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For a number of reasons metals are excellent materials from which to con rods. They are relatively cheap, and generally of excellent quality. You can make a mess of the rod’s manufacture but the material has every chance of being very good. Powder-reinforced metal matrix composites also come into this category – we take a good quality billet or forging and machine it. Fibre-reinforced composites are another matter entirely though. The raw material can be excellent, but the people...

The air apparent

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When I was young (TV shows in black-and-white only, and so on) vehicle radiators were much taller than they were wide. Designed to make maximum use of a natural phenomenon called the ‘thermo-syphon effect’, when the coolant was introduced into the top of the radiator it proceeded to fall to the bottom as it cooled, only to be replaced by more hot fluid from the engine. The advantage of the tall radiator maximised this effect and at the same time, being raised above the engine,...

The DeltaWing

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For anyone who hasn’t seen the Nissan DeltaWing car, you would do well to look it up, as there can have be few more adventurous car designs in recent times. This was no rolling concept car, but raced at Le Mans. Its ethos was very ambitious – to be competitive with existing LM P2 cars but with half the power output and using half the fuel. Its unusual form – extremely narrow and low – meant it had a much lower power requirement and could therefore use a much smaller...

A breath of fresh air

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The internal combustion engine is, I suppose, a bit like the human body, in that it takes in oxygen at one end, burns it to create energy and then expels the waste gases to the atmosphere. And also like the human body, give it too little oxygen and its performance suffers; likewise too much. But just like the baby bear in the tale of the three bears, somewhere between too salty or too sweet, rich or lean, the mixture is just about right. In calibrating the engine, engineers can of course...

Alternative block?

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In the history of race engine engineering, many methods have been thought of, tried and used on a wider scale to manufacture engine blocks. We all know the most commonly used production techniques and processes, which are the creation of castings with additional machining and the fully machined from solid blocks. The latter is mainly used for drag racing engines and to a degree extend into road racing engines. Apart from these two processes, you might have heard of the plastic engine, and...