Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


WHEN WE left Romanian-British polymath George Constantinescu, in yesterday’s SimanaitisSays, he had already received plaudits for designing the C.C. synchronization gear used on allied fighter planes in World War I. Still to come were artful bridge designs, an automobile achieving 100 mpg, and a building that refused to fall down.

George “Gogu” Constantinescu, also appearing Georges Constantinesco, 1881–1965, Romanian-born British scientist, engineer, inventor, and automaker.

Constantinescu’s theoretical studies of sonic theory led to engineering improvements in automotive carburetors and also in valve systems and fuel injectors for diesels engines. Another Constantinescu invention was a torque converter, this one a mechanical one actuated by a pendulum and varied by the frequency of the engine’s power pulses.

The Constantinesco automobile, manufactured in France 1926–1928, featured this innovative torque convertor as its means of generating sufficient torque from a particularly small engine. (At an earlier 1924 Wembly Exhibition, an engine with 250 hp teamed with a Constantinescu torque converter had propelled a railway locomotive.)

1926 Constantinesco 5CV two-seater. Image from The Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars, 1885 to the Present, edited by G.N. Georgano, E.P. Dutton, 1970. To Georgano, our subject was Georges Constantinesco.

The Constantinesco automobile engine was a two-stroke design with two vertical cylinders between which nestled the torque converter. This water-cooled engine displaced a mere 494 cc and produced 5 taxable hp.

Yet, its Constantinescu-devised torque enhancement gave a four-seat saloon “just the right torque at the right time to suit the prevailing road conditions without the aid of controls of any kind beyond the throttle control of the engine.” Or so read its advertising.

Indeed, the Constantinesco had neither clutch nor a need for changing gear, real advantages for people new to the idea of driving. Nor would the Constantinesco coast backward on an upgrade. “The car freewheels automatically,” the ad said, “giving considerable economy in petrol.” As described in a Motorsport “Forgotten Makes” feature, the Constantinesco could give “100 mpg at the 35-40 mph speeds common at the time of its introduction.”

Above, a concrete bridge in Carol Park, Bucharest, designed by Constantinescu. Dedicated in 1906, it was the first straight-beamed concrete bridge in Romania. Below, one of two bridges in Lainici, Romania, designed by Constantinescu. Image by Simiprof.

An expert in the engineering of structures, Constantinescu was an early advocate of reinforced concrete. A good story is told in about Constantinescu’s preventing the imminent collapse of an incompleted Romanian Chamber of Deputies in 1906: He devised a girdle of reinforced concrete for the structure and, countering complaints and worries from the deputies, proved its efficacy with sandbags overloading the structure by 50 percent. The building stood; the deputies relented; and Constantinescu deliberately left them to organize removal of the sandbags.

I like a sense of humor in a scientist, engineer, inventor, and automaker. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

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