Time was, for those who appreciate form that follows function, creativity and, yes, even sculpture, racing engines were objects of beauty. Even inanimate, without the adrenaline fix of their sound and fury, they could make one pause a breath or two with wonder and nod with appreciation at their concept and fine engineering.
Gleaming cam covers with multiple inlet trumpets standing proud between them, superb castings and forgings, purposeful-looking superchargers, even machine-turned cylinder blocks – all stand out as examples of manual rather than digital manufacturing skills. Think of pre-WWII Alfa Romeos, Bugattis and Mercedes-Benz engines. Post-war, a racing straight six, be it from Jaguar, Aston Martin or Maserati, still today encourages a bystander to take time and study it. The 1.5-litre Coventry Climax and BRM V8s of the 1960s were little jewels.
Compactness was a highlight of Cosworth’s DFV, leading eventually to the amazingly light but powerful pre-hybrid V10 F1 units, all as pleasing to the eye as the ear.
Piled on top
So often now, however, particularly with the increased adoption of hybrid power in Le Mans Prototypes and F1, it’s difficult to even see the engines. All the paraphernalia of plumbing, wiring, monitoring and control devices, not to mention turbos and exhausts and all their associated heat shielding, is piled on top, for aero reasons.
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