• Aug 5, 2008
Click above for high-res gallery of the Cramer Comet

There are hot rods, there are hot rods, and then there's "Um... what is that?" Tom Cramer, an ex-GI and mechanic in Omaha says, "I wanted to see what would happen if you put a really high powered engine in a chassis." Sound familiar? That was in 1953. So he found a fresh 12-cylinder 1,710-cubic-inch Allison airplane engine that produces 1,350-hp/1,500 ft-lb and got to work.

The body of the Cramer Comet was Frankensteined from De Sotos, Dodges, Oldsmobiles, Buicks, Studebakers, Cadillacs, Lincolns, and Fords. Part of the tubular chassis is made up of four-inch refrigerator tubing filled with coolant that runs to a rear-mounted radiator. The engine is mounted in reverse and is heavily insulated -- it gets hot in there. Power is sent through a drive shaft mounted between two truck universals and on to a four-speed transmission. The top speed is said to be 160 MPH, which is low for so much power, but probably sensible considering it's hand built.

Check out that center console. To start the car, the driver (pilot?) sets the throttle quadrant to ten-percent, cranks the fuel mixture to full rich, turns the spark lever to retard, flips the master switch, turns the magnetos on, turns the fuel boost and primer switches on, flips the starter control first to energize and then to on. And then it's time to fly, hopefully not in the literal sense.

Tom didn't get rid of the car until 1991 and it's now up for auction for the first time at this year's Sport & Classics of Monterey held by RM Auctions August 15 and 16. It's expected to fetch up to $300,000. Even if you don't plan to buy, you should check out the gallery of high-res photos below for evidence of how powerful elbow grease is.







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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 20 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      the engine itself is worth a ton of money.. those WWII era engines are really hard to find nowadays
        • 6 Years Ago
        Okay, what's the engine worth? The rest of the car has scrap value. Would a P-51 driver pay 300 grand for a motor that would have to be torn down and rebuilt to FAA specs, or is it a bargain at that price today?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think the lack of high speed has more to do with the max rpms of that engine. Most airplane engines redline at low rpms, almost like a diesel. If the engine could rev to 6000 rpm's 200 mph isn't out of question.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Couldn't you just gear it appropriately? There are diesel race cars that top 200mph, and they only rev to 4000...If it makes a lot of torque, then you could just use really tall gearing.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes, it could be regeared to get a higher top speed, but the way it is built now I think the top speed is rpm limited.

        BTW, Bonneville World of Speed is happening in September. I hope to be there.
      • 6 Years Ago
      That's the coolest way to start a car I've ever seen.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yeah really, it should take 15 steps to start something this awesomely cool!
      • 6 Years Ago
      They should get Jack Roush to build a mod kit for this. He already modifies the P-51 engines.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'd probably feel more safe in a Cadillac Sixteen but half as cool.
      • 6 Years Ago
      You guys did well to leave the Mustang out of P-51 Mustang because first thing you know, there would have been someone whining about "another Mustang post" as the Cretans might refer to it as. Really cool stuff though, thanks for the post.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Meeh. another Mustang post...

        Sorry I had to ;-)

        btw it's Cretin except you're referring to someone from the Greek island Crete.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Thanks CH, I noticed that after the post. Perhaps if they were from that wonderful island they wouldn't complain about mustang posts so easily. haha.
      j-dawg
      • 6 Years Ago
      Cool! and I bet that start sequence could keep a few would-be drunk drivers scratching their heads.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It is 1953 technology...160MPH was blazing fast back then considering lack of aerodynamics, high-speed tires, and the whole lot. Were they expecting Bugatti Veyron?
        • 6 Years Ago
        The speed record for a public road was set in a Mercedes Benz W125 streamliner, at 268.9 mph, or faster than a Veyron. In 1938. Just thought you might like to know.

        Actually, I'm surprised Jonathon Ramsey didn't mention the M-B T80, a 4wd, 6 wheel special with a 3000 hp Messerschmitt engine. They were hoping to reach 750 km/h (something over 450 mph) but WWII started and it never turned a wheel in anger.
        • 6 Years Ago
        More like 1942 technology.

        That is when the P-51 mustangs w/ the Allison engines were rolled out.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I bet that thing really flies.

      • 6 Years Ago
      Hey Autoblog.......Get your history correct.

      P-51's were powered by V-12 Packard-Merlins, or Rolls Royce Merlins. Much of the Merlin V-12 production was moved to the U.S. cause the Nazi's were bombing the heck out of G.Britain, and this way we/U.S. could help supplant aircraft related production for G.B..

      The Allison V-12 was used in the P-40 Flying Tigers, and many other WW2 aircraft, but the P-51 Mustang had mostly Packard built-under license from Rolls Royce, V-12's.

      The Packard-Merlin had much better high altitude power performance than the GM-Allisons.

      To this day, the Merlin V-12 is considered the best of the WW2 watercooled V12's.

      Many of these R.R. Merlins and Allisons ended up being used in Unlimited Hydroplane racing boats before turbine power replaced them. They were something else to listen too. There's nothing like the sound of a 1,000+ Cid. displacement aircraft V12 putting out nearly 2,000 h.p. in those old Hydroplanes.

      If you still want a glimpse and hear the sound too, just attend the Reno Air Races and watch those Unlimited modified WW2 fighter planes race.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Uhh, before you request people get their history correct make sure yours is as well..

        The p51 a-c used the allison v12 the D and H models used the Merlin. That's what made the D so special. The Allison was a dog in that airframe, it couldn't fly to the altititudes required for bomber escort. The Merlin could easily. So the a-c were mostly used for ground attack. It wasn't until the engine swap (done by the brits) that the true potential of that airframe was realized.


      • 6 Years Ago
      Looking in the engine compartment there, I bet that's genuine asbestos insulation!

      Only the finest . . . .
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