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All in a spin

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To be a good engineer, I have always maintained, in addition to an inquisitive mind and a grasp of the technology, you also need to be a student of history, for on many occasions the practices of the past give an insight into the possible problems of the future. And as all older engineers know, there is nothing like having been there the first time around to spot the problem when it next re-occurs, perhaps in another format. I was reminded of this some years ago when a recently built...

Timing is the key

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The design of valve lift profiles can no longer be described as the sole province of the specialist engineer. Today we have many excellent software packages that will do just that without having to go anywhere near a polynominal equation or even think about things like 'instantaneous radii of action'. Introduced to the precise geometry of the valvetrain, these will, with relative ease, output a profile within the constraints of jerk, acceleration and velocity. Once more, with the...

Ramping up

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As an engineer first, a motorsport enthusiast second and historian third, I welcome the recent upsurge in historic rallying. But whereas most journalists or writers would perhaps reflect on the sheer thrill of hearing the sound of a BDA reverberating through the forests, my particular recollection is listening to one particular example idling just before entering a service halt. To put it bluntly, it sounded like a bag full of hammers! I'm used to listening to hot engines, and beneath...

Three into two will go

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High lifts or long durations are common features in high-performance camshafts, and when optimised can produce high engine torques over a useful but often limited range of engine speeds. The introduction of variable valve timing can widen this range of useful speeds, but at part load against a partially closed throttle, large valve lifts introduce pumping inefficiencies that are increasingly unacceptable in performance roadcar engines. Over the past decade, therefore, a multitude of...

Tight times!

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The most common aspiration of just about all power unit engineers is that of greater engine performance. Better fuel economy, improved toxic emissions or simply better torque over a wider range of operating speeds - much of it but certainly not all - is down to the selection of the cam profile and its timing. In the search for greater efficiency, compression ratios have increased in recent times, resulting in much smaller, more compact combustion chambers. To avoid mechanical mayhem and...