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CATEGORIES (articles) > Engine, Gearbox > Technical > V12 engine usage

V12 engine usage

Colombo Type 125 "Testa Rossa" engine in a 1961 Ferrari 250TR Spyder

V12 redirects here. For the V12 Training program, see V-12 Navy College Training Program.

A V12 engine is a V engine with 12 cylinders. Like 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° 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 positive net torque output, as with an engine with 7 or more cylinders. 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, 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, the V12 configuration was a fairly popular one in the newest and largest fighters and bombers; V12 engines were produced by companies such as Renault and Sunbeam. Many Zeppelins had V12 engines, from German manufacturers Maybach and Daimler. Various US companies produced the Liberty L-12; the Curtiss NC Flying boats, such as the first aircraft to make a transatlantic flight, the NC-4, had a set of four V12 engines.

A number of World War II fighters and bombers used V12 engines such as the Rolls-Royce Merlin, the Klimov VK-107 or the Allison V-1710 on the Allied side, or the Daimler-Benz DB 600 on the German side, these engines were generating about 1,000 horsepower (0.75 MW) at the beginning of the War and about 1,500 horsepower (1.12 MW) at their ultimate evolution stage. The German DB 605D engine even reached 2000 hp (1.50 MW) with methanol-water injection. Their use disappeared quickly after the advent of the jet engine.

V12 road cars

In automobiles, V12 engines have never 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 and relatively vibration-free operation.

Prior to World War II, twelve-cylinder engines were found in many luxury models, including cars from Cadillac, Packard, Lincoln, Franklin, Rolls-Royce, and Hispano-Suiza. Packard's 1912 "Double Six" is widely regarded as the first production V12 engine.

Postwar, the type lost favor in the United States, where the V8 engine became ubiquitous. Italian sports cars from such makers as Ferrari and Lamborghini used the V12 almost exclusively on their highest-performance vehicles, while Jaguar developed a V12 that was put into production in 1971 and lasted until 1997. Ferrari's newest V12 (used in the 599) is based on the Ferrari Enzo's [V12 engine], while the company's flat 12 engine is really a 180° V12.

German manufacturers Mercedes-Benz and BMW both introduced V12 designs in model year 1992 and 1988, respectively. The BMW-designed V12 also appears in Rolls-Royce cars, while the Mercedes engine is also seen in Maybach cars. Aston Martin introduced a (Cosworth) V12 model in 2001, while Cadillac is re-introducing the V12 after 60 years with a V12 version of their Cadillac Northstar engine range. This engine is to be available initially only in the Cadillac Escalade luxury SUV.

In 1997, Toyota equipped their Century Limousine with a 5.0 L DOHC V-12 (model # 1GZ-FE), making it the first and only Japanese front-engine, rear-wheel drive production car equipped with a V12.

TVR made and tested a 7.7 L V12 called the Speed Twelve, reportedly making 800+ BHP naturally aspirated, but the project was scrapped after the car it was designed for was deemed too powerful for practical use.

A List of Postwar V12 Production Road Cars (Alphabetical by make, sub-sorted by year of introduction):

  • Aston Martin DB7 Vantage
  • Aston Martin Vanquish
  • Aston Martin DB AR1
  • Aston Martin DB9
  • BMW 750i/75iL/760i/760Li
  • BMW 850i/Ci/CSi
  • Bugatti EB110
  • Daimler Double Six
  • Ferrari 166
  • Ferrari 195
  • Ferrari 212
  • Ferrari 340/342
  • Ferrari 375/375 America
  • Ferrari 250
  • Ferrari 410 Superamerica
  • Ferrari 400 Superamerica
  • Ferrari 275
  • Ferrari 330
  • Ferrari 500 Superfast
  • Ferrari 365 California Spider
  • Ferrari 365 GT 2+2
  • Ferrari 365 GTC/GTS
  • Ferrari 365 GTB/4 & 365 GTS/4 (Daytona)
  • Ferrari 365 GTC/4
  • Ferrari 365 GT4 2+2
  • Ferrari 400i/412i
  • Ferrari 456
  • Ferrari F50
  • Ferrari 550
  • Ferrari 575M Maranello
  • Ferrari Enzo Ferrari
  • Ferrari 612 Scaglietti
  • 575M Superamerica
  • Ferrari 599
  • Jaguar E-Type
  • Jaguar XJ-S
  • Jaguar XJ12
  • Jaguar XJR15
  • Lamborghini 350GT
  • Lamborghini 400GT
  • Lamborghini Islero
  • Lamborghini Miura
  • Lamborghini Espada
  • Lamborghini Jarama
  • Lamborghini Countach
  • Lamborghini Diablo
  • Lamborghini Murcielago
  • Lincoln Continental
  • Lincoln Zephyr
  • Lister Storm
  • Maserati MC12
  • Maybach 57 and 62
  • McLaren F1
  • Mercedes-Benz CL600/CL65 AMG
  • Mercedes-Benz S600/S65 AMG
  • Mercedes-Benz SL600/SL65 AMG
  • Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR
  • Pagani Zonda
  • Peugeot 907 (concept only)
  • Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph
  • Rolls-Royce Park Ward
  • Rolls-Royce Phantom
  • Toyota Century
  • TVR Cerbera Speed Twelve
  • Volga V12 Coupé
  • Lamborghini LM002 SUV

Heavy trucks

Tatra uses a 17.6 L air-cooled turbo diesel V12 engine in many of their trucks, for instance the Tatra T813 and 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 702 in³ (11.5 L), and while power was not too impressive at 250 SAE net horsepower (190 kW), torque was 585 lbf·ft (793 N·m). It was possibly the last gasoline engine used in heavy trucks in the United States.

Auto racing

V12 engines used to be common in Formula One and endurance racing. Between 1965 and 1980, Ferrari, Weslake, Honda, BRM, Maserati, 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, Renault 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.

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) manufacture 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.

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