Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff

TWIN-ENGINE CARS

HOLLYWOOD PRODUCERS know that if one elephant is good, then more than one is even better. Over the history of the automobile, designers have occasionally shared this view. Many Land Speed Record cars have had multiple engines, but what I have in mind here are ordinary road or race cars. Well, hardly ordinary.

With a modest bit of recollection and research, I offer several of them here. Perhaps you recall other favorites?

The Alfa Romeo Bimotore. This 1935 twin-engine Grand Prix car was the brainchild of Enzo Ferrari, who ran Scuderia Ferrari, Alfa’s racing operation at the time, and Luigi Bazzi, one of his engineers.

Bimotore

Alfa Romeo Bimotore. Image from Motor, August 4, 1973.

A pair of Alfa P3’s 3.2-liter supercharged inline-eights was meant to beat the German juggernaut of Mercedes-Benz’s W25 and Auto Union’s Type B. One of these engines was mounted in front, the other behind the driver. Both drove the rear wheels through a trio of driveshafts, one from the aft engine to a common front-mounted gearbox, the others from the gearbox back to each rear wheel. Their combined 540 hp looked impressive compared with the W25’s 430 and Type B’s 375 hp.

However, the Bimotore proved thirsty, heavy, a tire eater and a beast to drive, even to Tazio Nuvolari (www.wp.me/p2ETap-Hi). Its best results were fourth (Nuvolari) and fifth (Louis Chiron) in the 1935 Tripoli Grand Prix.

For more details, check out http://goo.gl/K4GOko.

Bloody Mary. “Bloody Mary” was an impecunious enthusiast’s evolutionary delight. In 1929, this race car with wooden chassis, chain drive and a discarded motorcycle powerplant was built by Brits Richard and John Bolster (the latter destined to become a legendary race commentator/journalist). Indeed, it’s said they gave the car its name to bedevil the era’s race commentators, as the term “bloody” just wasn’t uttered in polite society.

Bloody Mary. Image from

Bloody Mary. Image by Tom Wood from Octane, January 2010.

In time, the brothers bought a four-cam JAP vee-twin that more than doubled Bloody Mary’s original 13 hp. And then in 1934, yet another bike was trashed by yet another enthusiast, thus freeing up yet another JAP vee-twin.

This gave John the idea of turning Bloody Mary into a twin-engine beast. Combining the output was no big deal—a spring-loaded sprocket allowed for slight irregularities in the firing of the two engines.

For more details, check out the article in Octane magazine (http://goo.gl/AlvlzK).

Fageol Twin-Porsche. Lou Fageol had been co-owner of Twin Coach Bus Company in Kent, Ohio, a Gold Cup hydroplane pilot and an Indy 500 entrant whose twin-Offy Fageol Twin Special started on the front row in 1946 (and ended, alas, in the wall). Lou also modified a Porsche 356 to accept twin Zuffenhausen power and, in 1953, designed from scratch a twin-Porsche sports racing car.

Fageol

Fageol Twin-Porsche. Image from Sportscar Specials, Trend Book 178, by Bob Rolofson, Trend Books, 1958.

Like his other cars, Fageol’s Twin-Porsche sports racer had all-wheel drive. For a while, Lou ran it as a four-engine car, with twin chain-saw motors running superchargers for its twin Porsche powerplants.

Ironically, its last race, at Pebble Beach in 1955, was a twin crash. Flipped end-over-end, the Twin-Porsche was subsequently hit by another competitor encountering the same oil patch. Fageol escaped with minor injury.

Twini-Minis. In 1963, an Austin Mini finished 27th overall in Sicily’s Targa Florio (www.wp.me/p2ETap-13f). Piloted by Sir John Whitmore and Paul Frère, this particular car was a Twini-Mini, with all-wheel drive and engines front and rear.

Twini-Mini in the Targa Florio.

Twini-Mini in the Targa Florio. Image from www.theminiforum.co.uk.

The Twini-Mini would have finished better, but for its rear engine overheating and eventually contributing nothing but dead weight.

The Mini’s minimalist counterpart, the Moke, could also use added power, as I know full well (www.wp.me/p2ETap-cr). In an attempt to enhance its prospects with the British military in 1962, the company built several Twini-Mokes.

Twini-Moke.

Twini-Moke. Image from http://goo.gl/4OBG5r.

A prototype Twini-Moke had twin gearshifts as well, with the challenge of remembering which shifter had already been actuated. (Was the buzzing engine fore or aft?)

Three Twini-Mokes were used by the Brazilian Army after being commandeered from Guyanese rebels during the 1969 Rupununi Rebellion.

One must wonder who made out better, the rebels or the Brazilians.

For more details on the Twini-Minis, check out http://goo.gl/FjFZkg. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013

10 comments on “TWIN-ENGINE CARS

  1. Peter Ginkel
    August 5, 2013

    Dennis,

    Along the lines of the Twini-Mini, we should not forget the Citroen 2CV Sahara. See http://www.citroenet.org.uk/passenger-cars/michelin/2cv/history/1958-sahara.html

    It shows that Citroen actually did make a 4 cylinder 2CV. It just took them two engines to do it!

    Peter Ginkel

  2. Well, of course there was a twin-engine Moke.

  3. sabresoftware
    August 5, 2013

    Twin shifters, did that mean twin clutch pedals too? If so matching the right clutch pedal to the right shifter would have been fun.

  4. Bob DuBois
    August 5, 2013

    I am a turn worker at Śonoma Raceway in NorCal. At an open testing session, last week, there was a new Mini on the track that someone said had two engines. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to check it out. If he shows up, again, I’ll try to get more information, and send you an update. I will say, it sure didn’t sound like a stock Mini !!

  5. carmacarcounselor
    August 25, 2013

    I know nothing about one twin-engine car with two supercharged Porsche engines other than its nickname. It was called the “blown blown Porsche Porsche.” Of course there were several famous twin-engine Bonneville Streamliners, including the twin-hemi Goldenrod. There waas also Mickey Thompso’s twim-twin Challenger I that had two pair of Pontiac V8s.

  6. Uwe
    November 30, 2016

    The 2CV Sahara / 4×4 was the only serial production car with two engines:
    http://www.lexicar.de/portal/zwei-motoren-in-serie-der-2cv-4×4-sahara.html
    ( use google translate or similar )

    There are some bespoke front drive cars around that got an additional rear angine ( usually the same drivetrain inserted as a middle motor thingy replacing the series rear axle. R5, Polo,

    Slightly OT: I once built up a heinkel scooter with utility box sidecar that sported a second engine in the sidecar driving and articulating the side car wheel.
    19hp instead of 9.5hp 🙂

    • simanaitissays
      November 30, 2016

      Uwe,
      I’ll bet the Heinkel Dual-Scooter was great fun!

      • Uwe
        November 25, 2018

        late come back on dual engine cars that saw serial production.

        There is the “Vidal G 1200 Tempo” around.
        Twin two stroke engines each driving one axle.
        purpose designed all terrain vehicle.
        see: http://www.armyvehicles.dk/tempog1200.htm

        production from 1936 to 1939 about 130 built.

  7. Twin Engine Honda Prelude
    March 24, 2017

    i built a twin engine honda prelude for my senior project. All creature comforts remain fully functional. Weighs 3600 lbs, has 400 stock crank hp and over 300 ft-lbs of torque. The balance is near 50/50 and traction is too well. Unless it’s wet, then all 4 wheels spin and the car goes sideways. Driving feels like a stock prelude with the exception of more power. Shifting is perfect and it puts a smile on my face every day. My goal wasn’t a quarter mile monster. Today it did 0-60 in less than 5 seconds…in the rain. I am enjoying it too much right now, but have considered selling it for the right price. With some engine upgrades, this thing could see 1000+ hp and the chassis would handle it well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Information

This entry was posted on August 5, 2013 by in Classic Bits and tagged , , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: