When you think about tiny engines with lots of cylinders, your mind probably jumps to modern-era Formula 1 and its high-revving powerhouses. However, what if we told you there were engines with even smaller cylinders? After the limits on forced induction in the 1980s, F1 cylinders hovered in the 0.26- to 0.3-liter, as a frame of reference. While the video above talks about 9 different small-displacement engines, we’ve picked five to expand on. As you might have guessed, there are a few F1 engines on the list, although they are from yesteryear.
Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 — 2.0L V8
Alfa Romeo’s Tipo 33 — both the race car and the road-going variant were powered by a 2.0-liter (1,995cc) V8 engine, with cylinders measuring 78mm (3.07 inches) by 52.2mm (2.06 inches), each cylinder displaced just under 0.25 liters. It was a dual overhead cam, four-valve design with two spark plugs per cylinder, that spun to 10,000 rpm… in the late ‘60s! It definitely succeeded in its mission to bring Alfa’s racing technology to the street.
Brabus 1.4L V6
The most modern engine on this list, the Brabus 1.4-liter V6 is actually two Mercedes M160 E07 Smart three-cylinder engines, configured in a V. Technically, that means this engine’s 0.233-liter-per-cylinder displacement is the same as the Smart FourTwo, but that wouldn’t sound very cool, now, would it? Unfortunately, there are a bit higher pumping losses with the V6 configuration, so the almost-square (66.5mm bore x 67mm stroke) engine doesn’t make quite double the three-cylinder horsepower, even though it had twin-turbochargers helping it breathe.
Alfa Romeo 890T —1.5L V8
Another Alfa, the 890T was a 1.5-liter (1,496cc) 1980s Formula 1 V8 engine which was vastly oversquare with a 74.5mm (2.933-inch) bore and a 43.5-inch (1.712-inch) stroke. It took advantage of twin turbochargers to fill the 0.187-liter cylinders almost 90 times per second at full song. It made significantly more power than the other Alfa engine on this list, but that’s what turbocharging and twenty years of engine development will get you.
Ferrari 125S “Colombo” – 1.5L V12
The Ferrari 125S engine is tied for the distinction of being the oldest engine on this list, with a debut date of 1947. The “Colombo” engine, as it was called due to being designed by Gioacchino Colombo, was a V12 design that displaced a scant 1,497cc. The 55mm bore and 52.5mm stroke made for 0.124 liters of displacement in each cylinder. At the peak of its life cycle, the Colombo engine was making 276 horsepower thanks to a dual-stage supercharger.
BRM 1.5L V16
And, unquestionably, the engine with the smallest cylinder size on this list is the British Racing Motors 1.5-liter V16. The 49.5mm (1.948-inch) bore and 48.2mm (1.881-inch) stroke measures out to a per-cylinder displacement of 0.0929 liters. A two-inch section of the average exhaust tubing is larger than the BRM V16’s cylinders. It’s all the more impressive, that in 1955 (after only 8 years of development) the engine produced 550 horsepower at 12,000 rpm, thanks to a supercharger making copious amounts of boost.