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That Crazy 5000-hp, Quad-Turbo, 12.3-Liter V16 Is So Much More Than Two V8s

On Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

This week, video surfaced of something truly outrageous: A giant 12.3-liter V16 engine, wearing four turbochargers, maxing out an engine dyno at an indicated 4515 horsepower. The video was astonishing, but the skepticism was almost instantaneous: Internet folks couldn’t figure out if the feat was a fake, a fluke, or a fantasy. So Road & Track paid a visit to the shop that built the supposed monster motor to see just how real this whole thing is.

Quad-Turbo

The engine is the centerpiece of an outrageous, perhaps laughably unrealistic hypercar project out of Dubai called the Devel Sixteen. When it was first shown at the Dubai Motor Show in 2013, the Devel came with some outlandish claims: 5000 horsepower, 0-60 in 1.8 seconds, and a top speed nearing 350 mph. It wore kit-car bodywork, sported an engine that sure didn’t sound like a quad-turbo V16, and redlined pretty much everybody’s bullshit detector.

We can’t speak to the existence of the Devel Sixteen car. The company’s website, as grammatically shoddy and light on evidence as ever, doesn’t work too hard to back up its claims—the only car photos are from 2013, and the pages where you’d hope to find information almost all come up blank.

By comparison, the engine that’s set to power the Devel Sixteen is infinitely more real. Because there is one—only one, and it’s a prototype—and I’m looking right at it.

Steve Morris Engines occupies an utterly anonymous commercial building on the outskirts of Muskegon, Michigan, 200 miles west of Detroit on the banks of Lake Michigan. The penultimate structure on a dead-end avenue, SME looks like it could be home to a midsize construction company, or maybe a local newspaper printer. Only the numerous burnout marks in the driveway hint at what goes on behind those steel walls.

Things got very un-LS-like right from the start, when Morris had to figure out the design of the V16 crankshaft. The engine required an entirely novel, 45-degree firing order, to avoid firing two cylinders on the same side in sequence, or worse, two cylinders at once—either of which would grenade the engine. It wasn’t as simple as offsetting two LS cranks either. “I literally sat down with a piece of paper and just drew out firing orders,” he says.

Everything grew out from the crank. The one-piece, billet crankshaft measures 48 inches long and, like the billet camshaft that came next, it was commissioned from a specialty shop. “They just laughed,” Morris says. “At first they thought it was a joke.”

If the Dubai-based folks behind the Devel project can get to the point in chassis development where they need multiple quad-turbo V16 engines, SME will build them. Historically speaking, that’s probably not very likely to happen. But on the off-chance that Devel succeeds, we know what will be powering it. “We were contracted to build a bullet,” Esnaola says. “And we built a bullet.”

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