Over the last week or so I’ve been thinking and writing about motorcycle engines and I came across this series of columns by Marc Cook over at AVweb. Being an aviation web site his columns look at engines from that perspective and he examines the actual differences between motorcycle and airplane engines and the reasons why they’re different. It’s good information.
As I mentioned to someone the other day who was trying to learn more about motorcycle engines, don’t confine yourself to one engine type, engine knowledge all comes out of the same pot and labels can be very flexible. The same engine can be used in many applications as long as you get power in the required fashion and quantity, a motorcycle engine is any engine used in a motorcycle. If you understand internal combustion engines, it won’t make any difference where you find one. You’ll be able to see the differences and similarities, the tradeoffs the designer faced and what he chose to do in the end. Any capable mechanic can repair an engine he has never seen before if he keeps the universal similarities in mind instead of saying “I don’t work on diesels” or “Two strokes? Don’t touch ’em.” Just keep focused on how the engine “turns chemical energy into mechanical work” as Marc Cook so aptly puts it. It’s a neat process and those of us who like to play with it can find a lot of enjoyment.
One guy who really gets the universal engine idea is Jay Leno. He has one big hot rod with an engine from a Patton tank, another powered by an engine previously at home in a WWII fighter and a motorcycle with a turbine out of a Bell helicopter. Of course if we keep the “chemical energy into mechanical work” concept in mind, then steam engines enter the picture, too. Ever hear of Freidel Munch? He built the Munch Mammuts, very low volume hand built motorcycles with engines out of an NSU automobile and his last model powered by a Cosworth 4 cylinder. Once they went into the bike, they were “motorcycle engines.” How about the jet engines used in those huge unlimited hydroplanes? Into drag boats? The blown V8’s they use are just like the ones in top fuelers. Engines are engines.
If you like engines, there’s so much to choose from today to keep your curiousity burning. Just look around and you’ll find another one you’ve never seen or heard of and they’re all very cool. Isn’t it great?