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Thread: OT Nominate the Best Auto and Aero Piston Engines in History and the Worst

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2003


    In the automobile world, I'm partial to in-line engines. The Chevy six-banger and the Chrysler slant-six would run and run with just a modicum of care. While I've personally been happy with the 2.3 liter Ford engines I've owned, I doubt that the 2.3 will ever be the classic that the Chevy and Mopar are.

    Aircraft engines? The Franklin would be up near the top of the list . . . but my no-facts-just-emotions choice would be the LeBlond radial. Made by R K LeBlond in the '20's or '30's, not by an un-named company that rented a famous name.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2002


    Love this thread. Autos, my choice, the big 6's in the Jag roadsters of the 50's & 60's. My Dad's English born buddy used to test drive his tune-ups up a long hill in South Pasadena, at 70mh in second. I have never experienced anything like that "scare the life out of you" performance in anything else. Aircraft, I'm with wierdscience on the Alisons. Built cheap without the assembly expertise of the Packard Merlins, they p.ssed oil and stayed running for mostly untrained maintenance folks in the worst climates in the world.

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2004


    for automotive engines: best would be Chryler 225in. "slant six" or Toyota's R20 ohc four cylinder. worst would have to be the oldsmobile diesel that was a converted gas motor. Someone else mentioned these, I had managed to block out the memory of this abomination until that reminder.

    I'm not too keen on aircraft engines. From what little I've read I'd have to go for the Allison V12 being among the best. Worst, well I ain't really got a clue. Maybe what ever the bolted to the front of a Brewster Buffalo.
    remember...your way in is also my way out

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    Best car engine Mazda 13b
    Worst car engine Fiat 500

    Best bike engine yamaha RZ350
    Worst bike engine (see Ibews best choice)

    Best aircraft Napier Sabre followed by PT6
    Worst , I like them all

  5. #15


    Best car engine - Maclaran F1 (can you say 248+ mph? didn't think so, weiner)

    Best Bike engine Suzuki Hyabusa - the undefeated King (the Viper motor on 4 wheels does'nt count)

    Aviation - NASA's Aero Spike mach 10 motor (only pistons are in the nozzle ram hydraulics)

    Worst Aviation - Carburated Spitfires with ****ty .303 machine guns in a negative G dive against fuel injected Messerschmidts with 20MM cannons

    Worst Engine - Early Datsun engines in -40 Canada - antifreeze & motor oil make strange goo then car run like poop, well DUH!

    [This message has been edited by Thrud (edited 12-29-2004).]

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    Best car engine, Porsche 911 1963-1999. All had dry sump oiling, air/oil cooled, overhead cams, hemi-spherical heads, excellent airflow, all alloy construction. Induction included, carbs, MFI, CIS, EFI. The basic layout stayed the same through all those years and in fact a 1999 3.6 will bolt up where an early 2.0 once lived. These engines are about impossible to kill and love high RPM. Very few production engines can survive at the top of the RPM band for hours on end. A big benefit of the design is it's very low center of gravity in the car.

    Worst car engine, early Ford Escort and the propensity to crack the cylinder head.

    -Christian D. Sokolowski

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2003


    this is always going to be a highly subjective choice.i cut my teeth on old english cars,austin,vauxhall,ford,etc.the only decent motor amongst that lot was the mid sixties ford 1.5ltr four.this motor was very easy to hop up,and stayed reliable.the rest varied from diabolical to the 70's i owned a vauxhall 3.3 six,unburstable but liked oil.i don't know if this motor was actually an american product,as vauxhall is the uk arm of "the general".a couple of vw kombi's were good,but as slow as a wet weekend.i loved my vw's,but the rust finally ate 90% of cars on the road in nz are japanese,most are utterly reliable,but boring cars.
    as for aero engines,i love the sound of a pratt & whitney radial.whether they were actually "the best" is hard to say now.the ones currently in use would be rebuilt to better than new,with modern tech and parts.
    come to think of it,most wwII era engines have that throaty howl that makes my hair stand on end

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    Matador, I agree that this is a rather subjective subject. For example I hate Chevy but have to admit the Chevy smallblock is one of the best engines ever. In fact i'd bet it's the winningest ever engine in motorsports. I nominated the 911 engine for similar reasons, but the 911 had many things that at it's inception where considered technical marvels for a production engine, in fact one of the early magnesium engines recieved an award for being the largest and most complex magnesium diecasting ever. My personal favorite American engine is the small block Ford, and favorite Japanese is the Toyota 22R. I've often joked that the 911 is the '57 Chevy of the sportscar world. That statement is especially true today now that older cars have come down in price enough that nearly anyone can afford one and like the Chevy, motors are interchangeable along with suspension, brakes, trans etc. I've seen early 70's cars with late model engines and trans win against brandnew prepared Vipers and Corvettes on road courses. That says a lot for a car and engine originally designed in the early 60's. It was this engine that lead to the establishment of Porsche Engineering which has worked with Harley Davidson among other big well known companies to produce many interesting and advanced pieces of machinery. When the 911 was introduced it had 4 wheel independent suspension, 4 wheel disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, a 5 speed manual transmission, dry sump oiling, mechanical fuel injection, CDI ignition, etc. Later Porsche went on to become a pioneer in turbo-charged performance and EFI. Many of today's cars benefit from the lessons learned during the development of the 911 and it's powerplant. The Chevy by contrast is a very simple and dependable design that powered everything from grocery getters to trucks to the flagship Corvette. Nearly every 911 engine model produced at least 1 HP per cubic inch while only a select few V8 engines ever achieved that in stock form.

    At heart I'm a big V8 guy, having raced a 410" smallblock Ford stroker deep into the 10's in a 3000lb Mustang, my first ride in a 911 was boring in comparison but my first drive changed the way I viewed high performance and really gave me an appreciation for these cars. Zipping down some back country roads in one of these things you almost feel like you're taking a lap around Nurumburing or some other famous road course in fact the sound of the motor alone is enough to make me turn off the stereo just so I can hear that beautiful music emanating from behind the rear seat. The only car that came close to giving me these feelings was a drive in an original Boss 302.

    -Christian D. Sokolowski

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2003


    The main killer of the old Vega engines was lack of oil.

    The "linerless" block worked due to the high silicon content- the bore was chemically etched after machining to erode the aluminum a skosh, leaving the "surface" of silicon nodules for the rings to ride on.

    It worked, and was cheap- the two main keys for it being made- but the resulting surface was porous, which made oil consumption, even when new, many times that of a normal engine.

    They band-aided the problem by using an electric fuel pump, and wiring it to the oil pressure sender. When the oil pressure dropped, the pump quit.

    This kept the engine from a full-tilt no-oil meltdown, but there's just so long you can run the thing one, two, or even three quarts low and not have that damage add up.

    That led to the overheating, gasket leaks, cracked blocks, warped heads, ever-worsening oil consumption, and so on.

    I can't speak for any aeronautical engine, nor any Brit/European engine, but as far as a reasonably modern American piston engine goes, the small-block Chevy easily wins the "ubiquitous" award. It's as influential an engine and as successful a design as you'll ever see- Chevy made something like 55 million of them!

    As far as "worst", there's a list... the aforementioned Vega 144 cid four-banger, the original Corvair air-cooled flat-sixes weren't all that great (again designed more for "cheap" than "longevity" or "durability".)

    Fords' 400M was kind of a poor "designed by comittee" V8 (and don't even get me started on Motrocraft carburetors!)

    Those old Pontiac half-a-V8 fours from the rear-tranny Tempest days, while interesting, weren't what you'd call commercially successful, and the more recent Caddy 8-6-4s were another clever idea poorly executed.

    Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Kenosha, not the pass the other one


    When I was thinking about this while posting something in the steam car thread, I had a short list of auto and aero engines for the best

    1) SBC in particular the 1970 302
    2) The Cosworth 4 cam V-8, the greatest racing engine ever designed, sorry Offy fans
    3) The Porsche 6
    4) The Honda Four cylinder, in particular the S2000 motor
    5) The AMC Inline 6, Think of it as an inline SBC. The bore centers, deck hieghts and a lot of other things are very close, handicapped by crappy induction systems for most of its life. Still in production
    6) The Jag 3.8/4.2 Six. Fot the sound if nothing else


    1) The P&W R2800, its been called Pratt and Whitney's reliable masterpiece
    2) The Wright Whirlwind, the engine that really proved the radial concept IMO
    3) The Merlin, what does one need to say
    4) The DB 600 inverted V-12
    5) The P&W R4360, The most powerful piston aero engine to ever go into large scale production and arguably the most complex ever to fly in terms of number of parts.
    6) The Sabre simply because of the daring in the design

    Might of beens

    1) The Wright Tornado, 42 cylinders of liquid cooled radial with plans to go to 70 cylinders. Never flew
    2) The Napier Nomad. Ambitious in design but overtaken by the technology of the gas turbine
    3) Lycoming's Monster 36 cylinder Liquid cooled radial. Simply the largest piston aero engine ever built. Never flew
    4) The Rolls Royce Crecy. Like the Jag for the sound in nothing else. Never flew AFAIK
    Forty plus years and I still have ten toes, ten fingers and both eyes. I must be doing something right.

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