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The Top 5 Cars with Strange Engine Choices

We are all familiar with the V8 bellow you would expect from a muscle car, the howling straight six of a fast BMW ,or the signature inline four pops and bangs from the back of a hot hatch. But, every now and then, manufacturers love to push the boat out when it comes to powertrains – sometimes with incredible results.

For this list, the breadth of vehicle knows no bounds. Be it supercars or silly hatchbacks, if it had a strange engine, it is surely in contention. We are considering everything from uncommon fueling to juxtaposition of engine against car size. So let us dive into the more questionable parts of automotive history.

#1 – Cizetta V16T

Yes, you did read the name right – no, you may have never heard of it. Effectively developed by a splinter cell of ex-Lamborghini Engineers in the late 1980s, the 20 V16Ts produced were the only cars created by the aforementioned Cizetta brand. You may have guessed from the name that what powered this rather indie supercar was an ultra-rare 16-cylinder engine. The unit was created by bolting together two period Lamborghini V8s into a single block to create a six-liter V16. This was mated to a five-speed manual, a transmission which, as you would imagine, often got chewed up under hard acceleration. Allegedly, though, the car would zero-to-60 in under four seconds … when it was working.

#2- Lancia Delta S4

The engine which powered both the rally- and road-going versions of the S4 was, on the face of it at least, nothing remarkable. It was a humble 1.8-liter I4. Though, the party piece is that the S4 was the first car to benefit from what is now known as ‘twincharging’. What that means is that it’s four-cylinder engine was both turbocharged AND supercharged. It initially suffered from the same hideous turbo-lag that all 1980s cars did because it is albeit huge turbo did not come on boost until 4500rpm. To solve the problem, Lancia opted to install an Abarth-derived supercharger which would provide boost at lower rpms before switching to the turbocharger at around 4500. The net result was an engine capable of producing 500 horsepower at its peak – all in a car which weighed less than a ton.

#3 – Saab 92

We miss Saab dearly; the company created some sensational cars over the years. The company’s madness and ingenuity remains unrivaled to this day; as does its lunacy, however. Way back in the 1950s, Saab produced a wonderfully-strange family car: known as the 92. Its main goal was, rather oddly, to be aerodynamically efficient – hence, its rather perplexed-looking face. The idea was that if the car was slippery enough, a smaller engine could be used – in this case a two-stroke motor producing around 20 horsepower. This was a problem in itself because a two-stroke mixes engine oil into the fuel mix. Sounds okay at first glance, but this meant the engine was only lubricated when the drivers foot was on the throttle. As a result, the engine tended to seize when going downhill. Fortunately, they did come to their senses as the 92’s successor benefitted from an extra cylinder and proper lubrication.

#4 – Mazda Cosmo

The Wankel Rotary engine has become synonymous with the Mazda brand. Be it the insane screeching four rotor found in the 787B Le Mans car or the more modern rotaries found in the RX7 and RX8, if you think rotary, you think Mazda. Though, its first application was in the far-humbler Cosmo – a futuristic two-seat sports car from 1967. Contrary to a traditional combustion engine which turns pressure from an explosion into upwards motion via a piston, which, in turn rotates the crankshaft, a rotary essentially cuts out the middleman by creating pressure in a circular motion. The early iteration produced 110 horsepower – more than enough to cement the Cosmo as a true sports car, despite its odd power unit.

#5 – 1981 Cadillac DeVille

This one is more than a little odd. The DeVille was a normal full-size family Caddy of the period – but, unlike the V8s which powered most of America’s boats of the day, the Eldorado (among other Cadillacs) received a V8-6-4. This was revolutionary technology, for the time – though, commonplace today: The engine was capable of shutting down two or even four cylinders at low speeds. Although, that makes the V8-6-4 ahead of its time, the engineering behind it was crude: meaning that consumers saw little and often no desired difference in gas mileage. As a result, the plug was pulled just three years later, in 1984. Great idea, poor execution – much like many 1980s US cars.