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I CONFESS that this title sounds like Chrysler getting into the brewery business with a cost-cutting move. But, in fact, the Chrysler Five-Pack is one of World War II’s success stories. There are elements of modularity, some military history and even a good detective yarn.
The Sherman M4 was the Allies’ first-line medium tank. Though military historians say the German Panzer was a better fighting machine, the Sherman won by sheer numbers.
As tanks go, the Sherman was inexpensive, had straightforward maintenance and, especially critical, was easy to produce. By war’s end, almost 50,000 Shermans rolled out of ten different American manufacturers; among them, American Locomotive, Detroit Tank Arsenal, Fisher Tank Arsenal, Ford and Pullman-Standard Car Company.
The Sherman M4’s powerplant varied from an air-cooled 9-cylinder Wright radial (the most common engine) to pairs of supercharged inline-6 GMC diesels to a huge (18.0 liters!) Ford V-8—to the Chrysler Five-Pack.
The Chrysler A57 Multibank Five-Pack benefited from existing tooling and modularity. It consisted of five Windsor inline-6s arranged in a cubical volume fitting the Sherman’s engine compartment.
One bank of the Sherman M4A4’s Five-Pack was arranged vertically, two others were aligned at 45 degrees to either side (the pair forming a 90-degree V-12), with the remaining pair running almost but not quite opposed at the base.
Each cast-iron bank displaced 4.1 liters, with traditional long-stroke dimensions of 87.3-mm bore and 114.3-mm stroke, an L-head and a modest compression ratio of 6.1:1. Each had separate carburetor, ignition and a complex throttle linkage.
A central output shaft was gear-driven by the five individual crankshafts. Each bank yielded perhaps 94 hp at 2700 rpm, for a total output of around 470 hp. On the other hand, it was said the only time the five engines produced the same output was at idle.
Of the 49,234 Sherman tanks produced between 1941 and 1945, only relatively few, 7499, were Five-Pack-powered. Most of these ended up in Allied hands as part of Lend-Lease programs.
A good detective story accompanies Chrysler’s efforts to find a Five-Pack for display at its Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hill, Michigan (closed since 2012 except for private rentals).
In searching out a Five-Pack, Chrysler found a guy in Minnesota, but understandably he wanted to sell the tank and all. Then maybe there was one in the Netherlands. Finally, a Five-Pack—still in its original crate—turned up in Argentina.
Twenty-six months of paperwork involved the Argentine Army, U.S. Customs, State Department and Department of Defense. (The Five-Pack was considered a “returning weapon of war.”) Matters were brought to a successful conclusion only after a phone call to Michigan Congressman John Dingell. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014