V16 engine

A V16 engine is a v engine with 16 cylinders. Engines of this number of cylinders are not common.

A V16 engine is perfectly balanced regardless of the V angle without requiring counter-rotating balancing shafts which are necessary on large Straight-4 or counterweighted crankshaft like the 90° V8. In addition angles of 45° and 135° vees are optimal solutions, for even-firing and non-split crankshaft journals.

V16s have been used in certain, very few, luxury and high-performance automobiles, mostly for their smoothness (low vibration), since it is easy to make a V8 or V12 as large and powerful as desired in an automotive application, especially with automatic gearboxes.

Automotive history

Consumer automobiles

Howard Marmon had begun working on the world's first V16 engine in 1927, but was unable to complete the production Sixteen model until 1931. By that time, Cadillac had already introduced their V16, designed by ex-Marmon engineer Owen Nacker. Peerless, too, was developing a V16 with help from another ex-Marmon engineer, James Bohannon.

The Series 452 was the most exclusive model of the marque from January 1930 until 1940, with this type of engine. Two varieties were built. From 1930 to 1937, Cadillac used a 452 CID (7.4 L), OHV motor with a 45° V. For 1938, a new 431 CID (7.1 L) design was introduced for the Series 90, with a flathead valvetrain and an angle of 135°; this resulted in a much lower cowl height. The 431 was in many ways a superior engine, producing as much power as its immediate predecessor while being far less complex, had a stiffer crankshaft which aided durability and smoothness, and even had an external oil filter, a rarity for any car at any price in those days. However, it was never as popular or highly regarded as its 452 CID predecessor.

By contrast, the Marmon Sixteen was a 45° engine made almost entirely of aluminum. Like modern engines, it used pressed steel cylinder liners. Just 400 Marmon Sixteens were produced between 1931 and 1933.

In 1988, a joint business venture between Claudio Zampolli and musician Giorgio Moroder produced the Cizeta-Moroder V16T which featured a 16 cylinder engine in a unique configuration, but which was not a true V16. Rather, the engine was made up of two flat plane V8s, mounted transversely, with gearing between the two providing a single output from the center of the engine assembly to the longitudinal transmission. It began production in 1991 but only a few cars were produced before the company closed its doors for good.

Cadillac revived the V16 concept in 2003 with a General Motors concept car, the Cadillac Sixteen. This car used a 1000 hp (750 kW) OHV V16.

BMW also experimented with a V-16, eventually showing a 9-liter (~550 CID) version in the Rolls-Royce 100EX concept car, but it has been changed to a V12 for production and size reasons.


In auto racing, the V16 was used in Grand Prix by the mid-engined Auto Unions that rivalled the Mercedes from 1933 to 1938.

Alfa Romeo made two cars with V16 engine the Tipo 162 (135° V16) and Tipo 316 (60° V16). The first one was prototype and the 316 was used on 1938 Tripoli Grand Prix. The 135° degree engine was engineered by Wifredo Ricart and gave at 7800 rpm, specific output was said to be per litre.

It has only been used once in the post WWII era, by BRM. Most unusually, this was a 135° V 1.5 L supercharged powerplant. This engine was a failure despite being powerful—officially, it produced 550 hp (410.1 kW) but likely delivered around .

With such a small displacement The BRM V16 delivered this power in a narrow, very lofty, RPM range. This made the car difficult to handle, but the sound made by the small 16 cylinders has been described as 'unforgettable.' This problem was exacerbated because of the supercharging system adopted, for expediency BRM chose it to be designed by Rolls-Royce, drawing on their aircraft engines war experience, which used a two-speed centrifugal supercharger. Centrifugal superchargers are much more efficient than the more conspicuous Roots type, but, since centrifugal superchargers only deliver high pressure in a very narrow RPM band, even the Rolls-Royce designed two-speed gearbox used to move the supercharger was not enough to usefully broaden the power band.

Another major problem with the BRM V.16 was its dual ignition system - making it likely that the engine would be running on 4 or 8 or 12 cylinders for parts of the same lap. Another issue was the way in which the engine was installed, canted across the car in the horizontal plane alongside the driver; more than one driver finished or retired from race or testing with burns. At least one of the BRM cars survives and many of its problems would be solved by fitting modern solid-state ignition components.

Other applications

Another use for the V16 powerplant is in medium speed diesel engines. Here, manufacturers tend to work with a common cylinder size across a wide range of engines, and size the engine by the number of cylinders for different power requirements. Thus, many users of medium speed diesel engines such as railroad locomotives use V16 powerplants, including many EMD (Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc., formerly a GM division) locomotives. EMD's 16 cylinder two stroke diesel, with 710 cubic inches of displacement per cylinder (hence known as the 16-710), can produce over 4,300 horsepower. They are also popular for marine applications and for large emergency generator sets (which frequently use available marine engines, since weight is unimportant).

In 1939 Chrysler was contracted by the US government to create a new engine for use in fighter aircraft. Chrysler responded by designing an inverted V16, the IV-2220. They tried many designs before choosing a hemispherical combustion chambered OHV head. The big V16 was rated at . It was finally tested in June 1945. It was installed in the P-47 Thunderbolt in place of a radial engine. This airplane was designated the XP47H. The change in engine and aerodynamics increased the top speed from to . The war ended shortly, and the hemi V16 was never mass-produced, although the basic design and valvetrain setup live on in today's Hemi V8s.


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