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Ferrari story-V6 Engines

Updated on October 24, 2008

It is well-known to the enthusiasts that the V6 Ferrari engines belong to the various "families" which began with the 156 used in the 1957 F.2. However, a more thorough research, stimulated by information received from the late lamented Aurelio as early as 1960, has enabled us to bring to light a much earlier project regarding a family of V6 engines with an angle of 1200 dating back to the beginning of 1950.

The Forerunners

The ability of the Ferrari engineers is confirmed by the fact that three engines built on the same basis but having different cylinder capacities were planned. In keeping with the custom of the period, the three engines were distinguished by the representative number of the unit cylinder capacity and denominated 183, 333 and 415 respectively. After the basic model had been planned and the other two variations outlined, no further work was done on this line of engines since Ferrari was already heavily involved firstly with the 12-cylinder and after with the 4-cylinder in-line engines. It was probably also the extraordinary success of the 4-cylinder 500 which shelved the research into a different project for the 1954 F.1. according to the recollections of some of the engineers of the period it was also due to the distraction caused by the bi cylindrical model which, although actually built, meet with very little success.

Whatever happened, the specifications of the three engines remain. The 183 had a bore and stroke of 60x40 mm, unit cylinder capacity of 182.65 cc., giving a total of 1095.9 cc; the 333 had a bore and stroke of 80x60 mm, a unit cylinder capacity of 331.75 cc., giving a total of 1990.51 cc.; the 415 had a bore and stroke of 85x73.55 mm, a unit cylinder capacity of 415.94 cc., giving a total of 2495.64 cc.

As can be seen the "family" included engines having the "classic" capacities of the time: 1100, 2000 and 2500 with probable ambitions towards GT and high performance production as well as the possibility of utilizing the biggest of the three for the future new

Formula 1.

The length of the connecting rods is also interesting; a 125 mm connecting " rod was used for the 183 while for the 333, which had a stroke of only 66 mm, the length increased to an amazing 142 mm, which was equal to those used in the big V12 engines, whose strokes ranged from 68 mm for the 275 to 74.5 mm for the 375 plus. A shorter connecting rod was used in the 415 (129 mm) despite the fact that the stroke had risen to 73.3 mm. Those who know how the Ferrari engineers work will already have guessed that other combinations of bores and strokes would have been possible, which could have given rise to new different models. So we arrive at that winter between 1955 and '56 when, as Ferrari himself describes in his books, speaking to his son Dino, who was already very ill, the subject of the V6 was once again brought up. With the go-ahead for the realization of the engine having been given and entrusted to Vittorio Jano (once again with Ferrari after working with Lancia) it was natural to name the project after the person who had advocated its choice. So the car with the V6 engine was called Dino.


It is possible to outline a chronology of the various V6 engines by the dates of the fundamental designs (for example, those dealing with the crankcase and the drive shaft) and in this way we discover an amazing number of different engines, more than ninety in the three configurations used: the first at 65°, the second at 60° (derived as half of a V12) and the third at 120°. Since 1987 there has been a fourth variation destined for the Formula 1 of the period; the turbo engine came into being for the 1981 season with a light alloy cylinder block and an angle of 120° which was to be modified in 1987 with a cast iron cylinder block and an angle of 90°. There is a total of another ten variations. This leads us to subdivide the treatment of the subject into four chapters corresponding to the same periods. These are: front-engined sports cars and single-seaters from 1957 to 1960; rear-engined sports cars and single seaters from 1960 to 1970; Dino GT cars; Formula 1 turbo racing cars in the eighties.

Not all the types are known since in many cases they had experimental engines with different heads, different distribution systems, tested and then shelved; the strength of Ferrari also lay in this enormous mass of information gathered from experimentation. For a more coherent system it is therefore necessary to resort to two different numeration systems. These are the «public» series in which the first two digits represent the cylinder capacity divided by 100 and the third digit, which is always 6, for the number of cylinders. However it is also important to bear in mind the series of the internal project number, which are in progressive sequence with the various models without taking the number of cylinders into account. Except for some small variations, these numbers indicate the chronology of the Ferrari projects.

Another interesting element is the fact that with the V6 we see the transition from the old type of chassis composed of two big tubes to the trellis structure and later to the aluminum sheet-plated trellis structure which forms the resistant «skin» of the body.

Front engine

The project for the frontally-mounted V6 «Dino» engine began in the spring of 1956, receiving the progressive number 134 which identified the design of the two rows of cylinders at 65°, with the left row a little forward than the right (looking at the engine from the driver's position). The construction of the engine, cylinder block, heads and crankcase were in light alloy, distribution with double overhead camshafts for each row of cylinders,twin spark plugs for each cylinder and carburetion with three Weber 38 DCN twin choke carburettors.

The distance between cylinder axes was 110 mm a dimension dictated also by the need of staggering both crankpins of each pair, and this also allowed to use big bores.

In effect to compensate the 65° angle between the two rows of cylinders the connecting rods of the two facing cylinders did not use the same crankpin of the crankshaft but two cranks offset at 55°. In this way, the equidistance of the engine impulses was obtained. The two magnetos were located at the front end of the intake camshafts and as the engine evolved the number was reduced to one «twin» magneto which was able to feed the twelve spark plugs. With a bore and stroke of 70x64.5 mm a unit cylinder capacity of 248.2 cc. and a total of 1489 cc. Was obtained. A maximum power rating of 180 HP at 9000 rpm was achieved. The engine was installed offset to the left so that the drive shaft could run alongside the driver seat. A rear mounted gearbox also contained the conical gear, the multi plate clutch, the 4 speeds and the ZF limited slip differential. Independent front suspensions with helical springs and De Dion rear axle. Drum brakes. The car made its debt on 28 April 1957 at the Circuito di Posilippo in Naples with Luigi Musso at the wheel finishing in third place behind Collins and Hawthorn, who were both driving the 8-cylinder F. 1 Lancia Ferraris. Meanwhile, the evolution of the engine was already under way with the 2-litre version fo late 1956 being given project number 138. The bore and stroke became 77 x 71 mm, the unit cylinder capacity was 330.6 cc., the total being 1984 cc. Bigger carburettors, the 42 DCN, were also used. Special versions were also constructed, like the 134 S which was in fact the 134 modified as a sports car with dynamo and coil ignition; the 138 B with chrome-plated cylinder rods and the 138 S also modified as a sports car with dynamo and coil ignition.

In March '57 project 143, the version for Formula 1 later to be known as the 246, was set up. It had a bore and stroke of 85 x 71 mm, unit cylinder capacity of 402.9 cc. giving a total of 2417.3 cc. This engine had been tested at a maximum power rating of 290 HP at 8250 rpm and made its debut in a non-championship G.P. in Casablanca, Marocco on 27 October 1957. The new engine was mounted on the same chassis as the F.2 and driven by Collins, while a different version (No. 145) with bore and stroke of 81 x 71 mm., unit cylinder capacity of 365.8 cc. for a total of 2195 cc. giving a maximum power rating of 240 HP at 8300 rpm was driven by Hawthorn. The two cars did not finish the race for reasons not connected to the engine which, on the contrary, showed great promise.

The official debut took place in Buenos Aires in January '58 with Musso finishing second behind Moss, who was driving the little rear-engined Cooper; it was the beginning of the evolution towards the «all in the back». On of the immediately visible differences between the single-seater F.2 and F. 1 cars was in the shape of the exhaust pipe, running low in the former case and bent upwards in the latter. Further differences were to be seen in the location of the fuel tanks which were initially contained in the sides of the body, later changed to just one in the side with the other being placed in the back. The brakes were still the drum type and during the course of the season a front brake with helical fins was experimented with before moving on to discs in 1959. 1958 was a year of intense activity regarding the development of the V6; a new version (No. 146) had already been realised at the end of the previous year with a bore and stroke of 85x87 mm, unit cylinder capacity of 493.7 cc. for a total of 2962 cc. giving a maximum power rating of 300 HP at 7800 rpm. The cylinder block was newly-designed and the heads were similar to the 143, with twin cam shaft and double ignition.

This engine was in fact one of the rarest long-stroke engines ever to be produced by Ferrari and three new engines were immediately derived from it; the 147 with bore and stroke of 80x82 mm, unit cylinder capacity of 412.2 cc. for a total of 2473 cc.; the 149 with a bore and stroke of 87x90 mm, unit cylinder capacity of 535 cc. for a total of 3210 cc. and the 150 with a bore and stroke of 87x87 mm («square» engine), unit cylinder capacity of 517.2 cc. for a total of 3103 cc).

The 149, which produced 330 HP at 7500 rpm was only used once in a race between European and American cars, known as the Monza Indianapolis, on 28 June 1958. It was driven by Phil Hill but did not finish the race. The 150 was never used.

Before the Monza race the 2-litre 138 S engine had been tried out in a sports car called the 206 S driven by Collins in the Sussex Trophy at Goodwood on 7 April 1958. This engine had a power rating of 207 HP at 8200 rpm. It finished in second place behind Moss in the Aston Martin; on 3 May in the Daily Express sports car race at Silverstone Hawthorn gave the 3-litre engine its debut in the 296 S sports car, finishing third.

Still in 1958, two new types of engine were studied; with the relatively recent project numbers of 151 and 152, and having the same engine block with a V of 65° deriving from the original 134, it had, however single camshaft heads and single ignition. It was in fact an adapted design of the contemporary 128 LM V12, better known as the Testarossa.

In the case in point, the 151 had a bore and stroke of 72x64.5 mm, unit cylinder capacity of 262.6 cc. for a total of 1576 cc. giving a power rating of 165 HP at 8000 rpm. The 152 derived indirectly from the 134 and more directly from the 143. It had a bore and stroke of 84x72 mm (the 143 was 85 x 71!), unit cylinder capacity of 399 cc. for a total of 2394 cc.

Single cam engines

Then there was a change in events; in September 1958 the new family of V6 engines was set up. These engines had an angle of 60° between the rows which was as half of the 12-cylinder, except for the fact that the drive shaft did not have the connecting rods alongside the same crankpins, instead it had two cranks offset at 60° and the three pairs at 120° between them. The distribution was single shaft with coil ignition to a single spark plug per cylinder. It seems evident that the previous experimentation done with single shaft heads on engine blocks at 65° served in determining the opportuneness of realising this new series.

The first engine of this new series was the 153; it had the same dimensions and the 151 (bore and stroke of 72x64.5 mm). It is curious that this engine was officially denominated the 156 S which would seem to indicate a 1500 rather than a 1600. The 154 was a real 1500 obtained from the previous type by reducing the stroke to 61 mm while maintaining the bore unchanged at 72 mm. The unit cylinder capacity was 248.3 cc. for a total of 1490 cc.

In the sequence of project numbers the 155 was inserted; this corresponds to the F. 1 engine with the cylinder capacity increased to get closer to the regulation limit of 2500 cm3. It had an enclosed angle of 65° and the same bore as the 246 which was 85 mm with the stroke increased to 72 mm; consequently the unit cylinder capacity rose to 408.6 cc. for a total of 2451 cc. This engine was used for the 1958 Italian GP. Nevertheless, the version used for racing, denominated the 256, was to be given project number 155/59 with bore and stroke of 86 x 71 mm. An oversize bore of 86.4 mm was also tried, to get a unit capacity of 416.3 cc and total of 2498 cc. Maximum power recorded was of 287 HP at 8250 RPM. The sporting season of 1958 also withnessed the use of a 5 speeds gearbox in place of the 4 speeds one, and the trial of Dunlop disk brakes on Hawthorn's car.

These brakes had been mounted on Collins' personal 250 GT and the car was a Maranello: upon Hawthorn instructions they were taken off the GT car and adapter to the Monza racing car, which Hawthorn took to second place. The success in the World championship was thus assured with a single Hawthorn victory at the French G.P. and several good placings.

In 1959 and 1960 notwhitstanding many improvements to the chassis (lenghtening of the wheelbase, rear wheels independent suspensions, disk brakes) the Ferrari could not stop the march of Jack Brabham and his rear engined Cooper. In 1960 the first cars with a rear engine were to be seen, the 256 P that made its debut at Montecarlo on May 29th driven by Richie Ginther and the 156 F.2 (practically the same car with a 1500 cc engine).

In 1959 the single seater got also the number 256 that indicated the increased engine capacity. The car general layout had been modified to the effect that the driveshaft now passed to the right instead than to the left of the driver.

In the last race of the 1959 season at Sebring was also tested one of the engines of the new 60° family with a single overhead camshaft per cylinder bank: it was the type 169 with bore and stroke of 85 x 71 mm and the capacity of 2417 cc and 250 HP at 8000 RPM. To this engines they arrived by following the route from the type 153 (the first of the 60° family) then the 154 of 1500 cc followed in the fall of 1958 by the types 157 and 158, both with bore and stroke of 77 x 71 mm and therefore with the same capacity of 1984 cc but one in sporting version and the second GT (with fan).

At the beginning of 1959 a type 134 B with short stroke was also tried with the classic bore and stroke dimensions of the 250 V 12, that is 73x58.8, total capacity 1476 cc and naturally a single camshaft per cylinder bank, but rather strangely with a 65° enclosed angle. In the same family of the 60° vee, there also the type 165 a single cam of 73x62 mm with a unit capacity of 259.5 cc and total of 1557 cc, and the type 170 yet another version of F. 1 engine with 2417 cc capacity, single cam and designed to be rear mounted on the 1960 car. On this car was also tested the type 171, the 65° twin cam rear mounted.

The engine type 169 S (similar to the 169 but equipped with generation and starter motor for sports cars) marked the end of the fifties and the use of the vee 6 on front engined cars. Apart from the F. 1 and F.2 single seaters these engines went also to equip many sports versions. After the two already mentioned types, there was also a series based on a chassis and body shape similar to the 250 TR but with a shorter wheelbase: 2250 mm. The car type 196 S was practically similar to the 206 S and the different number served to indicate the single cam engine from the twin cam type. The driving seat was on the left but in 1960 this would be changed to the right.

At the Buenos Aires 1000 km race a car was equipped with the 2417 cc engine (169 S) and this car was later to be equipped with independent rear suspensions, like the single seater. Beginning from engine project 167 (which in fact was made after type 170) all the new designs would be for rear

engined cars only. The development of these cars was long and successful to the extent of giving birth of a completely new make, the Dino, the tiny «granturismo» cars, quick and nimble, which in their sales brochures were announced as "almost a Ferrari».To this period is dedicated a future chapter of Ferrari Story.


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      James bond 

      7 years ago

      Very good info

    • profile image

      ferrari Auctions 

      10 years ago

      nice story of ferrari , very interesting!


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