Developed in 1927 with a rating of 429 kW (575 hp), the Wright Cyclone air-cooled engine gained favor among aircraft builders because of its high fuel economy, long service life, easy and economical maintenance, and low weight/horsepower ratio. Through progressive improvements, the rating of later models was raised to an impressive 895 kW (1,200 shp) for takeoff.
Air-cooled radial engines such as the Wright Cyclone and Pratt & Whitney Wasp became the standards for naval aircraft. Their advantages also appealed to designers of commercial air transports. With few exceptions, commercial air transports throughout the world relied on air-cooled radial engines until the advent of jet engines.
This R-1820-97 was manufactured under license by Studebaker. A total of 64,093 R-1820-97 engines were built between July 1942 and October 1943, more than any other model in the R-1820 series. The -97 powered the Boeing B-17E/F/G, Douglas B17F-DL/-19G-DL, Vega B17F-VE/17G-VE, and Northrop N-1-25A.