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Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo

Posted by Arden 
Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
March 09, 2001 05:48PM
<HTML>I was wondering if anyone had any information on William Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo of the early 1970's. I don't know much about it other than the fact that it existed. Any info on where I could find out more about it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.</HTML>
Doug Low
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
March 26, 2001 01:59PM
<HTML>I saw him on TV once. That is where he taleked ablut the development of his closed circuit steam car.

Bill Lear developed a closed circuit steam engine in the late 60's . It could be fired up in seconds, The engine had tremendous power / weight ratio.

He liquid used was part of his development. He called it Learium. and was prablably similar to freon.

Bill Lear had plans to develop a complete automobile powered by the closed circuit steam engine. He built proto types but realized that people wanted more thatn just good transportation, they wanted air conditioning roll up windows comfortable seats etc, all of which would cost alot to develop.</HTML>
James Sandidge
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 04, 2001 09:54PM
<HTML> William Lear had an article in Car and Driver in 1969. I can't find the copy I have and don't remember the month. It detailed his engine and the testing. From my memory of the article it described a 6 cylinder 12 piston 3 crankshaft delta design which produced 500HP at 1000PSI. I could be wrong on those power figures, but I am close. He had also invented a substance named appropriately "Learium" as a replacement for water. It had lubricating and antifreeze qualities.
The article described Lears plans of putting the engine in a city bus and into a limosine. He later put that engine on a shelf and tried to build a succesful steam turbine driven car. The latter information came from an article which was in Science Digest back in the late 70's or maybe as late as 1980.
There seems to be a lot of hostility towards steam automotive development. It could be said that there is a conspiracy against a viable alternative to conventional motive power, but then that would sound like some kind of radical statement.
William Lear seems to have hit on an idea which would have worked, but was never developed. He had a working engine which has never been put to the real test of everyday driving.
The article in the Science Digest was more realistic and asked the question of why someone doesn't just make a modern copy of a Stanley with a steam generator instead of boiler and introduce electronic controls. It is a question I have often asked myself. Maybe one day I will do just that.</HTML>
David Nergaard
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 16, 2001 07:27PM
<HTML>I remember studying what was published about Lear's car in '69 while a few of us at MIT were trying to build a car for the 1970 Clean Air Car Race. We read every thing we could get hold of, it was cheaper than building junk to find out whether it would work. Lear could afford to build junk, and he did! We came to the conclusion that if the Lear car ever ran, it would be on "hot air".
He later used a DeLaval (single stage) turbine and got acceptable performance from it. But, of the three steam 'busses built for the California project in the early '70s, the Lear had the poorest fuel economy and reliability.</HTML>
Lloyd Downs
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 21, 2001 03:19PM
<HTML>I am interested in bills steam car technology if anyone can find information on it I would be very interested and like to experiment with steam power for autos.</HTML>
Jim Crank
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
May 03, 2001 10:31AM
<HTML>The Lear Chevy Monte Carlo powerplant was a total failure.
It used a turbine identical to the one used in his bus, only the nozzle block used fewer poppet valves and the gearbox ratio was different than the bus, in that the output of the car had to match the speed of the small block Chevy engine.
Lear did not employ one person who knew anything about steam cars, nor would he listen to anyone with real steam car experience.
The main problem was that he used a turbine not knowing that when the throttle was opened, a turbine has the worst water rate known, like an open steam line. His small parallel tube steam generator went whoosh out the exhaust and that was that.
They used a 5 1/4" single stage impulse turbine that had to spin at 85,000 rpm to get any efficiency.
The Deltic engine was never used in the Chevy conversion, it was the wet dream of Ken Wallis, a fraud of an English so called engineer who knew even less than Lear about steam cars. Lear eventually fired him.
Learium was a total fraud, it never existed. Strictly publicity.
I know because I was a consultant to the State of Calif. on the bus project and also owned the Monte Carlo powerplant when I bought the remaining hardware from LMC Corp. after their bankruptcy. The gearbox and turbine from the Monte Carlo and the inlet throttle assembly were used in my steam race car which holds the world's land speed record for steam, in spite of what the British would be record car challanger people would have the world believe. Their car seems to be in eclipse now.
The turbine wheel sits on my desk as an ornament and a reminder to never use a turbine in an automobile.
Lear was the same as the rest of the would be steam car builders that surfaced in the 1958-70 period. They were in the government grant business NOT in the steam car or alternate energy business.
The same fraud now being worked with electric cars.</HTML>
Doug McGowan
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 23, 2002 10:14PM
<HTML>There has to be a way to take this reverse-refrigeration principle a step foreward whereby solar heated ( or just heated ) phase changable substance ( Learum ) would drive an electrical generator within the home, and any inefficiencies would go toward heating the home. ( reciprocating closed circuit )

Using my home as an example, the unit would only have to be 10% efficient in the winter months to be viable. The remainder of the year, this figure would not matter, as there is an abundance of free solar energy, and the excess heat could be dumped out of doors.

It may be true that Lear's auto was not successful, but there is no reason that it would not work. Feed the numbers into a computer, and you come up with a much greater efficiency than the required 10%.</HTML>
donna mckinley
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
February 25, 2004 09:17AM

William Lear of Learjets did produce 100 cars which were driven on the highways for a year. when h wanted to produce them he was stopped. the cars were place in different musuems around the united states. i saw one at the musuem of science and industry in chicago in the 60's. he made them, they ran and they looked good. i even had a phamphlet that was near the car to be given out to people interested in the history of the car. just to let you know, he made more than one and they ran good, they were cars ahead of the times.

Jim Crank
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
February 25, 2004 10:24AM
William Lear did NOT make any 100 cars by any stretch of the imagination.
He built ONE bus and ONE Chevrolet Monte Carlo sedan conversion. The bus was briefly used in San Francisco and the car never ran.
The Chevy was dismantled and the power plant put into a test frame with a dynomometer attached when the project ended. No Lear steam car resides in any museum today.
I was a consultant to the State of California on that bus project and never was there any more than one feasibility car conversion made, or I certainly would have seen them.
I was able to buy the Monte Carlo powerplant when I purchased all the remaining hardware from the successor to Lear Motors, after they went bankrupt. There was only one such unit.
Where did you get this information? I suspect the usual Lear publicity, which was as accurate as a comic book. Just like his Indy race car, which was built; but would never have run, Learium, and the Indy race track next to the Lear plant in Reno, all phony publicity.
warren r webster
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 19, 2004 04:12PM

I don't know a great deal about steam either,but i am familiar with your land speed record car and a few of the circumstances around it.I am presently building a turbine powered steam streamliner to set the record. No hype,grants,advertising,or English malarky,just a fast car.Interested?
warren-warrens house of hotrods
D. J. Samuel
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 20, 2004 01:54AM
Well now!

The number of E-mails on the Lear steam auto project has been of great interest (even with the conflicting "facts"winking smiley. I had been searching for information about Lear; but was not having much success, until now, thanks to all the contributors. Having read a few articles on the "Doble" steam car.... ...it inspired me to consider a little project of my own; but I see I have a great deal to learn. Much thanks folks!
Chief Joe Joe
Arnold Walker
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 20, 2004 06:38AM
In light plants ,it seems that other gas is helium......at least for the nuke guys.(bubble reactors).And the turbines used are are turboshaft versions of jumbo jet engines.The plumbing looks more like a refrigeration plant than
steam plant.
Jim Crank
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 20, 2004 08:21AM
I applaud your effort in making a new steam racer and I hope you finish it and run it. Of course I am interested, do keep me posted on your progress.
Absolutely right, keep quiet until the car actually exists and can run.
There are many technical details about using a steam turbine that really can sink the project right from the start, if you don't know the bad ones.
It all depends on what type of steam generator you plan to use and what type and size of turbine you have.
I certainly would detail all the pitfalls we discovered for you, if you wish.
In a road car, a turbine is really not the way to go, or even think about, for that matter. For a Bonneville record car, a turbine can work under certain circumstances.
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 20, 2004 08:36AM

In this thread, on the date of 05-03-01, Jim Crank says, "The turbine wheel sits on my desk as an ornament and a reminder to never use a turbine in an automobile."

If you are really thinking of making a record breaking steam car then here is a system that should give the most reliable and least expensive performance.

The prime mover should be positive displacement. A two cylinder, double acting, simple that operates at high pressure(1,000 psi. to 1,500 psi.), high expansion and low rpm. (1,000 rpm to 2,000 rpm. max) or a four cylinder, double acting, compound also running at a high pressure and low rpm. A Wankel three rotor would easily give enough power to move a car pretty fast, but that is a whole nother' clod of dirt.

The boiler should be a LaMont type with forced circulation for the lightest, highest firing and most reliable system.

The burner should be a carbureted system(an arrey of old holly's with the butterfly valves taken out should work just fine with gasoline or kerosene) with a turbine from an 18-wheeler using the exhaust steam to push the fresh air into the carburetors. This is the type of system that Jim Crank seems to hold the highest regard for, from what he says, if the booster(18-wheeler turbine) is large enough and the boiler is capable of converting the heat without burning out(see forced circulation) and the water feed pump can keep up it is almost impossible for the engine to use more steam than the boiler system can produce. The fuel pump could be any independent electric type that can feed fuel at low pressure and high volume to the carburetors.

For water feed I like the idea of using a very large single piston plunger type of feed pump going into a large accumulator(a baffle type) which hold the water at a higher pressure than the boiler and then when needed, feeds the water into the economizer section of the boiler. The rate at which the accumulator can feed water into the boiler would be dictated by how much higher of a pressure it holds than the boiler. However, I don't know how well this would work, I think that it would work very well if the accumulator pressure was high enough.

For a race car which would be used very few times, the condensor system that I would use(my own design), is one which would use scoops in the front of the car and direct the air into two tunnels which would go the whole length of the car. In these tunnels there would be a series of small condensors from air conditioners with possibly water for condensation pumped in at the front of the system. At the rear of the car and the system is where I would locate the water tank, actually a long flat tank would help the center of gravity and you don't have to worry about passengers and luggage. On the other hand why condense the steam at all, it would be a short ride anyways.grin

Caleb Ramsby
Jim Crank
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 20, 2004 09:41AM
In a road car, never a turbine, the water rate is impossible. A land speed record car is another matter, as enough water can be carried to supply the 10 minute, including warm up, needs.
The Wankel is most interesting; but it needs drastic revision to work with superheated steam. This I sure have gone into. The valve gear is a stinker.
No such two cylinder engine exists; but one can think about three double acting cylinders on top of a 3-53 or 3-71 G.M. Diesel. Broebeck used the crank and rods out of a 6V-71 engine in his bus engine, because they had rod bending with only one. They put two rods on each crosshead piston and it worked perfectly.
Forget engine efficiency, for such a short duty cycle just use a huge burner and stick your foot in it. We had a 8,000,000 BTU burner and pressure was not an issue.
For a road car the Lamont is the only way to go. For a race car, a monotube can be done rather easily. Once under way, it is wide open, so a lot of the control problems go away. Only temperature control is nasty with a huge burner.
We used a large CAT three plunger pump. KEEP IT SIMPLE!!!!
No condenser, not needed at all for such a short run. We carried, I think, 65 gallons on board and never ran out or even came close to running out.
With a land speed steam record car, the only sensible way to proceed is to keep it a simple as possible.
Mark Stacey
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 20, 2004 12:44PM
Hi Warren Please keep us all informed. I personally would love to see a well thought out steam record breaker. There is an article on Jim's car in Autoweek March 30 1992 "Steamed up over Steam" you may not have seen.
Mark Stacey
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 20, 2004 03:03PM
Hi Jim

I don't know why you think Wankel Valve gear a stinker. Valve gear would run 1:1 with crank rotation. 270 degrees of crank rotation (90 on the rotor) is the power stroke. Your inlet valve can be open for most of the 270 degrees. Towards the end, the rotor will move past the inlet port and the valve needs to be closed before that point. That point is dependent on a lot of factors I wont go into. But you can sure get more then 180 degrees of inlet timming for self starting. You get a power stroke starting every 180 degrees running both sides of the chamber. The IC wankel has ports on one side and the plug on the other. The heat problems and keeping the clearance low are the main problems. My steam Wankel design had variable cutoff from 20 degrees up to 210 degrees. Giving 30 degrees of over lap. Had inlet and exhaust ports on each nerrow side of the chamber. These ports, with some margin, were as far off center as the roter would allow. For reversing their functions were reversed by double switch valve that switched the inlet-steam-exhaust-steam-valve conections. Any way I posted a PDF on the Wankel timming with lots of drawings every 45 degrees of crank rotation.

For a land speed record a fire tube boiler might be better than one requiring electrical power. The differance in boiler weight should be far less then the battery weight need to run blowers and pumps. Wasn't it you that commented on the high battery weight needed to run the record setter. How about a B&K type like the Green Monster had? Perhaps a steam turbine powered blower and an attachable electric drive for starting. Along the same idea line as an Indy car starter.

Jim Crank
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 21, 2004 07:55AM
I am perfectly aware of how a valve works and how to time it. It is the mechanical design of the camshaft, cutoff mechanism, and the actual valve itself that is not yet satisfactory. Success is in the details being well thought out first.
You cannot run a storage boiler at Bonneville, the only place where certified land speed records are held in the U.S. No storage boiler by ruling of the safety committee, in case of an accident. Their word is law. We had many discussions with them before even starting to build the car, so no ugly surprises were to be found later out there in Utah. Fighting their rules is pointless. We ran the first steamer at Bonneville, so a lot of ground had to be well covered first before they would even let such a car run.
Plus, we had a steam generator that put out 5,000 lbs/hr, 1200 psi @ 1100°F. A storage boiler of that capacity is something I wouldn't even think about.
No, I did not comment on the battery weight. What I said was that for our steam generator, the blower consumed 365 amps at 24 volts, so I installed two truck batteries. Weight is not an issue at Bonneville, because you have a long runup to the timing traps and the whole run only takes ten minutes or so. It supplied 9" draft at 20% excess air at some 1400 cfm. Bob replace those batteries with smaller ones, the old ones were shot.
I could easily have installed a gas engine to run the feed pumps and the burner; but I chose not to make it a "Hybred". The warmup and run are so short it just doesn't matter about battery weight or size.
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 21, 2004 08:44AM
Hi Jim

I didn't realize that a storage boiler could not be used. The origional record was set with one so I just assumed one could continue with the same technology.

Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 21, 2004 03:10PM

I have recently read about some conversion work done in the 50's to 70's with truck engines running at only 100 psi steam. They reported rather impressive results. I can't however remember what book this was in or who did it, most likely Broebeck.

The only steam piston engine already made that would come close to giving enough power to make some real speed would be a big locomotive engine. But try getting a hold of one of those.grin

Yeah, you are right though, any piston engine that could make that much horsepower would need to be designed, engineered, tested and then refined to get the bugs out.

A turbine could be acquired, used, from industry, most likely even in the proper horsepower and rpm range. No designing, engineering, testing and such. Except for the gearing to the axle, but again industrial usage of steam and gas turbines have made it so that there are MANY impressive gear boxes on the market that should suffice.

If a "storage boiler" can't be used at Bonneville than a LaMont wouldn't even be able to be considered at all, well I guesse that would depend on the details of the rules.


The best of luck on your journey. You are playing it smart by keeping quite with your project, you can see how rapidly dunces like me start making all kinds of irate suggestions.

Caleb Ramsby
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 22, 2004 08:04AM
Hi Jim

Wouldn't a Doble engine work. If you can get 126 MPH in your car it sure seams that in highly arodynamic land speed record car you coulld get a lot more out of it.

You sure have the expertise in this area. About the only major Doble engine part I havn't heard that you have had remanufactured is the cylander block.

Jim Crank
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 22, 2004 02:20PM
Yes one would probably work just fine with a change in gearing. But; I can't think of any Doble owner willing to risk his engine. Also, now I am being asked to make two complete Series E engines. I don't want to and the cost building one from scratch would be between $200-$275K. Not that hot of an engine anyhow. Don't think I didn't think hard about a whole new engine for the Dobles. Look the same: but get rid of that awful Woolf system Abner used.

Guess what, we now have to make new cylinders because Jay Leno's cracked and he wants new ones. We all are running on borrowed time, so if the pattern maker can do it, and there is a HUGE doubt, we will cast up about 15 new ones from a lot better iron than those old ones.
Absolutely the most complicated castings for a steam engine I ever saw, horribly complex with all that core work for the ports and passages to and from the valve.
I definitely am going to re-engineer the cylinders and get rid of most of the structural problems the originals have. That is IF we can even get patterns.
Also thanks to Abners perfectionist ideas, both are mirror images of each other so that means two complete sets of patterns and core boxes.
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 22, 2004 02:43PM
Hi Jim

$200,000 to $275,000 you say. Sure seams awful high. What is bringing the cost up so high. Would volume bring the price of an engine down to a resionable amount?

How many different cylander designs might there be. Remembering some of your comments and others about no two dobles being the same.

Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 22, 2004 07:02PM
Just took the book back to the library that had the information about the diesel engine conversion in it.

It was hypothetical work, presented to the senate.

Caleb Ramsby
Arnold Walker
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 23, 2004 02:02AM
Jim, not sure but think Goold may have done some E-series work for Preston Steam client.......in the UK.If so you may have your castings.
Jim Crank
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 23, 2004 07:45AM
If you ever see the insides of a Doble E engine you would know why.
Many hundreds of hours to machine and fit the parts, even with CNC. Simply a very complex and large engine. Really competent machine shops do not work for $10.00/ hr, try $65.00 to $80.00. I would never consider making a run of the Series E engine, it is not what I consider to be the best design for a ton of reasons, starting with it is too big and heavy.
They had two cylinder designs for the E engine, the first one with the valve parallel to the cylinder bores, they made only one of these. Then changed everything to make the valves inclined to the cylinders, not a swift idea at all.

Thanks very much for the tip, I will definitely write Goold. Too bad he doesn't seem to have an e-mail address. I really don't want to do this job. Today is the big meeting with the foundry and pattern maker, then we will see.
I would not be surprised at an estimate of $20-$25K just for patterns and core boxes. Simply way too complicated, too many cores and way too many thin sections. A foundry man's nightmare.
Harry Schoell
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 23, 2004 08:09AM

Hi Jim,
You might want to concider investment casting. waxes can be assembeled for intricate parts. We do propellors and intricate parts that have inside and out threads and can hold .008 if necessary. We do the design and patterns and molds not the castings, there is a foundry near us.
if I can help let me know. I'll be casting my next engine block one piece in stainless steel.
Arnold Walker
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 24, 2004 08:28AM
Two of Beckett's largest commerical gun burners (CF3500A....4.9 million btu@10" draft) would be hard pressed to match that kind of heat.And they are house current blowers....and don't want to even imagine the kind of space they would eat up (looks like a pair of APU turbines).....
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 24, 2004 08:55AM
Jim Crank
Re: Lear's steam-powered Monte Carlo
April 25, 2004 08:11AM
Harry and Earl,
The big problem is that the old copies of the original 1923 drawings are almost not readable. Plus, we only have the left side drawing. What may have to happen is that all new cylinder drawings would have to be made for both sides.
We took a cylinder to the foundry Friday and with that they now can see how the things were made. Now I await their verdict. If it is a big NO, then Harry, I certainly would look at lost wax, providing the foundry can cast them in the right high strength grey iron.
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