Very incomplete list of amazing Engines.
Throughout automotive history, many engines were so good, they remained in production for decades. Some simple but astonishingly powerful and reliable, others hopelessly complicated and ahead of their time, built to achieve outstanding performance.
This short list is comprised of some very well known engines and a few less known but equally impressive.
Let me know which ones you'd like to see added to this list on a future follow up.
Ferrari's Columbo V12
Ferraris are synonymous with V12s. The Columbo engine was the one that started it all. Designed by former Alfa Romeo employee, Gioacchino Colombo. This engine made Ferrari into the brand we all knew and loved. On the 41 years, it stood in production, the engine grew from its original displacement of 1.5-litres to 4.9-litres in 1988.
It was intended for the 125S, making 116 prancing horses. However, its more widely known on the 250 (3.0-litres) variant that powered some of the most impressive racers and beautiful road cars to ever come out of Italy.
After Columbo left Ferrari, his engine continued to be the staple in Ferrari's road cars. It got frequently updated, one of the more noteworthy was the four-cam version which debuted in the 275 GTB/4, producing 325 bhp. Later the quad-cam design would evolve into the larger 365 (4.4-litre) that powered the Daytona. It was finally retired in 1988, by then it was fuel injected and installed on the Ferrari 412i.
Lamborghini's Bizzarrini V12
After the heated argument between Ferruccio Lamborghini and Enzo Ferrari, Lamborghini's race to beat Ferrari in every department gave us this amazing engine (probably my favourite of all time).
Designed by Giotto Bizarrini, it intended to beat Ferrari at its own game. Bizzarinni was promised a bonus for every Hp his engine produced over Ferrari's engine. However, Ferruccio demanded he should focus on building an engine for a road car. Of course, he designed a state of the art race engine, but it was a very solid base for evolution. It was a quad cam 60 degree V12 (Ferrari's at the time still was a single overhead cam design ). The 3.5-litre unit was tested in 1963 producing 370 bhp, although it was mechanically capable of reaching 400 bhp at 11,000 Rpm with an uprated fuel system.
It was used for almost 50 years in many Lamborghini models from the sleek Miura and Espada to the brutish LM002. Throughout its lifespan, it gained four valves per cylinder, fuel injection, a dry-sump lubrication system and expanded to 6.5 litres on its last iteration, outputting 690 bhp.
Chrysler Firepower - Hemi
After WW2, Chrysler very wisely decided to develop a new engine using their know-how regarding hemispherical cylinder heads. That engine would provide them with the performance edge over their competitors, producing various amounts of power depending on their application from the several divisions of Chrysler.
Drag racers especially loved the 392 cubic-inch block, which in some versions was rated at 375 bhp.
Although the best-known variant is the 426 Hemi, developed especially for NASCAR, it saw the light of day in 1964. In 1966 the street Hemi became available to the public. Rated at 425Bhp(many times produced more than that), mated to a plethora of Chrysler products filled the dreams of young American enthusiasts, until the end of production in 1971. The technology and name were resurrected many years later. Nowadays the Hemi finds its home under the hood of many Chrysler products but more notably on the Challenger Hellcat and Demon producing more than 700 bhp out of the box.
When we think of a straight 8 engine, we think of pre-war vehicles, truly old-fashioned technology.
The Duesenberg straight-8 spec sheet, actually reads like a much more modern engine. Double overhead-cam, 4 valves-per-cylinder, supercharged and power output between 265 and 320 bhp 90 years ago! That was a crazy amount of power, especially for the time and an outstanding number of new features. Although it came with a hefty price tag, it's marvelous how ahead of its time this engine was.
Most Porsche geeks (myself included) know it as the Typ 912. A delightfully complex but very reliable engine, designed by the great Hans Mezger, deserves its own piece.
The unit in question is technically, an air-cooled V12 at 180º , with gear driven DOHC, twin sparkplugs per cylinder and it was built using exotic materials among them magnesium.
Its power output on a 917 was around 580 bhp, but on the 917/30, a Can-Am twin-turbo variant while in qualifying tune, was able to produce around 1580 bhp at 39 pounds of boost. Now you get why many rocket scientists are German.
Let me know which ones you liked more or you'd like to see added to this list on a future follow up. Maybe even go deeper into the details.