aluminium alloy backplate, which is fixed in place by four substantial 4BA slot-head steel screws. The backplate spigot is a snug fit in the bore of the crankcase but comes out easily enough. We note that the builder did not rely upon metal-to-metal fits here but used a well-cut paper gasket to ensure a good seal.
The 4BA screws are of interest in that the plans actually specified 6BA fasteners. However, Hugh Blowers advises that all of the factory-built units with which he is familiar have 4BA screws. It can't be denied that this size seems far more appropriate for a 10cc racing engine. That said, Hugh reminds us that supplies of hardware items such as machine screws were highly constrained in late 1940's Britain. Accordingly, engine makers used whatever they had available at a given time, the consequence being that it's not at all unusual to encounter even commercial factory-built engines with differing fasteners or nuts on various examples of the same model. Much of the available supply came from war surplus sources, and manufacturers simply used whatever they could get.
The intake venturi on this example is a screw-in item along McCoy lines and appears to be secured on a tapered pipe thread, perhaps with some kind of thread-locker for good measure—I couldn't shift it by fair means and therefore decided to leave well alone. Interestingly, the plans specify a normal 7/16 BSF thread with a knurled brass locking ring, so once again this is a builder modification. The venturi on this example has an internal diameter of 0.325"—a bit on the conservative side for a 10cc racing engine, especially when compared with the 0.417" diameter of the McCoy 60 Series 20 component, although it more or less matches the throat diameter of the Hornet 60. The intention was presumably to create sufficient suction to allow for the operation of the engine without the need for pressure fuel feed.
In other areas, there's evidence of some very clear and original thinking with respect to the rotary valve design! Firstly, the designer avoided the common contemporary error of using an alloy rotor running against the alloy backplate. Such a combination does not wear well in service. The rotor in the Conqueror is a composite affair built up around a thin working disc of steel which runs directly against the backplate. Steel working against alloy is an excellent combination which beds down very effectively and wears extremely well.
The thin steel disc has a substantial forward-facing spigot machined into its centre, and the disc bearing is incorporated into this spigot. An alloy subsidiary disc of conventional form is pressed onto the central spigot and secured in place with a pair of rivets located near the outer perimeter of the disc. The result is a disc of conventional form which has a steel wearing surface but is far lighter than it would be if made entirely of steel throughout. It also assists performance by occupying a larger volume of the crankcase than the steel disc alone would do and thus enhancing the engine's pumping efficiency. Neat!
The use of a steel disc running directly in contact with the backplate material was very much a Westbury trait—it was also used in the companion 5cc Ten-Sixty-Six Hawk and Arrow models, which were the final efforts of the company in that displacement category. It's a very effective design approach which others might have done well to copy! It's worth noting in passing that the company's 5cc efforts appear to be far more overtly Westbury-influenced than McCoy-inspired, presumably reflecting their somewhat earlier genesis.
Back to the Conqueror: the mounting system used for the disc valve is also of great interest. The imperatives here are to provide a very secure mounting for the disc and also to incorporate some means of adjusting the clearance between the disc and the face of the backplate. Being unable to determine which (if any) threads were left-handed here (and logic suggested that the spindle thread at least should be left-handed), I elected not to disturb this set-up, especially given that the disc was perfectly adjusted as-is. However, Hugh Blowers has very kindly clarified this matter for us.
The steel portion of the disc has a 1/4" O/D. bronze bush pressed into its centre. The backplate is centrally drilled and tapped 4BA to accept a similarly-threaded extension of the 3/16" dia. rotor spindle, which has a 5/16" dia. head to retain the disc. The threaded end of the disc mounting spindle protrudes through the backplate at the rear and is slotted at the end to allow for adjustment of the disc clearance. The assembly is completed by the addition of a shouldered locking collar which is internally threaded 4BA and threads onto the protruding end of the disc mounting spindle to serve as a lock-nut.
One would logically expect the thread for the disc spindle and its locking collar to be left-handed to avoid any tendency for the spindle to unscrew if the locking collar became loose when the engine was running. Such a failure would have catastrophic results as the spindle fouled the con-rod! However, the system adopted should be perfectly dependable even with the use of a right-handed thread—the only requirement would be to periodically check that the collar remained tight. Overall, a very neat and effective approach to the design of this assembly!
Our initial peek into the crankcase interior reveals that the casting is bored right through, with an annular channel machined into the interior at the mid point to provide clearance for the con rod big end. A sturdy forged rod with a bronze-bushed big end also becomes apparent. This acts upon a one-piece steel crankshaft which has a very distinctive counterbalance configuration. The milling pattern visible on the face of the crankweb shows clearly that the counterbalance was created by end-milling around the crankpin rather than by turning on the crankpin centre in the more usual manner. Only the final diameter of the crankpin appears to have been turned. Crankpin diameter is 0.250 in.
The result is a counterbalance having a rather unusual "straight-across" configuration. I thought at first that this might have been an approach taken by the home-builder who made this particular engine in his own way, rather than a factory arrangement. However, Hugh Blowers reports that the factory-built engines use the same type of counterbalance, implying that this is the standard design approach.
Now it's off with the front cover, which is again secured by four very sturdy 4BA steel slot head screws. Once again, a paper gasket is used to ensure a seal. The timer is clamped to the front bearing housing in the conventional manner and is now easily removed. It proves to be not without interest itself, being a quite sophisticated and complex unit which employs a plunger-type cam follower to lift the contact arm at the required moment. Coarse adjustment of the point gap is achieved in the usual way with the fixed contact being threaded into the timer casting and secured by a lock-nut. Adjustment of this contact requires the removal of the timer. But there's also a fine adjustment which does not require timer removal. The points are mounted on a separate cast arm which is pivoted at one end on the main timer casting and is secured at the other end by a set screw which acts through a short crescent-shaped slot. By loosening the set screw and rotating the point mounting arm on its pivot, a degree of point gap alteration can be achieved. Once again, very neat indeed! A point gap of .006" to .008" was recommended by the manufacturers.
The shaft is mounted in two ball races with a bronze bushing inserted into the casting between the races—a quality touch which is clearly intended to create a long-lasting gas seal around the main journal. The cam is formed in the surface of the main journal between the ball races. The prop driver on this particular example is more or less a clone of that used on the Nordec R10 racing engine, and a steel sleeve nut of standard form is used to secure the propeller. I elected not to remove the shaft given the tightness with which all of the front end components were assembled, but I doubt that we'd learn much more from doing so anyway. Interestingly, Hugh Blowers has informed me that the plans for the homebuilt version of the Conqueror show a shouldered parallel crankshaft front end requiring a split collet for mounting the flywheel or prop driver, whilst the factory-built version featured a taper on the shaft itself.
Now it's off with the cylinder head. This proves to be secured by six 5BA steel slot head screws. The plans apparently specified 6BA screws, but the builder of this particular engine clearly did not consider such a thread to be adequate for a 10cc racing engine. I'd best not lose these screws—5BA items aren't that easy to find these days!
The combustion chamber is cast into the underside of the head, the plug being set at a very slight angle off the vertical. The plans specified this angle as 8 degrees, and my example closely matches this figure. The only effect of this angle is to cause the interior entry point of the centrally-mounted plug to be displaced a little to the transfer side of the combustion chamber, and that was presumably the intent of this rather unusual feature. The front view of the engine shows this angle clearly. The casting would seemingly have accommodated a vertical plug orientation, and it's possible that some individual builders might have adopted such an arrangement.
The slight angle at which the plug is set is only one of the oddities connected with the installation of this essential component in the particular example of the engine under discussion. The plug hole is threaded 1/4-32 in the usual way, and the thread length is suitable for a long reach plug. So far, so good, but now it gets a bit weird! The seat for the plug where the copper sealing gasket rests is deeply recessed into a spigot cast into the top of the head, and this recess has a diameter of only 0.340" This is insufficient to accommodate the body of the long reach Champion VR2 spark plug or equivalent that one would normally expect to find in use on this engine. The integrally-cast spigot has an outside diameter of only 0.435 in, so it appears that a recess diameter of this order was actually envisioned by the designer—there's insufficient meat for much more. A Champion V3 plug fits fine but is a little short in term of reach, while the rather rare British-made Lodge plug with which this example is equipped is also a good fit but is even shorter in terms of its reach. Still, plugs of this size must have been the intended items. Unless the correct plug is fitted, compression seal will doubtless feel a little suspect.
This too appears to be a quirk of my particular example. Other examples of the spark ignition Conqueror do not feature this recess, allowing the fitting of more or less any desired spark plug. However, the glow-plug versions evidently do feature the recess. Once again, our unknown builder seems to have been ploughing his own furrow here!
The mating surface of the head is nicely machined around the combustion chamber periphery, and there's a thin soft aluminium shim between the head and the top of the liner. Presumably shims of differing thicknesses could be installed to fine-tune the compression ratio. It's also noteworthy that the annular cooling fins on the edge of the head are very accurately formed so as to blend in seamlessly with those on the main cylinder barrel—with the engine assembled, the joint between the head and the barrel is almost undetectable! For the curiously-inclined, it's at the lower surface of the second cooling groove down (the uppermost of the three half-depth cooling grooves—see the front view).
The heads and cylinder barrels were supplied with straight cast sides, so the configuration of the cooling fins was left to the individual builder. The final form would depend on such factors as personal preferences, individual skill and availability of tools. The builder of my engine clearly went to great lengths to secure as elegant a finished form as possible—the head fins were clearly turned with the head assembled onto the case.
With the head and front housing off, it's now possible to remove the piston assembly through the top of the liner. The lightweight alloy piston proves to be very similar to its McCoy equivalent, with a high contoured crown which incorporates a baffle. The piston features two skirt ports on the transfer side which align with two holes in the lower cylinder liner at bottom dead centre, thus aiding the bypass process as well as promoting improved piston cooling and lubrication. The top surface of the piston crown is machined flat, presumably to fine-tune the clearance between the piston and the cylinder head. Rings are the usual cast-iron items, which are very well finished and fitted in this example. The 0.218" dia. tubular gudgeon pin is fully floating and is equipped with substantial brass end-pads. The con rod is a very sturdy and McCoy-like forging in light alloy with bronze bushings at each end and an oil hole in the big end bearing for improved lubrication. The rod is very slightly longer than its McCoy counterpart.
The liner appears to be shrunk in and could not be shifted by fair means. I therefore elected not to disturb it, but was able to confirm that the finish of the bore is extremely good. The transfer port is divided into four adjacent square openings of moderate size separated by the usual thin columns of metal to prevent ring snag, while the exhaust port consists of six somewhat larger apertures arranged similarly. The liner is also provided with the previously-mentioned additional openings on the transfer side which align with the piston ports at bottom dead centre. The liner is machined from a billet of centrifugally-cast iron.
So there it is—the Ten-Sixty-Six Conqueror Mk I revealed in all its glory! The engine goes back together without complications, and is once again all ready to show its paces if anyone cared to give it a try... I'd expect a performance quite similar to that of the contemporary Nordec R10 Mk I model, based on the very parallel design features of the two models. I would however advise against anyone giving this engine a leaned-out run on glow-plug ignition—the compression ratio is such that pre-ignition would be more or less guaranteed, with consequent potential for damage to this very rare unit. If I were planning to run it hard (which I'm not!), I'd either reduce the compression ratio (thus sacrificing the perfect matching of the head and cylinder jacket fins) or use spark ignition with methanol fuel.
One final comment is worth making at the conclusion of this descriptive portion of the article. This particular example of the engine is outstandingly well made in all respects, and compares very favourably with the standard of construction of other competing models such as those manufactured commercially by the likes of Nordec and McCoy. If this is an example of a home-built model constructed from castings and materials (as it appears to be), then it is an eloquent testament to the skill of its unknown constructor—a real Motor Boy of the 1940's! I wish I knew his name ...
The Conqueror on test
On the theory that if I didn't do it no-one else would, I decided to give my Mk I Conqueror a session on the test bench so that I could report on its running qualities. I elected to do this using glow-plug ignition since this would allow me to start the engine by hand (I don't own an electric starter)! Mindful of the very high compression ratio, I used a low-nitro fuel with plenty of castor oil in the mix, also fitting a short-reach plug. The intent of the latter measure was two-fold—first, to reduce the compression ratio just a fraction; and second, to retard the full involvement of the fuel charge by placing the plug element in a recess.
These measures were entirely successful in that the engine started very easily by hand and showed no signs of pre-ignition. Mind you, I only opened it out momentarily a few times to get some idea of the performance levels available, keeping it on a fast four-stroke the rest of the time. Compression seal proved perfectly adequate for a start, and actually improved over the course of the 15 minutes or so of running time that the engine received. I actually gained the impression that this example had been previously run very little, if at all.
Running qualities were very good indeed, with excellent needle response. I used my usual Taipan 11x5 grey reinforced nylon prop on which I generally test my classic 10cc racing glows. On a few spot checks, the Conqueror turned this prop at 11,500 rpm, implying an approximate output of around 0.64 BHP at this speed. This is more or less in line with Peter Chinn's reported figure for the original Nordec RG10 of 0.63 BHP @ 12,200 rpm. When we consider the fact that the "parent" 1946 McCoy 60 black-case model delivered around 1.0 BHP @ 13,000 rpm, it becomes immediately apparent why neither the Conqueror nor the Nordec could get anywhere near the McCoy (or for that matter the Rowell) in competition terms. With more nitro, the engine would doubtless improve, but not to the point of becoming truly competitive.
The engine survived its fifteen minutes of fame completely unscathed, with no signs of play developing anywhere and no tendency for anything to work loose. At the end of the test runs, compression seal was considerably improved, no doubt due to the rings bedding down a little. I'd have no hesitation in running it again if the occasion ever arose.
We hope that you've enjoyed this detailed look at one of the least-remembered British racing engines of the early post-WW2 period. After a long period of more or less complete neglect, there are clear signs that interest in the Conqueror and other Ten-Sixty-Six products is very much on the rise—presumably the fact that the predominantly aero-minded engine collector community is becoming increasingly aware of the marque has something to do with this. Hugh Blowers tells us that twenty or more examples of the Conqueror have been offered for sale over the past few years. So the engine is "back in circulation" and anyone interested may in time find an opportunity to acquire one. We're sure that no-one who does so will be disappointed!
If anyone out there is able to add to our knowledge of these relatively rare engines, please get in touch! As always, any additional information will be openly and gratefully acknowledged.