Using cutting edge technology to restore 100 year old car

This year marks over 160 years of engineering history for what is now Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery Ltd in Lincoln, a company that has its origins in the Ruston & Hornsby engineering company and its founder, Joseph Ruston. But before our development and manufacture of the industrial gas turbine in the late 1940's, the Ruston car was born, and 100 years on we're using the latest Additive Manufacturing technology to bring the car back to life and onto the road again.

When old meets new: 100 year old car back on the road!

The year is 1918 and Ruston & Hornsby Limited had been born out of a merger between Ruston, Proctor & Co of Lincoln and Richard Hornsby & Sons of Grantham. One of the first products to see the light of day from this new company who were looking to diversify after the War was the Ruston Hornsby motor car.

The experience gained in building wooden-framed aircraft was put to good use, and the first car was available in 1920. Two versions were made, a 15.9 hp with a Dorman 2614 cc engine and a larger 20 hp model with a 3308 cc engine of their own manufacture. A 4" high brass Lincoln imp radiator mascot was an optional extra! The cars were very well made but also very heavy, being built on a 9" chassis. This design made the cars extremely expensive - they cost between £440 and £1000 and they could not compete effectively with the lighter and cheaper models made by other established car producers who had adopted mass-production methods to turn out cheap family cars in very large numbers, weighing only 3//4 ton and costing around £120 to £200. Production ended in 1925 after around 1500 cars had been sold.

Bringing the car to life again using Additive Manufacturing

Fast forward 100 years later to June 2018: Two of the cars are still retained by Siemens on the Lincoln site which is now home to the design, development, manufacture and service of small industrial gas turbines. A 1920 car was purchased by the company in the 1960's from the Sword classic car collection and a 1922 car was bought back from Australia in the 1960's by a Lincoln MP and given to the company as a bare chassis. For many years, both cars have undergone extensive restoration, initially by a team of Apprentices and now by a group of committed and passionate volunteers.

Until recently traditional methods have been used to restore the cars but what do you do when parts no longer exist? The engines and major components remain in fairly good shape but there's a problem - many of the small ancillary parts and running components are no longer available from 1920 and much of the old manufacturing information has been lost! For example - the Steering Box on one of the cars was significantly damaged and in several pieces. We could have a new part machined from solid metal but we had no drawings! Added to that is the fact that most machine shops don't want to manufacture a one-off part due to lengthy design and set-up times which prove costly.

The challenge: Using the latest scanning technology could it be possible to digitally 'glue the parts back together' again by creating a working scan model which can then be 3D printed? This was the challenge for the team at Siemens Materials Solutions (recently acquisitioned) who have 12 years' experience in Additive Manufacturing and 3D printing using metals including steel, titanium and nickel-based super alloys for industries such as aerospace and power generation, where components are needed in hot environments. The answer was yes! The team were able to scan the parts of the original steering box and turn it into a working 3D model. They then turned to the latest 3D printing technology, using a metal powder that is welded into layers by a laser (around a 1000 layers in total!) to produce the new high quality part and taking just five days to print - that's around two and a half years quicker than going to an open market. Using this advanced manufacturing technology a part which is more accurately produced than using the original tooling processes and more robust because it is engineered as a single piece.

On the road again, thanks to our commitment and drive

Later in the year one of the cars will be test run at Cadwell Park, the famous motor racing circuit in Lincolnshire and also put on display at the prestigious Festival of Speed event at Goodwood. Not only does the restoration of the cars demonstrate our commitment to celebrating the past, preserving our engineering heritage and engaging with the community, the project is also about inspiring the next generation of engineers - this is a great example of how a 100 year old car can get back on the road with the help of cutting-edge technology!

The Ruston-Hornsby Car

Showcase the Ruston Car at your local event

The Ruston Car is a fantastic showcase of how new engineering techniques can be applied to very old technology with wonderful results. Ideal for vintage fairs or historical events, the Ruston Car is available for display at your business or show in the local community. 

To enquire about inviting the Ruston car to your event, please get in touch

Get in touch

What is reverse engineering?

Reverse engineering is a process which allows the manufacture of parts for which drawings and 3D models no longer exist. Materials Solutions - a Siemens Business - use a Structured-Light Scanner, a machine which captures multiple images of a part before combining them to create a 3D model - accurate down to the micron scale! The model can either be used directly for remanufacture or repaired and improved using CAD software such as Siemens NX.

Using Additive Manufacturing we are subsequently able to directly create a near- finished part from the 3D model. This method can be applied to almost any part and was utilised in the remanufacture of two of the Ruston Car parts - a Steering Box and a Hood Imp.