The Ten Most Complicated Car Engines Ever MadeS

When it comes to engines, the future might be camless and the present seems to be totally turbocharged, but the past is full of some absolutely insane ideas.


10.) Volkswagen W8

The Ten Most Complicated Car Engines Ever MadeS

Volkswagen is famous for using strange but quite brilliant engine designs, and the W8 was no exception. Using some parts of the narrow-angle VR5 and VR6 engines, the W8 was a compact 4-liter best described as a flat plane crank V8 engine combining two narrow-angle (15 degree) VR4 engine blocks using a common crankshaft.

Suggested By: primalzer, Photo Credit: Volkswagen


9.) Lancia-Abarth Triflux

The Ten Most Complicated Car Engines Ever MadeS

Leave it to the Italians to get the most out of 1.8-liters:

Abarth technicians developed a new valve-layout, optimized to allow the use of two TC's. The valves are arranged in a crossed formation, so that each side of the cyl-head alternates inlet and exhaust valves. Therefore, there is an exhaust manifold, connected to each cylinder via one exhaust-valve, on each side of the cylinder head. The inlet ports are connected to a central vertical manifold. This configuration was termed F.I.D. by Fiat and patented. Many configurations were envisaged in this patent, and the one that was chosen for the final design had a single inlet valve port dividing just before the two inlet valves, leaving just enough room for the spark-plug. Since the gas-flows were three (two lateral – Exhaust, and one vertical - Intake) , this head was named TRIFLUX and this name was also deposited by Fiat. The valves are actuated by two camshafts, which have alternating profiles for the respective staggered intake and exhaust valves.

Suggested By: Fl1ngstam, Photo Credit: Lancia


8.) Porsche Fuhrmann

The Ten Most Complicated Car Engines Ever MadeS

Say hi to aluminum cylinders with chrome plated bores from the fifties:

Proceeding their initial success, Porsche engineers set about refining and finessing the 550, and a logical place to look for improvement was in the engine compartment. The pushrod 1500S engine was just a tweaked VW powerplant, so Porsche commissioned Ernst Fuhrman to draw up a sophisticated engine more befitting a Le Mans winner. The result was the Type 547 engine, an incredibly complicated roller-bearing-equipped quad-cam. These first four-cam engines took a skilled man 120 hours to assemble a complete engine, and the timing alone could take eight hours – sometimes fifteen if tolerances weren't just right.

Suggested By: Vicki Butler Schmitz, Photo Credit: porsche356registry.org


7.) Oldsmobile Jetfire

The Ten Most Complicated Car Engines Ever Made

Turbo before Saab made them work:

It was a turbocharged, water-injection, all-aluminum V8 with a little valve that cut off boost if it sensed there was no Turbo-Rocket fluid (the name for the water-alcohol mix used to suppress knock) left in the reservoir . It needed this because it had a 10.25:1 compression ratio. And this was all in 1962.

Suggested By: Liberte for le Jetstar!, Photo Credit: forums.aaca.org


6.) Cizeta V16T

The Ten Most Complicated Car Engines Ever MadeS

The gentlemen behind this venture wanted to out-lambo Lamborghini. And 16 is more.

A transverse V16 midmounted with it's transmission mounted in the middle of the V16. So it was a V8 - transmission - V8 sandwich.

That's no BLT.

Suggested By: Crossdrilled, Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


5.) Saab Variable Compression

The Ten Most Complicated Car Engines Ever MadeS

Variable compression ratio through a tiltable block. Only from Sweden!

Suggested By: HammerheadFistpunch, Photo Credit: Saab


4.) Cadillac 8-6-4

The Ten Most Complicated Car Engines Ever MadeS

General Motors tried to give the world a fuel efficient Cadillac, using cylinder deactivation. It did not work well:

When deactivated, solenoids mounted to those cylinders' rocker-arm studs would disengage the fulcrums, allowing the rockers to "float" and leave the valves closed despite the continued action of the pushrods. These engines are easily identified by their rocker covers, which each have elevated sections over 2 cylinders with electrical connectors on top. With the valves closed the cylinders acted as air-springs, which both eliminated the feel of "missing" and kept the cylinders warm for instant combustion upon reactivation. Simultaneously, the engine control module would reduce the amount of fuel metered through the TBI unit. On the dashboard, an "MPG Sentinel" digital display could show the number of cylinders in operation, average or current fuel consumption (in miles per gallon), or estimated range based on the amount of fuel remaining in the tank and the average mileage since the last reset.

But of course, this was malaise era engineering at its finest so the solenoids often didn't work, the cylinders would ping if it was only running on 4 or 6 due to the engine not having a correct EGR system, and in general it was still a very large, heavy 8 cylinder so fuel savings were minimal and offset by the nightmare of maintenance and repairs.

Suggested By: themanwiththesauce, Photo Credit: GM


3.) BRM H16

The Ten Most Complicated Car Engines Ever MadeS

In short:

  • 3.0L H16;
  • Two 1,500cc V8s flattened and geared together at the cams
  • 10,500RPM redline/600hp

Amazingly, this wasn't the only 16-cylinder engine BRM made. They also had a supercharged 1.5 liter V16 made out of two 750cc V8s. That engine was also nuts, with gears resting between the cylinder banks and a flame-trap (made by Rolls Royce) from a Merlin Spitfire engine to prevent unburnt fuel from the supercharger making its way back into the combustion chamber. That V16 also sounds like nothing else.

Suggested By: Captain Janeway's Cat and CryoScroggzilla to the Infinite Dimension, Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


2.) Auto Union V16

It's a supercharged 3-liter with a single overhead camshaft to operate all 32 valves. What a machine!

Suggested By: MechaScroggzilla


1.) Adams-Farwell Radial Rotary

The engine rotated around the crankshaft, not the other way around. Here is a full article on Hemmings explaining this early 20th century bizarro. I have no further comment.

Suggested By: Gamecat235

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Top Photo Credit: Bugatti, of their aborted 6.25 liter W18 engine used in their late '90s concept cars.