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Charles Amherst Villiers

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(Charles) Amherst Villiers (1900–1991) was an English automotive, aeronautical and astronautic engineer and portrait painter.

1900 Charles Amherst Villiers was born in London on 9 December 1900, the son of Ernest Amherst Villiers, Cleric and M.P., and the Hon. Elaine Augusta Guest.

He was educated at Oundle School and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

Villiers began his automotive career modifying Brescia Bugattis and supercharging a Vauxhall for racing driver Raymond Mays. He designed the Napier-Campbell Blue Bird which Malcolm Campbell used to break the land speed record in 1927 with an average speed of 174.88 mph. He also developed the supercharged "Blower Bentley", driven by Henry Birkin.

1926 His first patent concerned improvement to brakes for automobiles. This was followed by several other patents on vehicle components and engines.

In 1930 he bought from the Air Ministry one of the Gloster IV biplanes which had been used by the RAF High Speed Flight as practice machines for the Schneider Trophy. He was planning to install an unsupercharged geared Napier Lion racing engine and remove the floats for an attempt to break the world air speed record, but the plans did not come to fruition.

1931 Patent with Edward Frederick Simmons and Harry Robert Mayes on crank-case construction for multi-cylinder engines.

1932 An engineer; he gained his aviator's certificate at the London Aeroplane Club

1932 Married in London to Maya de Lisle. 'Charles Amherst Villiers and Mayfair Hostess. Mr Charles Amherst Villiers, the wellknown inventor, son of the late Hon. Ernest Villiers and the Hon. Mrs Villiers, Honnington House, Coombe Bissett, Salisbury, was married at Prince's Register Office, on Saturday, Madame Maya de Lisle, the Mayfair hostess....Mr Villiers first success was the design of Sir Malcolm Campbell's Blue Bird A super charger made by Mr Villiers was used by Sir Henry Birkin when he broke the Brooklands record recently at 137 miles per hour. Madame de Lisle is a sister-in-law off Henrv Strakosch the South African financier.[1]

1936 Villiers, with Thomas Hay, developed a 120/130 h.p. four-cylinder aero engine, the Amherst Villiers Maya I (named after his wife). The engine was first tested in a B.A. Eagle and later in Villiers' own Miles Aircraft: Miles Whitney Straight, but did not go into production.

During the Second World War he served as a ferry pilot.

After the war he joined the "Brain Drain" of scientists and engineers moving to the USA to work on the space programme. He became a portrait painter in New York, and his portraits of his friends Ian Fleming and Graham Hill hang in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

1946 Married in New York city to Juanita Lorraine Brown and they had two children, Charles Churchill Villiers and Jane Villiers.

1950 In California, he became a naturalised US citizen

He died on 12 December 1991.


  • Obituary of Amherst Villiers in The Independent, 28 January 1992
  • 1991 Obituary.[2]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Western Daily Press - Monday 01 August 1932
  2. Brooklands Society Gazette Vol 16. No 4. 1991