This review of nearly a century of high-power short-life automobile piston engine development cannot be at the standard of pure science, where all data have been measured meticulously and peer-accepted records published from which an historian may make his analyses and draw his conclusions. It is more like the output of a military intelligence operation where not all data is known and some of what is available is intended to mislead. Powers generally are probably not reliable to within minus 10%, which may affect some year-to-year comparisons. Of course, some companies’ figures are undoubtedly better than that (egs., Daimler-Benz, Coventry Climax, Cosworth and Honda).

     Perhaps inevitably, as the money flowing into Grand Prix racing from non-motor-industry sources has increased over the last 30 years because of TV coverage and the motive of many of the racing teams has become direct profit and not a parent motor company’s prestige (i.e. indirect profit), the data published by those involved has decreased. This has reached the point where even the Bore and Stroke of many engines have never been released officially. Honda, as a major motor company, has been a welcome exception to this clam-like policy.

     Nevertheless, having atttempted to cross-check all input and often writtten a mini-essay for the file on the sources before entering an engine example into the database, and having identified in that base where the figures are still approximate, the author believes that the general picture of development is useful. At the least, it may provide a good starting-point for a later study when files are opened to the general public.

     Something to be remembered in considering technical, as in any other, success – luck has played a part, - and attention is drawn to that where appropriate.

     To give detailed explanations of many statements, or approximations, or conclusions but without interrupting the main narrative (and thereby risking the annoyance of the reader), Notes have been added at the back of this review. Often these have lengthened to essays in their own right which it is hoped will be read with enjoyment.

     The review is the result of over half-a-century’s collection of input and resultant thinking about the problems of the subject, although the author has never practised the art of piston-engine design and development. May the result appeal to the reader as freshly-prepared and not just reheated.

     To close this foreword, a true story may be told of

‘The Origins of Design’

     A senior project designer of a world-class engineering company was describing to a high-level meeting the broad characteristics of the latest concept, the drawing of which lay on the conference table. Suddenly he was challenged by the meeting chairman, who jabbed his finger on the scheme and exclaimed ‘Why is that part that shape?’ The man who had drawn it stopped in mid-sentence, peered at the part indicated, and replied shortly ‘A mixture of inspiration, calculation and experience!’ and resumed from where he was interrupted. No one challeged him again for the rest of his exposition.

     His reply can serve as the theme for most of the engines described in this review.

Special Acknowledgements

     This review could not have been written without the advice and data given over many years by Keith Eames, the late Brian Lovell, John Cundy and Mike Taft, and also the solution of computer problems by my wife, Marion.

     Derek S. Taulbut


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