Hooniverse Asks: What Engine Would You Dig to Take Apart?

Have you seen any of the episodes of the James May show, The Reassembler? It’s oddly interesting, highly meditative, and an anathema to my own person aversion to putting things back together. I do enjoy taking things apart, but it’s the “reassembly is the reverse of disassembly” bit that kind of sets my yawns on autopilot as far as I’m concerned. Hell, when doing yard-work I’m even more keen to do the hedge-trimming than to be tasked with putting everything in the waste containers.
There’s a certain bliss to taking things apart. It’s perhaps related to the joy one receives opening a gift, or unboxing some new and eagerly awaited toy. When it comes to engines, well, I’ve taken apart my share. In fact, I have a BMC 1275 A-series that has been disassembled and balanced for more than a decade, just sitting in my garage awaiting new life.
That was an effort born from necessity as the 1275 will eventually go into my Sprite. There are a number of other engines that I would greatly like to take down to their baser elements, I just don’t have the money or room to do so. What about you, is there a particular automotive engine that you would just love to tear down? It’s a hypothetical question, so you wouldn’t have to actually put it back together after the fact.
Image: Pinterest

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43 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What Engine Would You Dig to Take Apart?”

  1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

    My first thought was the RC-166, Honda GP 250 six. But those are too fragile, valuable, and irreplaceable for a hack like me to touch. So I thought about a car engine; the Pontiac OHC six. In the end, I chose to split the difference in a way:

  2. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    Any contemporary engine–one with DOHC, variable valve timing, or even a Honda VTEC. There is some remarkable engineering even in today’s most work-a-day ic engines, and we would all benefit from observing their magnificence!

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      The current crop of small triples are amazing. I had a chance to examine a Nissan-Renault 800cc three cylinder longblock at AAPEX in 2006, and it was fascinating how efficiently everything was designed.

  3. GTXcellent Avatar

    Any pre-war in-line 8 cylinder or bigger engine holds a lot of mysticism to me. To pick just one, I guess I’ll go with a supercharged Duesenberg

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      Whew, that’s a doozy!
      (yes, I know)

  4. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    There are a few engines which are rare and valuable to the point where I will likely never get the opportunity to disassemble one. It is these engines that I would most dig to disassemble. Engines like a 1.5 liter Colombo V12, or a Chrysler twin regenerator gas turbine. I’m going to go belated Two Wheel Tuesday though, and say the NR750.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      Aw yeah, the V8 with just four cylinders. Or the V4 with two rods per oval cylinder. And 8v/cylinder.
      And revs. Whoooooooooooole lotta revs.

  5. nanoop Avatar

    There is a series of dissected engines in the German magazine Oldtimer Praxis, where they also point out the strange, the weak, and the ugly. This month it’s the Dino engine, but most impressive to me until now was the 2CV: no money but a lot of time lead to a simple but brilliant design.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      No distributor = more reliability.

  6. Sjalabais Avatar

    Stretching the outer boundaries of my skill level:

    1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
      dead_elvis, inc.

      That looks like a bit of Torchinsky fever dream.
      Which is to say, always entertaining.

  7. JayP Avatar

    Any of the VWAG VR engines.
    As long as I don’t have to put it all back… that genie isn’t going back in the bottle after I’ve messed.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      Under the same criteria that I don’t have to reassemble it, I vote Jag V12.

      1. nanoop Avatar

        It’s actually not that crazy, only tedious. The mechanic in Oldtimer Praxis 9/2015 claims they’re good for 300kmls.

        1. Rover 1 Avatar
          Rover 1

          Or more, low piston speeds reduce wear.

      2. smalleyxb122 Avatar

        As an owner of a V12 Jag, I just don’t want to have to take one apart.

        1. nanoop Avatar

          Also, the article stated that a) it’s not what Germans call “full throttle durable” (vollgasfest) without extra oil cooler, and b) how many rebuilds are required to reach the 300kmls….
          They also admire the low weight and the fact that you don’t have to adjust valve play too often (that is a pita though). The low strung power is an advantage wrt. reliability, they claim.
          Anything you would like to confirm or debunk?

  8. Alff Avatar

    One of my two Alfa 2.0 nords. Not because there’s any great mystery to it but because I’ve been putting off rebuilding the first one so long that the second has failed and now the car is inoperable.

    1. Lokki Avatar

      Inoperable? An Alfa Nord? No! Just taking a break between performances!
      Seriously – these are great engines. All aluminum, DOHC, HEMI-heads, sodium filled valves, five main bearings, forged steel nitrated crankshaft, seven quart baffled sump, wet sleeves, 6500 rpm Redline (factory stock), fuel injection, Venturi in the air box and a cold air intake system (factory stock). From 1987 on variable valve timing camshafts (VTEC before VTEC) https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4a9bbd351aa91db183a5915101f482a2c8fbc81de1638f0bfa2b6dc84231608b.jpg

      1. Alff Avatar

        You don’t need to sell me, I’ve recited the same poem many times. I just hope that engine number three proves a bit more reliable. I’ve had valves in the #1 cylinder fail in the last two. Makes me wonder if there isn’t a heat related issue in the design.
        VVT in these dates back to ’82 with mechanical actuation prior to ’86.

        1. Lokki Avatar

          I forgot to include the part about the all beef patties and the sesame seed bun though

  9. jeepjeff Avatar

    Jeep 4.0, but that’s just because I want to build one up as a junkyard stroker.

  10. Batshitbox Avatar

    Commer Knocker
    Supercharged 2-stroke opposed piston wakka wakka wakka

    1. Vairship Avatar

      So it’s basically a one-cylinder boxer engine 😉

  11. outback_ute Avatar

    Bugatti straight eight, I gather there are plenty of unusual details beyond the rolle bearing crankshaft.

  12. Windbüchse Avatar

    After 45 years of engine, transmission and ‘other’ wrenching, I never want to do this again, not with my ADHD….

    1. nanoop Avatar

      That’s definitely “other”: washer-retainer-sealing-washer-bearing-bearing tube-bearing, hard to memorize between looking at manual (shuffle over) looking at car…

    2. smalleyxb122 Avatar

      Serviceability was definitely not a priority when Jaguar designed that IRS, but while the exploded view is intimidating, any individual subsystem isn’t too bad.

      1. Windbüchse Avatar

        It was all bad when you showed up at the British Leyland parts counter looking for replacements for the nackered seals and lost shim keeping you from reassembly. “We may have some at the New Jersey warehouse, otherwise across the pond.” You were really screwed if the calipers were fried and scored (remember, inboard discs) and you needed to pay the rent that month….

    3. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      You’re not going to pull the differential apart and re-shim the clearances while you’ve got everything apart?

      1. Windbüchse Avatar

        Been there, done that – no T-shirts received….

    4. Alff Avatar

      Was it worth it? Whenever I evaluate getting a Jaguar this diagram goes in the negatives column.

      1. Windbüchse Avatar

        In the ’70’s probably not, todays crazy prices on E-types warrant it. I did 3 in the early ’70s when Jags were REAL cheap. I’ve always wanted an early ’60’s S-type, but the IRS has kept me out of the market – my time is too valuable now. It would take me 2 days to do the IRS and brakes, another day or two if the diff was nackered. There is a DVD (I have a copy) and several Youtube vids are available to see if its something you want to do. It’s not difficult, just dirty and tedious. If I could do it at 17, anyone can…..

        1. Windbüchse Avatar

          Probably. The vette dwg has the diff and brakes showing. The Jag has more fiddly bits that look alike and can be incorrectly stacked. The inboard disc brakes are either cooked and/or a greasy mess from the diff. You’ve got twice as many shocks and four times the springs to check.
          Now, ask me about wire wheel splines…..

          1. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            Yes, I was in a MK2 Jaguar that lost a wheel. Splines and wear.

          2. Windbüchse Avatar

            I had a wire wheel break 8 spokes in a pothole – damn thing was about an inch out of true with one of the spokes jammed into the hub making it a real joy getting the wheel off in a dark and stormy night…

  13. Maggie Dee Avatar
    Maggie Dee

    I’m no mechanic, so I need to start with something like a flathead or blue flame six. Then just teach me about supercharging:)

  14. James 58 Avatar
    James 58

    The Napier-Deltic would be fun for a while. Maybe as a retirement project. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napier_Deltic

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