The Three-Cylinder Engines that Birthed V-12s


The Three-Cylinder Engines that Birthed V-12s

Imagine you’re in charge of powertrain develop­ment at Cosworth, the legendary English firm with fingerprints all over racing. Two separate automakers—Aston Martin and Gordon Murray Automotive—have brought a challenge: build a free-revving, naturally aspirated V-12 able to meet today’s strict emissions standards. GMA wanted 650-plus horses from 4.0 liters for its T.50 supercar; Aston Martin wanted 6.5 liters and 1000 hp for its Valkyrie hybrid hypercar. How do you proceed?

You’d figure the answer lies in a microchip. Render a V-12 engine in ones and zeros and tweak a million variables until you nail it. You could fiddle for thousands of hours without ever having to machine, cast, forge, or weld a single physical part. Computer simulation is key for Cosworth, but it doesn’t show a complete view of internal combustion.

“Imagine a piston,” says Bruce Wood, managing director of powertrains at Cosworth. “When the engine’s running and the fuel enters the cylinder, you get fuel trapped behind the piston rings, which doesn’t burn until after the main combustion. That’s really bad for emissions.”

That tiny bit of fuel doesn’t impact power much, and for most of the history of the engine, it was ignored. But this uncontrolled combustion can upset the tightly metered emissions of a modern engine. Cosworth had to know how that trapped fuel would affect the cleanliness of these V-12s. For the full story, check out this article from Road & Track.

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