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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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