Thinking outside the box does not always constitute a brilliant design. While engineers may try to change the face of the automobile industry as we know it by redesigning or inventing a powertrain, not everything goes according to plan out there in the real world. Mazda’s rotary engines are a prime example of a bizarre engineering feat that truly swept out, all the way up until it came crashing to a standstill and got discontinued entirely. It was an amazingly clever work, but it was also horribly ineffective and few people knew how to work on them when things like apex seals started to wear.
Half a decade back, Car and Driver did this fun little piece on unique powertrains, where they included everything from tank engines to late 1700s oddities. Novelties aside, we typically remain focused on increasing cars over here at the Cheat Sheet; so we said to disregard all of the really bizarre stuff and focused on creating a list of cars that could have been corrupt at one point or another.
Probably the densest feature of this article is that this cheat sheet just scrapes the surface — there have been countless other cars throughout antiquity that have packed some seriously strange strength. But for us, those next ten engines were a cut above the rest, and even though they served (to an extent), it continues unclear as to whether any of their fame lives on in the cars we see now.
Although supercars and strange Frankensteins from the past centenary are to blame for a lot of the motors you will see today, note that ordinary vehicles are also quite susceptible to receiving bizarre powertrains. While the preponderance of the vehicles seen on the road over the years has been powered by run-of-the-mill machinery, the oddball generator has made an appearance on quite a few ordinary looking transports as well, starting with a Jelly Bean shaped minivan.
1. Toyota Previa
In 1994, Toyota did an odd thing and worked slapping superchargers on its 2.4-liter outfitted minivans. Since nobody supercharges a minivan, we had to combine this one on the list, as this engine was not only odd because it
had a blower (something Toyota is not widely known for), but in that, it highlighted a different mid-engine layout directly beneath the front seats. While the motor was sound in design, its positioning was not, and changing glitter plugs typically involved removing a passenger seat, carpet, and an access panel just to get to the damn thing.
2. Cizeta V16T
Oh what a mess this car was, and it became so abundant potential too! Originally teased in 1988, this Italian sports car offered a 560 horsepower, 6.0-liter motor that was not a V16 at all, but two
V8 engines that assigned a particular block and were attached at the hip by a timing case. To say that these things were complicated would be quite an understatement, and we don’t even want to think about what it would be like to track down a vacuum leak in one of these behemoths.
3. Mazda/NSU Wankel Rotary
The Mazda/NSU Wankel motor is perhaps the most popular engine on now cheat sheet. The first thought in the early 1960s by German engineer Felix Wankel. While the thought of a giant camshaft
flopping round inside an engine willy-nilly may have sounded like a poor design at first, it proved to be quite a hit for Mazda, as it took the idea and put it into full production for various decades. Although these lightweight engines were prone to premature seal failure, excessive heat soak, and quaffed gas, they packed one hell of a punch once equipped with a turbocharger like in certain variants of the iconic Mazda RX-7.