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V-12 engine simplified cross-section

A V12 engine is a V engine with 12 cylinder mounted on the crankcase in two banks of six cylinders, usually at a 60° angle to each other, but in some cases at a wider or narrower angle, with all 12 pistons driving a common crankshaft.

Since each cylinder bank is essentially a straight-6, this configuration has perfect primary and secondary balance no matter which V angle is used and therefore needs no balance shafts. A V12 with two banks of six cylinders angled at 60°, 120°, or 180° from each other has even firing with power pulses delivered twice as often per revolution as, and is smoother than a straight-6 because there is always even positive net torque output with little variation. This allows for great refinement in a luxury car. In a racing car, the rotating parts can be made much lighter and thus more responsive, since there is no need to use counterweights on the crankshaft as is needed in a 90° V8 and less need for the inertial mass in a flywheel to smooth out the power delivery. In a large displacement, heavy-duty engine, a V12 can run slower than smaller engines, prolonging engine life.


V12 engines were first seen in aircraft. By the end of World War I, V12s were popular in the newest and largest fighters and bombers and were produced by companies such as Renault and Sunbeam. Many Zeppelins had twelve-cylinder engines from German manufacturers Maybach and Daimler. Various US companies produced the Liberty L-12; the Curtiss NC Flying boats, including the NC-4, the first aircraft to make a transatlantic flight, had four V12 engines each.

V12 engines reached their apogee during World War II. Fighter and bombers used V12 engines such as the British Rolls-Royce Merlin and Griffon, the Soviet Klimov VK-107, the American Allison V-1710 or the German Daimler-Benz DB 600 series and Junkers-Jumo. These engines generated about 1,000 horsepower (0.75 MW) at the beginning of the war and above 1,500 horsepower (1.12 MW) at their ultimate evolution stage. The German DB 605D engine reached 2000 hp (1.50 MW) with water injection. In contrast to most Allied V12s, the engines built in Germany by Daimler-Benz, Junkers-Jumo, and Argus (As 410 and As 411) were primarily inverted, which had the advantages of lower centers of gravity and improved visibility for single-engined designs.

The Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 powered the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire fighters that played a vital role in Britain's victory in the Battle of Britain. The long, narrow configuration of the V12 contributed to good aerodynamics, while its exceptional smoothness allowed its use with relatively light and fragile airframes. The Merlin was also used in the Avro Lancaster and de Havilland Mosquito bombers. In the United States the Packard Motor company was licensed by Rolls-Royce to produce the Merlin as the Packard V-1650 for use in the North American P-51 Mustang. It was also incorporated into some models of the Curtiss P-40, specifically the P-40F and P-40L. Packard Merlins powered Canadian-built Hurricane, Lancaster and Mosquito aircraft, as well as the UK-built Spitfire Mark XVI, which was otherwise the same as the Mark IX with its British-built Merlin.

The Allison V-1710 was the only indigenous USmarker-developed V-12 liquid-cooled engine to see service during WWII. A sturdy and trustworthy design, it unfortunately lacked an advanced mechanical supercharger until 1943. Although versions with a turbosupercharger did give excellent performance at high altitude in the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, the turbosupercharger and its ductwork were too bulky to fit into typical single-engine fighters. While a superb performer at low altitudes, without adequate supercharging, the Allison's high altitude performance was lacking.

After WWII, V12 engines became generally obsolete in aircraft due to the introduction of turbojet and turboprop engines, which had more power for their weight, and fewer complications in large aircraft.

V12 road cars

1931 Cadillac Series 370 A Coupé V12
In automobiles, V12 engines have not been common due to their complexity and cost. They are used almost exclusively in expensive sports cars and luxury cars and are sought after for their power, relatively vibration-free operation, and distinctive sound.

Prior to World War II, twelve-cylinder engines were found in many luxury models, including cars from Auburn, Cadillac, Packard, Lincoln, Franklin, Rolls-Royce, Pierce-Arrow, and Hispano-Suiza. Packard's 1916 "Twin Six" is widely regarded as the first production V12 engine. With a list price of US$1,000, the Auburn was the lowest priced V12 car ever. Production cost savings were achieved by using horizontal valves, which did not make for an efficient and powerful combustion chamber. Between 1916 and 1921, there was a vogue of V12s, during which National (Indianapolismarker) copied the Packard engine, and Weidely Motors (also of Indianapolis) offered a proprietary engine. Soon after the end of World War I, Lancia offered a 22ο V12, FIATmarker had a 60ο model 520 (1921-2), British truck manufacturer Ensign announced a V12 that did not materialize, and in 1926, Daimler (Britain) offered a sleeve valve Double Six. In 1927, there was a resurgence of this design, with Daimler, Cadillac, Franklin, Hispano-Suiza, Horch, Lagonda, Maybach, Packard, Rolls, Tatra, Voisin, and Walter offering V12 engines. Cadillac (from 1930 through 1940) and Marmon (1931-1933) even developed V16 engines.

Improvements in combustion chamber design and piston form enabled lighter V8 engines to surpass the V12 in power starting from the 1930s; only the smaller, H-Series Lincoln V-12 remained after WWII and it was replaced by a V8 in 1949. Similarly, as they seemed excessive for the postwar market in Europe, production of V12-engined-carss was very limited until the 1960s.

Ferrarimarker have traditionally reserved their top V12 engine for their top-of-the line luxury sports coupes since 1949. In 1972 Jaguar came out with the XJ12, equipped with a 5.3 V12. In 1993, the engine was increase to 6.0 L, but a few years later Jaguar stopped producing the V12 altogether.

German manufacturer BMW returned to V12 designs in model year 1986, forcing Mercedes-Benz to follow suit in 1991. While BMW sells far less V12-engined 7 Series than V8 versions, the V12 retains popularity in the US, China, and Russia, as well as maintaining the marque's prestige in the luxury vehicle market segment. The BMW-designed V12 also appears in Rolls-Royce cars, while the Mercedes engine is also seen in Maybach cars. In their full-sized sedans sold in Canada and the USA, Mercedes, BMW, and Jaguar have mid-displacement V8s for the entry-level trims, while having the V12 as the flagship vehicle of the brand.

In 1997, Toyota equipped their Century Limousine with a 5.0 L DOHC V12 (model # 1GZ-FE), making it the first and only Japanese production passenger car so equipped.

TVR made and tested a 7.7 L V12 called the Speed Twelve, but the project was scrapped after the car it was designed for was deemed too powerful for practical use. The only British marques currently using a V12 configuration are Aston Martin -- whose engine was developed by Cosworth -- and Rolls-Royce.

List of postwar V12 production cars

This is a list of V12-engined production road cars, sorted alphabetically by make (and sub-sorted by year of introduction):

See also: W12 engine

Some tuner companies, such as Brabus also sell V12 versions of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and CLS, which were the fastest street-legal sedans upon their respective introductions.

Concept cars:

Heavy trucks

Tatra used a 17.6L air-cooled naturally aspirated V12 diesel engine in many of their trucks, for instance the Tatra T813 and uses 19l air-cooled naturally aspirated or turbo V12 diesel engine in Tatra T815. Some trucks have been fitted with twin V12s.

GMC produced a large gasoline-burning V12 from 1960 to 1965 for trucks, the "Twin-Six"; it was basically GMC's large-capacity truck 351 V6, doubled, with four rocker covers and four exhaust manifolds. 56 major parts are interchangeable between the Twin-Six and all other GMC V-6 engines to provide greater parts availability and standardization Its engine displacement was , and while power was not too impressive at 250 SAE net horsepower (190 kW), torque was . It was possibly the last gasoline engine used in heavy trucks in the United States.

Detroit Diesel produced their Series 53, 71, 92, and 149 engines as V-12's, among other configurations.

Auto racing

V12 engines used to be common in Formula One and endurance racing. Between 1965 and 1980, Ferrari, Weslake, Honda, BRM, Maseratimarker, Matra, Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini and Tecno used 12-cylinder engines in Formula One, either V12 or Flat-12, but the Ford (Cosworth) V8 had a slightly better power-to-weight ratio and less fuel consumption, thus it was more successful despite being less powerful than the best V12s. During the same era, V12 engines were superior to V8s in endurance racing, reduced vibrations giving better reliability. In the 1990s, Renaultmarker V10 engines proved their superiority against the Ferrari and Honda V12s and the Ford V8. The last V12 engine in Formula One, was the Ferrari 044, in the Ferrari cars driven by Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger in 1995.

At the Paris motor show 2006 Peugeot presented a new racing car, as well as a luxury saloon concept car, both called 908 and fitted with a V12 Diesel engine producing around or even surpassing 700 DIN HP. This took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mansmarker 2007 race, with a podium finish and very competitive performance, coming in second place after the similarly-conceived Audi R10 TDI V12 Diesel originally developed for the 2006 season.

Large diesel engines

V12 is a common configuration for large diesel engines; most are available with differing numbers of cylinders in V configuration to offer a range of power ratings. Many diesel locomotives have V12 engines.

Mercedes (MTU) manufactured a line of V12 diesel engines for marine use. These engines commonly power craft up to about 100 tonnes in pairwise configurations and range in power from about 1 to 4 MW.

Tanks and other AFVs

V12 is a common configuration for tank and other armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs). Some examples are:


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