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V12 engine

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V12 engine

1926 BMW VI, water-cooled V-12 aircraft engine

A V12 engine is a V engine with 12 cylinders mounted on the crankcase in two banks of six cylinders, usually but not always at a 60° angle to each other, with all 12 pistons driving a common crankshaft.[1]

Since each cylinder bank is essentially a straight-6, this configuration has perfect primary and secondary balance no matter which V angle is used and therefore needs no balance shafts. A V12 with two banks of six cylinders angled at 60°, 120° or 180° (with the latter configuration usually referred to as a flat-12) from each other has even firing with power pulses delivered twice as often per revolution as a straight-6. This allows for great refinement in a luxury car. In a racing car, the rotating parts can be made much lighter and thus more responsive, since there is no need to use counterweights on the crankshaft as is needed in a 90° V8 and less need for the inertial mass in a flywheel to smooth out the power delivery. In a large displacement, heavy-duty engine, a V12 can run slower than smaller engines, prolonging engine life.


  • Early (pre WW1) V12 engines 1
    • Marine engines 1.1
    • Motor car engines 1.2
    • Early aero engines 1.3
  • Later V12s in aviation 2
  • V12 road cars 3
    • Postwar V12 production cars 3.1
    • Prototypes/custom made with V12 engines 3.2
  • Heavy trucks 4
  • Auto racing 5
  • Large diesel engines 6
  • Railway V12 diesel engines specs 7
  • Tanks and other AFVs 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early (pre WW1) V12 engines

Marine engines

The 150 bhp V-12 Dörwald marine motor, 1904

The first V-type engine (a 2-cylinder vee twin) was built in 1889 by Daimler, to a design by Wilhelm Maybach. By 1903 V8 engines were being produced for motor boat racing by the Société Antoinette to designs by Léon Levavasseur, building on experience gained with in-line four-cylinder engines. In 1904, the Putney Motor Works completed a new V12 marine racing engine – the first V12 engine produced for any purpose.[2] Known as the ‘Craig-Dörwald’ engine after Putney’s founding partners, the engine mounted pairs of L-head cylinders at a 90 degree included angle on an aluminium crankcase, using the same cylinder pairs that powered the company’s standard 2-cylinder car. A single camshaft mounted in the central vee operated the valves directly. As in many marine engines, the camshaft could be slid longitudinally to engage a second set of cams, giving valve timing that reversed the engine’s rotation to achieve astern propulsion. "Starting is by pumping a charge into each cylinder and switching on the trembler coils. A sliding camshaft gave direct reversing. The camshaft has fluted webs and main bearings in graduated thickness from the largest at the flywheel end."[3] Displacing 1,119.9 cuin (18,352 cc) (bore and stroke of 4.875" x 5" (123.8 x 127 mm)), the engine weighed 950 pounds (430 kg) and developed 150 bhp (110 kW). Little is known of the engine's achievements in the 40-foot hull for which it was intended, while a scheme to use the engine to power heavy freight vehicles never came to fruition.[2] One V12 Dörwald marine engine was found still running in a Hong Kong junk in the late-1960s.

Two more V12s appeared in the 1909-10 motor boat racing season. The Lamb Boat & Engine Company of Clinton, Iowa built a 1,558.6 cuin (25,541 cc (5.25" x 6" (133.4 x 152.4 mm)) engine for the company’s 32-foot Lamb IV. It weighed in at 2,114 pounds (959 kg). No weight is known for the massive 3,463.6 cuin (56,758 cc) (7" x 7.5" (177.8 x 190.5 mm)) F-head engine built by the Orleans Motor Company. Output is quoted as “nearly 400 bhp (300 kW)”.

By 1914, when Panhard built two 2,356.2 cuin (38,611 cc) (5" x 10" (127 x 254 mm)) engines with four-valve cylinder heads the V12 was well established in motor boat racing.[2]

Motor car engines

In October 1913 Louis Coatalen, chief engineer of the Sunbeam car company entered a V12 powered car in the Brooklands short and long handicap races. The engine displaced 9,048 cc (552.1 cuin), with bore and stroke of 80 x 150 mm. An aluminium crankcase carried two blocks of three cylinders along each side, with a 60 degree included angle. The cylinders were of iron, with integral cylinder heads with L-shaped combustion chambers. Inlet and exhaust valves were operated by a central camshaft in the vee. Valve clearance was set by grinding the relevant parts, the engine lacking any easy means of adjustment. This pointed to Coatalen’s ultimate aim of using the new V12 as an aero engine, where any adjustment method that could go wrong in flight was to be avoided. As initially built the V12 was rated at 200 bhp (150 kW) at 2,400 rpm, weighing about 750 pounds (340 kg). The engine powered the car (named ‘Toodles V’ (for Coatalen’s wife Olive’s pet name) to several records in 1913 and 1914.[2]

Early aero engines

In 1909 Renault pioneered aero V12s with a 60 degree air-cooled engine with individual finned cylinders and F-head valve arrangement, driven by single camshaft in the crankcase. This was developed to a 12,160 cc (742.1 cuin) unit (96 x 140 mm) which weighed 772 pounds (350 kg) and produced 138 bhp (103 kW) at 1,800 rpm. The propeller was driven from the nose of the camshaft in the central vee, rather than from the crankshaft, thus providing an automatic half-speed reduction, improving propeller efficiency.[2]

Renault’s designs were closely followed in Britain by the Royal Aircraft Factory. Its RAF 4 engine displaced 13,195 cc (805.2 cuin)(100 x 140 mm), produced 140 bhp (100 kW) at 1,800 rpm, for a weight of 637 pounds (289 kg). Its RAF 4a derivative was produced in substantial numbers during the war.

By 1912 ABC were offering a water-cooled engine of 17,375 cc (1,060.3 cuin), claimed to produce 170 bhp (130 kW) at 1,400 rpm and weigh 390 pounds (180 kg) – 520 pounds (240 kg) with radiator and coolant.

In March 1914 Sunbeam exhibited an airborne version of Toodles V’s engine at Olympia. Racing in 1913 had helped to prove the design, and encouraged a 10 mm increase in bore to 90 mm, the stroke remaining at 150 mm. Its rated output was 225 bhp (168 kW) at 2,000 rpm. Named the ‘Mohawk’, the engine was the most powerful available to British aviation at the outbreak of WW1. During the war further enlargement to 100 x 150 mm created the 240 bhp (180 kW) ‘Gurkha’.[2]

Later V12s in aviation

A 1917 Liberty L-12 (V12) aero-engine

By the end of World War I, V12s were well established in aviation, powering some of the newest and largest fighters and bombers and being produced by companies such as Renault and Sunbeam. Many Zeppelins had 12-cylinder engines from German manufacturers Maybach and Daimler. Austro Daimler of the Austro-Hungarian empire, produced also V12, designed by Ferdinand Porsche, with first 300 and later 345 hp, used with the big flying boats of the A-H Naval Air force. Various U.S. companies produced the Liberty L-12. Soon after the end of WW1 V12 engines powered the first trans-atlantic crossings by the Curtiss NC Flying boats (4 x Liberty L-12), the first non-stop crossing by Alcock and Brown in a Vickers Vimy (2× Rolls-Royce Eagles and the first airship crossing by HM airship R-34 (5× Sunbeam Maori).

Renault V12 aeroengine

V12 engines reached their apogee during World War II. Fighters and bombers used V12 engines such as the British Rolls-Royce Merlin and Griffon, the Soviet Klimov VK-107 and Mikulin AM-38, the American Allison V-1710, or the German Daimler-Benz DB 600 series and Junkers Jumo. These engines generated about 1,000 hp (750 kW) at the beginning of the war and above 1,500 hp (1,100 kW) at their ultimate evolution stage. The German DB 605DC engine reached 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) with methanol/water injection called MW 50-equipment. In contrast to most Allied V12s, the engines built in Germany by Daimler-Benz, Junkers-Jumo, and Argus (As 410 and As 411) were primarily inverted, which had the advantages of lower centers of gravity and improved visibility for single-engined designs. Only the pre-war origin BMW VI V12 of Germany was an "upright" engine. The United States had the experimental Continental IV-1430 inverted V12 engine under development, with a higher power-to-weight ratio than any of the initial versions of the German WW II inverted V12s, but was never developed to production status, with only 23 examples of the Continental inverted V12 ever being built. The only American-design inverted V12 engine of any type to see even limited service in World War II was the air-cooled Ranger V-770, which found use in stateside-based training aircraft like the Fairchild AT-21 Gunner twin-engined "advanced" trainer.

The Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 powered the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire fighters that played a vital role in Britain's victory in the Battle of Britain. The long, narrow configuration of the V12 contributed to good aerodynamics, while its smoothness allowed its use with relatively light and fragile airframes. The Merlin was also used in the Avro Lancaster and de Havilland Mosquito bombers. In the United States the Packard Motor company was licensed by Rolls-Royce to produce the Merlin as the Packard V-1650 for use in the North American P-51 Mustang. It was also incorporated into some models of the Curtiss P-40, specifically the P-40F and P-40L. Packard Merlins powered Canadian-built Hurricane, Lancaster, and Mosquito aircraft, as well as the UK-built Spitfire Mark XVI, which was otherwise the same as the Mark IX with its British-built Merlin.

The Allison V-1710 was the only indigenous U.S.-developed V12 liquid-cooled engine to see service during World War II. A sturdy design, it lacked an advanced mechanical supercharger until 1943. Although versions with a turbosupercharger provided excellent performance at high altitude in the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, the turbosupercharger and its ductwork were too bulky to fit into typical single-engine fighters. While a good performer at low altitudes, without adequate supercharging, the Allison's high-altitude performance was lacking.

After World War II, V12 engines became generally obsolete in aircraft due to the introduction of turbojet and turboprop engines that had more power for their weight, and fewer complications.

V12 road cars

1916 Packard Twin-Six production V12

In automobiles, V12 engines have not been common due to their complexity and cost. They are used almost exclusively in expensive sports and luxury cars because of their power, smoother operation and distinctive sound.

1931 Cadillac Series 370 A Coupé V12

Prior to World War II, 12-cylinder engines were found in many luxury models, including cars from: Packard 1916 to 1923 and again from 1932 to 1939, Daimler 1926 to 1937, Hispano-Suiza 1931, Cadillac 1931, Auburn 1932, Franklin 1932, Lincoln 1932 to 1942 (continuing after the war through 1948), Rolls-Royce 1936, and Pierce-Arrow also 1936.

V12 engine in a Jaguar E-type

Vehicles with 8-, 12-, and 16-cylinders provide higher levels of refinement compared to those with fewer cylinders, especially important prior to the general adoption of vibration isolating engine mounts in the 1930s.

Packard's 1916 "Twin Six" is widely regarded as [5] In 1927 more entered the market from Cadillac, Franklin, Hispano-Suiza, Horch, Lagonda, Maybach, Packard, Rolls, Tatra, Voisin, and Walter offering V12 engines. Cadillac (from 1930 to 1940) and Marmon (1931–33) even developed V16 engines.

Improvements in combustion chamber design and piston form enabled lighter V8 engines to surpass the V12 in power starting from the 1930s; only the smaller, H-Series Lincoln V-12 remained after WWII and it was replaced by a V8 in 1949. Similarly, as they seemed excessive for the postwar market in Europe, production of V12-engined-cars was very limited until the 1960s.

Jaguar came out with the XJ12, equipped with a 5.3 litre V12, which continued (after revisions in 1993) until the 1996 model year, after which the marque discontinued the twelve-cylinder engine.

German manufacturer BMW returned to V12 designs for its 7-Series sedan in model year 1986, forcing Mercedes-Benz to follow suit in 1991. While BMW sells far fewer V12-engined 7-Series vehicles than V8 versions, the V12 retains popularity in the US, China[1], and Russia, as well as maintaining the marque's prestige in the luxury vehicle market segment.[6] The BMW-designed V12 also appears in Rolls-Royce cars, while the Mercedes engine is also seen in Maybach cars.

In their full-sized sedans sold in Canada and the USA, Mercedes and BMW have mid-displacement V8s for the entry-level trims, while having the V12 as the flagship vehicle of the brand.[7] For their most expensive Mercedes-Benz nameplates (S-Class, CL-Class, and SL-Class), there are V8-engined AMG models ('55, '63) (supercharged, naturally-aspirated, and biturbo) that have comparable power to their biturbo V12-powered cars (600), however the V12 trims have a smoother luxurious ride compared to the AMG V8s which are sportier and more responsive. The Mercedes S65 AMG, CL65 AMG, and SL65 AMG are all powered by V12 Bi Turbo making 463 kW (621 hp) and 1,000 N·m (740 lbf·ft) at 2,300-4,300 rpm. The '65 AMG cars are faster in a straight line than their '63 AMG equivalents, however the '63 AMG with the Performance Package posts equivalent acceleration times. The '65 AMG vehicles handle worse due to more weight in the front of the car, however their cost and V12 engine makes them a status symbol.[2]

The V12 engine is generally smoother than the other 12-cylinder configuration, the W12, although the W12 is more compact.[3][8]

In 1997, Toyota equipped their Century Limousine with a 5.0 L DOHC V12 (model # 1GZ-FE), making it the first and only Japanese production passenger car so equipped.

TVR made and tested a 7.7 L V12 called the Speed Twelve, but the project was scrapped after the car it was designed for was deemed too powerful for practical use. The only British marques currently using a V12 configuration are Aston Martin — whose Cosworth-developed engine was authorized during the company's ownership by Ford Motor Company — and Rolls-Royce.

In 2009, China FAW Group Corporation equipped their Hongqi HQE with a 6.0 L DOHC V12 (model # CA12VG), making it the first and only Chinese production passenger car so equipped.

Most production V12 engines in road cars have an even firing order, with the uneven-firing exceptions such as Aston Martin 5.9L V12 and Mercedes-Benz M275 AMG V12s.

In 2008 Audi launched their Q7 model with a 5.9-litre V12 twin-turbo diesel engine, making it the first production passenger car so equipped. The engine also appeared in the R8 V12 TDI concept car.

Postwar V12 production cars

Jaguar V12 engine
Colombo Type 125 'Testa Rossa' engine in a 1961 Ferrari 250TR Spyder
Mercedes-AMG V12 engine, on display at the Pagani Factory in Italy
Matra MS11 from 1968

This is a list of V12-engined production road cars produced since 1945, sorted alphabetically by make (and sub-sorted by year of introduction):

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Some tuner companies, such as Brabus, also sell V12 versions of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and CLS, which were the fastest street-legal sedans upon their respective introductions.

Prototypes/custom made with V12 engines

Heavy trucks

1961 GMC Gasoline V12 702 cu in (11.50 L)

Tatra used a 17.6 L (1,070 cu in) air-cooled naturally aspirated V12 diesel engine in many of their trucks; for instance, the Tatra T813 and uses 19 L air-cooled naturally aspirated or turbo V12 diesel engine in Tatra T815. Some large trucks have been fitted with twin V12s that drive a common shaft, although this is often advertised as a V24.

GMC produced a large gasoline-burning V12 from 1960 to 1965 for trucks, the "Twin-Six"; it was basically GMC's large-capacity truck 351 V6, doubled, with four rocker covers and four exhaust manifolds.[9] Fifty-six major parts are interchangeable between the Twin-Six and all other GMC V6 engines to provide greater parts availability and standardization. Its engine displacement was 702 cu in (11.50 L), and while power was not too impressive at 250 hp (190 kW), torque was 585 lb·ft (793 N·m). For firetrucks the rev limiter was increased to produce 299 hp (223 kW) at 3000 rpm and torque was increased to 630 lb·ft (850 N·m) at 1600–1900 rpm. It was possibly the last gasoline engine used in heavy trucks in the US.

Detroit Diesel produced their Series 53, 71, 92, and 149 engines as V-12s, among other configurations.

Auto racing

V12 engines used to be common in Ford V8. The last V12 engine used in Formula One was the Ferrari 044, on the Ferrari 412T2 cars driven by Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger in 1995.

Lamborghini Museum

In the late 1960s Nissan used a V12 in the Japanese Grand Prix and again in the early 1990s Group C races.

1991 Honda RA121E engine

At the Paris motor show 2006 Peugeot presented a new racing car, as well as a luxury saloon concept car, both called 908 HDi FAP and 908 RC and fitted with a V12 Diesel engine producing around or even surpassing 700 PS (515 kW; 690 hp). This took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2007 race, with a podium finish and very competitive performance, coming in second place after the similarly conceived Audi R10 TDI V12 Diesel originally developed for the 2006 season.

Large diesel engines

Two large V12 marine diesel engines

V12 is a common configuration for large diesel engines; most are available with differing numbers of cylinders in V configuration to offer a range of power ratings. Many diesel locomotives have V12 engines. Examples include the 3,200 hp (2.39 MW) 12-710 from Electro-Motive Diesel and the 4,400 hp (3.28 MW) GEVO-12 from GE Transportation.

Large V12 engines are also common in ships. For example, Wärtsilä offers V12 engines with various cylinder bore diameters between 26 and 50 centimetres (10 and 20 in) with power output ranging from 4,080 kW (5,470 hp) to 14,400 kW (19,300 hp). These engines are commonly used especially in cruise ships, which may have up to six such main engines.[10] In the past the largest medium-speed diesel engine in the world, Wärtsilä 64, was also offered in V configuration, and a single 12V64 prototype with an output of 23,280 kW (31,220 hp) was produced for an experimental power plant in the late 1990s.[11]

Railway V12 diesel engines specs

Railway Diesel engines with 12 cylinder developing 500 KW and more:
Manufacturer Type Bore Stroke Engine displacement RPM KW kg
MTU R43 170 195 53113 1800 2400 6000
MTU 2000 130 150 23892 1800 600 3000
EMD 710 190 210 71449 950 2500
GE 7FDL 220 230 104917 1050 2400
Cummins Qs 170 190 51751 1800 2200
MAN 2842 128 145 22390 2800 580
CAT 3512 150 170 36050 1800 1500
Wartsila 200

Tanks and other AFVs

Chrysler V12 Tank Engine

The V12 is a common configuration for tank and other armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs). Some examples are:


  1. ^ Nunney, Malcolm James (2007). Light and Heavy Vehicle Technology (4 ed.). Butterworth-Heinemann. pp. 13–14.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f  
  3. ^ M. Dörwald, The Automobile Commercial Vehicle Review, August 1904).
  4. ^  
  5. ^ Georgano 2002.
  6. ^ "2010 BMW 760i/760Li". Car & Driver (first drive auto review). July 2009. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  7. ^ "First Drive: 2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid". National post. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  8. ^ "2005 Audi A8 Review and Photos". New Car Test Drive. Retrieved 2011-12-06. 
  9. ^ Mort, Norm (2010). American Trucks of the 1960s. Veloce. pp. 41–44.  
  10. ^ Medium-speed engines, Wärtsilä, retrieved 2011-10-22 
  11. ^ "Diesels offer hot Competition", Power Engineering International 6 (7), 1 September 1998, retrieved 2011-10-22 

External links

  • Technical history of the Jaguar V12, Jag Web .
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