- Image: Rolls Royce Motor Cars

The Fascinatingly Secret Story of Rolls Royce's V16 engine

Why won't they disclose any information about it??

7w ago

"It goes like the wind - only quieter!"

To be frank, the Johnny English franchise is among the cheesiest and most ridiculous of parody spy films during their craze. They steadily became worse overtime and the second instalment, Reborn, possibly had the worst camera angles ever witnessed at the box office. I could've held the camera more steadily as an eight-year-old using a block of ice as the gimbal.

Nevertheless, a rather special motorcar made an appearance; and to be honest, it was the sole reason why I wanted to originally watch it all those years ago. It was a Rolls Royce Phantom with a little USP.

To quote Rowan, that USP is an engine - but not any engine!

This is the story (or what I could gather at least) of Rolls Royce's fascinating 9.0 litre V16.

The possible inspiration (note: speculated!)

Image: Wikipedia

Image: Wikipedia

In the late 1980s, BMW wanted to demonstrate just how far their engineers could go with their family of small cylinder displacement engines. At this point, they were already selling inline-4, inline-6 and V12 engines throughout their range, with V8s becoming available from 1991.

Alongside a microscopic 3-cylinder unit, BMW also experimented with a monstrous 6.7 litre V16. It was based on the existing V12 available in the E32 750iL, but it now produced 400bhp and 461 lb.ft of torque. With an 8:8:1 compression ratio and 6,000rpm redline, it's clear this V16 was solely designed for smooth, un-fussed cruising.

The engine was then said to be trailed in the Bentley Mulsanne in the early 1990s. That's important to note because at that time, Rolls Royce and Bentley were still merged together. So, despite the engine being a technical exercise, did BMW have secret ideas before the Anglo-German acquisition took place?

Image: Rolls Royce-Bentley Motors

Image: Rolls Royce-Bentley Motors

For a little while, BMW became Rolls Royce and Bentley's engine supplier in the late 1990s with the Silver Seraph being powered by the German marque's 5.4 litre V12 and Bentley's Arnage being powered by the 4.4 litre V8.

It wasn't until 1998 when BMW eventually managed to acquire Rolls Royce in full and while the Volkswagen group took over Bentley and continued to produce the last of the Seraphs and Corniches, BMW set to work on the ultimate luxury car for the 21st century.

And where better to start than somewhere big... V16 big, to be precise!

The 100/101EX

Image: Wikipedia

Image: Wikipedia

In 2004, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the meeting of Charles Rolls and Sir Henry Royce, the famous British marque via BMW brought out a 2-door concept car based on the newly-released Phantom. But unlike the 6.75 litre V12 found in the 4-door limousine, the EX had a 9.0 litre V16.

With the fear that they'd gone a little overboard, Rolls then settled for the same V12 for use in the production version of the 2-door Phantom, leaving the V16 on the back shelf.

Rowan Atkinson then approached Rolls to ask if they could install one of three built-up V16s in the Johnny English Phantom. Amazingly, they obliged!

But what Rolls don't seem to be happy to oblige to is revealing any information about the mysterious engine.

Image: Rolls Royce Motor Cars

Image: Rolls Royce Motor Cars

In an interview with Octane magazine, Rolls refused to give details of anything about the engine aside its total displacement. No horsepower or torque figures, no disclose of the details of the engine such as the type of fuel injection system used and not even the maximum rpm.

Given that the spare parts of the three experimental engines were scrapped during development, the only way we can really find out the inner details of this fascinating V16 is if someone outside of Rolls Royce buys it and takes it completely apart.

Who knows when that will be - or even if it'll happen! But one thing is certain: this is one of the most fascinating engines of the 21st century and it's a bit of a shame that it never made production.

Then again, could you imagine trying to run it?

Thanks for reading

Sources used:

- subscribe.octane-magazine.com/features/johnny-englishs-v16-rolls-royce

- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolls-Royce_100EX

- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_Goldfisch_V16

- www.bmwblog.com/2019/11/01/who-remembers-the-v16-powered-bmw-750il-goldfisch/

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Comments (29)

  • Too bad they’ll probably go 100% EV soon

      1 month ago
    • Indeed. The fascination of a Roller for me is just how silkily refined the engines are - to the point where they are simply magical.

        1 month ago
    • the coin on its edge test without falling, or a glass of water undisturbed always fascinated me. Steady and stable meanwhile a few inches below there is a V12 purring at 1000 rpm

        1 month ago
  • This is so sad. I love V16s and a Rolls Royce would be perfect for one

      1 month ago
    • It would be nice if they used the v16 for the last petrol rolls they made.

        1 month ago
    • That would be so cool, I hope they do that too

        1 month ago
  • Now this reminds me of the Cadillac V16 concept

    Very peculiar

      1 month ago
  • I wonder how many gallons to the mile?

      1 month ago
  • Club together, buy it, pull it apart?

      1 month ago