VERN PEPPERELL  

Vern Pepperell (1900-1966)

Vern Pepperell was a foundation member of the Gore Model Aero club when it was formed in 1938. The club affiliated with the NZMAA in 1939. He built a number of power models, and was a regular flyer at the Club's field at Knapdale. It was while at Gore that Vern designed and built his first model aircraft engine. In 1940 Vern moved his family moved to Auckland, where Vern was manpowered to Ceramco, working as a tool-maker under Vern Gray. Vern joined the Auckland Model Aero Club in 1944, and held the position of vice president from 1947 to 1951.

Around 1940, Vern worked for Fred Macdonald at Modelair, and while there, machined a number of Modelair Nimrod spark-ignition engines. He later designed and built his Godwit series of spark-ignition engines. About 1945, inspired by an Italian diesel engine brought back to New Zealand by NZ serviceman Bob McQuillan, Vern designed his own version. This ran well, and was the fore-runner of the very successful range of Pepperell diesels. It is often not realised that the revolutionary Pepperell 7/16' diesel with radial porting was contemporary with the 1946 Mills 1.3 and ED Competition Special, both loop scavenged designs.

In the five or six post-war years, when overseas engines were virtually unobtainable in New Zealand, the Pepperells produced over forty engine designs, many of them one-off experimental engines. Their range included spark ignition, glow ignition and diesels. Perhaps the best example of their engineering genius was the Team Race diesel, which beat the Eta 29 racers in the class B event at the 1953 Waikato Championships.

When the demand for engines fell off around 1951, Vern and Ira ceased making engines, and designed their propeller making machine, which produced literally thousands of their Whirlwind propellers. A significant number of Whirlwinds were exported. Propeller production ceased around 1952.


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