With the increasing popularity of hybrid and electric cars, the number of cars that you can buy with two independent motors capable of turning some kind of energy into spinning tires has increased dramatically. Even so, all of these current multiple-powerplant vehicles owe thanks to the addition of electric motors. If you want to talk about cars with two internal combustion powerplants, there’s really only two that were built in any quantity. And you have a right to know what they are.
Keep in mind I’m talking about cars built in some sort of quantity here. There’s been a number of amazing twin-engined one-off cars, like the bonkers Fittipaldi racing Beetle or the Twini Mini or that Corolla/MR2 monster that used to show up at LeMons races, but this is about the incredibly rare factory-built twin-engine cars.
So, if we’re only considering cars built in some numbers by a factory, then that leaves us with just two options: the Tempo 1200G and the Citroën 2CV Sahara.
Generally, the goal of a carmaker is to make cars in the most cost-efficient way possible, which usually means only making one of the most complex and expensive part of the car: the engine. However, in a very small number of very specific circumstances, this isn’t always the case.
If your goal is to make a car with four-wheel drive, and you don’t currently have an all-wheel or four-wheel drive system developed, and if the engines your company already produces are fairly small, cheap engines, then it actually makes more financial sense to skip the complex development process of coming up with a true 4WD system, and instead just slap another small engine into whichever part of the car is currently not filled up with an engine.
Not surprisingly, this set of circumstances is what caused the birth of both of our double-engined pals here.
The Tempo 1200G was first, being developed back in 1935 by a company that primarily made small three-wheel delivery vehicles like these:
The 1200G came to be when, in 1934, the German Army, the Wehrmacht, decided on a plan to standardize on a family of four-wheel drive vehicles. Tempo, of course, wanted in on that potential flow of sweet, sweet Reichsmarks, so they put together the best four-wheel drive vehicle they could with the resources they had available.
Essentially, this meant taking the 600cc two-stroke inline twin Ilo engines they already used, and sticking one at each end. Added up, that gave a massive 1200cc (hence the name) and, with each engine making 19 horsepower, a cosmos-rending combined 38 hp.
The 1200G was able to steer on both front and rear axles, and the independent coil-spring suspension allowed for an impressive amount of wheel travel. This, of course, made exciting maneuvers like “driving off the road into the shoulder” possible, as seen in the photo above.
The 1200G carried two spare tires, each mounted on their own little axle, so the spares could aid in traversing tricky hills and would help to keep the car from getting high-centered.
Unfortunately, the Wehrmacht had a prejudice (really? WWII-era Germans had prejudices? How about that.) against two-stroke engines, so they declined. Other armed forces, though, were more open-minded, and the 1200G saw service in the armies of Austria, Turkey, Finland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Denmark. In total, about 1,200 were made.
The other twin-engined factory-built car was born not because of the needs of war, but for the more noble cause of exploration. Actually, that’s not really true—the Citroën 2CV Sahara was developed to support exploration, but not the noble, Star Trek kind. It was made to support oil exploration.
In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, the French were doing a lot of oil exploration in North Africa—in the Sahara desert, specifically. The need for a cheap, light, rugged and capable vehicle that could handle the desert terrain soon became clear, and Citroën wanted to have a solution to sell to these customers.
Four-wheel drive was important in the desert, but so was the inherent redundancy of having two whole drivetrains—the Sahara is not a place you want to find yourself broken down in, and a whole extra engine gives a substantial boost to your chances of not dying in the desert.
With that in mind, the twin-engine solution made even more sense than just being an easy way to get all-wheel drive with minimal new development. The 2CV was already a good platform for the car, having ample ground clearance, a rugged, flexible suspension, and being inexpensive and light.
To make the Sahara, Citroën stuck a pair of gas tanks under the front seats, moved the spare tire from the trunk to the hood, and placed a second 425cc air-cooled flat-twin in the trunk.
These engines had slightly bigger carbs than the stock, mono-engine 2CV, and as such made a bit more power: 13.5 horsepower at first, and on later ones a significant upgrade to 18 monstrous desert stallions, for a total of 36 hp combined.
Each engine had its own four-speed gearbox, but shared one hydraulic clutch. You could drive with either just the front engine, rear, or both.
All in all, 693 Saharas were built between 1960 and 1966, and, for some reason, one more was built in 1971. Nearly all ended up sold to the sorts of companies they were designed for, and were used and worked until they were worn out.
There’s an estimated 27 left in the world today, and when they are offered for sale, they can be expected to sell for about $100,000, making them the most expensive 2CVs, at least until someone discovers the 2CV that Sasquatch and Jesus used to take roadtrips in in college.
As always, it’s possible I’ve missed some other production car with more than one internal-combustion engine. If I have, please let me know in the comments, because I’d be thrilled to know of another. Until then, though, I think these two cars and their four engines are the only examples of this strange breed.