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Old 28th July 2013, 23:05   #1
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Default Horizontally-opposed engines: Reflections

I remember reading the scathing phrase "God-fearing inline four" in CAR magazine back in the late 80s when it was at its peak. I'd never quite thought of an engine like this before, but it is a phrase I thought about for a long time and have used myself many times to describe the mundane, cheapest design of engine. A car's engine is, for me, its heart. It may also be its soul, too. Without doubt a good engine can make an otherwise indifferent car something to desire, and a good engine in a good design of car often makes for a classic which everyone wants. A poor engine ruins any vehicle, unless the rest of the machine is equally awful but has (strangely) endearing properties such as longevity and an ability to be abused.

We rely on our motor cars today for so much, we may spend as much time in them as we do with our wives or girlfriends, many borrow money to buy a rapidly-depreciating asset which is harming the planet, the air we breathe and the health of everything on Earth. They are our expensive mistress, which we have seen improve and evolve through the 20th century. Today I think we're in a period of stagnation where engineering has come to a halt and accountants design your machine. Worse still we are told the internal combustion engine, the living and breathing, whining powerplant of the car is likely to be replaced with an almost silent electric motor, which has no character, no foibles, no ability to be tuned, no musical sound.

Engines are growing smaller in cars. The first infernal combustion engines were small, with a power output which would barely register with today's drivers. Compared with steam cars, early ICE cars were noisy and the engines took up a lot of space. (They still are/do, but arguing steam power is yet to have its day in the motor car is a subject for a different thread!) They quickly grew and increased in output, reliability and refinement until by the 1910s the Rolls-Royce 40/50 h.p. (more commonly known as the Silver Ghost) had a displacement of seven and a half litres or 453 cubic inches. Today an atmospheric 1.4 litre engine will give a similar output, albeit with more and less pleasant noise but better fuel economy.

By the 1960s you could buy a car which had a refined, economical engine which would easily cover 300,000 miles without problem (the valves may need reseating at the point the cylinder head is removed for a new gasket), found under the huge aluminium bonnet of a CitroŽn DS. This same engine had first been used without a cross-flow cylinder head from 1934 and it remained in production for use in motor cars until 1990 - the original power output had been 32hp in 1.3 litre form, which had increased to 2.5 litres and 170 hp. The same engine could cope with 300 hp with no modifications or loss of reliability, such was its strong design. It even lasted on in diesel form powering a PSA delivery van/motorhome right up to the end of the century. It is good to own cars where you know the engine will never wear or cause bother, so long as you change the oil and filters.

By the 1980s an engine was developed which lasted even longer and which was more refined at high revs. It was a diesel, even if it didn't sound like one and revved almost like a petrol engine. The Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star was pressed into its valve cover. The OM602/3 and later OM605/6 have already entered the world of 'one of the best real-world engines ever' - people have even pulled the petrol engines out of coupes to be replaced by this fine motor.

Turbocharging - exhaust-driven supercharging - and fuel injection became fashionable through the 1980s in Europe and made for some very quick cars with total usability and reliability, helped by the use of simple electronics to time the spark and increasingly to run the fuel supply as well.

This was the beginning of the engine with multiple sensors, computers, expensive fault diagnosis and wires running everywhere - and possible complete engine shutdown if a sensor fails. At some point the performance-reliability improvement was overtaken by the rapidly increasing complexity of the management system and is the point at which I see the beginning of the end of engine as we have known it - high-quality engine designs have been homogenised into just a couple of mainstream designs designed for profitability above all else.
Cynicism had taken over - why build anything to your best ability when it is putting your company out of business. American and British makers had long been aware of this, the Germans were the last to catch on. Pre-programming a chip to stop working after a pre-determined number of calculations is perhaps the ultimate in cynical design, but it is also the least costly. Manufacturers are well-known to spend tens of millions engineering in obsolescence.

More powerful engine management systems have allowed for massive outputs, especially from turbocharged diesel engines, which in turn has made the engineers a little lazy in allowing vehicle mass to grow a little on the lardy side.

What has this resulted in, in the early part of the 21st century? Large, heavy cars with almost uniform engine layout but huge power outputs. Evolution appears to be standing still, with new cars having to sell themselves on such refinements as bluetooth integration and USB dashboard sockets to allow connection of your MP3 player to the car's sound system, while they stick varying shapes and sizes of rubber in the suspension, steering and subframes to make it feel more refined than it really is.

Having driven cars with much less power but much sweeter engines, more direct, honest driver feedback and lower handling limits, I know which I would choose, if driving enjoyment rather than commuting is the goal.

As anyone who has driven any car with a horizontally-opposed piston layout well knows, the benefits of laying an engine low down and having its reciprocating masses balance each other out makes for a very smooth, fuss-free engine at any speed. One of the most favourite cars I have ever used extensively was a little Alfa Romeo SudSprint 1.3 with 95hp, built in about 1982. The engine would power rortily up winding rural roads with a free-revving joy unknown to even a sweet little Honda inline four, yet on a long high-speed trip it would sit at high revs with no annoying vibrations or boom, completely at ease with itself. It was also economical, even with twin Weber carburettors. Boxer engines are usually awesome for long journeys - you get out at the other end less fatigued. But they are more expensive to make, hence their almost complete disappearance.

Young people are increasingly turning away from the motor car in Britain and in Europe - it is not seen as desirable by them, with over-regulation, over-taxation and clogged roads helping form this logical decision. Perhaps it is because the cars themselves, although better on paper, do not excite and enthuse people as they once did. Maybe it is the lack of room for improvement combined with their over-complexity and user-unfriendliness under the bonnet. One thing is for sure - engines are mainly efficient but very dull.

Enjoy your cars while you can and don't be taken in by 'newer is better'. It is often only better for the manufacturer and salesman - although the Tata Nano is perhaps the exception with genuinely fresh thinking and even an engine which is more characterful than the 'God-fearing inline four'.

Last edited by FlatOut : 28th July 2013 at 23:22.
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Old 29th July 2013, 08:02   #2
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Default re: Horizontally-opposed engines: Reflections

AFAIK Horizontally opposed had a problem of higher oil ring wear than inline. The Subaru/Chevy Forestor was a lovely piece of machine but had lots of reports of this problem.
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Old 29th July 2013, 18:42   #3
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Default re: Horizontally-opposed engines: Reflections

If I am not wrong, the Beetle had a horizontally opposed engine configuration. So do some of the BMW bikes.

I think that the horizontally opposed engines are best suited for air cooling as they give more area for the fins, and more air flow, while if you water cool them, then the water jacket will be larger.
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Old 29th July 2013, 19:28   #4
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Default re: Horizontally-opposed engines: Reflections

That's very neatly penned down, was a good read and spoke volumes of the current scenario.


[quote=Aroy;3193110]If I am not wrong, the Beetle had a horizontally opposed engine configuration. So do some of the BMW bikes.
quote]

BMW has gradually started shifting from Opposed twins to Inline fours, parallel twins and even single cylinder one's now.
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Old 29th July 2013, 20:58   #5
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Default re: Horizontally-opposed engines: Reflections

That FlatOut will like flat engines is a given.

Though I like the mechanical balance of the boxers, detail developement (esp mounting methods which mask out the vibrations, and advances in NVH control) mean that the extra cost of a boxer is really not justfied. Low CG - tilt the inline.

When it comes to image (and in todays world, it is image which sells), boxers rank below the I6s, V8s, and of course the V12s.
Ground effect effectively killed the boxer in F1, and with it, top of mind recall was limited to the Beetle, and Porche. Top of mind association of Subarus is with its 4x4, not boxers.

Alfasud - brilliant design, shoddily built (Unskilled workers in a new job creation factory in Naples, IIRC). Does one get running examples?

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Old 30th July 2013, 00:56   #6
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Default re: Horizontally-opposed engines: Reflections

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Originally Posted by Sutripta View Post
That FlatOut will like flat engines is a given.

Though I like the mechanical balance of the boxers, detail developement (esp mounting methods which mask out the vibrations, and advances in NVH control) mean that the extra cost of a boxer is really not justfied. Low CG - tilt the inline.

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Sutripta
Indeed it is true that not only does FlatOut like flat engines, he adores them! And also enjoys going flat-out, there is something good for the soul when your right foot is buried in the carpet!

This is one of my reasons for appreciating the little CitroŽn 2cv, you can drive it flat-out almost everywhere, with just 30hp in the form of a jewel of an engine - a 602cc all-aluminium boxer twin. Driving a flat-six Porsche costs a lot more and probably the loss of your licence in Britain. The 912 is the interesting Porsche which so many overlook.

Covering up imperfection to mimic perfection is never going to come close to the real thing, sadly. Any inline four cylinder engine is a lowly beast of burden in my book, no matter how good it may be. I have had Honda fours which rev to the skies and spin very smoothly as well as hugely-powerful turbo-charged large capacity fours with a lot of metal in them which never rev much above 3500 (4000 is the nasty spot of any inline four, unless heavily disguised) - these were the very best but cannot compete with an engine which is of a superior design. The latest cars' inline fours are barely audible and certainly set up very few sympathetic vibrations elsewhere, but they sound like a food mixer in the next room.

Straight sixes and V12s are of course well-balanced (I have owned and driven cars with both types) and smooth, but they simply do not compete with a horizontally-opposed layout, in my books. The faster an inline six, a vee six, vee eight or vee twelve revs, the more you are aware of it. With a good flat twin, flat four or flat six this simply doesn't happen - the engine can be revving at its maximum yet retains splendid balance which over a four or five hour journey makes a huge difference to the driver's composure.

I have been spoiled by the French boxers - they are beautifully smooth and extremely strong engines which rev to the skies, but my lovely little Alfa was equally fantastic in many ways, the rest of the car utterly charming and so full of style. (One reason I am fond of old CitroŽns is that from the 1930s to the 1960s an Italian was hugely influencial in their design and engineering.)

My OM603 engines (inline six diesels, the very best Mercedes have ever made in my view) will sit at near to maximum revs at 110mph all day long, with a delightful, refined and purposeful Teutonic hum emanating from the direction of the three pointed star perched on top of the bonnet's leading edge. Up and down through the revs it produces a stirring sound and is so very smooth. A Jaguar V12 is even more refined, far better than anything BMW came up with in the years to follow. Yet you are still aware of the revs - the massive counterweights on the crankshaft are spinning fast and they make their presence known. This is what negates the huge forces generated by a bank of pistons whopping up and down, all in a line. With opposed pistons, you do not need these great lumps of steel spinning away, the pistons cancel each other out. It is a very neat engineering solution, which no block of rubber or contra-rotating shaft can come close to matching.

At 5000 revolutions a minute, your engine's crankshaft will have revolved a million times after three hours and twenty minutes, with every revolution creating massive vibration from the inline pistons and the explosions they are harnessing, conrods, gudgeon pins, crank throw and whatnot reversing their direction of travel every fraction of a second, with the lump of counterweight on the crankshaft attempting to minimise the worst of it, but introducing more inertial changes and vibration of their own. Contrast that with two pistons complete with exploding mixture atop them, conrods, gudgeon pins and crank throws which are in perfect reciprocating harmony, moving together then apart in a beautiful balance of mass and inertia. The crankshaft is free of counterbalances, it is a lot shorter than any inline 4, 5 or 6 and so is lovely and stiff - a flexing, twisting crankshaft is the root of much unpleasantness in many an inline lump.

The add-ons to minimise the inherent vibration in an inline design create their own vibration and lack of harmony - and they are a massive compromise in a way few consider. You can try to alleviate the vibrations caused by reciprocating mass but the force of the exploding mixture pushing the piston down alters according to the power being developed and so can only be 'balanced' for a given force, or a certain amount of right foot. With opposed pistons, this is yet another case of vibration which is absent through better design.

PS about the only place to find an affordable Sud or SudSprint is Australia - http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-cars-van...alfasud/c18320
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Old 30th July 2013, 20:50   #7
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Default re: Horizontally-opposed engines: Reflections

Hi,
Don't get this.
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlatOut View Post
You can try to alleviate the vibrations caused by reciprocating mass but the force of the exploding mixture pushing the piston down alters according to the power being developed and so can only be 'balanced' for a given force, or a certain amount of right foot. With opposed pistons, this is yet another case of vibration which is absent through better design.
A worked out example with say an I4 vs H4 would be enlightening.

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Old 30th July 2013, 21:28   #8
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Originally Posted by FlatOut View Post
As anyone who has driven any car with a horizontally-opposed piston layout well knows, the benefits of laying an engine low down and having its reciprocating masses balance each other out makes for a very smooth, fuss-free engine at any speed. One of the most favourite cars I have ever used extensively was a little Alfa Romeo SudSprint 1.3 with 95hp, built in about 1982. The engine would power rortily up winding rural roads with a free-revving joy unknown to even a sweet little Honda inline four, yet on a long high-speed trip it would sit at high revs with no annoying vibrations or boom, completely at ease with itself. It was also economical, even with twin Weber carburettors. Boxer engines are usually awesome for long journeys - you get out at the other end less fatigued. But they are more expensive to make, hence their almost complete disappearance.

Having said all of that I would still prefer my Jaguar XJR Supercharged V8 over the very first car I owned, a VW Beetle with a flat engine. Maybe the engine was in theory better balanced than a V8, but I don't think it's a contest which car leaves you less fatigued. And the Beetle was about as fuel efficient as the Jaguar too.


The AlfaSud was a nice little car, but boy did those thing rust. Very few left these days.
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Old 30th July 2013, 22:20   #9
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^^^
Neither being made in France, this would be an unbiased comparison, with no one objecting!

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Old 31st July 2013, 04:44   #10
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Having said all of that I would still prefer my Jaguar XJR Supercharged V8 over the very first car I owned, a VW Beetle with a flat engine. Maybe the engine was in theory better balanced than a V8, but I don't think it's a contest which car leaves you less fatigued. And the Beetle was about as fuel efficient as the Jaguar too.
As people may have noticed, I haven't mentioned the VW flat four engine - some may rave about it, I don't. The worst example of a flat four, ignoring Lancia's ill-fated disaster - they had an engine-wrecking inbuilt fault. But comparing a sublimely fast 1990s Jaguar executive saloon with a slow, minimalistic people's car from the 1930s is hardly a realistic basis on which to judge the relative merit of engine layouts. It would make more sense to drive a Subaru SVX back to back with your Jag for a more meaningful judgement of engine layout re. refinement, wouldn't you say Jeroen?

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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlatOut
You can try to alleviate the vibrations caused by reciprocating mass but the force of the exploding mixture pushing the piston down alters according to the power being developed and so can only be 'balanced' for a given force, or a certain amount of right foot. With opposed pistons, this is yet another case of vibration which is absent through better design.
Hi,
Don't get this.
A worked out example with say an I4 vs H4 would be enlightening.

Regards
Sutripta
If anyone on this forum can calculate the rocking couple generated by the exploding mixture in a given inline 4 cylinder engine of x bore, y stroke, z revolutions/min at w% throttle opening and with a quoted compression ratio of c:1 then I will be very interested. I certainly couldn't work out the figure!

The point being, this is a changing couple according to load and revs so can not be compensated for like the known and constant (according to speed) reciprocating mass of the piston etc. can be. I've no idea if this is the case but would suppose that the design would take an average figure and calculate the balance accordingly.

With a flat engine this couple will vary in the same way but the equal and opposite motion of the pistons will cancel it out. Design at its best, you eliminate a problem rather than trying to mask it.

You could produce reams and reams of pages of computations, but the only way to appreciate this for real is to drive a long distance in two broadly similar cars, one with a boxer engine layout, one without. The contrast with an inline 6 and flat 6 is less, since the inline 6 isn't rough like a four. But there is an ease with which the boxer revs fast and constantly which simply isn't there with an inline engine. It is difficult to explain - take a car round the block or ten miles up the autobahn and back and the difference may only seem to be in character. But after four or five hours at the wheel, the difference - for me - is huge. There is something about the boxer engine which has a calming effect on the driver. It's relaxed, cool, unstressed.

Hope this is of some help.
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Old 31st July 2013, 11:01   #11
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But comparing a sublimely fast 1990s Jaguar executive saloon with a slow, minimalistic people's car from the 1930s is hardly a realistic basis on which to judge the relative merit of engine layouts.
No, it is exactly my point. We can rave about the technical superiority of these flat engines, but at the end of the day modern engines have overcome any technical shortcomings they might have, in theory, over these flat engines.

You just don't feel engine vibrations in a modern car. If you do, there is something wrong. So these 'relative merits' have no meaning in the real world anymore. Free revving? Power or torque will sort you etc. etc.

It all sounds a bit like the Princess and the Pea to me.

Jeroen
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Old 31st July 2013, 16:04   #12
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By the 1960s you could buy a car which had a refined, economical engine which would easily cover 300,000 miles without problem..

Cynicism had taken over..

Young people are increasingly turning away from the motor car in Britain and in Europe - it is not seen as desirable by them, with over-regulation, over-taxation and clogged roads helping form this logical decision.

Enjoy your cars while you can and don't be taken in by 'newer is better'
Dear flatout sir,

Please accept my heartfelt gratitude for taking out time and penning down another beautiful post.

What you have written is a 'love letter' to the engine. As I have already mentioned, I do not have much technical knowledge with regards to the IC engine. But, I know what you are on about.

I would like to give an analogy:
I happen to be a student doctor. During my years of basic training, I came across several renowned teachers who were clinicians par excellence. The likes of which made Indian doctors so famous around the world. I was very inspired by them and decided that I would like to be one of them. One of the biggest laments of these clinicians was the death of the stethoscope. They always boasted about how easy it was to diagnose a cavity in a lung by just listening to the stethoscope, or how easily they can pick up a particular valvular disease just by the sound of the murmur etc. So, I spent hours, months and two years going around the hospital and hounding all the nurses and patients just so that I could also become one of the greats. I spent hours listening to various recorded cd's of these sounds. At the end of the 2 years, I was nowhere near. I realized then, that the demographics had changed. My teachers learnt on patients who used to come with diseases in their end stages, when it was relatively very easy to hear those classic sounds on the stetho. Today, such patients are becoming a rarity. Patients rush to a doctor at the very onset of their symptoms, when the sounds will be muffled and confusing (in India, its still much much easier to find terminal cases with such classic sounds though, but by and large, they are becoming lesser). I will reach the stage of my teachers, but it will take me much longer.
Most of the younger gen of doctors have grown up, becoming more reliant on machines for their diagnoses (exceptions are always there). More reliance on machines means that your hospital bills will shoot up, you will need a multitude of experts to analyze different things. The clinical acumen is dying slowly but surely. Does that mean that the new gen docs are no better than their teachers? No!
It's just that the society now demands things to be done differently. I have to adapt to the changing society as well. The ideal thing to do would be to find that 'definite balance' between clinical acumen and using machines to aid the diagnoses. But that is easier said than done. We are now living in an era where medicine has advanced by leaps and bounds, and in general the treatments are becoming standardized as well all over the world. Its becoming easier to detect diseases earlier and take preventive measures for the same, all thanks to the same machines.

The entire reason for giving this analogy was that, the same thing is happening with respect to engines as well. Yes, the flat engines may have been cleverly engineered, and maybe even far superior than the modern ones. But the world no longer demands their need.

Yes, I am also getting the same feeling that today cars are being designed by the accountants and financiers more than the engineers. But, that is what the world wants.

You may argue that we are not going forwards anymore, and that we may even be regressing. Yes, but change happens to be the only constant in the entire world.

My father believes very strongly that one must always change. For better or worse, that doesn't matter. The greatest enemy of human mind is stagnancy.
Forget about anyone else, I am myself not convinced yet about this statement yet. But, what I do know for a fact is that nothing good ever lasts long, and nothing bad lasts forever.

The phrase 'newer is better' is more of a marketing gimmick (must be coined by a genius nonetheless). We are the best judges of what we want. A car, which may be pathetically designed and built maybe suiting the needs of a certain gentleman perfectly. I am not the one to judge.

I hope I am able to convey my thoughts.
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Old 31st July 2013, 20:43   #13
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As people may have noticed, I haven't mentioned the VW flat four engine - some may rave about it, I don't. The worst example of a flat four, ignoring Lancia's ill-fated disaster - they had an engine-wrecking inbuilt fault.
We were talking of balance. Anything different in the VW engine on that count?



Quote:
The point being, this is a changing couple according to load and revs so can not be compensated for like the known and constant (according to speed) reciprocating mass of the piston etc. can be.
....
With a flat engine this couple will vary in the same way but the equal and opposite motion of the pistons will cancel it out. Design at its best, you eliminate a problem rather than trying to mask it.
The H4 has simultaneous power strokes on opposite banks?

Quote:
I've no idea if this is the case but would suppose that the design would take an average figure and calculate the balance accordingly.
Eager to know the definitive answer.

Quote:
Hope this is of some help.
What do you think?

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Old 31st July 2013, 22:03   #14
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You just don't feel engine vibrations in a modern car. If you do, there is something wrong. So these 'relative merits' have no meaning in the real world anymore. Free revving? Power or torque will sort you etc. etc.

It all sounds a bit like the Princess and the Pea to me.

Jeroen

!!! This made me smile broadly - you may be right, Jeroen, I could well be far more sensitive to a motor car than the average, but what is the point of having a motoring forum if nobody discusses the nuances and finer points of motor vehicle engineering and if nobody dares to question the status quo, pointing to the real reasons behind industry decisions, rather than the ones their PR departments churn out?

Back in the 80s and 90s there were two widely-read motoring magazines in the UK, one of which sold all over the world because of these same traits. This one was called CAR magazine (as I'm sure you know) and even had the makers of cars whose products it dared criticise completely remove their advertising from their pages. The other was 'What Car' and a cynical attempt to convince the masses they were up on the 'inside line'. Today the BBCTv programme 'Top Gear', which for all its stupidity and childish antics does actually tell it how it is, albeit in a very digestible format. Magazines today are too concerned about their advertising revenues.

As the prince knew all too well, there are plenty of people masquerading as 'princesses' in the motoring world - only a very few really know their stuff and can appreciate the finer points.

I would happily zoom across Europe in your XJ, but if offered a broadly similar car with a flat six I would prefer it. It's surprising how many noises and vibrations become apparent in even the nicest car, after a day at the wheel. Possibly my ears are just too sensitive, in your opinion?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Simple_car View Post
Dear flatout sir,

Please accept my heartfelt gratitude for taking out time and penning down another beautiful post.

What you have written is a 'love letter' to the engine. As I have already mentioned, I do not have much technical knowledge with regards to the IC engine. But, I know what you are on about.

I would like to give an analogy:
I happen to be a student doctor. During my years of basic training, I came across several renowned teachers who were clinicians par excellence. The likes of which made Indian doctors so famous around the world. I was very inspired by them and decided that I would like to be one of them. One of the biggest laments of these clinicians was the death of the stethoscope. They always boasted about how easy it was to diagnose a cavity in a lung by just listening to the stethoscope, or how easily they can pick up a particular valvular disease just by the sound of the murmur etc. So, I spent hours, months and two years going around the hospital and hounding all the nurses and patients just so that I could also become one of the greats. I spent hours listening to various recorded cd's of these sounds. At the end of the 2 years, I was nowhere near. I realized then, that the demographics had changed. My teachers learnt on patients who used to come with diseases in their end stages, when it was relatively very easy to hear those classic sounds on the stetho. Today, such patients are becoming a rarity. Patients rush to a doctor at the very onset of their symptoms, when the sounds will be muffled and confusing (in India, its still much much easier to find terminal cases with such classic sounds though, but by and large, they are becoming lesser). I will reach the stage of my teachers, but it will take me much longer.
Most of the younger gen of doctors have grown up, becoming more reliant on machines for their diagnoses (exceptions are always there). More reliance on machines means that your hospital bills will shoot up, you will need a multitude of experts to analyze different things. The clinical acumen is dying slowly but surely. Does that mean that the new gen docs are no better than their teachers? No!
It's just that the society now demands things to be done differently. I have to adapt to the changing society as well. The ideal thing to do would be to find that 'definite balance' between clinical acumen and using machines to aid the diagnoses. But that is easier said than done. We are now living in an era where medicine has advanced by leaps and bounds, and in general the treatments are becoming standardized as well all over the world. Its becoming easier to detect diseases earlier and take preventive measures for the same, all thanks to the same machines.

The entire reason for giving this analogy was that, the same thing is happening with respect to engines as well. Yes, the flat engines may have been cleverly engineered, and maybe even far superior than the modern ones. But the world no longer demands their need.

Yes, I am also getting the same feeling that today cars are being designed by the accountants and financiers more than the engineers. But, that is what the world wants.

You may argue that we are not going forwards anymore, and that we may even be regressing. Yes, but change happens to be the only constant in the entire world.

My father believes very strongly that one must always change. For better or worse, that doesn't matter. The greatest enemy of human mind is stagnancy.
Forget about anyone else, I am myself not convinced yet about this statement yet. But, what I do know for a fact is that nothing good ever lasts long, and nothing bad lasts forever.

The phrase 'newer is better' is more of a marketing gimmick (must be coined by a genius nonetheless). We are the best judges of what we want. A car, which may be pathetically designed and built maybe suiting the needs of a certain gentleman perfectly. I am not the one to judge.

I hope I am able to convey my thoughts.

You do, very well indeed. And thanks for your appreciative comments - I do indeed have a passion for good motor cars, in fact, I have a passion for good everything in life - people, music, food and so on. A great piece of engineering, like a great person, can be inspirational. I also believe our lives are affected more than most realise by the quality of our everyday 'utensils'.

You're so right about change - if we don't, we go backwards. Embrace change whole-heartedly, but don't throw away the best of tradition and what has been learnt the hard way. There are certain elements in life which will never change, it is the clever man who knows how things were achieved in the past and can bring this knowledge to improve his working in the present. He is the one with a head start on emerging technology and who also enjoys his work the most, if he has a good brain.

Your comment about the 'world no longer demanding their need' is not altogether true. It never did demand the need for a horizontally opposed engine in a motor car (in aircraft it is different, since vibration is a more serious issue and aircraft are much more works of good engineering than any car) but engineers who strove a little harder than the rest understood its benefits. The accountants also understand that at face value it costs a little more, so veto it. But Subaru are long-held advocated of the engine, having used it since the 1960s. And of course Porsche continue to use boxer engines in their sports cars. BMW motorbikes used it for well over half a century. The cost of water-cooling compenents has steadily fallen and the cost of air-cooled components has risen.

This engine layout emerged because years ago when the industry was not full of cynical makers and the technology was still developing at a pace, with enthusiasm throughout the industry for a better product. Engineers were in charge, the emphasis was on comfort, speed, refinement. Today it has skewed a little towards profit, prestige and economy. All cars are reasonably comfortable, reasonably fast, reasonably refined. Manufacturers have realised that the majority purchasing their fastest, most expensive model will be doing it for one-upmanship and social standing, rather than because he has a love of harmony and aesthetics.

Top-flight manufacturers bring out a new car. It is hailed as being superb, the breakthrough petrol-heads were looking for. People with lots of money buy it, but find that against what they have been told, better drivers in less good cars are quicker. So they demand more power. The original engine is stretched and stretched until not only has it lost its sweet nature but the chassis also struggles to contain this power. But the rich banker is satisfied, he can set off from a roundabout down a straight road and leave a potential challenger to his superiority trailing in his wake. Look at the original Porsche 911 for the perfect example of this.

Your average car today is brillliant compared with forty years ago, it doesn't rust as badly, is better made, smoother, faster and handles better. It's a little over-complex and designed rather too much for smooth roads, though. It has mirrored society, in the West at least - everyone has gravitated towards middle-class. There also seem to be fewer eccentrics and free-thinkers around.

Don't be completely mesmerised by the monetarisation of big medicine - people haven't changed, even if their environment full of pollution and pesticides (the other side of the pharma-industry) has. If nothing else, the power of the mind is yet undiscovered by Western medicine, so wearing you stethoscope around your neck may promote a feeling of reassurance and well-being in your patients and help promote their recovery. The hands-on approach is also seriously under-estimated - machines just don't have the same empathy as a good doctor!
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Old 31st July 2013, 22:25   #15
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Default re: Horizontally-opposed engines: Reflections

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Originally Posted by FlatOut View Post
I would happily zoom across Europe in your XJ, but if offered a broadly similar car with a flat six I would prefer it. It's surprising how many noises and vibrations become apparent in even the nicest car, after a day at the wheel. Possibly my ears are just too sensitive, in your opinion?

Nah, nothing to do with being sensitive, You just like old stuff.

Actually, I'm in my home country the Netherlands. I've taken all my cars out of storage. Drove my Jaguar XJR, drove my Mercedes W123, but the car that sits in my drive way at the moment and which will remain there for our short holiday is my Alfa Romeo Spider.

Without a shadow of doubt the most uncomfortable one of this trio. I drive it top down, no matter what, rain or snow. It's underpinning are from the stone age compared to the Jaguar. It's engine is a very 'unbalanced' 2.0 liter 4 pot. I've taken the catalytic convertor off, so it sounds like a proper Alfa should. It gives a new meaning to the phrase "that car suffers badly from scuttle shake".
When you drive it top down for a day, your ear will ring for another 48 hours.

Still, I can't be more happy then to be tearing along little B-road all over Europe in my Spider. I don't get attached to particular technical bits, I don't rave about the Alfa 2.0 as some do. I just enjoy the whole package and drive it until the wheels fall off. Which, with an Alfa is a distinct possibility!

Jeroen
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