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Hagerty Employee

9 of the world’s greatest engine designers

Not all engine designers get the credit they deserve, but occasionally their names carry as much weight as the storied badges on the trunk lid or hood. In no particular order, here’s our pick of legends behind some of the greatest engines of all time.


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New Driver

Although his name was mentioned only in passing alongside Marek, I am surprise that W. O. Bentley does not appear on Hagerty's list of the world's greatest engine designers. My case for asserting that Bentley's rightful place should be on this list is the 14 engines that he designed in his lifetime. Of course, that list includes the four-valve-per-cylinder four-cylinder engine that first ran in October of 1920. And, that list includes the later 6 1/2 and 8-liter six-cylinder Bentley engines that W. O. designed. But, what may not be so well known is that these highly regarded Bentley engines that were produced from 1920 to 1931 were preceded by two aircraft engines that W. O. designed during World War One: the air-cooled rotary aircraft engines, known as the BR1 and BR2, which powered the Sopwith Camel and Sopwith Snipe, respectively. If that is not enough to get W. O. on this Hagerty list, then consider that W. O. also designed from scratch the Lagonda V-12 engine. Beyond this, W. O.'s list also includes the flat-six air-cooled engine that he also designed for Lagonda, although it was never put into commercial production, as well as the 3-liter twin-cam engine that he designed for Armstrong-Siddeley in 1950. W. O.'s list of engines also includes a five-cylinder radial automobile engine that was never put into production. By the way, W. O. was the first to design lightweight aluminum pistons for use in both aircraft engines and production automobiles. W. O. did all this in one lifetime. Oh, one final point for my case: it is said that an important investment thesis of David Brown acquiring Lagonda and Aston Martin was to obtain the rights to W. O.'s engine designs. Yet, W. O. did not make this list.