Simple question – how many different types of engine have you had under the control of your right foot (or occasionally, right hand)? At my last count, I reckon something in the order of 26 in various forms of road-going transport. That doesn’t include such exotics as an inline, horizontally opposed paraffin-burning two cylinder sterling engine in a yacht belonging to a friend in Scotland, or the massive single cylinder steam-driven traction engine I was once fortunate enough to steer. Called Robert the Bruce, that one was.
The thought was prompted by a conversation with a friend here in Dubai who accidentally bought three extra motorbikes, and one of them has, for me at least, a completely new configuration of engine. Before I tell you that, though, here’s what I do know.
Single cylinder engines – 2 stroke (various mopeds) 4 stroke (my first proper motorcyle, an old 250cc BSA C15. Do I add a sloper version, for an old 600cc Panther? Twins. Lots of twins – 250cc Yamaha RD250 two stroke, same size Honda CB four stroke, horizontally opposed (BMW), lateral V (Moto Guzzi), in-line V (Ducati, Moto Morini, Harley, Matchless), inline vertical (Sunbeam), and inline opposed (Douglas). Triples – 2 stroke Kawasakis KH500 and KH750 (both of which tried to kill me), 4-stroke BSA and Triumphs, a Yamaha XS 750 and a weird one, a Laverda Jota, where two of the three pistons rise together whilst the other goes in the opposite direction on its own, making it a sort of twin-and-a-half. Countless 4s, including my own Z1000 across the frame, a couple of Honda V4s, a vintage Indian in-line, and both an Ariel and a Matchless square 4. No 5 cylinder motorcycles, but a Benelli and a Kawasaki across-the-frame 6, and a horizontally opposed Honda Goldwing. No V6, though they do exist, nor a V8, though a few early racers did boast these and even more exotic designs.
The most exotic though are the rare rotaries, a Kreidler 250 single, and a magnificent Norton twin. I am indeed fortunate there.
On four wheels, I can add cars with a cylinder count of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 12. Do I add another category for inline 4, V4 and flat 4? How about air-cooled (Fiat 500 twin, Beetle flat 4 and Porsche flat 6)? Six cylinders in V, straight and flat versions. More Vs, in both 8 and 10 cylinder versions. Oddly, it’s the 12 cylinder motors that offer the most variety – V (BMW, Jaguar), flat (Ferrari) and W (Bentley Continental). Bugatti’s W16 remains an unscratched itch, sadly.
But what of that odd Honda – it’s a new one to me, a 250cc two-stroke triple, with one vertical cylinder and two forward facing ones. Not even sure what to call it, but I’m pleased to put it on the list. How many more can you add?