Best car engines do not mean best cars.
Nisan many years back made excellent car engines – which they still do. Ultra reliable, great performance but their bodies fell to pieces at the smell of sea air. Strangely enough I never saw this with Toyota – oh no, sure they rusted but their bodies just seemed to last that bit longer. Those were the days when everyone used to talk about Jap Crap. When the South Koreans first brought their products out there was also a fair amount of giggling behind the scenes – cars manufactured by the same country with the world’s largest shipyards. Not so funny anymore. See people sniggering about Samsung nowadays?
So where does this leave us – who makes the best powerplants?
Taking the car out of the equation, that is body, suspension, steering rack, brakes and electronics we now have a huge and beautiful range to go through. Camry only recently lost out in top selling cars in the north American stakes. The 3L V6 motor is still a great engine and ultra reliable – likewise the 2.2L. There are lots of variants world wide – the Camry has always been known as an exceptionally reliable car. Just see which cars are always needed for a taxi service is sufficient evidence.
Ford CVH Motor
Shooting back a few years – the Ford XR3/1600cc LE and all the variants – the 1600cc CVH motor. Known to do over 200 000 km without any problems they did have one major flaw, valve train design. Poor cam lube and high tension valve springs = quick cam wear. These engines were very noisy. Reliable yes. Because they are easy to tune and are reliable I have to give this engine a 3/5.
Golf GTI Mark I
Of course, as the XR3 was often the chosen one amongst the world’s teen street races the better known Golf Mk1 GTI I think was the better car and had the better engine, which came out standard 1600cc (1588cc) with a Bosch mechanical fuel injection system. The fact that it was rated as one of the best cars in the 80’s has to add credibility. I see many of these still driven around today and yes, their performance is still amazing. They can be picked up for a song but be careful of whom did the last engine overhaul Many of these, like the CVH were and still are ‘reconditioned’ by backyard mechanics, some good, some bad. The immense popularity of this car lead to stiff competition but the reality was that this Golf remained king – on the race track and off. Great appealing shape and an even better engine. Read Richard Hammond’s own beliefs and testimony on this car here. Parts are still easily obtainable and yes, cheap to boot.The engine in this car easily gets a 4/5 rating not because it was popular, not because it was reliable but because it was engineered to last.
Ford Essex / Cologne 2.5 / 3L
The Ford Essex / Cologne engine. What is there to say about these just simply wonderful motors? Easy to performance tune, parts are still available and there’s just thousands and thousands of them still out there – on the race track, in the wheat fields, running generators, powering boats and some say, if it was a 120 degree V it may have been used by the Wright brothers. All things considered, due to it’s popularity it should get a 3/5 but because of it’s versatility and durability I have to give it a 4/5.
The Audi Quottro 2.1L
The Audio 5 cylinder engine also became known for it’s many variants, specifically the 2 valves per cylinder of the WR, MB and 4 on the RR. Yes, the Quattro was known to outperform any other vehicle in rallies and off the track, also on the track mind you but what made this car popular as well in South Africa of course was our own racing ace, Sarel van der Merwe whom put this car on the map for us and for eternity. I list this engine here because it was known to be reliable (it had to be), here was an engine delivering in excess of 550HP from a turbocharged 2.1L engine in the mid-80s, which would pull a one ton vehicle from 0-60 m.p.h in about three seconds. Nowadays this benchmark is obtainable in formula one racers with natural aspiration 2.4L V8 engines running at 18,000 r.p.m. – sure the Quattro was turbo-charged but this was in the 80’s. Give that dog a bone and Audi Quattro 5 cylinders 5/5. No, these engines are not cheap to run – maintenance is high but you get what you pay for.
Ford Shelby Modular – High performance V8
As I mentioned earlier on, I am a fan of Ford so I need to give them some credit with their range of V8 powerplants. I won’t cheat here either – the entire listing is on Wiki to be found here. Looking for the world’s best engine can be easy as looking at the most popular cars and combining the power plant to the model. The engines listed here are known to be easy to work on, easy to modify (with exception to the Audi but there are other ways to skin a cat) and won’t break the bank. The BMW straight 6 turbo diesels are phenomenal engines – all of them, just as I like the Nissan V6’s and the SRVET 2L. Audi make some exceptional diesel engines as well. The list goes on and on. In South Africa all young boys and of course, real men, want American muscle. The big V8s. The smell, the torque, the incredible sound. I love Ford for this – yes there are other makes too (Chevy big blocks spring to mind) but I do believe that Ford, because of the Mustang, because of Steve McQueen, because of the movies – have become the dreamers collectible. Mine is the Mustang SVT Cobra or the Shelby GT500. There are no merit points here. 100% of my friends, family and even enemies may talk about the big engines with so small horses compared to our Italian brothers or more so, European development but we agree on one point – the Yanks make muscle cars with real engines. Engines that take a 100 000 ton ship across the ocean, engines that can pull Table mountain off it’s foundation and engines that just last for ever.
Parts-ring is dedicated to the sourcing and sale of parts. 100% to the Americans – the north American kind, for keeping the web alive with great information, great pricing and great know how on their species of car. We may all want to drive a Ferrari, maybe own one but the Americans make it affordable to drive a car with a difference.
Next: Local Racing in South Africa