OverviewThe Constantinesco was a British-French automobile produced from 1926 to 1928. It was built by George Constantinesco, a Romanian-born engineer and inventor, who had gained fame by his invention of the synchronized machine gun that could fire through spinning aircraft propellors without ever hitting the blades.
The inspiration behind the car was Constantinesco's 1923 invention of the "oscillating masses" mechanical torque converter, which replaced clumsy gear shifting with a smooth, highly efficient, continuously variable transmission. The transmission ratio was determined by the oscillation of a pendulum, the extent of the oscillations being determined by the pendulum's mass, ingenious attachment, and dimensions in combination with the torque and speed of the engine and of the road wheels. An oscillating masses torque converter can eliminate entire complex geared automotive transmissions with their jerky shifting, added weight and low efficiency. Compared to a similar car with a gear based transmission, Constantinesco's needed a substantially smaller engine, was lighter overall, and was much more fuel efficient. In the car, the mechanical torque converter was embodied in a 494 cc twin-cylinder two-stroke engine of his own design, where it was mounted between the engine's cylinders.
The car was built in Paris with the gearbox (on the rear axle for forward, neutral and reverse) built in England. It was exhibited at the 1926 Paris Motor Show but only a few were made. General Motors signed a "lucrative" royalty agreement to manufacture the torque converters, giving Constantinesco a $100,000 advance on royalties -- but didn't make any, leaving the inventor deeply in debt and the mechanical torque converter sidelined.