OPPOSED PISTON HISTORY
As we saw in the last issue, American company Achates is reviving the opposed-piston-engine concept. Here is a closer look at where this design came from
In 1876, Nikolaus Otto, working with Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, patented the compressed charge, four-cycle engine, and nine years later Karl Benz developed what is generally recognised as the first modern car, with his ‘Patent Motor Car’ powered by a single-cylinder engine developing around 0.73bhp at 400rpm from its 950cc…
In between times, James Atkinson, an engineer from Hampstead, in North London, had invented several engines that he believed were much more efficient than the Otto four-stroke, the most notable of which was his differential engine with opposed pistons operating in a common cylinder and converting their linear action into rotary movement by a set of toggle joints. This meant that instead of the pistons ‘meeting the middle’ of the cylinder to be forced apart by one combustion, a complex series of valves and ports was used to provide combustion for each piston at either end of their strokes.
For many the Manx Norton is the epitome of the classic British racing motor cycle. For Patrick Walker of Works Racing its 500cc single-cylinder engine is both a passion and a fruitful business…
For young aficionados of MotoGP, it is hard to imagine that the top step of the Grand Prix motorcycle podium was once the preserve of riders of British motor cycles, and Nortons in particular. And even when the world of GP racing changed in the early 1950s when Gilera and latterly MV Agusta with their multi-cylinder engines started to dominate (and that’s without mention of Moto Guzzi and their other-worldly 500cc V8…), the humble single-cylinder Manx Norton continued to score decent results on the world stage and still win championships at national level. That is because sometimes on two wheels less is more. And a well sorted, lightweight single-cylinder engine sits more comfortably in a motor-cycle frame and thus imparts better handling and makes for a nimbler bike than a machine with a wide multi occupying the same space. Of course, don’t expect a top-flite classic racer on a Manx to trouble a modern 250bhp GP bike at Sepang, for example, but Marc Marquez on his Honda RCV may be surprised by how close one stuck to his tail around the Mountain section at Cadwell Park…
The classic-car boom has seen an upsurge in the number of ‘Porsche Specialists’ out there looking to cash in, but Neil Bainbridge’s BS Motorsport concern has been offering sterling Porsche service for more than three decades now, which is why he can count many satisfied customers from Germany among his clientele
Neil has come a long way from being a youngster in his native Kendal, Cumbria, in the early 1970s when he would wander past the local Porsche dealership, Parker & Parker (which is now the Kendal Porsche Centre), having purposely missed the bus home, and dream about the cars therein. He got a lot closer to them when he got a job cleaning the cars, but by now Neil was already on the road to being an engineer, having somehow managed to graft a scooter engine onto a bicycle that he had adapted for off-road use, while still using the Sturmey-Archer hub gears on the back wheel… If you can fix things and adapt things there is always an opportunity in the engine world and with some training at Lancaster College behind him, Neil headed south to Buckinghamshire to work for Steve Sadler at Autofarm, one of the first Porsche specialists in this country.
DUST TO DUST
It is a well documented fact, that try as we might, we all make mistakes – that is the human condition. If we are wise, we learn from these mistakes and call it experience. If we are smart, we don’t make the same mistake twice. Some cynics say that experience always come too late and after the event…
It is not uncommon to find that, due to their obsession, the costs in the case exceed the amount of the claim. I was involved in one case where the total claimed came to about £20,000, and the costs to more that £200,000!
Anyway, to the case in point! Henry Worthington purchased a Yank Tank – sorry, a rather wonderful Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am – when he was working in the USA. He was so taken with the car, that when he had to return to this country he decided to bring it with him, which he did. All was fine until one day he noticed that there were oil and water leaks from the engine. The vehicle by this time had covered about 100,000 miles. Accordingly, he took the vehicle to Americana Cars Ltd, the local specialist for this sort of vehicle.
ELECTRIFICATION – A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD?
As we have often alluded to in these pages, the migration – which has now accelerated to a stampede – to the electrification of road vehicles is being led politically. The same governments that guided us towards the diesel (and then hiked the tax to greater than that of petrol) is now demanding we all plug in, switch on and drive off…
There is no doubt that electric vehicles are brilliant at eliminating local pollution, even though the generation of electricity to power them may make their ‘net’ Co2 emissions a lot higher than they are (more of that anon). But that word ‘net’ comes up again which makes a complete mockery of manufacturers reducing the emissions of their vehicles.
The real issue is that companies like Tesla – who of course are dedicated to the production of ‘zero emission’ vehicles – are selling ‘carbon credits’ to other manufacturers to help bring down their ‘net’ emissions. So Tesla take an increase in theirs but not enough to get them up to the penalty level for Co2 outputs.
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