10 Obscure V12 Engines With Sounds That’ll Rock Your Chair (Video)

Nothing Like The Sound Of A V12 Engine

Updated November 8, 2018

There aren’t that many engine configurations overall when we come to think of it, but nevertheless, V12 is arguably the most balanced engine of them all. Its 12 cylinders are lined up in two banks of 6 cylinders each, which gives it the perfect primary and secondary balance. Only differences between the engines are the V angles, but they don’t play that important of a role, really. After all, even flat-twelve is basically a 180-degree V12 since its pistons normally use shared crankpins.

Sadly, a car with a V12 isn’t something you’ll often get the opportunity to see or let alone possess. They’re heavy, fuel-consuming and expensive. That’s why they’re usually used in high-performance sports cars and luxury limos. At least when it comes to production cars, that is. They’ve found a much better fit in the world of locomotives, tanks, boats, early aircrafts and some heavy trucks. Here are the 10 rather obscured V12 powerplants and their exhaust notes.

GMC 702ci Twin-Six

Years: 1960-1965

A lot of people mistakenly though it to be two V6 mills welded together, but GMC Twin-Six had its own single casting design and a 60-degree angle. Produced from early to mid sixties, this 11.5L beast was intended for GMC commercial trucks, but had also found use in industrial applications. Rated at only 250 to 275 horsepower, one of the larger V12’s ever made still managed to produce between 585 and 630 lb-ft of torque (at 1,600 rpm). Quite a feat for petrol engine from the sixties. Another one of its strong points was the shared design with GMC 60-degree V6 engine. Close to 60 major parts were interchangeable between the twin-six and other GMC V6 engines. Another thing: it’s the most powerful of all naturally aspirated automotive engines as long as it stays within 2,000-3,000 rpm margins. Only around 5,000 of them have been produced.

Mercedes-Benz M120 7.3L AMG

Years: 1995 and 1998-2001

AMG engines are huge even today, but note were bigger than those used in late R129 (fourth) generation of the Mercedes-Benz SL Class roadsters. Moreover, AMG-powered versions of the SL roadster were the rarest of the lot as most of them were produced in less than 100 units. They were offered with numerous displacements like 6.0L, 7.0L and 7.2L. Rarest of this lot, however, has to be the 7.3L AMG version of the M120 engine which packed up to 518 horsepower making it the most powerful engine to grace one SL up to then.

Only 85 SL73 AMG’s were produced, but the engine also appeared in some Pagani Zondas – particularly the 2002 Zonda C12-S 7.3, 2005 Zonda F, 2009 Zonda Cinque and 2010 Zonda Tricolore. Additionally motivated by the Italians, AMG’s wonder V12 engine generated between 547 hp and 670 hp here. Only one more application comes to mind: the AMG S73 T Kombi – a W140 S-Class wagon custom-ordered by the Sultan of Brunei. Although initially ordering 15 units, the Sultan changed his mind and bought 10 of them. That didn’t stop the other 5 from finding their owners across the globe, though.

Matra MS9

Year: 1968

Matra MS9 was the first of many V12 engines built by the French racing division between 1968 and 1982. Although their Formula 1 record for ’68 was far from stellar, and they subsequently used Cosworth DFV V8 which had won them the title the following year, MS9’s sound simply can’t be beaten. The engine was developed for their MS11 car. MS9 car also used the Cosworth mill, so it’s not to be confused with the MS9 engine. MS9 V12 was a 3.0L 60-degree mill with 395 horsepower and 10,500 rpm redline, although F1 version developed well north of 400 ponies and 12,000 rpm redline. It had angled air intakes and aluminum block, but yet again competition car differed thanks to horizontal stacks and magnesium block. It was still rather heavy compared to competition’s V8’s, so maybe that’s the reason of its struggles.

Lincoln-Zephyr V12

Years: 1936-1948

Lincoln already had a functional V12 engine prior to new one being introduced in 1936, but they did require slightly smaller and lighter version of the engine for their new line of vehicles. This is why they devised the new Lincoln-Zephyr V12 based on Ford’s new Flathead V8. Unlike Flathead’s 90-degree vee angle, Lincoln-Zephyr used slightly narrower 75-degree angle which meant it also had somewhat uneven firing impulses, but was considered smooth enough at the time.

Original units were bored to 267 cubic inches and delivered 110 hp. In 1940, it was enlarged to 292 cubic inches which upped the horsepower ratings to 120. There was also the 306ci version making 130 hp, produced during one month in early 1942 and a few more months in 1946, after the end of the World War II. Between 1946 and 1948, Ford reverted to 292ci before the engine was finally replaced by its Flathead V8 role model.

TVR Speed Twelve

Year: 1997

TVR Speed Twelve is one rather obscure engine for two reasons. First one is; TVR usually used straight-six, Rover V8 or Ford Cologne V6 engines throughout their history. The second; Speed Twelve was only used for one year in a prototype car. At first named Project 7/12, TVR’s “never to be” supercar was subsequently renamed Speed 12. This is when the rules for GT1 class of the FIA GT Championship got changed and Speed 12 became obsolete. In fact, the whole class did. TVR tried to create a street-legal car out of it and even named it Cerbera Speed 12, but Peter Wheeler (then owner of TVR) decided to pull the plug on the project due to engine’s extreme power and high cost of production. You won’t see many V12 cars like it.

7.7L V12 Engine was actually composed of two AJP6 straight-six engines making a whopping 880 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. In fact, during its original testing, the input shaft broke so TVR tested each bank separately. The results stated 480 hp per bank which means Speed Twelve could have theoretically made as much as 960 ponies.

Toyota 1GZ-FE

Years: 1997-Present

Being world’s number one car manufacturer in volume, Toyota sure does have a lot of nameplates under their portfolio. There’s one you maybe haven’t heard about, however, and it’s only offered in Japan. The Toyota Century was produced in 1967 and it only went through two generations by now. First one lasted until ’97 when full-size luxury limo’s 4.0L V8 got replaced by our 5.0L V12. Toyota Century is still basically unchanged in 2017 and it still carries Japanese CEO’s, officials and shady characters around.

Actually, 1GZ-FE is Toyota’s only V12 powerplant ever produced. Not only that, it’s the only Japanese V12 engine currently in production. 60-degree vee only puts up around 300 hp and 355 lb-ft of torque. Regardless of being somewhat underpowered, it still motivates a $100,000 car.

Peugeot 5.5L HDi

Years: 2007-2011

This one was created with a single purpose – to win as many Le Mans Prototype LMP1 races. And it’s a diesel. 5.5L twin-turbo 100-degree V12 diesel with 730 hp and 890 lb-ft of torque to be more precise. Thanks to rather obtuse 100-degree angle of the engine, car housing it has lower center of gravity. I’m saying car because there’s only one sporting this engine. The Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. During the course of four years of it competing, 908 had won 20 out of 30 races and 23 pole positions. Quite an impressive streak if you ask me. Of course, this feat is somewhat marred by the fact the race car sports the largest engine allowed.

Nissan VRT35

Year: 1992

In true Japanese fashion, Nissan VRT35 is probably one of the best-sounding engines ever created, and I’m not talking about V12’s only here. Sadly, Nissan P35 race car that was supposed to carry it, never got the chance to do so. Group C racing project car was abandoned soon upon completion due to economic troubles. Only three testbed cars were made by Nissan Performance Technology Inc. (NPTI). At the same time, VRT35 engine was manufactured by Nismo. V12 had a 70-degree angle, 3.5L in displacement, 11,600 rpm redline, 630 horsepower and 290 feet-pound of twist. And it screamed like a chimp on fire. Check for yourselves. Test lap starts from 1:54.

Detroit Diesel 12V-149

Years: 1960-2000

First introduced in the sixties, Detroit Diesel engines were the motivating factors between myriad of industrial, construction and marine applications, as well as generators. They were so dependable in fact, that they were only phased out in early two thousands. They were offered in V8, V12, V16 and V20 variants. V12 version of the engine was assembled by welding together two blocks and crankshafts. Although all of 149 diesels had overhead camshafts, some were naturally aspirated and others were turbocharged. 12-cylinder model had a few versions of its own. Base 12V-149 generated 800 hp at 1,900 rpm. 12V-149T put up 1,050 hp at 1,900 rpm and 12V-149TI yielded 1,200 or 1,350 hp at the same rpm counter. 149 actually denotes to 149ci per cylinder.

Tatra T-930

Years: 1967-1982

T-930 engine was the motivating factor behind Tatra 813 – a boxy, hulking heavy truck from the Eastern Bloc. Both the truck and the engine were devised and assembled in Czechoslovakia (modern day Czech Republic and Slovakia) by the Tatra company. Naturally aspirated V12 diesel featured a 75-degree vee angle and was created by adding 4 additional cylinders to already potent T-928 V8 engine. It came somewhat short in total horsepower, managing only 270 of them, but 17.5L powerplant pushed as much as 730 lb-ft of torque at low 1,300 rpm. That allowed it to pull as much as 100 metric tons of cargo or whatever was required.


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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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