10 Crazy Engines You’ve Probably Never Heard of (Video)

You don’t see these weird engines everyday!

Updated November 8, 2018

Not many currently produced automotive engines can be considered “out of the ordinary“. While styles, configurations and builds have changed over the years, today we have mostly standardized powerplants in every sense. That doesn’t mean non-automotive engines are also streamlined and conventional. Usually not restricted by the compact size of their hosts which cars certainly are, some of them are outright crazy in design. Moreover, a few cars too, still feature an oddball powertrain here and there. That’s why we’ll list both automotive and non-automotive engines here.

Although some of the engines on this list have been around for a long time, or even discontinued a while ago, we have decided not to list any of the early 20th century mills. Brass era cars and engines were already strange as they were, but that’s something that 100 years of progress tends to fix anyway. Still, as strange as they were, they’ve paved the way for both modern day conventional and somewhat unconventional engines.

Cizeta V16T Engine

Years: 1991-Present

The story of the Cizeta V16T (former Cizeta-Moroder V16T) supercar is complex and tragic by itself. Let’s just say that it was intended as the original Lamborghini Diablo, that it’s currently illegal to drive one due to it lacking the EPA certificate, and that there are only around dozen or so of them alive today, collecting dust in someone’s garages. The Cizeta V16T, as you can imagine, is motivated by a V16 engine. Only not really. You see, Cizeta’s V16 are actually two flat-plane Lamborghini Uraco V8’s mounted on a single block and joined by a central timing case. Moreover, power transfer to the transaxle is done by the central shaft. Although this setup offers no true benefits of the V16 configuration, 6.0L setup still allows Cizeta V16T to generate around 540 horsepower.

Chrysler A57 Multibank

Years: 1942-1943

Chrysler‘s A57 was born out of necessity for the new rear-mounted tank engine. Furthermore, the Chrysler Corp. didn’t have a lot of time to develop it. So, they rolled up their sleeves and created a mashup of whatever they could have found at their arms reach. The Chrysler A57 was based around one large cast iron crankcase surrounded by five Chrysler 251ci 4.1L in-line six engines bolted to this central case. It got the multibank suffix because it featured five banks, together with five crankshafts, five heads, and five Carter TD-1 carburetors. All in all, it sported a total of 30 cylinders. Even more astonishing is the fact the tank could have survived the loss of up to 12 of them.

Speaking of tanks, the A57 Multibank was the motivating factor behind 109 M3A4 tanks and 7,500 M4A4 Shermans. A total of 9,965 A57’s were built (rest of them were spare engines), and they delivered a total of 470 horses.

Cummins QSK95

Years: 2012-Present

The largest of all V16 Cummins QSK family diesel engines displaces (as its name suggests) a whopping 95 liters (5,700ci) and generates 4,055 hp at 1,200 rpm. Of course, this is an off-highway engine suitable for locomotives, marine vessels and mining dump trucks among other things. Its modular common-rail fuel system with quad turbocharger sports in-cylinder injection pressures that can potentially go over 31,000 psi. That’s not all. Cummins is intent on expanding their QSK line with the QSK120 in near future. The new flagship mill will displace 120 liters and likely north of 5,000 horsepower.

Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major

Years: 1944-1955

This Pratt & Whitney R-4360 was the last of the Wasp engine family and largest-displacement aviation piston engine mass-produced in the US. It was intended as Boeing B-29 Superfortress’ successor. Apart from lifting the B-50 into the skies, R-4360 also motivated around two dozen of other aircrafts including the Boeing 377, Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter and Hughes H-4 Hercules. This 74.5L, 24-cylinder four-row radial powerplant was capable of yielding between 3,000 and 3,500 horsepower, but additional turbochargers and superchargers upped the output to 4,300 hp in some installations. 18,697 of them were built before turbojets and superior turbo propellers took over.

Moreover, R-4360 Wasp Major had one rather annoying flaw. Improper starting technique often caused all 56 spark plugs to go foul, requiring hours and hours of cleaning up and replacing the busted plugs.

Cosworth DFV

Years: 1967-1983

Although you’ve probably heard about it, the Cosworth DFV deserves the spot on any crazy engines list due to its F1 history. It was actually the most successful Formula One engine ever to compete, winning 155 out of 267 races over the span of its career including the Dutch Grand Prix debut in 1967. Thanks to it, Cosworth-powered teams managed to win 12 of 15 championships between ’68 and ’82. Pretty much every F1 team used it during those years, with the exception of Ferrari, of course.

The engine itself was a 90-degree 3.0L V8 packing from 408 hp to 510 hp between years. Double Four Valve (DFV) featured 16 valves operated by twin overhead camshafts. Although it wasn’t as powerful as some of its V12 coevals, Cosworth DFV was lighter and offered much better power to weight ratio.

British Racing Motors H-16

Year: 1966

The BRM H16 was basically composed out of two flat-eights mounted one atop of the other. This was a 3.0L, 32-valve setup developing north of 400 horsepower. British Racing Motors, or more precisely Tony Rudd developed it after F1 changed the engine regulations in 1966, allowing displacements to grow from 1.5L to 3.0L. The engine even won the 1966 US Grand Prix with Jim Clark behind the wheel of the Lotus 43 – BRM H16. That was just before Lotus switched to the aforementioned Cosworth DFV. Sadly, BRM H-16 wasn’t that reliable of an engine due to its complex design and thick castings. In particular, the engine suffered from violent and destructive crankshaft vibrations and difficult water circulation between the lower and the upper cylinder heads. Moreover, it was much heavier than its competitors, so British Racing Motors decided to scrap it. It’s still one of the best-sounding engines ever devised, though.

Leyland L60

Years: 1960-Present

Leyland’s L60 two-stroke diesel is the motivating factor behind  the FV4201 Chieftain battle tank – Great Britain’s flagship tank during the sixties, seventies and eighties, and used by them until 1995. Chieftain is still operated by the Iranian, Jordanian and Omani military which means Leyland L60 is still being produced 55 years after its initial introduction. This supercharged 19L in-line six powerplant delivers 750 horsepower. It doesn’t have a head and features opposed piston design which means there are two pistons in each cylinder. It’s also multifuel, so the lack of proper diesel isn’t the end of the world for it.

Of course, not everything was roses and rainbows with the L60. Although it had improved considerably over the course of its long lifespan, L60 was once one utterly unreliable engine. It was never a dedicated tank engine, but an adapted ship generator mill. It had numerous flaws, but the biggest problems were the failure of cylinder liners and lip seals, cracking of rear gear case and breakable piston rings.

Commer TS3

Years: 1954-1968

The Commer TS3, or Commer Knocker as it was known, is another opposed piston engine like the Leyland L60. However, unlike most opposed piston engines which have two, Commer Knocker features a single crankshaft. This means that each of the six pistons drives the crank through a connecting rod, a rocker lever and a second connecting rod. This supercharged three-cylinder two-stroke diesel was intended for Commer trucks built by the Rootes Group. 200ci, 3.25L engine generated 105 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. Commer TS3 was as unorthodox as an engine could be back then, but it did have its strong points. For starters, it was compact, and then it delivered much more torque than most of its larger competitors. Both the TS3 and its “never to be” successor TS4 were canceled after Rootes Group was bought by Chrysler in 1968.

Sachs KM48 Rotary Engine

Years: 1965-1975

Wankel rotary engines, although strange, aren’t something you’ve likely never heard of. But Sachs KM48 rotary might just be. This petite 160cc (9.76ci) engine was designed for motorcycles, boats, stationary equipment and small agricultural machinery. It was one of the first rotary engines ever produced, paving the way to the likes of Mazda Wankel mills. Although usually delivering around 10 horsepower only, KM48’s great power to weight distribution allowed it to be utilized in small aircrafts and motorized gliders. Although it managed to maintain altitude in these aircafts, Sachs KM48 was never able to take off by itself. Larger engines were used for that.

Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C

Years: 2006-Present

Just the heads up – no typos here. Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C displaces 1,554,882 cubic inches, develops between 46,680 and 108,920 horsepower, and 5,608,310 lb-ft of torque at 102 rpm. This Finnish behemoth is 87 feet long and 44 feet high, weighing as much as 2,300 metric tons or around 81 million pounds. Only its piston is more than 20 feet high and weighs 5.5 tons or 11,000 pounds. Two-stroke turbocharged diesel is used as main marine engine in large container ships which use heavy fuel oil. At least the 14-cylinder version is. There are lighter iterations sporting as little as 6 cylinders. As things currently stand, Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C is the largest piston engine in the world. It doesn’t even need to be complicated to be jaw-dropping, but given its sheer size, you can bet it’s one complicated affair.


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Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much.

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