Aerodynamics

1929. Burney Streamline. The airship that never flew

With the valuable support of Prof. Massimo Grandi’s depth of knowledge and illustrative talent

Photo credit: Some images are taken from the book Asi Service "Quando le disegnava il vento" by Massimo Grandi

The fact that one was bought by the Prince of Wales in a country where cars such as Rolls Royce and Bentley were produced might suggest that the Burney was a successful car.

An overhanging rear engine, huge cockpit, the spare wheel housed inside the door frame to limit air resistance, the Burney was presented as an alternative of the classic, renowned and iconic Rolls-Royce

Its revolutionary line, its large size and comfort for as many as seven people, were not enough to make it a commercial reality. Burney himself, who sold the patent to Crossley Motors in 1934, had no major ambitions. He was more determined to promote his idea of a different car. Very different for that matter!

This design shows the use of the spaces within the car, which had a wheelbase that stretched out some 3.80 meters. The complex engine-gearbox-transmission assembly is grouped together outside the vehicle

The overhanging rear mounted engine (which suffered from cooling problems), the spare wheel housed inside the rear door to keep the line as smooth as possible (inside the opposite door there was a drinks cabinet!), small front fenders and a front devoid of any prestige whatsoever (it cost almost as much as a Rolls Royce but it didn’t even have a “Spirit of Ecstasy”, the statuette that adorns the Parthenon-inspired radiators) certainly did not make it a coveted product.

As a competitor for Rolls-Royce, Burney didn’t have an imposing front end and the headlights gave it an almost shy expression

Crossley moved the radiator forwards in a more conventional fashion and gave it a more “automotive” shape: however just 25 cars were produced.

Crazy? Not in the slightest. It’s was a dream of Sir Dennison Burney who, as the CEO of the company that produced the renowned R100 airship wanted to set his wheels on the ground. But those wheels never took off. Only two dozen were produced.

Once the Burney license was sold to Crossley Motors, the model was made more conventional with a classic front radiator, but it was not enough to make it successful