Somewhere, on a plot of land in the middle of Car Nut County, Wisconsin there is a new tabernacle of speed being erected. An homage to the piece of hardware that makes it all happen: the Horsepower Hall of Fame. Here are the candidates for the first class. Tell us what you think.
Dodge/Plymouth Hemi 426 CI
If there was ever a more expensive engine, we’ve not seen it. Only a Hemi-equipped car can sky rocket the price of a collector car. 1970 Dodge Challenger 440 6-pack = $115,000. 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T W/ HEMI = $350,000…go figure.
Over 3.5 million examples of this engine were produced across many BMW models for 25+ years. Its elasticity allowed it to be used for performance cars, racing cars and special models. The class-leading 3-Series owes its very existence to the lineage of this motor.
Chevrolet Small Block V-8
One of the most efficient and durable V-8 designs ever to power an automobile. It was an inexpensive yet durable valvetrain that powered cars sold in every General Motors Division (except Saturn). Outputs started with 162 hp from 4.3L, and went up to 6.5L and more than 300 hp. The Small Block has retired from service after 48 wonderful years. The General and the Auto Industry were built on the back of this motor.
Porsche AG Flat-6
Born in 1964, Porsche’s original flat 6-cyl. – a design commonly known as because of its opposed pistons, it was referred to as “boxer”. This motor put Germany on wheels via the Beetle and yielded one of the most venerable cars in history – the Porsche 911.
BMW Inline 6
By 1968 BMW stepped up to take on Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class sedan. To create an appropriate engine for that task, BMW massaged its SOHC 2L 4-cyl. into a 2.5L 6-cyl engine. This inline-six would bring stellar performance for four generations. This is an engine that defined engineering, balance and performance that needs to be honored.
L-Head V-8 (Flathead V-8)
The Great Depression did nothing to stop Henry Ford from providing the industry’s first affordable V-8. The Model T engine, this 1932 65-hp, 3.6L design incorporated the best available materials and notable engineering advances. This engine not only put power in the hands of the common man, it provided a platform for the car hobby being every hot rodder’s engine of choice for two decades.
The original Cadillac V-16 is what happens when Lawrence Fisher strapped two straight-8 engines to a common crankshaft and crankcase. Each bank operated entirely independently of the other with no other shared components. The V-16 was a secret in the late 1920’s to trump Packard’s V-12. Cadillac was not the only car to have a V-16, but the story behind it is worth the study into Caddy’s history.
Bugatti Veyron W-16
The sheer ways that this engine challenges the laws of physics and the things this engine is capable of making a car do is enough to make it HOF worthy. Let’s look at the numbers: 8.0-litres, 4 turbochargers, 16 cylinders, 64 valves, 2 overhead camshafts and 4 camshafts are needed. 487.8 cu. in., 1001 horsepower and 1250 lb-ft of torque. It also has 3 heat exchangers for the air-to-liquid intercoolers and 3 engine radiators. These numbers do not include the Super Sports models which are even more powerful. The engine deserves high praise but so do the engineers who created such a feat of engineering.
Lanchester Twin Crank Twin
You may not have heard of this engine, but Mr. Brunnel’s country and the Lanchester Motor Company made something remarkable. Let me explain its engineering. The Lanchester Ten featured an air-cooled, twin-crankshaft, 4.0-liter flat-twin driving the rear wheels. One crank lived above the other, and each piston had three connecting rods—two light outer ones and a heavier one in the center. The light rods went to one crank, the heavy rods to the other, and the two shafts counter rotated. The result was 10.5 hp at 1250 rpm and a remarkable lack of vibration. If you’ve ever wondered what engineering elegance looks like, this is it.
Mazda Wankel Rotary
A fellow named Felix Wankel screwed together an engine that would baffle the mind and excite the senses for 40 years.
AMG 5.5-Liter Twin Turbo V-8
This engine does to a mid-sized Mercedes E-Class what heavy doses of sugar do to a 7-year old. This engine is powerful, technical and hand built. Whether it’s a small sedan, a luxo-cruiser, an SUV or a station wagon, we have an engine that turns them all into land rockets. Thank you, Mercedes-Benz. Thank you, AMG and Thank you, Karl Klitzenberg.
So now let the roundtable discussion begin. Are there other engines more worthy of being in the first class? Do some of these choices need to wait a while? The people of Car Nut County need to know. Construction will soon begin on the temple of pistons.