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The development of electrical technology seems to have been exponential. Had the power failed a century ago, for example, some reasonably wealthy people would have been inconvenienced. If it happened today though, it is likely that civilisation would collapse into anarchy for a time, such is our dependence on electricity, the technology it allows and all its attendant benefits. It has been embedded in our cars and motorcycles for a long time: mechanical spark timing and fuel metering is...

Lead-free bearings

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Throughout the 20th century, lead made a significant contribution to the development of the internal combustion engine. Initially this was in the form of Babbit-type materials (a mixture of tin, antimony, copper and lead) that were used in engine bearings. Later, lead played a more significant role in the development of ‘anti-knock’ compounds when added to gasoline fuels. In the former case, the softness of lead helped the lubrication in the bearings, whereas as an additive in...


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Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. For example, the quality of the exhaust noise of a performance car can make all the difference to the enjoyable experience of owning and driving a vehicle, particularly if that vehicle is of a certain age. The sound of the exhaust echoing off dry stone walls on a cool summer’s evening, for instance, or its crackle under a trailing throttle all bring back many fond memories of a now-distant youth. Little wonder then that vehicle marketeers,...

DLC and pistons

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It is fair to say that DLC (diamond-like carbon) coatings have proven to be something of a revelation to the motor racing and wider automotive sectors. Motorsport, with its relatively big budgets per component and small production quantities, is generally able to investigate, develop and test new ideas, products and processes far more quickly and efficiently than the mainstream automotive industry, and the widespread use of DLC coatings in racing valvetrains has been transferred to the...

The Scotch Yoke

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Anyone who deals with engines will be familiar with the con rod (unless you are a fanatic of the rotary engine to the exclusion of all others). It is a simple articulating link that connects the piston to the crankshaft and, in doing so, converts reciprocating motion into rotary motion, making it much easier to extract work from the expanding gases in the combustion chamber. However, the con rod poses some problems for the engine designer, especially the race engine designer who is under...