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What Cars Must Have A Particular Type Of Engine?

Illustration for article titled What Cars Must Have A Particular Type Of Engine?
CountersteerYour true stories of good and bad things that happen in cars.

Earlier today, my valet brought me a stack of salmonskin pages of printed-out websites for me to read, with, as usual, words that sound kind of dirty highlighted. One of these pages was an Autocar UK article about the new Nissan Z car, and how it will have a twin-turbo V6. A vee six? Not a straight six? I shoved my valet down the stairs, hard, so I could think to the rhythmically soothing sounds of his head impacting on the stairs, one by one. Why am I unsettled by this?

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Now I realize that the current (it’s been the “current” model for eleven years) Nissan Z car has a V6, and Nissan’s Z car hasn’t had an inline-six even as an option for about two decades, but there’s something about a straight six that just feels right in association with the fundamental concept of a Nissan Z.

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I mean, wasn’t the whole point of Nissan allegedly partnering with Mercedes? To get a new straight-six for the next Z? I yelled this question down to my valet, bleeding on the landing, but the fool was too busy clutching his head and writhing to answer. Typical.

It’s a little confusing: why are some cars so inexorably tied to a particular engine, and others have the freedom to explore and experiment like a sexually adventurous college student?

It’s hard to imagine a Porsche 911 without six cylinders laid flat or a Corvette without eight in a vee or a Supra without six in a row, or a Mazda RX-7 with zero in no order. If these cars changed their fundamental engine design, fits of shit would be had all over the place.

And yet, some cars get more freedom. Mustangs seem to comfortably dance between V8s, V6s and inline-fours, even, for example, and the same flexibility seems to go for other iconic cars like the Jeep Wrangler.

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For some cars, it’s other details—when VW introduced their New Beetle in 1997, the issue was more with the engine location in the front, I think, than the fact that the engine was an inline-four as opposed to an, um, opposed four. When the Brazilian version of the old VW Type 2 Microbus switched to water-cooled inline engines, they somehow still felt conceptually like Microbuses, for example, even without that distinctive drivetrain.

The size of the new Minis seems to be more of an issue to being considered “real” Minis, not the fact that they have three pistons instead of four.

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Also, I can’t imagine the phrase “it’s not a real Sonata unless it has an inline four!” being said by anybody, ever.

So, why are some cars so tied to their engine type, and some other, often equally iconic, cars aren’t? Is there some subtle criteria I’m missing?

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Let’s discuss and argue and reason and maybe cry, a little!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get my valet to shut up about his stupid head injury, already.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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DISCUSSION

hlorell
Hayden Lorell

I’m a Z car guy, I’ve owned a 72-240, 74.5-260, and 2-300ZX Z32s one of which I still have. The VG30DE and DETT engines are really fantastic when they are kept in good shape. But it is not the same as a straight six. My 260 had triple mikuni carbs on it, there is nothing like that engine noise. Would I have preferred an S20[engine] car? Fuck yes, maybe someday I’ll own an S20 skyline or Z car but still... love a good straight six and I would love it if they put another straight six back in the Z..... with the glaring exception of IF YOU CAN’T PUT A MANUAL IN IT, DON’T FUCKING BOTHER.

P.S.

Hondas need naturally aspirated 4 pots with a MINIMUM redline of 8,000RPM