The Truth About Cars » Engines The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 26 Jul 2014 14:51:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Engines US Nissan Plant To Supply Engine For Euro-Special Infiniti Q50 Thu, 12 Jun 2014 11:00:33 +0000 2014 Infiniti Q50

In its fight against the big premium brands in Europe, Infiniti is calling upon some German-designed American firepower for its Japanese-made, Euro-market special Q50 sedan.

Automotive News reports the Q50 will receive a 2-liter turbo-four from an $319 million Infinti-only line inside Nissan’s engine plant in Decherd, Tenn.; total overall production is expected to reach 250,000 annually while employing 400. The same engine will be used by Mercedes in its next-generation C-Class launching this year from the German automaker’s factory in Vance, Ala.

The plan, set to begin in late June, is part of a product-sharing agreement between parent companies Renault-Nissan and Daimler, as well as a checkbox for Infiniti’s to-do global portfolio expansion list.

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Toyota Unveils New Duo Of Fuel-Efficient Engines Fri, 11 Apr 2014 10:30:57 +0000 1.3L_gasoline_engine

Toyota has unveiled this week two new fuel-efficient gasoline engines that will serve as the basis for as many as 14 global powerplants by 2015, and boost economy by 10 percent.

Automotive News reports the two engines — 1.3-liter four-pot and 1-liter three-pot — are Atkinson cycle powerplants co-developed with partner Daihatsu, and feature fuel-efficiency goodies such as EGR, VVT and stop-start technology.

On the power front — especially since Atkinson cycle engines are more known for their efficiency than for destroying ‘Ring times — the Toyota engines will deliver high compression ratios of 13.5 for the larger engine, 11.5 for the smaller. In turn, thermal efficiency in the duo will hit a maximum of 38 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

As for where the duo and their children will reside, expect the home market to have the first crack via the automaker’s line of non-hybrid compacts before taking the global stage the following year in both non-hybrid and hybrid vehicles, as well as larger premium offerings.

1.3L_gasoline_engine 1.0L_gasoline_engine exhaust_pipe Tumble ]]> 59
PRI 2013: Midwest Supercub Wants to Mow Your Lawn at 90 MPH Fri, 20 Dec 2013 17:49:16 +0000 Mid West Super Cub at PRI 2013

One of the best things at PRI is a little room, tucked just off the main hall, that usually houses the first-time exhibitors or late entries. This year’s “new arrivals” included an outfit called Midwest Supercub and Midwest Supercub’s line of homemade, alcohol-burning, CNC-milled racing engines. For lawn tractors.

You read that right, kids- Midwest Supercub offers a variety of parts to make your lawn tractor the all-out fastest and baddest lawn tractor money can buy. You can get a trick carb and exhaust kit for your stock Cub Cadet tractor, or go all-out with one of these …

Midwest Supercub Brute

… that’s a 90 ci, homebuilt engine called “the Brute”. It’s based on the Cub Cadet/Kohler Courage V-Twin architecture, but it’s all CNC’ed and awesome and puts out nearly 220 hp on high-grade ethanol, and bolts up to a reinforced, Midwest Supercub-built tractor transmission that feeds power to a shortened Dodge Dart rear axle.


The big take-away from all this is that these guys are serious about tractoring- and they have put a ton of serious, Serious brainpower, math, and money into making damn sure their tractor tractors better than your tractor tractors. Or something. I have to admit, I don’t really understand what this go-fast tractoring this is all about, but something inside my little gear head soul responds to it immediately. I must have one. Maybe two. I’ll let you know if that happens.

In the meantime, why don’t you tell us what you think of Midwest Supercub’s go-fast lawn equipment in the comments, below.


Midwest Super Cub

Midwest Super Cub

Midwest Super Cub

Original content from Gas 2.

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PRI 2013: Ford Shows Off its Ecoboost Crate Engine Wed, 18 Dec 2013 13:00:06 +0000 Ford Ecoboost Crate Engine

Ford Racing quietly began offering its advanced, 2.0 liter Ecoboost turbocharged 4 cylinder crate engine earlier this year, without much fanfare. All that changed at the 2013 PRI Show in Indianapolis, however, with Ford’s Ecoboost powered 2015 Mustang twirling away on a giant lazy Susan directly under the giant “Ford Racing” banner mere steps away from the small crate engine, displayed proudly with its (relatively hefty) $8,000 price tag.

This was the first PRI outing (that I’m aware of) for Ford’s turbo 4, and the buzz around it was genuinely positive, with plenty of guys who cut their teeth on DSMs and 2.2 L turbo Chryslers in the- ahem!- 1990s suddenly interested in Ford’s muscular pony. Maybe for the first time, even- all of which bodes well for Ford, who needs to keep the Mustang brand relevant to the Gen-X and Millenial generations of enthusiasts if it hopes to enjoy another few decades of success.

As for specs, Ford’s littlest Ecoboost (crate engine) packs a 252 HP punch served up with 270 LB-FT of torque at just 3000 rpm- not bad for a company that couldn’t get that out of a production 5.0 liter V8 just 20 short years ago. You can check out a few more pictures of Ford’s racy 4-banger, below, and check out Ford Racing’s official 2.0 L Ecoboost page here.


Ford Ecoboost Crate Engine

Ford Ecoboost Crate Engine


Originally published on Gas 2.

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Ten Hours, 800 RPM, Full Throttle: How Chrysler Used To Test Engines Tue, 31 Jan 2012 16:00:15 +0000 Now that I’m scouring eBay Australia for crazy Detroit Down Under cars— maybe even as crazy as a 4-71-blown six-cylinder Torana— I’ve been dragged once again into the Whirlpool Of Arcane Internet Car Knowledge. You know how that goes: you go to look up the Australian Falcon on Wikipedia, a reference to the Valiant Charger leads you to the mother of all Chrysler-related online time-sucks, and then your whole day is used up. This time, Allpar sent me to, and that’s where I found the page on the Chrysler Hemi-Six engine. There you’ll find a description by a Chrysler engineer of how his Australian counterparts tested their new (American-designed) engine:

They couldn’t get an engine to run lab endurance for more than about 20 hours or so without dropping a valve or putting a hole in a piston. Well I suspected right away in the States what it was, and when I got there, sure as hell, they were running wide open throttle lab endurance (their schedule was probably different from ours, but ours consisted of 10 hours each, and I may forget one, but the first 10 hours were 800 wide open – can you believe that? – then 1600 wide open, then 2400, 3200, the fifth 10 hour cycle was 3600, and the last was 9 hours at 4000 and the last hour at 4400, all wide open throttle. And their engines were failing in the second 10 hours due to pre-ignition or valve overheating.

Now, the Aussies were using hot spark plugs, which is the reason they were killing engines, but let’s get back to that standard Chrysler endurance test, circa 1966: ten hours WFO at 800 RPM! That’s like dragging a flat-tired trailer full of dead horses up Grapevine Hill, in top gear, against a 60 MPH headwind (granted, the cooling system on the test stand was probably beefier than the one in a Valiant VC, but still). Just another day on the job for a Chrysler pushrod engine! With that philosophy, it’s no wonder the Slant Six and LA small-block V8 were so tough.

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Loose Partnership Between Renault-Nissan and Daimler Intensifies Sun, 08 Jan 2012 16:38:59 +0000 It’s not that the cross-sharing of technologies between Renault-Nissan has been a well-kept secret. However, it is good to hear that loose alliances between unlikely partners work, while a marriages made in the automotive compatibility heaven (we are looking at you, Volkswagen & Suzuki) don’t even get to the consummation part.

Renault-Nissan announced today in Detroit that its Decherd, Tenn., plant will build Mercedes-Benz 4-cylinder engines for Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz starting in 2014.

Read this sentence carefully.

Nissan will build engines designed by Mercedes Benz. The engines will be used in Infiniti cars. And they will be used by Mercedes-Benz. It is the first time that Merc. engines will be built in the NAFTA. That first happens in a Nissan plant. That’s more than a marriage, that’s an orgy between two. Well, three.

Production will begin in 2014, with installed capacity of 250,000 units per year once full ramp–up is achieved.

Mercedes will be using the engines starting in 2014 in C-Class cars, built at Daimler’s vehicle plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The complete project announced last September amazingly is still on track:

  • Joint smart/Twingo architecture still underpins cars launched by Renault and Daimler in the first quarter of 2014. Two-seater smart vehicles will be produced at Daimler’s plant in Hambach, France, and four-seater smart and Renault production are slated for Renault’s plant in Novo Mesto, Slovenia.
  • A new entry-level city van for Mercedes-Benz is on schedule with launch planned late 2012. The Mercedes van will be made at Renault’s plant in Maubeuge, France.
  • The cross-supply of power trains intensifies.  The Alliance is supplying Daimler with compact three-cylinder gasoline engines to be used in smart and Twingo vehicles and four-cylinder diesel engines to be used in the jointly developed light commercial vehicle and in Mercedes-Benz’s compact cars. Daimler will supply Nissan and Infiniti with four- and six-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines and automatic transmissions.
  • Infiniti plans to base a premium compact vehicle on the Mercedes compact-car architecture, starting in 2014.
  • Daimler will provide batteries from its production facility in Kamenz, Germany, and Renault-Nissan will provide electric motors for the use in the jointly developed EV versions of the smart and Twingo. Those are expected in 2014.

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Future Volvos Powered By Turbocharged Modular 4-Cylinders Fri, 06 Jan 2012 21:44:51 +0000

Amid Volvo’s announcement of a plug-in hybrid for markets besides diesel-loving Europe came another tidbit about the lone Swedish brand’s future direction. Rather than 5, 6 or 8 cylinder engines like years past, Volvo will be downsizing, much like BMW – and using modular engines to boot, much like their Bavarian rivals.

While Volvo’s plans weren’t articulated as well as BMW’s modular engines, the 4-cylinder will not only form the core of Volvo’s lineup, but a 3-cylinder version is possible. Each cylinder will be 500 cc’s by itself, and use a variety of turbochargers to attain various power levels. Volvo is also claiming that fuel economy will be 30 percent better than their current engines without any sacrifice in performance.  Good news, considering that the XC60, which offers a punchy T6 engine that can move the XC60 and S60 sedan down the road pretty well (as much as 325 horsepower and 350 lb-ft depending on trim level), but also offers V8 fuel consumption, returning an EPA rated 19/25mpg.

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Tiny (12cc) Hand-Machined V12 Is A Holiday Miracle Tue, 27 Dec 2011 15:25:08 +0000

Need an engineering project? Got 1,200 hours to kill with nothing to do? Take a tip from this heroically patient Spaniard, and hand-machine your own tiny (12 cc displacement) V12. This would be amazing feat of handwork even if it weren’t fully operational (using compressed air injection), but the fact that it works, runs and was made without a single CNC machine is nothing short of astounding.. If, as the book suggests, Shop Class is Soulcraft, this guy is like an engineering bodhisattva, inspiring us with his precision, patience and skill. In a world where not much is made by hand anymore, this achievement is worth taking a few minutes to marvel over… [Hat Tip: Dean Huston]

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The Engine Empire Strikes Back: Honda Battles For Engine Technology Relevance Thu, 01 Dec 2011 20:17:13 +0000

It’s been a few years since we last detected much of a pulse from Honda [Ed: in fact, Paul Niedermeyer declared Hyundai the "new Honda" in terms of engine technology leadership way back in 2009]. But just when we were wondering if all hope was lost, and that it might be time to pull the plug…signs of life. In Japan, for the Tokyo auto show, Honda has unveiled ambitious new powertrain plans [via Automotive News [sub]].

The highlights:

A new “Earth Dreams” family of four-cylinder engines, all with DOHC and (after just about everyone else) direct injection [Ed: another shift from Honda's 2009 position, which was that direct injection wasn't worth the investment compared to hybrids]. With the shift to DOHC, Honda seems to have accepted the conventional wisdom that using a complex valvetrain to operate four valves per cylinder with a single cam entails too many compromises. One strong possibility with DOHC: more complex and nuanced variable intake AND exhaust valve timing.

The 2.4-liter four or the next Accord will kick out 181 horsepower, while the Civic’s 1.8 will make 148 and the Fit’s 1.5, for the largest and most needed bump, 127. All more competitive, but nothing earth-shattering. And the final production numbers will likely be a little higher. It’s possible that fuel economy was a higher priority, with an increase here of at least ten percent.

A new 3.5-liter V6 remains SOHC, but gains 30 horsepower, to 310.

A 1.6-liter diesel that’s as powerful as the current 2.2, but with much better fuel economy. I wouldn’t count on this one coming to North America.

For us: four- and six-cylinder “two-mode” hybrids. “Two-mode” in this case likely refers to the engines’ employment of VTEC to switch between the Atkinson and traditional Otto cycles, not a complicated transmission like that employed by GM in its large SUVs. At least the V6 hybrid will pair with a seven-speed dual clutch automated manual. In case that isn’t enough novelty for one powertrain, in a potential all-wheel-drive variant an electric motor will shunt power to the outside wheel in turns, curbing understeer. Combining a hybrid engine that can switch between two cycles with a dual-clutch transmission and a new approach to SH-AWD? This is the sort of out-of-the-box combo we used to be able to expect from Honda, but which we haven’t seen in a while. (No, the Acura ZDX doesn’t count.)

And the transmissions for the new conventional four-cylinders? Apparently Honda has decided to triple down on CVTs, developing three of them. Given Honda’s history with new transmissions, and the history of CVTs in general, these will warrant a close watch in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey. Performance-oriented engines will continue to be paired with manuals and conventional automatics.

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Next-Gen M3 Kicks Up Its Heels, Cackles Tue, 22 Nov 2011 18:50:32 +0000

With engine management technologies creating ever-more refined, well-behaved engines, the snap-crackle-pop overrun at the beginning of this video is an increasingly rare throwback to the time when men were men and engines could blow up at any second. Sure, such playfulness will probably be managed out of existence by the time the F30 M3 hits dealerships, but it seems like a good omen for the M3′s return to six-cylinder power. In fact, it might even be possible that the backfire heard here has something to do with the electric turbocharger that’s rumored to give the new M3 lag-free turbo performance… but then you’d probably be a better judge of that than I.

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Never Mind The Growing Gap Between Oil Production And Consumption, Here’s The SLS Black Series Mon, 21 Nov 2011 22:04:03 +0000

Last Monday, we regaled you out with stories of Toyota coming to grips with the “new peak oil,” and other topics related to the growing gap (or lack thereof?) between global production and consumption oil. This week I’m feeling a little less apocalyptic, and little bit more indulgent. And really, why not celebrate those precious hydrocarbons while they’re still cheap and plentiful? This Mercedes SLS AMG Black Series may burn ‘em by the bushel, but it sure sounds good doing it. And though cars like the forthcoming 650 HP Shelby Mustang GT500 prove that performance is still alive in the 21st Century, high-revving, large-displacement, naturally-aspirated V8s like the AMG Black’s are going to be facing special challenges under future emissions standards. Which makes its gargling, chortling music all the sweeter to my ears…

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Ferrari’s Engine Problem Fri, 18 Nov 2011 20:18:51 +0000

It’s no secret that Ferrari has been wrestling with the inevitable conflict between its bellowing V12s and European emission regulations, but that’s not the only challenge facing the Prancing Horse’s powertrain division. Sure, there’s the increasingly-tenuous link  between the Scuderia’s Formula One technology and its road cars [sub], but in the short term that actually helps the emissions issue by creating a pretext for bringing KERS to the road (where it otherwise has little role). In fact, the real issue for Ferrari’s powertrain team is not even a “Ferrari issue” at all, but a Maserati issue.

One of the keys to Maserati’s success as a brand, is the fact that its engines are supplied by Ferrari, a “secret” kept by precisely nobody and referenced in every Maserati review ever written. And considering that Ferrari has to limit its production to 7,000 units in order to maintain exclusivity, it’s not a bad way to build scale on such limited-production engines. The problem is this: with Ferrari unable to grow its volume (instead, focusing purely on profits), Maserati has to. Thus, the new plan to build 40,000 new Maseratis per year by 2014, up from 5,700 cars sold in 2010. About 20k units of that volume are expected to be Kubang SUVs, and the rest will come from two sedans that straddle the current Quattroporte. The Kubang will come with Maser’s 4.7 liter V8, and the two sedans will use direct-injected V6 twin-turbo or V8 engines, also developed and built by Ferrari. Maserati CEO Harald Wester tells evo Magazine (print edition)

Paolo Martinelli [Maserati's powertrain boss and a previous engine chief for the Ferrari F1 team] is developing these new engines right now in Maranello, and Ferrari will be producing them exclusively for Maserati.

And, admits Wester that will present some serious challenges, as Maserati is talking about a seven-fold increase in engine demand.

If we need 30,000 Ferrari engines, the project is different. The set-up is perfect in terms of quality, but Ferrari will have to do something significant to be able to supply us with the engines we will require in the future.

But how does Ferrari ramp up to make seven times as many engines without losing any quality or exclusivity? Here’s where the story gets strange, as evo reports

Ferrari is already investigating working double shifts in its engine plant as a way to increase production

…and that’s it. Now, I don’t know enough about Ferrari’s powertrain plant to know whether it’s possible to get seven times the volume by switching to a double shift, but it sure sounds like a challenge. And if nothing else, it certainly takes a little of the exclusivity out of the Ferrari brand. But then, a slightly-less exclusive Ferrari is probably more than worth it when you multiply Maserati’s profits margins by 40,000. In any case, we’ll be curious to see how Ferrari manages this situation going forward.

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The Dangers Of Lifting Engine Covers Thu, 10 Nov 2011 16:51:29 +0000

BMW hasn’t offered a four-cylinder engine in the U.S. for quite some time, so I was eager to check out their new 2.0-liter twin-scrolled turbo. A Z4 so equipped arrived in my driveway today.

Not to give too much away prior to the full review, the new 240-horsepower engine works very well when paired with a six-speed manual in the 3,263-pound Z4.

Then I broke it.

As is often the case in the post-Lexus era, an engine cover hides the goodies. Knowing that some of you would like to see what’s going on under the cover, to serve the common curiosity I pulled it off. The cover readily pops off the left side of the engine, but some vacuum lines restrain it on the right side. Belatedly I discover that BMW hasn’t merely fitted a cover—they’ve attached a vacuum accumulator to its underside. Why? Beats me. I’m not going to detach any lines, so I just hold the cover up to the side while grabbing a quick photo.

Yeah, BMW’s new four isn’t a pretty sight. This mill badly needs its cover.

Replacing the engine cover proves a bit difficult. My first attempt misses the attachment points. Popping it back off for another attempt, I hear a “whoosh” as a vacuum line pops off of its fitting. My second attempt hits the attachment points. I then find the loose vacuum line, find a fitting that’s missing a line, and reattach the line.

Start the car up, drive a few blocks, and the yellow CEL lights up. Boost is either severely restricted or gone. (Though, surprisingly, the engine still doesn’t feel terribly underpowered. Perhaps this is what the lesser-engined Euro-market BMWs feel like?) Back in my driveway, I do the smart thing this time, and reference a photo I took before removing the cover. Seems two lines had come loose, and I’d only reattached one of them, and to the other’s fitting.

I fix this, but the CEL won’t go out even after I stop and restart the car a few times. I resign myself to a trip to the dealer to have the light reset. The next morning the light is still there when I start the car to head to the dealer. I drop by the kids’ school first to drop off some things for one of them. I then get back in the car, restart it, and—with the dealer next—no light and full power. Perhaps the car needs to be driven a certain number of miles before the computer concludes that the earlier problem is gone?

Needless to say, I’ll be more careful next time I pop off an engine cover—they’re not just for covering up the engine anymore!

Z4 28i vacuum lines Z4 28i engine uncovered Z4 28i engine dressed Z4 28i CEL Z4 28i accumulator Careful now... ]]> 46
Are You Ready For: Nissan’s Supercharged Hybrid? Mon, 07 Nov 2011 18:51:02 +0000

Of all the Japanese automakers, none are as far behind on hybrid technology as Nissan. For some time there was a sense that Nissan’s (relatively) huge investment in electric vehicle production would represent a “leapfrogging” of hybrid technology, but now the firm is using the common industry response to questions about future technology: a suite of options, rather than one single technology, will meet tomorrow’s low-energy transportation needs. As a result, Nissan’s been playing catchup, as it admits in a recent press release [PDF]

“We must have a tougher job than any other hybrid team in the industry,” says Mitsunobu Fukuda, a senior powertrain engineer at NATC. “Because our CEO, Carlos Ghosn, used to be known as skeptical about the value proposition of hybrids we had to make a really compelling case that we could deliver value to customers to get him to validate a hybrid program.

In 2004, as a stopgap measure, Nissan licensed hybrid technology from Toyota for use in certain markets.

“It was a bit of a blow to our pride, but that was the right thing to do under the circumstances,” Fukuda says.“Instead of rushing out a ‘copy-cat’ hybrid we wanted to take the time to develop our own hybrid, one that is clearly different – and better. I think we’ve managed to do that.”

What makes Nissan’s forthcoming hybrid system so different? For one thing, it uses Nissan’s “one motor, two clutch” system (currently found only on the Infiniti M Hybrid), which enables a compact design. For another, it’s supercharged.

Nissan’s first in-house hybrid, the Infiniti M, highlights the firm’s approach to hybrids, with its simple two-clutch system that is fitted to the omnipresent continuously variable transmission. But having validated the rear-drive luxury version (see video above), Nissan is taking that design to the transverse, front-drive package. And because the “one motor, two clutch” design takes up the same amount of space as a traditional drivetrain (according to Nissan), this new hybrid system should be able to fit into many of Nissan’s mass-market products.

Supercharging has not played much of a role thus far in the industry-wide move towards downsized, forced-induction engines, playing its best-known role as half of VW’s “Twincharger” technology (which combinde both super- and turbocharging). But Nissan is already ahead of the curve, with its new Micra DIG-S, which combines a 1.2 liter, three-pot engine with a supercharger for its first sub-100 g CO2/km model. The key to supercharged efficiency? As Eaton points out, “downspeeding” can be as important as “downsizing.” Unlike turbos, superchargers don’t need high revs to build boost, so it can boost low-end torque more efficiently (which is where small engines most need the help). Combine that characteristic with a CVT, which can keep the engine operating at a near-maximum level of efficiency, and the benefits of a supercharging become more clear.

Of course, we still have a lot to learn about Nissans new supercharged hybrid. We do know that it is based around a 2.5 liter supercharged unit that Nissan says will spit out the same power as its 3.5 liter V6. This should help Nissan downsize its vehicle underpinnings as Hyundai has done, further benefitting fuel economy. Otherwise, we’ll have to wait until a 2013 debut before we know too much more about this new drivetrain. But one thing is certain: we’re going to have to get used to the idea of supercharging as a green technology, as well as a quick, bolt-on method of squeezing more power out of an engine.

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“We Just Like Doing Really Crazy Stuff Like This” Tue, 04 Oct 2011 14:35:57 +0000

“We” being Nissan, and “this” being shortening a GT-R powertrain enough to fit a Juke bodyshell over it. It won’t ever make production, and it will probably spin dizzy, short-wheelbase circles every time it even thinks about a corner… but even the haters have to admit that this is a clever way to highlight the Juke’s unexpectedly sporty nature. But despite the argument that “there’s a history of Nissan engineers driving the business,” let’s be clear about one thing: Nissan’s involvement in this project is all on the marketing side. Once upon a time, Nissan’s engineers might have built a little monster like this out of sheer passion, in their spare time. Today, though, the work gets outsourced to specialty race engineering shops, RML in this case. It’s not a knock, that’s just how the world works anymore.

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Super Piston Slap: The Buick-infused Fiero at LeMons Sat, 01 Oct 2011 19:56:17 +0000

Perhaps you already know a little about this car from a previous post, but let’s look a little deeper into what makes an engine swap in a Fiero so positively epic.

First off, if you don’t know about the Pontiac Fiero, shame on you! This is one of many half-baked efforts from General Motors that deserved a better fate. Let’s face it, the Chevy Corvair coulda lived to see numerous upgrades and cult classic success, sparing us from colossal money pits of premium compact car hell, like the Mk V Volkswagon Golf. The multi-cammed, custom bodied Corvette ZR-1 (with a dash) was far too excellent to die, although it has finally come back with a vengeance in a slightly less unique guise. The Cadillac Allante finally made some sense when it received the Northstar V8 in the last year of production, but the Fiero was the worst sin a neglected GM product faced. The staggering number of upgrades in 1988 and the clean “Formula” trim level made this ride a potential success…if that wasn’t to be the last year of production.

Thank goodness for people who keep the flame, and raise up the heat. The Buick “Fireball” 3.8L V6 is a fun and worthy upgrade, as seen here in this LeMons racer that we all ogled during the BS inspection. Of course, the team’s wicked Ferrari theme didn’t hurt, even the wheels looked great! Adding the hood vents from a Trans Am GTA (correct?) and an impressive roll-on red paintjob with catch phrases in Ferrari’s own font absolutely sealed the deal. Opening the hood while doing my judge-ly duties, I remarked, “wait, that isn’t right? Is that a…

…and before I could fully digest the sheer volume of awesome presented to my eyes…

It’s a 3.8,” said a team member. Well, that just made my day. The 3.8L V6 is a gutsy, durable and coarse little mill, compact and easily fitted into the Fiero’s little frame. The later model (Series II and up) mills give you way more grunt than the 60-degree pushrod motor that came in a factory Fiero, and upping the ate with the (roots-type) supercharged Buick V6 would be absolutely wicked. Too bad this one is naturally aspirated! And while this motor (and any mid-engined car) has a serious uphill battle in an endurance style, crapcan LeMons race, this type of automotive expressionism is wholly encouraged and applauded ’round these parts.

Ready for more? We have another Fiero motor swap that’s worth a closer look, coming soon. In the meantime, you know I had to drop a little LSX love, even if that won’t fit within LeMon’s $500 budget.

Yeeeee-ha! LS4-FTW and I’m headed back to the races this weekend!

Click here to view the embedded video.

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UAW Authorizes Strike At Plant That Is Hiring Mon, 19 Sep 2011 16:25:53 +0000

Chrysler's GEMA Dundee plant -Photo: Toledo Blade

UAW Local #273 members working at Chrysler’s Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance factory in Dundee, Michigan voted to authorize a strike [Ed: despite a no-strike agreement that was agreed to inexchange for Chrysler's bailout] in advance of negotiations over local issues, particularly a recently announced rotating shift schedule that has created unrest at another Chrysler plant in the Detroit area. The proposed schedule is so unpopular that almost 99% of local #273 members voted to authorize a strike if negotiations break down. The shifts, which rotate 12 hr day and night shifts week to week, are intended, Chrysler says, to maximize productivity. The UAW says it is to reduce overtime pay. The normal 3 shift model increases straight-time production by 20% to 120 hours per week.


Pentastar engine production at Trenton Engine Plant


Chrysler has been using that schedule at the Trenton South Engine Plant for almost a year. Workers were already unhappy about the schedule disrupting their lives and increasing child care costs but when mandatory overtime on Sundays was added last month UAW Local #372 started raising safety and health issues related to the schedule.

Sergio Marchionne announcing $179 million investment to build 1.4L Fiat Multiair engines at the Dundee plant

This labor unrest takes place when both facilities are doing very well, or perhaps precisely because they are doing well. Chrysler has recently invested money in both facilities and demand is high for their products, making overtime costs an issue. The Dundee plant, in fact, is currently hiring and Trenton soon will be hiring more workers. Trenton South produces Chrysler’s new 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 engine, already available in 10 Chrysler Group cars and trucks with more being adding next year, so demand is growing. It’s the foundation of Chrysler’s powertrain strategy. Chrysler has invested $114 million to reopen the site’s Trenton North facility for production of the Pentastar and the plant will be adding 268 jobs. At the Dundee facility, originally a joint venture with Hyundai and Mitsubishi, already produced variants of Chrysler’s “world engine“. Chrysler has invested $179 million to add production of Fiat’s 1.4-liter, 16-valve “MultiAir” FIRE (Fully Integrated Robotized Engine) motor. So far, a additional 100 people have been hired at Dundee. The currently produce about 400 engines a day that get shipped to Mexico, where Fiat 500s for the North American market are assembled. Production is being increased, and hiring for a second shift is open until early October.

Sergio-Marchionne 4_cylinder_fire 9705564-small 2007 Dodge Caliber World Engine Chrysler Pentastar Engine-low C GEMA5709-300 phoenix-engines Pentastar engine production at Trenton Engine Plant Colin-Reaume-Dundee-Chrysler Larry-Patterson-Dundee-Chrysler




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Wild-Ass Rumor Of The Day: GM Seeks “Far-Reaching Joint Projects” With BMW Sun, 11 Sep 2011 22:02:15 +0000

Dow Jones cites a report in Der Spiegel Magazine which claims that GM Vice Chairman for Corporate Strategy Steve Girsky

has made enquiries at BMW to start discussions on “far-reaching joint projects.”

According to Dow Jones, the Spiegel article does not cite any specific source for its information, and TTAC has not yet been able to find the original article online. According to Dow Jones, GM is

 primarily interesting in gasoline and diesel engines… General Motors is at an advanced stage in developing a fuel cell and could offer co-operation in that field… The technology behind GM’s Opel Ampera electric vehicle would also be of interest to BMW, according to the report.

GM has not yet responded to TTAC’s request for comment. A similar rumor was floated by Handelsblatt around this time last year, but BMW was quick to quash it. Are things different this time, or is GM still struggling with unrequited desire? We’ll let you know as soon as possible…

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Are You Ready For: A Mass-Market, Variable-Displacement Four-Cylinder? Sun, 04 Sep 2011 19:09:26 +0000 If you’re eagerly jumping up to shout “yes” to the headline’s rhetorical question, you’d better live in Europe… or be prepared to move there. The chances of VW ever bringing its 1.4 TSI engine to the US seem dim, based on the brand’s new mass-market-oriented, big-n-cheap approach. But starting next year, Autocar reports that

VW [will be] the first manufacturer to implement the fuel-saving technology in a mass-produced TSI engine, a system that shuts off two of the four cylinders under low to medium loads, between 1400 and 4000rpm.

Volkswagen claims that the EU6-compliant unit saves 0.4 litres (0.09 gallons) of fuel per 100km, rising to 0.6 litres (0.13 gallons) per 100km when combined with VW’s stop-start system.

VW also says that the benefits become more obvious when driven smoothly and slowly: “At 50 km/h, in third or fourth gear, savings amount to nearly one litre per 100km.”

If you’re currently looking up those conversions for use in future conversations (about hypothetical engine swaps for your Em Kay Eye Vee), you’re officially a “Mr Euro” (here’s a hint: it’s cooler to use the European measures and make everyone else do the math). If you’re wondering about how reliable these engines are going to be, or what it must be like to cruise the freeway on 700 ccs of displacement you’ve probably come to the right place.


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Ask The Best And Brightest: Could This Become The Littlest Ram? Wed, 31 Aug 2011 21:52:18 +0000 First of all, let’s not fool ourselves: this is quite the hypothetical question. For one thing, Fiat is unlikely to federalize the Doblo cargo van that this “Work Up” is based upon until a subsequent generation comes out. In the meantime, the only Fiat Professional vehicle the US market will be getting anytime soon (thanks to CKD production at Warren Truck, according to Allpar) is the Ducato van, which competes fairly directly with Daimler’s Sprinter.  But, hypothetically, could this Doblo “Work Up” find a market in the US? Let’s look at what it offers…

Its most powerful engine in the U.K. is the 1.6 liter, stop-start-equipped, Euro-5 compliant diesel with 105 HP and 213 ft-lbs … and that starts at £17,065 ($27,759 , in direct-conversion)… but there’s also a 2.0 oil-burner with 135 hp and 236 ft-lbs in the Fiat Professional quiver. Fiat Professional claims a 1,000 kg payload (about 2,200 lbs) and up to 1,450 kg (3,200 lbs) “load on rear axle,” so it’s no slouch. But between the vagaries of currency and efficiency (the 1.6 and 2.0 get 45.2 MPG and 42 MPG respectively on the European combined cycle, the latter being equivalent to the European Cruze 2.0 diesel MT), and the question of production siting, it’s difficult to put together a specific scenario for this coming to the US. But if it did, it would make even the most far-away CAFE standards look pretty mild (even though Chrysler’s once-questionable hybrid pickup drivetrain already does). On the other hand, it would also make the Ram Tradesman look like a screaming deal even though it offers “only” 1,860 lbs in maximum payload (it’s a much better towing machine). So don’t hold your breath… and if you need an efficient commercial vehicle in the meantime, well, there’s always the brand-new Caravan Cargo Van!

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Probably not everyone's cup of CAFE... doblotruck2 doblotruck1 doblotruck ]]> 28
BMW: Don’t Fear The Four Tue, 30 Aug 2011 21:20:22 +0000

It’s been 12 years since BMW offered a four-cylinder engine on a US-market offering, but starting this October, US dealers will begin offering new “TwinPower”four-pot versions of the Z4 roadster and 5-series sedan. And, as BMW’s US-market boss Jim O’Donnell explains to Automotive News [sub], there’s no reason to fear the four… anymore.

It wasn’t in line with our image, because it didn’t have the performance of the six cylinder. We were selling ourselves as the ultimate driving machine and really it wasn’t. Now that the engines have developed so far, it’s not an issue at all.

But now BMW is offering four-bangers because they offer an even better driving experience, right? Less weight, better turn-in, that kind of thing… right?

Uh, not so much, no. O’Donnell continues

CAFE is definitely driving this. This is huge for us. If we get this wrong, it screws up all of our plans in the U.S.

And O’Donnell is right to reference the risks involved. After all, Ford is already learning the hard way that charging high prices for downsized, fuel-efficient engines doesn’t always pan out, as its Explorer Ecoboost was mauled for lackluster performance by even the traditionally toothless Motor Trend. On the other hand, the CAFE-related problems with not offering smaller engines are even worse:

Failure to meet U. S. requirements produces fines of $55 per mile below the requirement multiplied by the total number of vehicles sold, Greg Schroeder, a research analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said in a telephone interview.

Selling 200,000 vehicles with a CAFE 20 mpg below the target, for example, would lead to an annual fine of $220 million. “As the fuel economy doubles they have to change their plan,” Schroeder, the industry analyst, said. “They’re going to have to improve fuel economy, they can’t just sit and pay fines forever.”

But don’t start bemoaning a new CAFE-induced Malaise era just yet: the new four-pot base engine may be down 6 percent compared to the previous entry-level six in the Z4, but it boasts an 18 percent improvement in torque. The new Z4 is .1 seconds faster to 60 MPH than its six-equipped predecessor, while the new four-cylinder 528i should shave .4 seconds off its predecessor’s 0-60 time. But for image-conscious luxury brands, the challenge isn’t simply proving that the performance numbers show progress… after all, they’ve spent decades leading consumers to believe that the number of cylinders was a key to premium-ness.

“The challenge really is for us as a company and you as media to look at how we describe performance, which tradition would tell is the number of cylinders and how big they are, and that determines a premium car or a high-performance car versus another car,” Ian Robertson, head of BMW sales, said in Carmel, California. “That is not the relevant measure anymore.”

That sell would be a lot easier to make if the new four-bangers sounded as good as we know BMW can make them. Check out the following video (starting at around :47) to see what we’re talking about.

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Are You Ready For: A Porsche Flat-Eight? Tue, 30 Aug 2011 15:14:12 +0000

Well, are ya… punk? As part of its “why does Ferrari get all of the €250,000-€750,000 fun” fit of pique, Porsche says its considering a flat-eight engined beast to take on the Italian foe. Autocar reports that

Porsche engineers have long been frustrated by the fact that the company’s iconic flat-six engine cannot be extended much beyond 4.0-litres. It’s also felt that in the Ferrari-dominated market, eight cylinders are a pre-requisite.

Moving to a larger engine would also differentiate the new model from the new 911 and next-generation Cayman range. It’s thought that the creation of such an engine has been made easier by the engineering working currently being done on the new turbocharged flat-four engine, which will be offered in Porsche’s planned entry-level roadster. This all-new motor is thought to be modular, allowing it to be extended into the next-generation flat-6 and a flat-8.

Porsche’s head of R&D Wolfgang Hatz says a flat-eight evolution of the forthcoming flat-four could be matched to “the Carrera GT’s ultra-compact transmission” for the forthcoming Ferrari-fighter. There’s just one problem…

We could develop it, of course. One of the key issues is where we put the differential, but it is a possibility

Details! The key issue is that Porsche doesn’t have a “different model” positioned in $4k increments from $200k and up. As long as you’re addressing the important issue, these little technical details will work themselves out in deference to Porsche’s “fundamental economic sense.”

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Will Morgan Build The First-Ever Multi-Gear EV? Wed, 17 Aug 2011 17:36:06 +0000
Rattle off a list of the buzzworthy EV makers that seem likely to achieve the “holy grail of EV development,” a multi-gear electric car, and chances are that firms like Tesla, Fisker, Th!nk or even a major OEM like Nissan will make the cut. You probably wouldn’t consider the ultra-conservative British sportscar maker Morgan to be in the running, as they still build body substructures out of wood… surely the brand that’s most stuck in the early 20th Century seems an unlikely candidate for EV technical leadership. Think again…

GreenCarCongress reports that Morgan is working on something called the +E, an electrified version of its Aero 8 sportscar, with prototype production scheduled for early 2012. And believe it or not, the plan is to send 221+ lb-ft of zero-rpm torque through a “conventional manual transmission.” That’s right all you Silicon Valley hotshots and US DOE grant-receivers: the most advanced EV may just be developed by a firm that was long said to be “stuck in the 1930s.”

Part-funded by a $166k R&D grant from the Niche Vehicle Network CR&D Program, the +E will be made by replacing an Aero 8′s BMW V8 and replacing it with a variation of Zytek’s innovative electric drivetrain. The Zytek drivetrain, which is known for its extremely compact packaging, is also being used for GOrdon Murray’s T.27 electric city car (click here for more on the drivetrain). Featuring lithium-ion batteries, the rear-drive +E will take advantage of Zytek’s extensive research into hybrid and KERs technology (the firm supplied technology for the first Grand Prix-winning KERS system).

But the most important development is the use of a manual transmission in an EV application. From the sound of it, Morgan will use the 6-speed Getrag transmission that’s normally mated to the BMW V8… but because it’s not clear how much power the +E will produce, it’s possible that another solution will be used. But the man-tran will definitely make an appearance, as Zytek’s Neil Cheeseman explains

Keeping the motor in its sweet spot will help it use energy more efficiently, which will increase the vehicle’s range. It also allows us to provide lower gearing for rapid acceleration from pull-away and higher gearing for top speed. It should also make the car more engaging for keen drivers.

EVs will make better progress with hard-core gearheads when shiftable multi-speed transmissions are made part of the package, but as Tesla has proved, engineering a reliable multi-gear EV ain’t easy. If Morgan is the first firm to bring one to market, it could radically alter the retro sportscar maker’s position in the industry.

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Cruze Diesel: The Performance (And Efficiency) Choice Tue, 16 Aug 2011 17:14:55 +0000

With Chevrolet already offering a Cruze Eco, WardsAuto reports that the forthcoming Cruze diesel made a case for itself based on attributes that go beyond mere efficiency. Which is interesting because a GM source tells Wards that the Cruze diesel will get around 50 MPG on the freeway… and unlike the Eco, it will achieve that high number with an automatic transmission (the Cruze Eco’s 42 MPG highway rating is only for manual transmission models). Equally importantly, the oil-burning Cruze will return better performance alongside better efficiency, with 147 HP and 236 lb-ft, compared to the 1.4T engine’s 138 HP and 148 lb-ft, which would make it the performance model of the range… which some say is just what the Cruze needs.

Joseph Lescota, chair of the Automotive Marketing Management Dept. at Northwood University in Midland, MI, thinks a diesel Cruze will draw buyers.

“Chevrolet has a great price-point vehicle that has tremendous eye appeal and options but may not meet the performance needs of a select market group,” he tells Ward’s.

A diesel version would hit that group between the eyes by adding a sturdy engine, extra torque and top-end performance to the mix, he says.

GM executives meanwhile highlight the diesel option’s value as what GM North America boss Mark Reuss calls “a hedge against the unknown.” Only three percent of current US sales are of diesels, but as American brands start rolling the oil-burning options out, and as Americans are exposed to their higher performance and efficiency, that segment could just grow. After all, who doesn’t want more performance and more efficiency for a mere $1k-$4k premium?

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Are You Ready For: The Thorium-Laser-Steam-Turbine Electric Powertrain? Thu, 11 Aug 2011 17:12:09 +0000

Steampunks and Atomic Age nuts rejoice! WardsAuto reports that Connecticut-based Laser Power Systems is “getting closer” to developing a prototype electric car which develops its power using the radioactive heavy metal Thorium. According to LPS’s CEO,

when thorium is heated by an external source, it becomes so dense its molecules give off considerable heat. Small blocks of thorium generate heat surges that are configured as a thorium-based laser… These create steam from water within mini-turbines, generating electricity to drive a car. A 250 MW unit weighing about 500 lbs. (227 kg) would be small and light enough to drop under the hood of a car… Because thorium is so dense, similar to uranium, it stores considerable potential energy: 1 gm of thorium equals the energy of 7,500 gallons (28,391 L) of gasoline. Prototype systems generate electricity within 30 seconds of firing a laser. This can feed power into a car, without the need for storage.

What about radioactivity? LPS says Thorium’s low levels could be blocked with aluminum foil. Yes, tinfoil.  Terrorism? Because the Thorium is not superheated, it does not produce fissile material. Where does Thorium come from? Let’s just say the US has the world’s largest known reserves. General safety? The U.S. Geological Survey’s former senior advisor on rare earths calls the concept “both plausible and sensible.” So why aren’t we driving around thorium-laser-turbine EVs already? According to LPS CEO Charles Stevens.

“The issue is having a customized application that is purpose-made,” he says, admitting that developing a portable and usable turbine and generator is proving to be a tougher task than the laser-thorium unit.

“How do you take the laser and put these things together efficiently?” he asks rhetorically. But once that is achieved, “This car will run for a million miles. The car will wear out before the engine. There is no oil, no emissions – nothing.”

Sounds great… but we’re not holding our breath just yet.

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