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Museum Engineering Spotlight - THE SILENT KNIGHT


Today, internal combustion engines are almost all four stroke.

Cylinders can be in line, opposed, V configuration, radial and even in W configuration as on recent Bentleys or Volkswagens. Today, the valves (2 or 4 per cylinder) are always in the head.


Another type of combustion engine was invented in America, the sleeve valve engine dubbed "the Silent Knight" from the name of its inventor, Charles Yale Knight.

It is a four stroke engine but there are ports as in the 2 stroke engine but at the top of the cylinders. Two sleeves, internal to the cylinders, slide up and down and open and close the ports. The sleeves are connected to a small crankshaft synchronized with the main crankshaft. The system is called "desmodromic" as there are no springs.


In the first part of the 20th century, poppet valve trains were fragile. A big advantage of this design is the absence of the poppet valve mechanical impact and associated noise.


The Knight engine was licensed first to Daimler in England,, Minerva in Belgium, Mercedes in Germany, Peugeot, Panhard et Levassor and Voisin in France were promoting the sleeve engine. In America, it was more difficult to convince Manufacturers and John North Willys was the first one to buy the license.

We present five cars with the Knight engine: 1913 Stearns Knight SK6, 1928 Willys Knight type 56, 1927 Avions Voisin, 1938 Panhard Dynamic and a recent acquisition, the first production Knight powered vehicle, the 1909 Daimler TB22.

The last sleeve engines were manufactured in 1939 by Panhard.




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