Strange F1 Engines


Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
In the olden days a group of "lads" could get together without wind tunnels and CFD and build an F1 car, bolt a Cosworth DFV on the back and race in Formula 1.
Those days have, sadly, passed but I thought it worth remembering those who tried a little harder and decided not only to build a chassis that didn't work but also an engine that didn't work either.

I'll kick you off with the Life W12, although not a true W engine more of a V8 with another bank of cylinders stuck in the middle - but you've got to love those exhaust pipes. This piece of mechanical madness was used in the Life L190 (regarded by some as the worst F1 car ever made).

and the Subaru Motori Moderni flat 12 as used by Coloni in their C3B car and in an unraced Minardi.


This engine was designed by Carlo Chiti who designed, amongst other engines, the Alfa Romeo flat and vee 12's used by Brabham in the late 70's and by Alfa themselves in the early 80's.

Feel free to add your own additions to this array of mechnical madness and I'll add more when I come across them (remember the Footwork Porsche...)


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Finally found a picture of the Porsche engine Footwork used in 1991. The engine lasted only until mid-season before it was hacksawed off and a Hart prepared Cosworth DFR attached in it's place. Bet that was well balanced car to drive.

One wag on another website has unkindly suggested that this engine was simply two V6 TAG turbo engines welded together - very unfair on TAG as I'm sure that would have produced a more powerful unit than the donkey cart engine Porsche made.

Sobriety beat me to the punch with the BRM H16 engine. Which was a V8 1.5ltr BRM engine with the cylinders flattened and a second unit placed on top with a single belt and gear arrangement to drive both cams. It was BRMs answer to the new 3 Litre regs. It only scored 1 win and that was in the hands of Jim Clark and it's reliability was woeful.

I offer this.

The Pratt and Whitney STN 6/76 as fitted to the Lotus 56 (shown here in World Wide Racing Colours) and raced with little success. Lotus developed a version of this car for the Indy 500 where it did briefly lead the race however the reliability of these engines left a lot to be desired. Part of the problem was the throttle lag was incredible and so bad that the driver had to break while keeping the throttle open. This meant that the brake lasted about 5 minutes and most pictures of a 56 show scorching and blistering to the paint around the brake ducts. The system was also developed in conjunction with Ferguson 4 Wheel drive which also failed to provide the "unfair advantage" that Colin Chapman was always looking for. The cars proved a blind alley and contributed in a delay to the development in the Type 72 which would come back to haunt Lotus in the 75 and 76 seasons.


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Here's an interesting one, this was the first V10 F1 engine but was never raced. Shortly after Alfa developed this to meet the new normally aspirated formula Honda and Renault came along with their own V10's. After Alfa and Ligier fell out over their 4 cylinder turbo unit the 3.5 litre V10 found it's way into the Alfa 164 Pro-Car.


If you want to see what the Pro-Car looked like follow this link
Truly in keeping with the build the car, build the engine, throw a load of money down the drain is Eric Zakowski of Zakspeed fame. Zakspeed made some great Ford based, turbo charged fire breathing monsters in the 1970's and decided to use his engineering skills for a tilt at F1. Below is the only image I could find of the straight four engine his company built, which looks to be sat on a tray in someones driveway.

Unsurprisingly Zakspeed found it difficult to compete with the factory engines being made by Ford, BMW, Renault, Honda, TAG etc so when the turbo era ended decided a 5 valve Yahama engine was the best solution. Talk about out of the frying pan into the fire...


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Not so much a strange engine as an un-raced engine. The 3.5 Litre Chrysler V12 could have been the engine that made F1 a very different place in 1994. As you can see from the cam covers this engine was re-badged version of the 1993 3.5ltr Lambo engine that powered the Larousse team. Mclaren, who had just ended a long relationship with Honda at the end of 1992 and had a year with the underpowered Ford engine in 1993 were looking for a new works deal and Chrysler were on the list. In his last test sessions with the team Senna was impressed with the engine and urged Ron Dennis to do a deal. For reasons we will never know Dennsi pulled out of the Chrysler deal and went for a French Kettle aka Peugeot which promptly brought Mclaren their lowest finish in the championship since 1983 and their lowest points total since 1981.


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Back in 1977, at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, a strange bunch of Frenchmen turned up with a little yellow car, one driver and a turbo charged 1.5 litre engine. All the other teams in the pit lane had 3 litre atmospheric engines, most using a Cosworth DFV, and they pointed an laughed at this brave bunch of Frenchmen who's car sounded strange and was very unreliable - they knicknamed it the "Yellow Teapot" as it had a habit of "brewing up" quite regularly.

Seven short years later only Tyrrell were still using a naturally aspirated engine and the power war was in full effect with cars developing more than 1,000 BHP in qualifying trim. Unfortunately for Renault everyone else found out how to make better turbocharged engines than they did...


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Just picking up on CaT's Lotus Turbine engine, this video of a Chrysler Turbine car shows how strange they sound compared to a normal motor - my apologies for the Americans talking over the video but I cribbed it from You Tube.


My dad (a long retired Engineer/Mechanic) once told me a story about people putting Rolls Royce Merlin engines in cars after WW2. Due to the torque it only needed 1 gear. Where he lived at the time old Spitfire engines after the war where virtually given away.

Even more

An old quarry near me was apparently used to dump unwanted WW2 aircraft from 4 training airfields. A friend of mine from Wales told me that American Jeeps and Harley Davidson's where pushed down a coal shaft.
Do I get a prize for revisiting the most long dead thread?

Some of you may be old enough to remember the Matra V12 engines used in the 70's in Matra F1 cars, the Shadow DN7 and then brought back to life by Ligier in the early 80's. I didn't know that Matra had designed a V6 turbo engine to challenge in the original turbo era. Here's a picture.


It never raced, much like the Alfa Romeo straight 4 turbo I mentioned in the first post but didn't find a picture of. Here's one.

My youngest son reminded me of this last night. In 1991 Lotus tested a V12 Isuzu engine which a bunch of engineers at Isuzu built in their spare time, in between making diesel engines for their trucks.


By all accounts it produced quite a lot of power but had trouble making enough electricity to keep going. The project was shelved after the financial crash in Japan.
That may have something to do with the fact that Lotus launched the Elan M100 in 1991 which is fitted with a 1.6ltr turbo Isuzu engine.

Interesting find FB and not one I've ever seen in any of my Lotus books. It would have ran in the back of the type 102 which ran Lambo, Judd and Ford engines.
I'll have to dig out my Lotus books but it seems to explain the why the "C" designation of the 102 never raced. I certainly don't recall it being written about in 'Lotus - The complete competition cars' which has pretty much everything in it.

The type 102 first ran in 1990 with Warwick and Donnelly driving. It had a V12 Lamborghini engine in the back. The B designation in 91 ran with a Judd EV engine and the D spec car in 1992 used the Ford HB.
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