The most unusual engines and their principle of operation

Science 2023

Table of contents:

The most unusual engines and their principle of operation
The most unusual engines and their principle of operation

If you look at the engines of most cars, you will notice a lot of similarities between them. However, at various times there have been many attempts to offer something new that would totally change the design and function of most motors. Some models of unusual engines were still used in sports cars and even became part of the design of popular cars. Others were recognized as a dead end branch of the evolution of the automotive industry. All unusual engines, however, give an idea of ​​the unique engineering thinking of designers of different times, so necessary for the advancement of any car model. You will learn about this in our new material. So, meet - the most unusual engines in the history of the global automotive industry.

Single cylinder (1885)

The single-cylinder internal combustion engine dates back to the very first recognizable automobile, the 1885 Benz Patent-Motorwagen. A 954cc four-stroke engine was installed under the passenger seat and produced less than 1 horsepower.

the most unusual engines

Still it waseasy to make and even easier to work with, and it was later modified to have a power of two horsepower. Since then, single-cylinder models have been used in many light and fuel-efficient vehicles, and later this type of unusual engine experienced something of a renaissance due to its suitability as a range extension device for electric vehicles.

V-shaped (1889)

The V-shaped engine once had a number of attractive properties, which can explain its long-term use in the automotive industry. This unusual engine is compact and lightweight, as it was originally created for motorcycles. The first car to use the V-twin was the Daimler Stahlradwagen, but it really took off in the 1920s when companies like GN and Morgan used it to build their legendary sports models. The only modern car using a V-twin engine is still the Morgan, which has 82 horsepower. If the author of these lines had to make his own personal top 6 unusual engine, this one would close the top six. But the following 5 motors, which will be discussed below, would be placed in the remaining positions.

unusual internal combustion engines

V4 (1897)

For many years, the V4 (one of the most unusual internal combustion engines) has had a bad reputation, thanks in large part to Ford's cars, which flooded the market with inferior models in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite this, hisits compact size and inherent fluidity should have made it ideal for use in automobiles, and engineer Emil Morse was the first to use it in 1897.

the most unusual internal combustion engines

The largest engine among the cars participating in the Grand Prix was just the V4 used in J. W alter Christie's 1907 car, which had a capacity of 19,891 cc. Lancia has developed a version for classic models such as the Appia and Fulvia, while Porsche has used the classic V4 in many racing cars. These models have also become a kind of classic.

"Clear Eight" (1919)

Like many other pieces of equipment used in early automobiles, the figure eight was first developed for use in aircraft. The power of eight cylinders, combined with the long, thin aerodynamic shape of this type of unusual engine, made it an ideal purchase for the savvy aircraft builder. It was first adopted for use in Isotta Fraschini and later in 1920 in Leyland Motors, but it was Bugatti in Europe and Duesenberg in the US that popularized the G8 into the mainstream.

6 unusual engines

Bugatti dominated the passenger car market for a very long time, producing both cheap and very expensive models, while Duesenberg did not stay afloat in America for very long.

Straight-12, or "cleartwin" (1920)

The sheer length of this type of unusual car engine meant that it could only be used in luxury cars, as in the case of the French Corona. The impressive dimensions, reaching 7238 cubic centimeters, made it very powerful. But the high cost and impracticality of the design doomed him to a very narrow popularity. Only we althy companies that produced cars for the elite could afford it.

the principle of operation of unusual engines

Peccard Corporation rose to the challenge in the 1920s and built one prototype that was used by one member of the Packard family from 1929 until his death when the car was scrapped. It was an unusual personal car for a sophisticated rich man, whose drawings have sunk into oblivion forever.

W12 (1927)

We may have gotten used to the look of the W12 thanks to Bentley cars, but the history of this engine goes all the way back to the 1920s. Then pioneers in the construction of fast cars, such as John Cobb and Sir Malcolm Campbell, adapted the initially impractical W12 for use in Campbell's innovative Blue Bird machines.

unusual magnetic motors

However, after that, unusual W12 magnet motors remained unpopular for a long time, until the appearance of the 1990 Life F35 Grand Prix car, which turned out to be underpowered and very unreliable. Audi then chose this model for its 1991 Avus concept car.

V16 (1929)

Maserati was the first company toproducing cars with a V16 engine. In particular, they used it in their Tipo V4, which was immediately followed by cars from Cord in the USA. Alfa Romeo bought a V16 to build their famous Tipo 162, while Auto Union developed their own modification of this engine for use in the Type C.

After World War II, only BRM dabbled in the V16 configuration with its screaming 1.5L engine for Grand Prix use. This engine developed 600 hp. s., but problems with its boost system meant it wasn't reliable enough to deliver on its promises.

unusual car engines

Radial engine (RD, 1935)

The light weight and simplicity of the design of the taxiway could not fail to be noticed by aircraft manufacturers, and it was also used in many tanks. However, the size and design of the valve made it less attractive to car companies, so its first use was only on one of the cars participating in the 1935 Monaco-Trossi Grand Prix.

The air-cooled two-stroke radial engine, which gained limited popularity, was also loaded and powered by two banks of eight cylinders. Power was 250 horsepower, which was not that impressive for an advanced engine of the period. Overheating proved to be a problem, but the car was unable to compete due to a terrible lack of agility caused by the fact that 75% of the car's weight was on its front axle.

gazelles with unusualengines

Flat-12 (1946)

Porsche started the so-called Flat-12 in 1947 when Ferdinand Porsche offered this 1.5-litre unit for the Cisitalia. It was supposed to be used in a racing car at the next Grand Prix, which was never published due to its structural complexity. In 1964, the guys at Ferrari used the Flat-12 on their Formula 1 cars.

Ferrari was the first corporation to produce a complete car with this type of engine.

unusual external combustion engines

Gas turbine (1950)

Seeing the first use of a gas turbine engine by a conservative British automaker was quite unusual. The Rover Jet 1 was the result of the UK's post-World War II advances in this technology and was based on the P4 chassis. The speed of this car was good for the time, ranging from 10 to 60 miles per hour. It is believed that this car could reach speeds up to 90 miles per hour.

Further experience has shown that it can develop 230 horsepower and its top speed reaches 152 miles per hour. Both General Motors and Chrysler experimented with gas turbine engines at one time, but various competitions in Le Mans, Indianapolis and Formula 1 could not show its true power, because no one else was interested in it. However, these days there are plans to use a gas turbine with modifications from the British firm Delta Motorsport.Perhaps the most notable use of turbine-powered ground vehicles today is in the US Army's main battle tank, the M1 Abrams.

Triple (1951)

The triple engine is a three-cylinder engine that has been around for much longer than the current cars that use it, such as cars from Ford and Volkswagen. It rose to prominence in the 1950s when DKW and Saab used its two-stroke modifications for their small family cars.

An indicator of how good these engines were was that it was the DKW car that gave two-time Formula 1 champion Jim Clark his first racing experience, and the driver piloting the Saab car won the Monte Carlo Rally with 93rd. In our time, the "triple" is still valued for its small size, efficiency and wide functionality. The latter factor strongly distinguishes it from all other unusual external combustion engines.

BRM H16 (1966)

British Racing Motors was nothing less than an innovator in its approach to new Formula One cars introduced in 1966. Where others used V8 and V12 engines, BRM offered the H16, which is essentially two flat engines stacked one on top of the other.

This motor had a crankshaft to which gears were attached, but this design made it very heavy. It was used in the Lotus 43 and was driven by Jim Clark to win the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen in 1966. Nevertheless, this was to be the only victory for the H16, and soon thismodel discarded in favor of V12 design.

Rotary Engine (1967)

Mazda will forever be associated with the rotary engine. Many of her most memorable models used this engine design, and it doesn't fit well with new sports cars based on the standard set by the RX-Vision Concept.

However, the engine was created by German engineer Felix Wankel, who developed it at NSU before the company made a deal with Mazda. This led to the creation of the Cosmo 110S coupe in 1967 and the production of a line of sports cars that used the smooth, high-revving principle of the rotary engine with great success.

Flat-8 (1968)

The figure-eight has long been popular in aircraft, but its benefits outweigh the cost of production, and so the Porsche 908 took several years to redesign this unit. Designed for sports car racing, this engine proved to be very useful in 1968, given the then rules of Formula 1.

V5 (1983)

Think of the V5 and you'll most likely think of the Mk4 Golf and its modified models like the Bora and SEAT Toledo. This 2.3-liter engine debuted in the Passat in 1997 and produced 148 horsepower. It was designed to bridge the gap between V4 and V6 engines.

It met with limited success, despite the fact that it required a clever technique to create such a compact device. Prior to this, only General Motors experimented with these types of motor, but later decided not to.put into production the models resulting from these experiments.

W16 (1995)

Bugatti is most associated with the W16 engine (thanks to the Veyron and Chiron cars), but it was engineer Ramon Jimenez who was the first to create a supercar with this unit inside. The Frenchman combined four 1000cc Yamaha motorcycle engines to create a W12 with two crankshafts and 80 valves capable of producing 560 horsepower.

Bugatti engineers greatly enlarged this motor, allowing it to develop 987 horsepower, after which it was successfully used in the Veyron models and now boasts 1479 horsepower when used in the Chiron model.

W8 (2001)

This engine may have turned out to be a technological dead end, but in the design of a Volkswagen car, it still looks surprisingly harmonious. The W8 combines two narrow-angle V4 engines on a common crankshaft, allowing the V-8 to take up the space normally reserved for a V6.

More cylinders means more power, more streamlining and a smoother ride. Sales of cars with such a monster inside never decreased, but for some reason the total production of these engines reached only 11,000 copies.


Despite the fact that this list of the most unusual internal combustion engines is intended for a narrow circle of people interested in the automotive industry, any reader who is not privy to the topic will immediately notice that if they were usedin mass production cars, then a very short time. This is due to the fact that very often such units were too large. The principle of operation of unusual engines also differs from standard motors, and is more reminiscent of the principle of operation of aircraft turbines. Nevertheless, such mechanisms have proven to be excellent as part of the design of racing cars, allowing cars to reach tremendous speeds in Formula 1 and other similar competitions. Due to the fact that they have not taken root in the mainstream auto industry, we will not see conditional Gazelles with unusual engines soon.

Popular topic