The Ten Craziest Engines You Can’t Buy Today

10. The British Racing Motors H-16
2012/2/BRM-h16-480x327.jpgIn concept, the H-16 makes perfect sense. It’s essentially a pair of flat-eight engines connected to a common drive gear. As such, it gives you all the benefits of a large, powerful 16-cylinder engine with the cost-savings of being able to use parts from a common V8 engine. Unfortunately, in the case of the BRM H16, classic British attention to detail appears to have been its downfall. The designers claim that their engine specifications were never followed correctly, and as a result the castings ended up far thicker than they needed to be. As a result, the engine was a huge, appallingly heavy thing that the legendary Jackie Stewart described as being “better used as a ship’s anchor than as a power plant”.9. Rootes TS3 “Commer Knocker”2012/2/TS31.jpgSee if you can follow me here. The Rootes TS3 is a high-speed, two-stroke, three-cylinder, six-piston diesel engine. Wait, what? Yeah, that’s right. I expect I’ve made my case right there, but let’s continue on. It uses two horizontally opposed pistons to generate compression and ignition in each cylinder. The cylinders are on rockers, like a standard pushrod engine uses for their valves, but much, much bigger. The rockers then connect to the crankshaft. You know what, just go here. They explain it better than I can. The 3.5L engine produced a respectable 135hp and 335 lb-ft of torque. Those are respectable numbers… but hardly groundbreaking, so the engine is stuck here at position nine.
8. Cizeta V16T 2012/2/Cizeta-V16T-2-480x320.jpgI spent forever looking for a photo of this engine. Some guys named Ray Wert and Jeff Glucker found photos in like a minute. That’s a little irritating, but it should indicate just how rare these cars are. In fact, they’re quite the amazing vehicles, with a ton of trivia — but we’re only interested in the engine for now. Now, the name V16T is meant to imply a V16 engine, Transversely mounted. In fairness, however, it is not. In fact, in the interests of accuracy, it is two 90° V8 engines, mounted back-to-back and driving a central gearbox. Read that again. A central gearbox, with a V8 on either side of it, all in a common block. So it’s not two separate V8s, it is one engine, comprised of two V8s. Jeebus, my head hurts just trying to understand it. I need pictures. However, for all its mind-blowing awesomeness, it produced performance that was still around the same as any other supercar. If the only other car with specs that rival yours is the Veyron, in fairness, you should be able to run with the Veyron. It can’t, so it’s stuck down here at number eight.
7. JRL Choppers’ Rotec R28002012/2/Rotec-R2800-428x480.jpgThe engine, by itself, isn’t all that amazing. It’s admirable, to be sure; it’s a very small Rotary engine intended as a replacement for the (generally quite poor) gasoline engines that are usually found in small two- and four-seat aircraft. JRL Choppers decided to take one and put it in a motorcycle. For sheer inappropriateness balanced against mind-blowing awesome, it gets the number seven spot, even if, strictly speaking, it probably doesn’t belong here. Let’s face it, we’re hoons, we like anything that’s a little bit batshit insane.
6. GMC Twin-Six2012/2/GMC-Twin-Six.jpgDue to its nickname, the “Twin-Six” is often mistaken as being two commercial GMC V6 engines somehow welded together. And in fairness, at a casual glance, it sure as hell looks like it. In the interests of interchangeability, it uses two V6 exhaust manifolds for each cylinder bank, and two V6 valve-covers, two distributors, and so on. Many of the parts for this massive 702-cid V12 were interchangeable along the entire line of GMC’s V6 engines, which kept not only production costs but costs of ownership remarkably low. For that huge level of consideration, and its resulting cool, we’re bumping this engine — which is largely just a big production truck engine — all the way up to position six.
5. Anything Used by Blastolene2012/2/Blastolene32-376x480.jpgBraff suggested a few different engines, such as the Lincoln Flathead V12 or the pre-war Cadillac V16 engines; any one of these really does deserve to be on the list just for the sheer number of cylinders; the problem is, however, they just weren’t that awesome. Low horsepower ratings, poor reliability, and heavy weights served as limiting factors until they were heavily re-worked by the aftermarket. It’s only today, with our newer technologies, that some hot-rodders are managing to accomplish some really wild things with them. Does that make them awesome? Well… in the hands of a company like Blastolene, yes. Just go look at what they do. They’re building hot-rods around tank engines, aircraft engines, old Peterbilt engines… frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a diesel engine from an old naval destroyer showing up in a future rod. Batshit insanity, and the usage of engines wholly inappropriate for road-going vehicles gets them an automatic spot at number five.
4. Bugatti U16 2012/2/King-Bugatti-U16-480x359.jpgSimilar in concept to the H16 engine above, instead of using two flat-eights mounted horizontally, the Bugatti engine uses two straight-eights mounted side-by-side and vertically, all in a common block. When this engine came out, the straight-eight was seen as the epitome of power, style and all-around awesomeness. Bugatti capitalized on this hype by using two of them! Simple, effective, elegant, and over-the-top insane, just as all proper Bugattis always have been. Unfortunately for us, this engine, a 24L behemoth, never really found a proper application. It was attempted as a tank motor, an aircraft motor, and after WWI, as a concept-car motor. It was even attempted briefly as a “quadremoteur” version, which featured a 48L displacement and four banks of straight-eight engines. But it never went anywhere, and never really got used for anything other than a few conceptual tests, so while it would be fighting for the number one spot, it’s relegated down here to number four.
3. Ford 427 SOHC “Cammer” 2012/2/Ford-427-Cammer-480x360.jpgWait, what? What’s so crazy about this? It’s just a big V8! Well, yes, but we’re granting a bit of leeway here; it’s not the engine itself, it’s the mentality that went into developing it. Essentially, Ford just wasn’t quite doing as well as they would have liked in some obscure racing series called “NasCar”. I know, I’ve never heard of it either, but apparently it was popular back in the 1960s. It seems people thought it was fun to drive in circles around a banked track; presumably you go as fast as you can until you get dizzy and vomit, and the last person to vomit wins. Sounds like fun! Regardless, it was terribly popular back then, and it gets a nod from us because of the Ford engineers’ mentality when designing it. They started with the best engine they had, the FE 427 side-oiler, and set to work improving it however they could. They looked at every high-performance engine available, whether it was from Chrysler or Ferrari, and adapted its best piece of technology to be added to the Cammer. Single overhead cams, exotic high-temperature valves, factory porting and polishing, hemispherical combustion chambers, tunnelport high-rise intakes, and a complex series of idler pullies to idealize the valve timing; all the tricks your average backyard mechanic would use to get more power out of an engine were already employed at the factory. In addition, Ford told the Cammer owners tricks they had learned of how to get more power. The engines were conservatively rated at around 650 horsepower from the factory; as each engine was hand-built, that was considered to be the “minimum” rating. Most had significantly more. Yeah, it’s just a big V8, but it’s kinda awesome.
2. The Rolls-Royce Merlin2012/2/Rolls-Royce-Merlin-480x308.jpgLet’s face it, the Merlin is one of the greatest engines of the 20th Century, and anyone who says differently is clearly a terrorist and hates freedom and love and puppy dogs and all that is awesome. It’s been used for absolutely everything; marine, aircraft, tank, commercial truck and hot-rod applications. Didn’t know that? Sure. The Merlin engine was actually only the original, supercharged V12 engine, but it was used in many different forms under many different names. Simply removing the superchargers, or changing the crank, or swapping out the heads, or using different pistons, each resulted in a different name designation, but for all intents and purposes, it was still the original Merlin engine. Merlin was intended to be one in a rather large series of engines from Rolls-Royce, ranging in displacements from about 10L all the way up to almost 50L. As it turned out, the Merlin hit that sweet-spot between all of them, with the small footprint they needed for the smaller engines and the high horsepower they needed from the larger engines. It is versatile, powerful, and (for an aircraft engine) relatively lightweight. It’s little wonder that for over 60 years, when thinking of an over-the-top engine for an automotive project, the Merlin is one of the first ideas that comes to mind. Got a favourite Merlin-powered hot-rod? Post it in the comments, let us all drool about it. Let’s face it, if it weren’t for the engine that trumps it, this would rightfully be the number one engine. At 27L displacement and anywhere from 1300 to 3000 horsepower, it’s a hard engine to beat.
1. The Chrysler A57 Multibank2012/2/Chrysler-Multibank-479x426.jpgYes, the Merlin is a hard engine to beat, but if anyone is going to do it, it’s gotta be this one. Five banks. Thirty cylinders. 1,005-cid displacement. Constructed out of five of the Plymouth flathead sixes, it was designed to be adaptable and durable, and available in the shortest time possible. Simply put, America was going to war (finally), and they needed engines to power their Sherman tanks. Chrysler’s solution was simple to create, used existing parts, maximized flexibility, shifted paradigms, and utilized dynamic synergies. I have no idea what most of that means, but I’ve been talking to Braff again. Chrysler claimed that the Multibank would still be able to power the Sherman even if two full banks out of the five were disabled and not functioning. Good to know that even back then, Chrysler was planning their products around poor reliability. Oooooooh. Let’s face it, this is pretty frickin’ awesome.
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