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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Lear Motors Corporation


Historical Note

Lear Motors Corporation (LMC) was established by William P. Lear (WPL) in 1968 on land formerly used as Stead Air Force Base, Nevada. The company developed and successfully tested a steam turbine engine for passenger car and transit passenger bus. Additional products include brushless motors and deep-well pump/motors.

In 1968, WPL hired Hugh Carson as chief engineer and Ken Wallis as the engineer to build a steam-powered race car for the Indianapolis 500. Wallis built two engines, Delta and Delta II, but after Delta II exploded in 1969, Lear became frustrated with Wallis and fired him. The steam project stumbled along for a bit, until June 1970 when LMC signed a contract with the State of California to build a steam-powered passenger transit bus.

By September 1970 Lear had developed a 30lb, single wheel steam turbine. Ed Cole, General Motors president, gave him a bus and a Chevrolet Monte Carlo to test the engine. Several successful public demonstrations occurred in 1972 of the Lear Vapor Turbine Powered Coach, which used “Learium." On January 26, 1973, LMC completed a successful first drive of a steam-powered 1971 Monte Carlo. WPL was the inaugural driver.

In 1974, Lear named his son-in-law, Gian Carlo Bertelli as LMC president, as well as Leareno Development. Bertelli left in 1975, after disagreements with WPL regarding business decisions. Despite successful demonstrations and lower emissions, Lear lacked funding and had already spent $15-17 million of his own money on the project. After failing to gain support or funding from the federal government or corporations, such as General Motors, the project was terminated in 1975. Lear Motors Corporation was sold in early 1976.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Series XI. Lear Motors Corp., 1968-1976, 1984-1999, undated

Scope and Contents: Lear Motors Corporation Series XI: Lear Motors Corporation (LMC) primarily documents the efforts of LMC in the development and production of steam-powered vehicles. Although LMC was incorporated in 1968 and sold in 1976, the bulk of materials fall within 1969-1973. Note that because LMC, Leareno Development, LearAvia, and several smaller companies were all started in 1967-1968 there is some overlap between the series within some sections, such as correspondence. The series is...

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