Since American George Brady invented the first internal combustion engine in 1872, there have been massive strides in technological advancements. There have been a lot of new engine designs and even some so insane that people said they would never work. As manufacturing technology homogenized, most new engines follow an almost similar design.
While there are many engine layouts today, the methods are not as crazy as before emissions, and safety standards got stricter for everyone. Some of these engines from times past are super rare and unusual, while some represent manufacturers’ ambitions to make the most superior sports cars. If you are a gearhead who loves cars and engines, buckle up as we check out the most unusual engines ever fitted in cars.
10/10 Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfire
The Oldsmobile Jetfire was an interesting engine concept, and in 1962 many people considered it highly futuristic and innovative. The engine was a 215 cubic inch 215-hp V-8 but had a Garrett turbocharger that relied on what Olds called ‘turbo rocket fuel.’
Under the hood, there was a separate reservoir to store this skimmed-milk-looking stuff. It consisted of methanol, distilled water, and a corrosion inhibitor. The problem was that failure to top off the fuel (very common) resulted in engine knocks.
9/10 Cizeta V16T Engine
The Cizeta V6T is a super rare sports car that debuted in 1991 but only saw 20 units produced before its end in 1995. The fascinating powertrain on these cars is the now ultra-rare V16 engine.
Technically, the engine is not a V16; instead, the 6.0-liter unit is two V8s merged into one with a common intake manifold. It features 64 valves, eight camshafts, two fuel-injection systems, four-cylinder heads, and dual timing chains. This transversely mounted 560-hp behemoth transmitted power to the rear-mounted five-speed ZF transaxle.
8/10 Chrysler Turbine
Chrysler started developing a series of gas turbine engines for road vehicles following the termination of their contract with the Bureau of Aeronautics of the US Navy. Although the first engine went into the 1954 Plymouth sports coupe, it was only after 1963 that Chrysler made them for the consumer.
It made a total of 45 of these 130-hp turbine cars. These cars never went into mass production because, as fate would have it, the energy crisis hit, and buyers opted for imports with better fuel economy. Besides, changing emission regulations, underwhelming performance, and high production costs undercut the success of these guzzlers.
7/10 Adams-Farwell Rotary Engine
The Adams-Farwell was comprised of a piston-driven rotary engine that was air-cooled. This insane unit has radially arranged cylinders that operate without a radiator or flywheel. The slogan ‘It spins like a top’ defines how this horizontally mounted engine operates.
Interestingly, the engine cools itself from the rotation of the cylinders, and its design makes it small, lightweight, and easy to work on. However, the centrifugal forces in the crankcase pose a challenge in lubricating and draining oil from the motor units.
6/10 Volkswagen VR6
Motorheads admire VW’s VR5 and VR6 engines for their throaty, wholly addictive exhaust note and performance. Volkswagen’s VR6 engines were hot news when they appeared in the 80s.
The big guys at Volkswagen wanted an engine as compact as their existing four-cylinder Passat, Golf, and Corrado engines but with more power. Consequently, the VR6 engine had two narrow cylinder blocks 15° apart, sharing a single cylinder head.
5/10 Wankel Rotary Engine
The Wankel rotary engine was an incredibly unique design that had everyone wondering how it worked. A rotary engine is a barrel-shaped internal combustion engine that lacks many parts you would find in a conventional piston engine.
Instead of pistons moving up and down, it comprises rounded triangular rotors spinning around a shaft through a hollow barrel. Amazingly, these engines can be modular, so you can add or subtract a rotor and barrel into the assembly.
4/10 Bugatti W-16
We might be sad that the majestic Bugatti’s W-16 is over, but we’re glad it happened. This engine left its mark on the automotive industry; it represented Bugatti’s mission to attain absolute perfection.
What’s crazy about the W-16 is that it found it had its ancestry in the VR6. The W-16 pushed the envelope that ignited the new age of hypercars. Many gearheads consider this masterpiece the last hurrah of the internal combustion engine.
3/10 Cadillac V8-6-4 Engine
A weird one that many might not be familiar with is Cadillac’s V-8-6-4 engine. Cadillac’s big and powerful engines faced fierce emission laws to the point they could no longer out-accelerate compact cars.
Cadillac’s solution was a one-year-only V-8-6-4 engine. It was a variable displacement engine with newly developed electronics that would measure engine load and then deactivated cylinders leaving the valves open so there was no compression. No fuel would go to the injector, and the system would cut off sparks at the plug.
2/10 Porsche Furhman
Codenamed the type 547 and named after its creator Ernst Furhman, the Porsche Furhman engine had a production run from 1953 to 1964. It was an air-cooled four-cylinder boxer engine with four overhead camshafts powered by four vertical shafts.
The crankcase, cylinder, and cylinder heads were made of an aluminum alloy, making the engine small and lightweight. At the time, this technology was very complex, and almost 2000 units only rolled off Porsche’s factories, making this engine very rare today. This remarkable engine put Porsche on the racing podium several times.
1/10 Tucker Type 335
The Tucker Type 335 is a horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine that hailed from an air-cooled Bell 47 helicopter engine designed and built by Franklin for use in WWII. Engineers modified the engine for automobile use and equipped it with the industry’s first sealed water cooling system.
Tucker put the engines in their 48 Torpedo, accelerating from 0-60 mph in ten seconds before reaching a top speed of 120 mph. The 335 cubic inches flat-six engine had overhead valves and put out only 66 hp but was a torque monster with 372 lb-ft of torque.
Read More: These Are The 10 Weirdest Engines Ever Used In A Car