In the early fifties the Royal Navy issued a requirement for a two-seat bomber that could fly at just below the speed of sound at extremely low altitude to avoid detection by radar. The Blackburn Company had provided the ruggedly ugly Skua dive-bomber to the Navy in WW2 that was built like the proverbial masonry outhouse. With the development of the jet engine, a very different design emerged on the drawing board of Mr Roy Boot, the design head at Blackburn in the fifties.
The aircraft needed a large wing to carry enough fuel for adequate range while the bomb-load would take up a lot of room in the fuselage. In the operating environment of an aircraft carrier the parameters become even more challenging ? folding wings to fit on the deck elevator and the confines of the hangar below all add weight and complexity. Ditto to a sturdy landing gear to stand up to the controlled crash that comprises a landing on deck.
All this worked against getting the approach speed down to a tolerable range. However American data had become available on the technique of blowing of compressed air, bled from the engine, over the wing flaps and leading edges. Roy Boot did his sums and incorporated this advanced feature on the Buccaneer, thereby giving the wings additional lift at low airspeed. The ailerons were drooped simultaneously with the flaps to effectively increase their lift/drag ratio, further enhanced by the fitting of a huge outward opening air brake aft of the tail.
The bomb bay, shaped like a half-drum, rotated 180 degrees around its own axis to present the bombs for release.
Boot sculpted the fuselage to conform to the latest aerodynamic theory: Area Rule. A graph of the cross-sectional area of the aircraft should be a smooth curve from nose to tail, so the waist between wings and tail was distinctly bulged to conform.
Once again airframe design out-distanced the engine development and the search for an ideal engine was fraught with disappointments and cancellations of promising designs. The Buccaneer Mk 1 took to the air on its first flight on April 30, 1958 with the woefully underpowered Gyron Junior engine built by rivals De Havilland and rated at 7000lb.
As the aircraft entered squadron service in the early sixties, Rolls Royce proposed a variant of its RB 163 Spey turbojet of 11 250lb, then being built for the Trident airliner. Although slightly heavier by sheer stroke of luck it could fit through the existing sized apertures in the wing spar, and so the Mk 2 was born.
The SA Air Force became the only export customer for which a special version known as the Mk 50 was built. Two Bristol Siddeley rockets were fitted to the lower aft fuselage giving an extra 4000lb each boost for 30 seconds during the takeoff at high altitude fields like Waterkloof. A total of 16 were built, of which one crashed on the delivery flight. The Labour Government and sanctions put an end to any further supply.
Jensen 541SJensen brothers, Alan and Richard ? both apprenticed in the motor industry ? started out building their own cars by modifying and re-bodying the ubiquitous Austin 7. Hired by a succession of coachbuilders specialising in cars, trucks and busses they managed to take over an existing company to rename it Jensen Motors.
The first big break was a custom coach-built Ford V8 for the actor Clark Gable. A pair of chassis were imported from the USA, and bodied to his specification. One was shown at the Albert Hall in London in 1934, causing considerable demand for replicas. As the Ford V8 was not available in Britain at the time some aristocratic connections enticed Edsel Ford across the Atlantic to see for himself. A connoisseur of automotive style, he was duly impressed and made the necessary arrangements.
The brothers stepped up with more ambitious models powered by Ford V8 and later Nash straight-eight engines, while they continued with a thriving commercial vehicle body business.
After the war, as car production resumed, plans to fit a British-built straight-eight from the Meadows company came to nothing and so Jensen turned to Austin for their 4-litre straight-six. This engine was itself part of a family of engines designed by Rolls Royce for the British army. Utilising maximum component commonality, a four-cylinder and a straight-eight were produced for the Champ (a Land Rover competitor) and the Saracen armoured car respectively.
A variety of upmarket saloons and cabriolets made liberal use of the Austin parts bin in the early post-war period. When it came to sports cars they aimed for a more pricey market niche, realising that they could not compete directly with Jaguar. Designer Eric Neale sketched out a streamlined two-plus-two coupe to be built in the (then) new-fangled material called Glass-fibre on a completely new tubular chassis. Dubbed the 541 (for 19-54 model one) the prototype was panelled in traditional aluminium to be ready in time for the Earls Court Motor Show in October 1953.
The car was noted for its low drag co-efficient, assisted by an unusual horizontally pivoted radiator flap where the grill would normally be. Although it did little for the appearance of the car, closing the flap reduced the Cd from 0.39 to 0.36 ? a creditable figure even in today's market. All this attention to detail was needed to make up for an engine that was no match for Jaguar's XK.
Triple side-draught SU carbs on a special manifold and a cylinder head skim to for a better compression ratio bumped the power up by some 25 percent, pushing the 541R to maximum speed of just over 193km/h. No match for an XK 140, but then that was strictly a two-seater.
Disc brakes appeared in 1956 in the deluxe model and a change was made to rack and pinion steering, keeping the car abreast of the latest technical developments. The 541 found a steady clientele desiring a gentleman's carriage with high performance, ample torque and the convenience of an auto box if desired. Good ride and handling and a rare and exclusive body of quality construction provided an irresistible cocktail to those who could muster the considerable sum of just over #2146.
In 1960 the final variant appeared, the 541-S. Although similar in appearance it was 100mm wider and offered increased headroom. A traditional grille replaced the flap and a functional scoop topped the bonnet. It was touted as the first British car to offer seat-belts as standard equipment. So was automatic transmission, a Rolls Royce adaptation of the GM Hydramatic with manual control of all four speeds.
This unit and the increased weight of the body dented performance somewhat. Dave Lyons' car is one of only 127 built. But better things were on the way, as Jensen Motors discovered the intoxicating power of the big block Chrysler V8. But that is another story...
Engine: Two Rolls Royce Spey turbofans 11 250lb (5103kg) thrust each Airframe: Aluminium alloy skin and stringer fuselage, outer flying surfaces have integrally machined skins and ribs
Mass: 28 123kg
Speed Mach: 0.96 or 645mph (1038km/h) at sea level
Engine: Cast iron straight-six, pushrod OHV, 3xSU carburettors, 150bhp (12kW @ 4100 rpm)
Body: Glass-fibre and polyester resin over tube steel-fabricated chassis.
Speeds: 541R with manual box: 0-60mph 10.8 secs; maximum speed 123mph (198km/h)
541S with Auto 109mph (175km/h)
Thunder City in Cape Town provided the photo aircraft and offers flights for the public to experience the awesome thrill of high-speed low-level flight for themselves. Tel 021 9348007