There’s a pretty straightforward hierarchy to engines: four cylinders are for economy cars, six cylinders are for mid-level luxury cars, eight cylinders are for muscle cars are trucks and 12 cylinders lord over the rest. But there are exceptions, and there’s a rung above the 12: the mythical and unbelievably rare 16-cylinder engine.
Sixteen-cylinder engines aren’t necessarily good engines. They are part of a philosophy of a bygone era, when just adding more cylinders was the most rational way of making more power. Their heyday was in the heady interwar years, when we weren’t particularly good at making efficient engines, but we had enough money flowing into high-end automobile road and race cars that people would try to make sixteen cylinders work.
But they do sound particularly glorious, as you can tell in this little compilation video:
Best of all is the last great V16, BRM’s 1950s 1.5 liter F1 engine that sounds like aliens have snuck up on planet earth and are tearing the globe in half. Actually, just listen to more of the BRM V16: