In 1937, at the behest of the United States Army Air Corps, the Allison Engine Company agreed to design and build a large-displacement high-power aircraft engine. The resulting V-3420 was essentially a pair of 12-cylinder Allison V-1710 engines mated to a common crankcase with a 30° angle between the inner cylinder banks. The crankshafts of the two V-1710 engines were geared together to drive a common propeller shaft. Most V-3420 parts were interchangeable with those for V-1710-E and -F engines.
The V-3420 had a power-to-weight ratio of 1.6 kW/kg or 1 hp/lb, excellent for its time. It was envisioned as a powerful yet compact engine for several advanced Air Force projects of the day, including the Douglas XB-19, the Boeing XB-39 Superfortress, the Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning, and the General Motors P-75 Eagle. As none of these designs reached full-scale production, only about 150 V-3420s were built.