Perkins Gas Turbines Ltd.

                                                         Perkins Gas Turbines Limited


In 1958 a decision was reached by the Perkins Board to diversify into products other than diesel engines. As a result, there were actions leading to the formation of Perkins Outboard Marine Limited and also Perkins Gas Turbines Limited. The latter company was formed when Perkins bought-out the existing UK licensee of Solar Gas Turbines Limited of San Diego, named Sugg-Solar Limited. 

At that time Solar Gas Turbines made a range of small industrial engines ranging from the ‘Mars’, at a nominal 50 BHP, to the ‘Jupiter’ at 1250 BHP. Initial Perkins interest centred on the Mars, which had a simple application as an emergency water pump - easily carried by two men and capable of pumping 500 gallons of water per minute at 120 PSI pressure.

 

Perkins started a small production line behind the main factory in a small hut and put a sales team into operation.


A small measure of success was achieved, with pumping sets being sold to several European Navies and a few private enterprises in England, including the National Trust, who installed another set at Waddeston Manor in Buckinghamshire as part of the fire precautions. Unfortunately type approval was not forthcoming to allow use by British fire brigades, since the Home Office branded the unit too noisy, so that only the South Shields fire brigade, an independent force, purchased a pumping set.


Some other applications were developed, notably an instructional set for technical colleges and universities and an aircraft ground starting and service unit, but production never really got off the ground.

There was also a lack of interest within Massey Ferguson, who after their takeover in 1959 was anxious for Perkins to concentrate on diesel engines. As a result, the last unit was sold in September 1965 after a total of only 167 had been produced. Today there are a few engines preserved as museum pieces, but Solar still exist as another flourishing subsidiary of Caterpillar.  

 

© David Boulton – Perkins Heritage Group. October 2004