The Most Awesomest Engine Ever!

The V8 Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) is a magnificent piece of engineering and is probably the engine with the most character. But before we get into that, a brief history: The first known V8 engine was built in 1904 and was called the Antoinette. It was built by Frenchman Léon Levevasseur for use in speedboats and airplanes. It weighed 86kg and had a whopping 37KW (50HP). In the same year, the V8 was put into small-scale production by Buchet and Renault for use in their airplanes and racing cars respectively. 031d5c33974d7b993f08a6b419bff12a

In 1905, the first V8 used in a motorcar was a 3.5L in the Rolls Royce V-8 however, they built three cars before reverting back to straight-sixes. Officially, the 1910 De Dion-Bouton was the first car to use the V8 in large quantities and the 1914 Cadillac ‘L-head’ V8 was considered to be the first mass-produced V8 engine. This engine was assisted by Cadillac’s pioneering use of the electric starter motor.

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Since then, the V8 engine flourished in popularity in a range of different sizes and outputs. In the USA, V8s were abundant and aided to the creation of various motorsports – the biggest being NASCAR (which pretty-much only Americans watch). Australia decided to throw their hat into the ring with Holden stuffing V8s into many of their cars, resulting in the popular V8 Supercars racing competition.

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The V8 became so popular that people started putting them into cars that really shouldn’t have them. Ford did this a lot. In South Africa, a company did it with the Mustang’s Windsor V8 in the Capri and called it the Capri Perana. Another one of these swaps was with the Sierra XR8 – an incredibly boring hatchback-sedan-type thing with one of the best noises I have ever heard. It’s absolutely glorious!

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Europe – not wanting to be left out – produced some of the best V8s in the world, with my absolute favourite being the M156 which was the first in-house engine from AMG. The glorious grumbly noise from the naturally-aspirated engine is just awesome! The same goes for the slightly tuned M159 in the SLS AMG (my all-time favourite car). BMW also have a good history with their V8s, with the most popular versions being in the E90 M3 and the M5 from the E39 generation onwards (excluding the E60 because of the impostor V10).

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Jaguar was behind a little bit, but eventually they caughtb the train with their AJ V8 engines which were even used by Ford. Morgan simply decided to ask for engines and thus got a contract with BMW for their 4, 6 and 8 cylinder engines. Finally, Aston Martin used the  Jaguar engines for its Vantage up until 2018 when they got AMG’s 4.0L for the new model. For the 2020 model year, one can order a V8 Vantage with a manual, making it the only manual application of the AMG M177. Awesome!

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Ferrari had their go with the V8 and it worked out brilliantly. From the 308 GTB to the new SF90 Stradale, the V8 engine (along with the symphonic V12) is the exploding heart of the Prancing Horse. Their naturally aspirated V8s are some of the highest revving road-car engines and everyone was suspicious when Ferrari announced they were going turbo-charged. It worked however, and it worked so well that people who drive the cars fitted with these engines say they feel no turbo-lag. The new SF90 has recently set the fastest lap of the Top Gear Test Track, beating the time set by a 488 Pista by 1.4 seconds. Granted, it has the same engine and power-output, but it comes with three extra electric motors, boosting it to 735KW (986HP), around 200KW more than the Pista.

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Maserati has also had its history with the V8, harking back to 1964 in the 5000GT. The best of the lot though is the Tipo F136 engine which was a Maserati/Ferrari collaboration. It was used in almost all Maserati’s between 2001 and 2019 – from the Coupe, Spyder and GranTurismo, to the Quattroporte. It was even put in the GranTurismo-based Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione and gorgeous Disco Volante limited production car. Ferrari used it in the F430, California and heavily altered in the 458. The best sounding applications of the engine however, are in the GranTurismo S and the Quattroporte S, where it is 4.7 litres of harmonious glory. I make a point of it to own a GranTurismo in whichever racing game it is featured in just to listen to the noise.

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As we all know, Volkswagen owns many, MANY different automakers – particularly Audi, Porsche and Bentley – which uses the same 4.0l Twin-Turbo V8 in their cars, albeit in different states of tune. The coolest applications being in the Audi RS6 Avant, RS7 and new Bentley Continental. Porsche boosts their version of the engine with additional electric motors in the e-hybrid trims for the Panamera and Cayenne, reaching an awe-inspiring 500KW out of it. My question thus is, why not put those versions in the larger Audi RS models? Imagine an RS6, RS7, S8 or even a new R8 with that much power.

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The USA is probably the V8 capital of the world with both the crappiest V8s ever made and the most powerful by far. The go-to engine for hot-rodding pretty-much anything is the Chevy LS3 6.2 N/A V8. It is hugely popular and really reliable with its straight-forward and simple design. However, the most popular V8 currently for sale is the Hellcat. A 6.2L Hemi with a HUGE supercharger sticking out the top producing a ridiculous stock power output of 526KW(707HP) and 850NM. Ask a tuning company nicely (and with money) and they’ll put an even bigger supercharger on bumping a 1000HP (750KW). Shocked emoticon. Luckily, we get the Hellcat here in South Africa, but only in the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, which is awesome, but costs a lot of money.

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To think, in the late 70s (during the oil crisis) you could get a 5.0L big-block with an ‘atmospheric’ 112KW. My 1.6L Turbo has more power than that. Even the 4.9L Turbo Trans Am used in the filming of Smokey and the Bandit II needed nitrous oxide boosting to get the desired power out of it. How sad it that?!

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Here in South Africa, we have a surprising amount of V8s to choose from – AMGs, Ms, RSs, Rs, SVs, SSs, GTs and VXs. A few years ago, you could even buy the coolest bakkie (pick-up truck), the awesome Aussie Chevrolet Lumina SSV Ute. It had a 5.7L and later a 6.0L with 270KW in stock form. However, if you look for one online now, many of them are supercharged and pushing 400KW (according to the seller that is). Now the only V8 bakkie you can get, is Toyota’s incredibly generic and vastly outdated Land Cruiser 70 with the 4.5L turbo Diesel V8 – producing a pithy 150KW and 430NM – for the astronomical price of almost a million Rand. My dad’s Hyundai Santa Fé produces approximately the same power from its 2.2L Inline-4 Turbodiesel and didn’t even cost a quarter of that!

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I’d like to someday soon own a V8, preferably one with 300 plus KW. I have looked around and one could get away with it for under R400K. In that budget, you could get something like a Chrysler 300C SRT, a BMW E90 M3, a Mercedes C63 AMG W204, an Audi RS4 B6, a Chevy Lumina SSV, a Jaguar XFR and even a Maserati Quattroporte (with a lot extra money for maintenance). For a little more than the budget, you could get a Ford Mustang, which would be awesome, as the Coyote V8 grumbles like an American V8 should.

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V8s should make you feel special. They should excite your inner petrolhead and make you permanently go BWAHHHH! For me, when I drive behind a car that has a V8 and the person driving leaves his/her right foot on the accelerator just a bit longer than socially acceptable, I get all giddy. The other day, I was walking in town when a Mustang GT and a Jaguar XKR had an impromptu sound-off when they each pulled away from the traffic light. It was marvellous! The low bellowing of the Mustang’s V8 reverberating off the building’s windows and the XKR’s raspy V8 a few pitches higher was absolutely magnificent. Those 40 or 50 seconds of unadulterated noise made my day. I drove back home in the best of moods. I can only imagine my mood the day I actually get to drive something like that.

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All this being said, the V8 is fast becoming an extinct species. Governments and environmental institutions are hammering automakers to cut down on their emissions and thus those automakers downsize their engines. This has been happening for the past decade and it is terrible. The beloved Audi RS4 now comes with a Twin-Turbo V6. Big American barges like the Ford F150 Raptor and Lincoln Navigator are fitted with EcoBoost V6s. Performance cars are mutating into shadows of themselves with smaller engines. An excellent example is the new Mercedes C63 AMG. A test mule has been spotted going around the ‘Ring, but no one knows what drivetrain it’s got. The most likely is a 4-cylinder. I’d be really surprised if it retains its V8.

This whole situation is saddening. Yes, I know it’s all to save the planet and I’m all for saving said planet, but ease up a bit on the sports cars. Pretty soon, we’ll all be driving around in electric toasters with grumpy faces, because it doesn’t make a noise or is very exciting to drive.

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The only good thing about all this is that we will still be allowed to drive old cars that make stupid noises and burns petrol in glorious explosions whilst we laugh maniacally at the sheer awesomeness that is the internal combustion engine. I know it will be around for a little while longer, but we petrolheads will miss it. Like you’d miss an old loyal dog from your childhood.

So in an effort to not sound too much like Jeremy Clarkson in his review of the V12 Vantage, I’m going to end with this; whilst the magnificence that is the ICE is still around, let’s burn as much fuel making stupid noises as we can, shall we?

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©2020 Michael De Kock Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking petrolhead nerd, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

The Old King is back, but is it Still the Best?

Good news! The new BMW M3 and M4 have been revealed and launched! Yay! I watched CARWOW’s video on it and I must say – both look good. The kidney grilles that put people off really look good on these cars and I personally hope they add them to more models – the 7 and the X7 would suit them.

Power comes from the new 3.0L Bi-Turbo Straight-Six, first launched in the X3 M and X4 M. Outputs are 350KW and 550NM for the ‘normal’ M3 and M4 whilst its 375KW and 650NM for the ‘Competition’ models. Currently, South Africa will only get the latter ‘Competition’ models, as is the case with M cars here. The M3 and M4 gets the same torque-converter 8-speed autobox just like with the M5, as well as BMW’s M X-Drive system. Just like the M5 and M8, you get the choice between 4WD and 2WD modes for when you wish to do some skids and ruin your tires.

Both cars also come with sports exhausts as standard in the ‘Competition’ guise, which sounds quite fruity on the video. Expect the pricing to be quite high, because it is a premium German product after all. Much is included in the price as standard, such as sportier suspension, the aforementioned exhaust and other features, however you’ll need to pay more if you want carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon trim on the exterior and M bucket seats.

The new ‘Isle of Man Green’ launch colour is quite different to BMWs of late, but rather surprisingly, I like it. Out of the two launch cars in the video, I was drawn much more towards the M3 than to the M4. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the new 4-Series as it looks like a mini-8er, but the M3 just looks cooler. Maybe it’s because the one in the video brags with the optional carbon pack and the front end is reminiscent of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio GTA, with the carbon intake slats on either side of the grille.

Apparently, orders are open and cars will be delivered in March next year. It’s quite a while to wait then. All-in-all, I really like both cars. The styling is excellent with the aggressive hood contours and rear wheel-arches protruding arrogantly. The M3 and M4 just look and sound like brilliant cars. We’ll have to see if they are still the benchmark for small, fast saloons when they get road-tested in a few months’ time.

CARWOW video: https://youtu.be/oLMJuwlJm-g

Chronicles of an Eight-Year-Old Beemer

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You might remember one of my very first blogs, Chronicles of a 21-Year-Old Beemer (https://michaeldekock.com/2012/06/29/chronicles-of-a-21-year-old-beamer) from eight years ago. In that post, I had dreams of turning my dad’s little Beemertjie into a grand tourer or off-roader and fitting it with some kind of forced-induction. Yes, I was very naïve. This happened back in June 2012.

In 2013, we sold the Beemer to a guy from Polokwane who was a gardener. Right before he drove off with it, I told him in my best impersonation of Liam Neeson that if he ever takes the car ‘Spinning’, that ‘I will find him…’ He stopped by a week later to pick something up and I saw that he changed the rims from black steelies with hub-caps to the E30’s alloys. I didn’t like it. I thought about that car every day for two years. I still think about it at least once a week. Most recently, I thought of how cool it would be as a convertible here by the sea where I could have used it as a beach buggy. Anyway.

In early 2014, we moved to Cairo, Egypt, for four and a half years and returned in August 2018. I was 22 already and had been dreaming of a first car since I was 17. Well, a year and a half ago (on the 22nd of January 2019 to be exact), I finally got my first car and as you could deduce from the title, it was also a Beemer. I would never have thought that I would actually get a Beemer as a first car!

As per petrolhead custom, I started by looking at all the cars that were far outside my budget and moved downwards toward the cheaper ones. Whilst looking at BMWs, Volvos, Mercs, VWs and others, I kept having this depressing feeling that I was going to end up with a Ford Fiesta, Suzuki Swift or that dreaded Toyota Etios. I didn’t much like that feeling. But I persevered. I stayed clear of the Hyundais, as I find them really boring, but I knew they would be stupidly reliable. I liked the Kia Rio, but the newer model was too expensive. I then realised how expensive VW Polos were. It’s ridiculous!

In the end, I decided that I like the F20 BMW 1-Series and the hatchback Volvo V40. I checked a few Volvos out and one BMW. They were slightly higher than my budget, but I kept at it. In the end, I found a listing on Gumtree for a blue BMW 118i manual, almost the same Liquid Metallic Blue that our old 316i was. I called the dealership – who was incredibly helpful – and we drove through the next morning. I checked the car out, took it for a test-drive and instantly fell in love. We went to pick it up three days later. (We were so impressed with the dealer’s service that my dad called the same sales-person directly a few months later and bought his Santa Fé through him as well).

So here we are, a year and a half later and the Beemer is awesome! Allow me to provide the specs: it is a 2012 BMW 118i Sports-Line manual, not M-Sport. (I don’t know why there are two sporty trims.) It has a 1.6L Inline-4 (like the 316i) with a turbo (unlike the 316i). It produces 125KW and 250NM of torque through a 6-Speed Getrag manual. The engine is a joint BMW-Groupe PSA (Peugeot) endeavour called the Prince engine (known as the N13 at BMW). In BMWs, they make more power that in PSA’s applications and unlike PSA’s cars, it is mounted longitudinally instead of transversely.

In my experience with the car, the acceleration is good, but not fast. It’s not bad, but it is the in-gear acceleration that is really impressive. In 3rd going 50kph, put your foot down and you’ll be at 80kph really quickly. The cool thing about the transmission is that the gears are really long, so you can do 100km/h in 2nd if you want to. You can also short-shift into 6th doing 50km/h. As with many cars, the top gear – 6th in this case – is the economy gear, so it takes a while to accelerate when putting your foot down. However, in Sport Mode, shift down to 5th and you’ll be breaking the speed-limit in no time – not that I do that a lot, but I had two tickets in the first two months to show for this experiment.

I do have some complaints about the car though. The first not being a complaint with the car, but rather the person who specced it when they ordered it. It doesn’t have Bluetooth. The button is there and it looks like the previous owner used it, but it doesn’t work. I cannot find anything in the i-Drive system pertaining to Bluetooth either.

Another complaint is towards BMW. The Prince engine is relatively small and turbocharged, so you would think that it is relatively fuel efficient? Wrong. It is much thirstier than I thought it would be and much worse than what BMW claimed. Though I don’t drive all that much and a tank still lasts me around 450km with town driving.

It recently had its first service since I bought the car and I saved up quite a bit in case it was going to be ridiculously expensive, with it being a premium German automotive product. I was pleasantly surprised. It cost about a third of what I budgeted and everything seems to be fine.

All-in-all, I absolutely love my car. Every time the garage door is open, I catch glimpses of it parked there. When I drive it – even when I’m just cruising through town at 30-40kph in 4th – I love every moment in it. Many days I still cannot believe that I actually have a BMW as a first car! I love the feeling. It drives awesomely, it’s a pleasant and dynamic-feeling and it is rear-wheel-drive! I know in the real world it doesn’t really matter what the drivetrain is for most cars, but for a petrolhead it does. I dislike driving on gravel or dirt roads as I had a bad experience once, but when I do find myself on one, I cannot help but dump the accelerator and feel the back-end kick out. It is an awesome feeling. I just wish I could get access to a skidpan…

 

©2020 MICHAEL DE KOCK

 

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking nerd, petrolhead, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

Car Names: Magnificent and Boring

I’ve been thinking a lot about names recently, specifically car names. Most car manufacturers use names to distinguish between the various models of cars they produce. However, some carmakers are so exclusive that they just assume that you know their cars. Manufacturers such as Bentley and Rolls Royce. These two carmakers do no tell you what model their cars are, so if you are a non-car-freak, then you wouldn’t have a clue if it’s a Bentayga, Ghost or Silver Shadow. I love this.

Then you get carmakers who give their cars silly names, for instance, the Opel/Vauxhall Adam. Seriously? Adam? Where’s Eve? There are also those companies in China that blatantly copy popular carmaker’s models like the Range Rover Evoque. In China, there is a car called the ‘Land Wind’ which looks exactly like an Evoque. And there is an X5 which isn’t an X5, but which is an X5. BMW even sued the company over their non-X5 X5 and lost, because the court said that the ‘CEO’ (non-X5 X5) doesn’t look at all like an X5. (It does.)

But back to the topic at hand. Names are important. It will have to stand the test of time, and many have. Toyota and Nissan have accomplished this with the Supra and GT-R badges and Ford has done even better with their Mustang. Dodge has their Charger, Chevy has its Corvette and Lada has its Niva. (The last one is just for sh*ts and giggles.)

Some of the most unimaginative names are probably from the Germans. Yes it is all in the name of efficiency and such, but it’s really boring. 1-Series, 2-Series, 3-Series, A-Class, B-Class, C-Class, A1, A2, A3. It’s so boring. And in their sport models they just add M, AMG and RS respectively. It the same with Jaguar and Volvo with the XF, XJ, E-Type, XC90, V60 and S90.

Now, I have to say that my favourite car name is probably the Atom from Ariel. It is awesome! Imagine sitting in a British pub and you and your mates are talking about the cars you drive. “Yeah, I drive a Vauxhall Maloo GTS” and “I drive an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde” (another awesome name) and then you come along and say, “I drive an Atom”. A freaking Atom! How cool would that be?!

Now, if I ever had a car company of my own and I was in charge of naming the models, I would go the same way as the Germans. Regardless of what the company’s name is, the models will be correspondent to amount of cylinders the engine ha, i.e. 4, 6, 8, etc. Then, depending on aspiration, it would receive a T/TT (turbo/twin-turbo) or an S (supercharged).

The normal, everyday model would probably be the (company name) 4T or 4TD and the big supercar being the 12TT.

So yes, even though I went on about how boring some car manufacturers’ models are, I would also go that way.

(Yes, I am boring. My favourite colour I grey, for Pete’s sake!)

 

 

Four Litres for Everyone

Today I would like to talk about the three big German automobile manufacturers. This excludes Volkswagen, but also doesn’t as Audi is owned by them. The problem I have with them is the fact that their new performance V8s, respectively from Rennsport, AMG and the M-Division, are almost the same.

Audi was the first to introduce their engine a few years ago in the RS6, RS7 and S8. AMG introduced theirs in the AMG GT as a replacement to the brilliance of the M156 and M159 engines. The M156 is my favourite engine and I would put it in an older Merc if I could.

Anyway, these manufacturers used to have diversity in their performance engines by having big 5.0L V10s, 6.2L V8s and 4.2L V8s – all naturally aspirated. These are brilliant engines. I actually have been in an RS5 doing lots of revs on a very short piece of road.

Now we will have three executive saloons with the same displacement engines. Not to mention that this is from the three biggest competing manufacturers. Now I understand the reason behind it all. The respective regions have their own emissions regulations and so forth, thus manufacturers are trying to get as much power as they can out of smaller engines. Heck! Volvo is saying they want 400+KW out of four-pot engines!

I am for saving the planet and all that, but these are cars – things that make people like me very happy. My mother just rolls her eyes and smiles when I put my foot down in our 3.0L V6 Pajero. It is not the best sounding car in the world (it sounds like a hair-dryer at low speeds), but hearing the engine work at high revs makes me happy. Having these smaller engine cars will be better.

My question is just, won’t it be boring?